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Spirit of Work
It is difficult being, at worst, a pessimist and, at best, a realist. One not only feels guilty about complaining and seeing the glass half full, but also disappointed and angry about the way things exist. These are the personal feelings evoked when reading "The Spirit of Work" by Lance Secretan in Imagine - What America Could be in the 21st Century by Marianne Willamson. As a point in clarification, it is not what Secretan says about daily life that is troublesome. Unfortunately, he paints the situation very clearly as it exists with most people today. There are a great deal of very psychologically unhappy and emotionally frustrated people in Western society. Rather, it is difficult to accept Secretan's belief that there are and will be individuals who step up to the plate as spiritual leaders in businesses throughout the country to resolve this situation. Surely there are always people who want to end pain, who want to help others find answers, who strive to make improvements wherever they exist. These types of individuals will always exist. Yet, the question remains how such a small handful of so-called spiritual business leaders can make a sizeable dent in a very troublesome world.
It is not necessary to look far for the problems in present-day society. As Secretan noted, one can easily see the extent of discontent in the working world. Just today, November 30, the news of Manchester Online led with a story about the number of people who would like to change their jobs. Two out of five or 40% of workers plan to switch jobs within the next year. This shows how employers are failing to keep their staff motivated. Of 1,600 workers surveyed, a third felt it was acceptable to stay in a job for less than three years. Also, different from the past, it is not money or the lack of it that is causing the unhappiness. The report added that almost half said they were most interested in variety and a challenging job, suggesting that pay and flexibility were not the main factors in retaining staff. Employees want more from their jobs than "paying bills," and they are not getting it.
Another news story today about the work situation on Business Wire stated that the 21st Century economy places unique demands on the American workforce and on those who manage them. The traditional business model is becoming increasingly rare, and both employees and their managers must constantly adapt to a rapidly changing environment. Few managers are trained to effectively supervise workers under these new conditions, and, as a result, more than 80,000 complaints were filed in 2003 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Such concerns at work are taking their psychological and emotional toll. A new national survey noted on Report on Business indicates that one in five working women in Canada report having experienced depression and anxiety that affected their day-to-day work lives. Such mental illness greatly impacts the employees, as well as their companies and the economy overall. Depression may be costing American companies $44 billion each year in lost productivity, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (ibid). That figure is $31 billion higher than would be expected in the absence of depression, the researchers revealed. In phone interviews with 1,190 workers, researchers found depressed employees report losing about 5.5 hours each week in reduced performance while on the job.
In "The Spirit of Work," Secretan also talks about the tremendous amount of competition that exists due to increasing globalization and worldwide economic pressures. In turn, these economic pressures are placing more stress on workers due to downsizing, lower pay schedules, combination of job responsibilities, longer hours, etc.
Secretan's comments on competition are also very true. More employees are trapped in a job with long hours, overwhelming workloads, tight budgets, and demanding managers who are also under the gun. Commutes are longer than ever before, and people are relaxing at home or having less time for entertainment. Further, the fear of unemployment still looms, despite the fact that the economy is supposedly getting better. In fact, stress is one of main universals at work across the world. About 40% of Japanese teachers suffer from mental or health problems such as frequent headaches, depression and feelings of anxiety. In Switzerland, one in four executives admits to being seriously dissatisfied with his/her…[continue]
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