I am obsessed with this song.
This song got me thinking, though. So many of us, whether we are teachers, parents, or business leaders do not love our occupation. Why is this? What are the environmental variables that effect our performance, or "satisfaction" in our occupation?
I think it is the classification of reinforcement that effects our behavior. If we attend our occupation (though we may not find it motivating or enjoyable), there is something reinforcing our behavior of at least attending to it every day. I recently surveyed students in my current undergraduate course about why they think people attend their job everyday, even though they may dislike it. Their answers varied in content, but had the same theme. Most stated that avoiding the "loss of the job" or "loss of pay" would be why most people continue to attend their job. In behavior analysis, this is what we would refer to as negative reinforcement. (For more on this see: Behaviorspeak: A Glossary of Terms in Applied Behavior Analysis by Bobby Newman*)
When I surveyed them again as to why they thought people attend their job, who "love their occupation," they stated that people who enjoy their job do it because they "enjoy the work that they do," or "like how much they get paid." These statements, would lead me to believe that those who love their occupation find working positively reinforced by internal or external positive feedback, or by gaining compensation.
Once I sorted out the consequences surrounding the two groups of people: those that love their job, and those that hate it, I started to think of potential additional environmental variables that could also effect performance in various occupations. I reflected on my own work experience in this.
I have worked since I was 13 years old in various jobs and places of employment. Some jobs I absolutely loved (disclaimer: though I left to take on new projects, I still loved them), and some were not a good fit. In thinking back on the antecedents that were present in the environment for the jobs I loved versus the jobs I disliked, I was able to come up with two environmental variables that effected my satisfaction.
1) System Automation
In the jobs I loved, the environments had streamlined processes with systems to automate workflow, so I could be free to spend more time thinking creatively and creating new projects than completing repetitive tasks. In the jobs I disliked, the environments were often chaotic with limited processes or systems present to aid in workflow. Tasks were presented with little instruction on how to perform those tasks.
Feedback (though not always positive) was effective and provided often. These environments allowed me to shape my own development, and to learn new skills. In the jobs I disliked, feedback was limited when those tasks were performed. I did not learn new skills when in these positions.
Looking back, I could have easily changed those environments by thinking of ways to help automate my workflow, and seek feedback and instruction elsewhere if I did not find it within the environment of the job, so I could have taken those opportunities to learn new skills. I could have changed the environment, and maybe enjoyed the work a little more. If this didn't work, I could have sought work elsewhere, which is what happened anyway, so I had nothing to lose in trying.
As educators, parents, and business leaders, we are tasked with creating environments that shape the development of those we teach, raise, or lead. It is also important, that we also create environments that shape our own development, so that we can also "love our occupations." Instead of spending time and energy hating our job, we can all find ways to change the environment to find joy in our work.
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