What’s the price of meaningfulness?

Izabella Kaminska

I hate to be a nay-sayer about a well-intentioned post, and I expect some readers will disagree with my point of view vehemently. However, this article about the nature of work clearly implies that work is valuable only if it is perceived by the person doing it to be “creative”. But this is fallacious because “creative” is the new cool. It professes to be about finding meaningfulness in work in a quasi-Maslowean hierarchy of needs, that people should find some form of self actualization in work.

In fact, what has happened in America is that people have been trained to see manual work, unless it can somehow be seen as being “creative” like making artisanal pickles or restoring fancy furniture, as well as most service work, as demeaning drudgery. If you make something be perceived to be socially undesirable or not very worthy (as an excuse for giving lousy pay), you’ll breed unhappy workers merely by virtue of social contempt (see expectancy theory for more detail).

The fact is most people are not creative. And this is not just my personal opinion, this is Carl Jung. Even though Myers Briggs is over-used, it has its place (IMHO it’s more useful for looking at how certain types behave in organizational settings than in one-on-one or personal relationships). The Jung-derived Myer-Briggs framework differentiates between “intuitives” who are somewhat to very impatient with convention and rules and admire imaginative people, versus “sensing” types, who like following procedures and get very annoyed with what they perceive to be undisciplined “intuitives”. And even though this categorization needs to be taken with a fistful of salt, the population seems to skew heavily to sensing types (an estimated 70%) versus intuitives (30%).