Reality Check: The Value of Work

Work and workplaces have changed over the past weeks. Some changes are dramatic, with workplaces completely shut down. Other workplaces carry on with relatively minor changes. Whether it’s your work that’s affected, or it’s your experience as a consumer, I’m sure you’ve noticed the changes.
Different people are affected in different ways. Some of the newly unemployed still have healthy incomes and are viewing this time much like an extended vacation. One has to stay home, but it’s a chance to catch up on chores around the house, spend time with the kids, and generally decompress.
Others are working from home. While routines will be different than the usual, the work continues.
However, not everyone can work from home. Every product cannot be manufactured nor can every service be provided from a home base; central offices and factories exist for a reason.
Thus, there are folks who would rather be working, but that’s out of their control. The loss of control, perhaps combined with concerns about income, health, family, and general uncertainty is understandably upsetting for them.
Given those different situations, it should come as no surprise that different people have different viewpoints about the best way forward.
To add to that, I have an additional suggestion for why some people find it so much more disconcerting than others when they are not able to work.
While we all have similarities, we also have differences. Dr. Glasser’s theory is helpful here in that he suggests that we all have the same basic needs, but at different levels.
One of those basic needs is what he calls the need for “power.” Because power is such a contentious word, I think it better reflects the intent if we refer to it as the need for recognition—to know that we have value.
Working is often a very positive way to satisfy that need for recognition and value.
For example, in this or any community, many people have complex jobs. Even close friends and family may have no idea of the complications, decision-making, authority and respect that their loved ones get at the workplace.
In fact, a big benefit of “take your child to work” day is not just that kids get to learn about a career. They also get to see Mom or Dad in a different environment with other adults. Seeing Mom or Dad being sought out for input and advice by coworkers shows them in quite a different light from how they may be seen at home.
The value of work goes well beyond the paycheque it brings to a family, the taxes it brings to a community, or the value of the product or service that it provides. Work is also important for the individuals who do it, for its positive way of satisfying the need for recognition and value.
If lottery ads reflect beliefs, then there are people who believe that an ideal life is one where work is not required. Work is something to avoid or to retire from; only then can one live happily.
However, if someone has been satisfying their need for recognition largely through work, and are now without work, they may feel frustrated and unsettled. Could that frustration be related to an unsatisfied need for recognition and esteem?
When we see someone responding to a situation differently than we do, it’s tempting to assume that they are wrong. Might it be helpful instead to remember that we have different levels of needs?
Each of us, and the people around us, are better off when we can find positive and productive ways to satisfy our needs, including that need for recognition and value.
How are you satisfying your own need for recognition, value and esteem during this unusual time?

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