Your Work, Your Job
I do a weekly radio program on a community radio station - shameless plug. The program “Music They Don't Want You to Hear" is broadcast Sundays on KTAL-LP from 6 to 8 p.m. Mountain Time at 101.5 FM in Las Cruces and streamed worldwide at www.lccommunityradio.org.
More than 40 people are involved with the station, hosting programs on a wide variety of topics including culture, politics, education, science and community. Music programs cover a broad spectrum of genres, from jazz to folk to Americana to rock and beyond. This includes the people who do all the technical work: station management, hardware and software support, web streaming, transmitter broadcasting and much more. There are also a myriad of administrative tasks from fund raising to paying the rent and maintaining FCC compliance. There's a lot of work involved to keep a station on the air 24 hours a day 7 days a week, a large part of it with local programming hosted by members of the community.
The interesting, perhaps amazing, part of all this is that everyone involved is a volunteer. It is not anyone's job to do any of these things. No one is paid for all the time and effort that is put in to make this a success and keep the station on the air for two and a half years and counting.
Que Tal Community radio is just one of many not-for-profits in the Las Cruces community and one of millions across the country and around the world which depend upon volunteers giving their time and talents to keep the organization running.
Executives and leaders in the corporate for-profit world will tell you that in order to attract top talent and provide incentives for hard work people must be highly compensated. CEOs and other executives routinely earn millions of dollars per year. Wall Street traders, analysts and managers receive lucrative salaries augmented by bonuses that are often hundreds of thousands of dollars or more per year. We are repeatedly told that all this is required if you were going to get the best people and their best work. Yet the same individuals will do everything possible to ensure that the front-line employees are paid as little as possible.
So Jeff Bezos at Amazon might be worth a hundred-fifteen billion dollars but an Amazon worker in a distribution center might make $15 an hour - and that is considered high by industry standards. The fast food industry is famous for its low pay, in many cases providing only minimum wage, while executives earn millions. These highly compensated executives expect and demand that the lowest paid workers on the front lines of their organizations work hard and do a good job while being friendly and polite to customers. For some reason these workers are expected to give their best without the incentive of high compensation that executives find so necessary.
It's apparent that work and job are not synonymous. I think of the distinction between work and job this way. Work is something that you find meaningful and useful and get a sense of accomplishment from. A job is something to allow you to make a living, the compensation involved being a necessary and critical component. Work and a job, like a classic Venn diagram, often significantly overlap; sometimes not so much. Many people find their jobs provide them with the opportunity to do work that is meaningful and useful. In other cases, people perform the tasks involved in a job primarily to make money.
The amount of overlap between work and jobs varies considerably and is often unrelated to compensation levels. For example, a highly compensated Wall Street broker might not see much very meaningful or useful in buying and selling stocks every day. Corporate executives may find much of what they do tedious, stressful and rewarding only monetarily. On the other hand, someone can feel a sense of accomplishment by mopping a floor and seeing it clean, by creating a satisfying meal or repairing a car.
While some people like or even love their jobs and consider those jobs to be their life's work, for many people their true work is not connected to a paying job. Such work might be coaching a youth sports team, being a volunteer firefighter, being part of a community arts group or helping at a food kitchen. All those volunteers often do work that is the equal of anything that is compensated and sometimes more.
Which begs the question of how we value work. Is the value based on the level of compensation that someone else has established for that job or how useful the work is to society or how meaningful the work is to those who do it. This is a question without a single or simple answer.
I think it is interesting to consider how we as consumers view the compensation levels of the people and organizations that provide us goods and services. Do you believe that the quality of services you receive are related to the compensation of the person delivering them? For example, do you select a doctor because he or she makes the most money and therefore you assume must be the best or because you think them to be the most capable, regardless of compensation? Would you choose a stock broker because they make the largest bonus or because they charge the least for a trade? Do you want an auto mechanic who charges the highest hourly rate or who knows the most about your car? And do you think they are one and the same?
Consider the emergency medical technician. The EMT is the person who often shows up first in a medical emergency. If you think you're having a heart attack and call 911 it's likely an EMT will show up at your door and usually very quickly. A friend of mine recently completed EMT training and reported it is a rigorous course that requires study, dedication, and passing a test to receive certification. Despite the knowledge needed and the work put into the training he reported that the EMTs in his area typically are paid about $13 an hour. So when that EMT arrives at your door to save your life do you think that the service would be better if they were with paid $26 an hour? EMTs in many areas are volunteers and are not compensated at all. Do you think that the level of service you receive will be less because they're not being paid? Or might you think that because someone cares enough to do it just to help their neighbors that they might provide a higher level of care?
It all comes down to how we value work and the people who do it. Find work you love and that is useful and good. Make your own decision about what is of value both in terms of what you do and what you value about the work of others. Get a job if you must.
One Small Voice
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