Job satisfaction matters. Of course, everyone would like to be happy with their work. But beyond that, scholars have also shown that job satisfaction is crucial for workers’ mental wellbeing and physical health, on the one hand, and important for employee performance and retention, on the other hand.
When we think about job satisfaction, we usually think about things like wages, office culture, or opportunities for self-fulfillment. But job satisfaction has another side to it: does your job make you feel like a good person?
Workers who think their job is meaningful are more likely to have job satisfaction. In particular, workers who think their jobs help others are more likely to report being satisfied with their jobs. In other words, you’re more likely to stay with your job if you think you’re helping others.
In that case, we might expect people who thought they were not helping to leave their jobs, assuming they had the means to do so. After all, people tend to avoid stigmatizing situations when possible—and doing unhelpful or harmful work is usually morally stigmatizing.
Which begs the question: why do admen and adwomen stay in their industry, when it’s generally viewed so negatively?
High-involvement models of working are associated with high levels of worker influence over the work process, such as high levels of control over how to undertake job tasks or involvement in designing work procedures. We have recently published a review of the literature to find out what is known about the conditions that foster the adoption of such high-involvement models. We draw on studies of worker participation in management since the 1950s to explore what explains the dispersion of high-involvement work processes in the private sector.
Concepts and context
The goal of ‘more and better jobs’, central to the European Union’s Lisbon Strategy (devised in 2000), reappeared in Europe 2020, raising the question of how European countries can transform existing jobs and generate more high-quality employment. High-involvement work processes offer one pathway through enhancing the influence that workers have over their work.
Several theoretical traditions recognise the scope for control as central to the quality of work, including the German action theory of work psychology and the demand-control model of work strain developed by Karasek and Theorell. The value of greater involvement in decision-making was also emphasized in the theory of sociotechnical systems, developed in the 1950s at the Tavistock Institute. These early studies had a defining influence on European institutions, particularly in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, where major programmes of work reform have been undertaken for almost half a century.
However, across Europe, the incidence of high-involvement working remains patchy. Eurofound’s analysis of the European Working Conditions Survey 2010 found more than one third of workers (38%) in Europe were in ‘low-involvement work organisations’ (low levels of task discretion and low levels of worker influence over work organization). Current trends provide no reassurance that the proportion experiencing high involvement will grow, nor that the major variations across Europe will be easily reduced (the Nordic group is well ahead of others).
For a police department, accepting donations from the public has clear advantages but also several downsides.
On the one hand, donations obviously bring in money. What organization wouldn’t like to have some extra money to spend, particularly if they feel cash-strapped? But economic benefit is not the only advantage of donations. For police departments, donations are also a way of getting closer to the community, a priority of policing in recent years. Gift-giving is more than a cash transfer. It can help the public feel part of the policing effort more than the impersonality of tax-payer money.
On the other hand, once a donation is accepted it can sow confusion among givers, receivers, and the public. Gift-giving is an activity plagued with ambiguity, ritual, and unsaid intentions.
When we give gifts, we often try to ensure the receiver knows we don’t want anything back. We want to be generous. But, the truth is that we do want something back. Although the return is not the motivation for the gift, we want the receiver to confirm that our social bond will be honored.
That confirmation comes in the form of a counter-gift or gesture that is not equal to the gift, but that keeps some kind of loose equivalence. In other words, gift-giving demands a dance of sorts to show that we are motivated by generosity and that no one is under any obligation to give or give back, while expecting reciprocity.