A new study confirms that a large percentage of workers, especially salespeople and corporate workers, see their jobs as pointless. Worryingly, some jobs really are.
Not everyone who is a cardiac surgeon, nurse or caterer to the less fortunate in this world. Many of them have an administrative job, work in business, or work in a store. in New study Researchers have discovered that these are exactly the people most likely to think they have a “bullshit job.” But is this really the case, or do they not realize that their job is useful?
American anthropologist David Graeber conceived the concept of bullshit work in 2013. He described bullshit work as “a form of wage labor so pointless, superfluous, or pernicious that not even an employee, feeling obligated to pretend otherwise, can justify his existence.” Graeber also later developed the bullshit work theory, which states that a large and growing percentage of employees actually have an objectively bullshit job. He had in mind, for example, the receptionists and porters, but also the company’s lawyers.
The findings of Graeber did not go unnoticed and many scientists spoke about it. However, they concluded that Graeber was not right in every way. They argued that the reason people describe their jobs as pointless is due more to routine work, lack of autonomy, or poor management. According to them, it has nothing to do with anything inherent in their work.
Sociologist Simon Wallo of the University of Zurich investigated this topic in a new study. In his research, he analyzed survey data from 1,811 respondents from the United States with 21 different types of jobs. Then he asked them several questions: Does their work make them feel that they have a positive impact on society and society? Do they feel they are doing useful work?
The results are amazing. For example, a comprehensive analysis shows that many respondents feel their work is pointless. At least 19 percent of them answered “never” or “rarely” to Walo’s questions. In addition, those who work in business, finance, and sales are more than twice as likely to say their work is useless. Office assistants and managers also say this more often (1.6 and 1.9 times more than others). Wallow also found that those who work in the private sector find their jobs more unfulfilling than those who work in the public sector.
Why are these employees more likely to speak negatively about their jobs? Some jobs in the financial sector are socially unviable because they are often about “creating debt and extracting money from the real economy,” Wallow told Business Insider. Saintias. They are therefore considered not only useless, but also harmful to society (see the 2008 financial crisis, for example). On the other hand, sales jobs often involve manipulating people into buying things they don’t really need. This may explain why many salespeople feel their jobs are not socially feasible.”
The fact that so many people don’t seem to experience their work as meaningful is actually worrying. “Previous research has shown that 77 percent of people think it is important to have a job that is useful to society,” Wallo notes. “It has also been shown time and time again that people really do suffer if their jobs are not socially feasible. So it is very upsetting that so many people feel this way.”
Is it really so?
Then Walo went one step further in his studies. Because what exactly is the basis for the answers of the respondents? Will they really have, as Graber previously assumed, a useless job, or are the other scientists right and has it more to do with suboptimal working conditions? According to Walu, the answer to this question is very important. “Assuming that their work is actually beneficial to society in some way, but they don’t see it, then this is a problem ‘only’ for the affected employees themselves,” he explains. “On the other hand, if we assume that some people are right and some jobs are really useless to society, it is much more disturbing. In that case, we as a society would be wasting our resources (such as time and natural resources).”
Waffle work exists
To get to the bottom of the matter, Walo corrected for several factors in his study, including the previously mentioned routine work, poor autonomy and poor management. After taking these factors into account, Walo discovered that the nature of the job still largely determines whether or not a person considers their work meaningful. Additionally, workers in occupations that Graeber deemed useless were more likely to respond negatively.
“So the main implication of the study is that some types of work can actually be useless to society,” says Walow. “The original evidence provided by Graeber was mainly qualitative, which makes it difficult to estimate the extent of the problem. But in the new study, we have expanded previous analyzes by drawing on a rich and underutilized data set, and provided new quantitative evidence. The study therefore supports the argument that some Jobs can be considered useless because they really are.”
Unfavorable working conditions
Despite this, Walo also gets to know the other side of the story. There are certainly factors that influence employees’ perceptions of their jobs. “The basic idea is that some people do socially useful work, but for some reason they don’t see that as the case,” he says. This shows that people’s perception of the futility of their jobs is a very complex issue that needs to be approached from different angles. It depends on several factors not necessarily related to the actual usefulness of their work, Graeber claims. For example, people may also consider their work socially useless because it appears useless due to unfavorable working conditions. In this case, the improvement of working conditions should be sufficient to change the perception of employees. More social interaction at work can also help to see that they are doing something really useful for others.”
However, the Walo study in particular shows that some professions are actually bullshit jobs. This requires action. The researcher argues: “We must implement more radical changes in our economic system.” Graeber himself, for example, proposes a universal basic income that would enable people to turn down pointless work. Alternatively, policy makers can prohibit certain useless or harmful economic activities or try to better align them with socially desirable ends. In short, as a society we need to think more carefully about what we want to do about bullshit jobs. Especially in light of the current climate crisis, we cannot afford to waste resources on such a large scale.”
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