Freelance Work Creates `Professional Parasites' ; OCCUPATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY: A Persecution Indicator Is Developed as Companies Pay Price of Workers Taking Control of Their Careers

By Cherry Norton Social Affairs Correspondent | The Independent (London, England), January 7, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Freelance Work Creates `Professional Parasites' ; OCCUPATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY: A Persecution Indicator Is Developed as Companies Pay Price of Workers Taking Control of Their Careers


Cherry Norton Social Affairs Correspondent, The Independent (London, England)


WORKERS HAVE responded to the end of the job-for-life culture in Britain by becom- ing "professional parasites", hoarding their knowledge and work expertise, psychologists said yesterday.

Almost one in five workers surveyed thought it was not in his or her interest to share knowledge at work, costing businesses millions of pounds a year, says research presented at the British Psychological Society occupational psychology conference in Brighton.

The study shows that employees no longer feel that company loyalty benefits them, and hoard knowledge and expertise to boost their careers and finances.

Since the mid-1980s organisations have down-sized, cut perks and put staff on short-term contracts to save money, but the findings show they are paying a heavy price. "The end of the job-for-life culture, where employees are managing their own careers, is now rebounding on companies," said Adrian Patch, a research psychologist from Birkbeck College, London University, and co-author of the study. "Now employees are adopting this parasitic approach - looking after their own interests. It serves companies right.

"In the new knowledge economy the value and success of many companies is in the knowledge, expertise and innovation of the people who work for them," Mr Patch said. "But the study has uncovered tensions between companies who have put in computer infrastructures to enable sharing of knowledge, and employees' willingness to do so."

The study of 900 workers in the information technology, media and healthcare sectors, ranging from freelance to fully employed staff, showed that individuals who felt they had been ill-treated at work were most likely to hoard knowledge and expertise and less likely to share ideas.

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