Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Modern Work

Why do so many working people in our society find so little satisfaction in their daily work? Sometimes when I look at the faces of people leaving my building at the end of the day or strangers driving home during the evening commute, they look absolutely exhausted and dazed. Other times when I am riding up and down the elevators in my office building I listen to people complaining about their jobs. Many people in our society work in the same type of corporate, information driven environment that I work in. Almost everyone I know does "something with a computer". Some days it is easy to feel like the focus of your job is to read and write emails. We live in an information driven, electronic age. Most of us spend a great deal of time gathering and sharing data. I think that is part of the problem. Perhaps satisfaction goes down as sensory overload goes up. The work we do is mostly intangible. Unlike past generations, most of us cannot drive down the road, look at a bridge or building, and say, "I helped build that!” When you work with information, you have no lasting monuments to what you have accomplished. Instead of bridges, buildings, or works of art, we create spreadsheets and databases. It’s impossible to take a picture of these things and hang them on the wall. Our accomplishments and successes are fleeting. The flow of data and information never stops. Today's success of managing data is a moment in time. That success and moment are short lived. I really don't know the answer to the problem of finding satisfaction in doing this type of modern work. I try to remind myself that the information and numbers represent real people but that doesn't always work. The most satisfaction I find in the workplace comes from the people around me. I try to build relationships. If I can have a positive influence on another person, it is satisfying. Relationships involve something that is much more tangible than data and numbers. Looking at numbers and other data reminds me of a famous Zen saying. "The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon". The data and numbers are not what we serve. They are a finger pointing at the moon. In most cases the "moon" is people and they are what it's all about.

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