Work and Organizational Psychology: An Introduction with Attitude

By Christine E. Doyle | Go to book overview
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Why work? (Or life, the universe, and everything!): Employee relations and motivation

Why should I let the toad work

Squat on my life?

Philip Larkin

It is interesting to speculate whether Philip Larkin would ever have risen to the dizzy heights of being asked to take the post of Poet Laureate, if he hadn't written this, possibly his most famous poem. In it, he combines a passionate outcry against "the sickening poison" that work spreads through lives, with despair about his moral cowardice in not shouting "Stuff your pension!" This poem has some personal resonance for me because when I was an undergraduate at Hull University, Larkin was employed as its chief librarian. His lanky and rather gloomy figure was a familiar sight and I often wondered whether his celebrated denunciation of work and our mean-spirited acceptance of its deadening hand extended to his role as custodian of our most important learning resource. I, who had come through adolescence via the nascent revival of feminism, saw work, or rather a career, as liberation. Being confined to the home and financial dependence was the slavery! Be that as it may, this is a nice illustration of the vast differences which can exist in the meaning of work for individuals and the fact that our attitudes to it are complex indeed. It also hints at another issue-work can mean different things to us at different points in our lives. Perhaps the differences between my views and those of Larkin are not as diametrically opposed as they once were!

Measuring our attitudes to work is a bit like trying to capture woodsmoke but that doesn't stop people trying. You may wish to begin this chapter with some evaluation of what work means to you, using the questionnaire in Exercise 3.1. It is based on expectancy theory (Vroom, 1964). This theory proposes that we will expend most effort to gain rewards that are important to us, but only when the expectation that we will actually get what we want is high.


where B is motivated behaviour, V is valence (how much we value the rewards on offer), and E is expectancy (how confident we are that we will actually get these valued rewards). It follows, therefore, that if


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