It’s good to find a fulfilling and meaningful job. I’ve worked in my current job for about 1.5 years so far. The main reason why I took this job was because I loved it and it’s perfect for me. 1.5 years down the road, and I still love it, and it’s still perfect for me. I had a hitch late last year, but I’ve since resolved it.
I picked up a book the other day called “What Makes Man Truly Human?” As you may guess, it’s a philosophy book, and I don’t usually read books like these, but the page that I happened to randomly flip to caught my attention, so I bought the book. The page was the start of a chapter called “The Possibilities of Human Work” and it described eight types of work that dehumanizes Man (makes him less human). I’ve summarized them as follows:
1. Boring work - doing work which does not stimulate and challenge me makes me less than fully human for the simple reason that my work involves little or no thinking. It is the nature of the human mind to think, to be active, and to be sensitive.
2. Routine, repetitive work - as a human being, I am always capable of learning something new and if my life is fully human this process of learning is going on continually. When work is routine, it makes man into a machine and denies him the opportunity to learn and to grow.
3. Meaningless work - There can be a type of human work which pays me the wages that I desire but which gives me no sense of accomplishment. Human work was meant to fill human lives with meaning, to give people a sense of accomplishment. Meaningless work dehumanizes man by taking away this sense of accomplishment and making his life empty. When work does not perform a useful function in society, it is meaningless.
4. Anti-social work - There can be a type of work which leads me into conflict with other people. Similarly, I may work in a highly competitive business or legal situation where my work entails finding a way to make my competitor fail so that I might win. Such competitive work leads me to be opposed to other human beings. Human work was meant to be a means by which we human beings come into closer solidarity with others by working together to achieve a common goal. When my work leads me to be in conflict with other human beings, it leads me to be less than fully human.
5. Overly stressful work - Normal human work exhausts us and drains our energy to a certain extent. There is nothing wrong with such work. But there can be a type of human work which is so demanding that it can destroy us mentally or physically. Such a work situation is highly stressful and can possibly lead to a type of breakdown. Work was meant to challenge us but sometimes the challenge can be too much.
6. Impersonal work - There can be a type of work where I function like a machine and have no opportunity to express my personality. Fully human work, by contrast, gives a person some opportunity to make her own decisions and to perform the work with her own personal style. Because of this the person is able to find herself in her work. When work gives no opportunity for such self-expression it is impersonal and dehumanizing.
7. Non-creative work - There can be a type of human work where there is no opportunity to act in a new way or to produce something different or to improve a situation. But human beings are more than machines or robots. They have the ability to create new ways of acting. Such opportunities for creativity lead to a richer, fuller human life. When a particular job gives no opportunities for acting creatively, it is dehumanizing.
8. Positions of authority - There can be a type of work which gives me power over other people so that I can control and manipulate them. Such a position of power leads me to relate to other people in a manipulative way, cutting me off from any personal relationships with them. For a full human life there is need for personal relationships where two human beings as equals relate to eat other with mutual respect. In a situation where authority dominates, such personal relationships are impossible and human beings are dehumanized. What is significant here is that both the ruler as well as the one ruled are dehumanized.
So… is your work dehumanizing you?
As for me, my work fulfils none of the conditions that dehumanizes me. No wonder I find such joy in the work that I do! No wonder it is perfect for me!
For those of you who are looking for a job, try to remember these eight ways in which your work can dehumanize you, and try to find one that helps you to be fully human instead.
For those of you who are not happy in your job, perhaps this list can help you to determine why. Many of the people I know have jobs that dehumanize them, but they do not know why. Perhaps this list can help you to realize in which ways your work is dehumanizing, and take steps to have a more fully human life in your work.
For those of you who now want to get the book, its title is “What Makes Man Truly Human?” by Michael D. Moga. It is published by St. Pauls.
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