The psychology of work can be described as the scientific study of human beings in the workplace, our relationship with work, its affects on personal wellbeing, and indeed, its broader social impact. We spend a very large portion of our adult lives in daily work, therefore it warrants, albeit for the right reasons, psychological examination. But many investigations into the nature of our relationship with work, are carried out in the pursuit of profit. Organisations may say they care about their workers, however, their organisational motivations are first and foremost commercial. Individuals care about other individuals, however, corporate policy often dictates.
In this introduction to the psychology of work, the focus is upon daily work – that for which we receive payment or other monetary compensation. Therefore, it encompasses a wide variety of professions and careers in an equally wide variety of domains of work including both direct employment and self-employment. We are concerned here, with work as it relates to the person and groups of people and their feelings about it. The aim of the content is to perhaps, offer you a clearer perspective on your relationship with your daily work.
A Double Edged Sword
Daily work is sort of a double edged sword, insofar as it has the potential to bring out the best and the worst in us. We seem to either love it or hate it, and sometimes both emotional states exist at the same time. We are somehow compelled to work, it is a societal imperative, a fundamental requirement for social inclusion.
Don't, or can't work? Then you may be perceived as a drag on society, an unfortunate scar on the face of an otherwise functional unit. We'll put up with you, but only because we wish to be seen as socially responsible. Of course, that's not the outward politically correct view, but it is no less true in the minds of people.
“I work to live, I don't live to work”, as one respondent to a recent study I conducted on wellbeing in the workplace put it. Prior to the study, my personal unsubstantiated opinion had been that many people feel this way. The study results subsequently affirmed that opinion, at least for now.
The apparent negative state of human relations with daily work comes from the idea that self-worth and value result from productivity. Perhaps we have allowed ourselves to become commodities, mechanisms of production in the larger machine of society.
Therefore, the purpose of the investigations I undertake is to explore the psychology of work as it applies to the individual-at-work. Whether you work alone or in an organisation, my intent for this website is to assist you form a meaningful relationship with your daily work, reconnect with its inherent value, and consequently, derive happiness from it.
Work is a source of social cohesion and material welfare; and for the individual it is often crucial to both mental and physical health.Peter Warr, Psychology at Work
Happiness & Unhappiness at Work
Peter Warr, Professor Emeritus in Work Psychology at the University of Sheffield said that happiness and unhappiness are central to human existence 1. Happiness is a sense of overall psychological well-being, a close relation of which are work-related well-being and job satisfaction. Daily work, and our feelings about it both influence, and in turn, are influenced by, overall life satisfaction. Consequently, job and life satisfaction are significantly and reciprocally related (Judge & Wantanabe, 1993) 2.
In his discussion on the relationship between general well-being and well-being at work, Professor Warr further suggested that daily work is a source of social cohesion, material welfare, and is critical to the mental and physical health of the individual.
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- Warr, P. (2019). The Psychology of Happiness (1st ed., p. 1). Oxford: Routledge.
- Judge, T. A., & Watanabe, S. (1993). Another look at the job satisfaction-life satisfaction relationship. Journal of applied psychology, 78(6), 939.