Tag Archives: Lifestyle

The Meaning of Work (and Cultural Considerations at the Example of Japan)

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Introduction

Definition of meaning

Although ‘meaning’ isn’t reducible to a state-like single factor [1], the meaning of a concept (i.e., work) is related to how an individual does experience the significance of a situation that causes related inferential intentions to behave in a certain way [2]. While for many people the primary meaning of work lies in the earning of money for making a living, work provides also for values such as achievement, honor, and social relationships that determine how central the purpose of work is as compared to other life aspects like leisure, family, and community [3].

Economist and psychologist approach to work

The economist approach to work assumes a transactional exchange of time and effort for money. Non-financial job values have gotten limited attention by economists when examining work motivation and productivity. However, like for example, academics who have highest job security without the need to outperform, and who study beyond working hours without monetary incentives, are motivated by pure contribution to a subject, intellectual stimulation, and the satisfaction from a deliberate exchange of knowledge. Similarly, entrepreneurs enjoy the freedom of autonomous decision-making regardless of ‘pain’ put into it in the form of time and effort. Top talents have been found to prefer to work for social organizations rather than just for the best paying one [4].

Albeit the financialized political economy [5] ignores many aspects of work, such as its creative and interpersonal (social) value [6], the examples show that through psychological satisfaction, work can be a source of meaning beyond merely earning an income [4].

 

Cultural features of work meaning

Work creates culture, culture creates work

Culture as a guiding set of material, mental, and spiritual values that are based on a group’s experiences over time, creates meaning on how to behave and work [7] and, at the same time, its meaning itself is produced by work. Consequently, work should be considered a meaning-making construct of and within culture respectively as the producer and product of people’s mindset simultaneously [8]. A culture, therefore, can be only as rich and meaningful as the work that produces it is itself. 

“Adulthood” identity

In most Western cultures, there is today a less clear boundary between school and work life. In Japanese society though, there exists still a distinct point in time (usually beginning of April every year) that is marking the end of one’s student identity through entering the working world on full-time basis, which means to becoming a ‘shakaijin,’ i.e., a person of society/workforce [9]. Companies use recruitment practices and regular personal assessment throughout an adult’s work life to socialize [10]. Age-based reward and promotion systems also support this ongoing socialization process [15]. More recently, the traditional path to adulthood and ‘companyism’ has become more diverse, and the increasing number of part-time workers and contractors is shaping a changing understanding of the transition to adulthood and work life, one that takes place rather through action than through the acquisition of the ‘shakaijin’ status [10].

Masculine breadwinner identity

Company respectively work-led socialization reinforces gender roles. The breadwinning role is a priority in masculine identity. After the earthquake in 2011, men’s concern in Fukushima was less related to health than to the loss of their economic situation [11]. As in Japanese patriarchal culture, the father role is still primarily related to company job-related work, childcare duties are culturally assigned to solely to the female role (i.e., mother or grandmother), which provides a widespread potential for work-family conflicts. Shared family and work-related commitments, however, begin to be seen as essential to improve self-worthiness and a sense of meaningfulness in life [12]. Men who don’t exhibit a regular full-time job are more likely to marry late. Also, males with non-standard jobs have the lowest chance of getting children, an effect that is prevalent in Japan, but not in the US, for example [13].

Given the importance of work as a provider of status, identity, and meaning, it is understandable that Japanese commit with a lot of grit to it [14]. Over time, Japan’s values align more closely with global trends insofar as there is a great emphasis on the economic function of work as well [15]. Will that be enough meaning to engage the next generations of employees as well? Research is showing that lack of meaning at work is reducing work volition and work-related well-being significantly [16].

Economy of dignity and respect

A further question is how much a collectivist society may be able to reduce the dependency on others and society overall because over-dependency on the meaning of work risks to hamper dignity. The individual capacity to understand and position oneself as a fully recognized societal participant is vital to the notion of dignity as sourced from within. It is to hope that companies and society, not only in Japan, help to create dignity by de-stigmatizing of traditional personhood markers such as employment type and gender roles [17]. It’s maybe such a shift from status-focus to an action-focus orientation that also explains the changing meaning of ‘sonkei’ (Japanese for respect). Formal respect (e.g., towards age-based status) is increasingly recognized as a moral duty rather than an emotion built on genuine love and admiration [18].

Benefits from meaningful work

Psychological well-being

The benefit of employees perceiving their work as meaningful come as experiences of greater happiness, job satisfaction, team spirit, and commitment ([19]; [20]), thus reducing turnover rates and long-term sickness absences. This is because of the positive emotional bondage to the workplace that is an end in itself; a characteristic also called intrinsic motivation [21]. A greater sense of meaning in one’s work can be protective of burnout [22]. Eudaimonia is a term describing the sort of well-being that comes from living an engaging, meaningful, and fulfilling life [23]. Such a spirit at the workplace can be fostered by letting employees feel they contribute to something more significant in connection to a common connection and purpose [24].

Performance and physical health

Work meaning is also closely linked to better outcomes, such as increased income, quality of work, and job satisfaction [25]. Finally, a sense of purpose and sense of socially embedded growth in and from work (i.e., eudaimonic, meaning-based well-being versus hedonic, pleasure-based job-satisfaction [26]) was found to be associated with positive health outcomes, for example, by the means of supporting one’s physical resistance against adversities like inflammation or viral infection [27]. The Japanese type of stress-death, the so-called ‘karoushi’ (death from overwork) cannot be seen as a physiological phenomenon only. Rather death is caused by a vicious cycle of depressive feelings, and states of helplessness and unescapable despair combined with overwork [28].

Fostering meaning at work

A culture of mentorship and nostalgia

For a long time, job satisfaction research has been focused on an organizational perspective without sufficiently considering the role of the job on family, the standard of living, personal development, and on a worker’s larger worldview [26]. It is crucial to understand better situational contexts in which meaning ensues. Researchers found that the highest levels of meaning arise during spiritual practices and work hours, especially when performing social job components such as talking to people. As a general pattern, meaning occurs most during states of increased awareness [29]. An organizational listening climate may facilitate such an awareness [30], and acting as a self-reflective mentor might be a useful avenue of experiencing meaning at work [31]. Indeed, studies among nursing practices from different countries (e.g., Canada, India, Ireland, Japan, and Korea) confirm that leaders and a culture of mentorship are important for fostering meaning of work for both mentors and the mentees [32]. Also, the induction of nostalgia (i.e., remembering sentimental events from the past) can be used to meet employees longing for wistful affection to the past and may increase an employee’s perception of the meaningfulness of his/her organizational life and therefore the attachment to it [19].

The need for humanizing the economy

The hope that unfulfilling, unsatisfying, and even health and life-threatening mental stress at work will improve may be overshadowed by the continuing centrality of profit margins and efficiency in corporations. Neo-liberal development in Japan has shaken the traditions of secure long-term employment and a state responsible for citizens welfare. While the need for meaning at the workplace implies rather a humanization of the economy and society, capitalist marketization of everything is continuing. Corporate managers continue to exploit deregulated labor and capital and maintain insecurity and growing competition among workers. [33]. While rhetoric is sometimes trying to convince otherwise, understandably in the light of how grim the reality reveals, capitalism’s ultimate sense is about capital rather than humanity. In case of conflict, business goals come before anything else. Regardless of how meaningful employees perceive their job, no CEO is considered unsuccessful when driving profits within legal constraints and without caring especially about humanistically meaningful jobs. It’s, therefore, as an example, a non-surprising and common observation that such managers only after their retirement turn to a more dedicated anthropological role of contributing to society.

Meaning determines moral and ethical intentions and behavior

It seems that people need to find answers from within because the treadmill of the pursuit of consumption, pleasure, and economic success from work won’t fulfill the potential of greater meaning at work in many cases, regardless of how comfortable or tough the circumstances. It is each and everyone’s responsibility to fill the void of meaning through their sacred awareness, philosophy, and artful approach to put it into practice. And it is critical that we help others to do so too. The meaning of work should be considered simultaneously from an individual, organizational, and societal perspective, considering its psychological function for everyone. Meaning is the basis on which intentions ensue and according actions follow [2]. Consequently, claiming peaceful fulfillment in one’s work is an essential part of and prerequisite for moral and ethical behavior towards oneself and others alike.

 

References

[1] Leontiev, D. A. (2013). Personal meaning: A challenge for psychology. Journal Of Positive Psychology, 8(6), 459-470. doi:10.1080/17439760.2013.830767

[2] Liberman, S., & López Olmedo, R. (2017). Psychological Meaning of ‘Coauthorship’ among Scientists Using the Natural Semantic Networks Technique. Social Epistemology: A Journal Of Knowledge, Culture, And Policy, 31(2), 152-164.

[3] THE MEANING OF WORKING: JAPAN VS USA. (2011). Allied Academies International Conference: Proceedings of the Academy for Studies in International Business (ASIB), 11(1), 7-11.

[4] Cassar, L., & Meier, S. (2018). Nonmonetary Incentives and the Implications of Work as a Source of Meaning. Journal Of Economic Perspectives, 32(3), 215-238. doi:http://dx.doi.org.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/10.1257/jep.32.3.215

[5] Lapping, C., & Glynos, J. (2018). Psychical Contexts of Subjectivity and Performative Practices of Remuneration: Teaching Assistants’ Narratives of Work. Journal Of Education Policy, 33(1), 23-42.

[6] Gill, F. (2000). The meaning of work: Lessons from sociology, psychology, and political theory. JOURNAL OF SOCIOECONOMICS, (6). 725.

[7] Francis, V. F. (2018). Infusing Dispute Resolution Teaching and Training with Culture and Diversity. Ohio State Journal On Dispute Resolution, (Issue 2), 171.

[8] Bendassolli, P. F. (2016). Work and culture: Approaching cultural and work psychology. Culture & Psychology, 23(3), 372-390.

[9] Cook, H. M., & Shibamoto-Smith, J. S. (n.d). Japanese at work : politeness, power, and personae in Japanese workplace discourse. Cham : Palgrave Macmillan, [2018].

[10] Cook, E. E. (2016). Adulthood as Action Changing Meanings of Adulthood for Male Part-Time Workers in Contemporary Japan. Asian Journal Of Social Science, 44(3), 317-337.

[11] Morioka, R. (2014). Gender difference in the health risk perception of radiation from Fukushima in Japan: The role of hegemonic masculinity. Social Science & Medicine, 107105-112. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.02.014

[12] Hamada, l. (2017). Men’s unpaid domestic work: A critique of (re)doing gender in contemporary Japan. In M. Tsai, W. Chen, M. Tsai, W. Chen (Eds.) , Family, work and wellbeing in Asia (pp. 177-191). New York, NY, US: Springer Science + Business Media. doi:10.1007/978-981-10-4313-0_9

[13] Piotrowski, M., Wolford, R., Kalleberg, A., & Bond, E. (2018). Non-standard work and fertility: a comparison of the US and Japan. Asian Population Studies, 14(2), 116-136.

[14] Suzuki, Y., Tamesue, D., Asahi, K., & Ishikawa, Y. (2015). Grit and Work Engagement: A Cross-Sectional Study. Plos ONE, 10(9), 1-11. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0137501

[15] Karyn A., L., & Arne L., K. (1988). Age and the Meaning of Work in the United States and Japan. Social Forces, (2), 337. doi:10.2307/2579185

[16] Duffy, R. D., Autin, K. L., & Bott, E. M. (2015). Work Volition and Job Satisfaction: Examining the Role of Work Meaning and Person-Environment Fit. Career Development Quarterly, 63(2), 126-140.

[17] Pugh, A. J. (2012). The Social Meanings of Dignity at Work. Hedgehog Review, 14(3), 30-38.

[18] Muto, S. (2016). [The hierarchical semantic structure of respect-related emotions in modern Japanese people]. Shinrigaku Kenkyu: The Japanese Journal Of Psychology, 87(1), 95-101.

[19] Leunissen, J. M., Sedikides, C., Wildschut, T., & Cohen, T. R. (2018). Organizational Nostalgia Lowers Turnover Intentions by Increasing Work Meaning: The Moderating Role of Burnout. Journal of occupational health psychology, (1). 44.

[20] Fourie, M., & Deacon, E. (2015). Meaning in work of secondary school teachers: A qualitative study. South African Journal Of Education, 35(3), 1-8.

[21] Clausen, T., Burr, H., & Borg, V. (2014). Does Affective Organizational Commitment and Experience of Meaning at Work Predict Long-Term Sickness Absence?. Journal Of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, 56(2), 129-135. doi:10.1097/JOM.0000000000000078

[22] Tei, S., Becker, C., Sugihara, G., Kawada, R., Fujino, J., Sozu, T., & … Takahashi, H. (2015). Sense of meaning in work and risk of burnout among medical professionals. Psychiatry And Clinical Neurosciences, 69(2), 123-124. doi:10.1111/pcn.12217

[23] Cake, M. A., Bell, M. A., & Bickley, N. (2015). The Life of Meaning: A Model of the Positive Contributions to Well-Being from Veterinary Work. Journal Of Veterinary Medical Education, 42(3), 184-193.

[24] Kinjerski, V., & Skrypnek, B. J. (2008). Four Paths to Spirit at Work: Journeys of Personal Meaning, Fulfillment, Well-Being, and Transcendence through Work. Career Development Quarterly, 56(4), 319-329.

[25] THE PATTERNING OF WORK MEANINGS WHICH ARE COTERMINOUS WITH WORK OUTCOME LEVELS FOR INDIVIDUALS IN JAPAN, GERMANY AND THE USA. (n.d). APPLIED PSYCHOLOGY-AN INTERNATIONAL REVIEW-PSYCHOLOGIE APPLIQUEE-REVUE INTERNATIONALE, 39(1), 29-45.

[26] Rothausen, T. J., & Henderson, K. E. (2018). Meaning-based job-related well-being: Exploring a meaningful work conceptualization of job satisfaction. Journal Of Business And Psychology, doi:10.1007/s10869-018-9545-x

[27] Kitayama, S., Akutsu, S., Uchida, Y., & Cole, S. W. (2016). Work, meaning, and gene regulation: Findings from a Japanese information technology firm. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 72175-181. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.07.004

[28] Walter, T. (1993). Karoushi: Stress-Death and the Meaning of Work. Journal Of Business Ethics, (11), 869.

[29] Kucinskas, J., Wright, B. E., & Riepl, S. (2018). The Interplay Between Meaning and Sacred Awareness in Everyday Life: Evidence From a Daily Smartphone Study. International Journal For The Psychology Of Religion, 28(2), 71-88.

[30] Reed, K., Goolsby, J. R., & Johnston, M. K. (2016). Extracting Meaning and Relevance from Work: The Potential Connection Between the Listening Environment and Employee’s Organizational Identification and Commitment. International Journal Of Business Communication, 53(3), 326-342. doi:10.1177/2329488414525465

[31] Kennett, P., & Lomas, T. (2015). Making meaning through mentoring: Mentors finding fulfilment at work through self-determination and self-reflection. International Journal Of Evidence Based Coaching And Mentoring, (2), 29.

[32] Malloy, D. C., Fahey-McCarthy, E., Murakami, M., Lee, Y., Choi, E., Hirose, E., & Hadjistavropoulos, T. (2015). Finding Meaning in the Work of Nursing: An International Study. Online Journal Of Issues In Nursing, 20(3), 7.

[33] Gagne, N. O. (2018). “Correcting Capitalism”: Changing Metrics and Meanings of Work among Japanese Employees. Journal Of Contemporary Asia, 48(1), 67-87. doi:10.1080/00472336.2017.1381984

What do younger talents want?

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Summary. Younger employees around the world tend to prefer more professional freedom, meaningful work, and work-life in their work. Asking only older senior HR managers might not provide sufficient insight into the generation Y’s thinking though. Listening directly to the younger employees is vital to positively influence job satisfaction, engagement, and work performance altogether. The youth’s resourcefulness, e.g., in digital media, could be used for backward/reverse mentoring to engage senior management more. Offering millennials more short-term job and internship opportunities can represent a win-win situation to gain experience from both an organizational and young talent perspective. Some examples from a Chinese perspective are presented. 


Work ethics and quality of life values

Many of the so-called gold-collar workers (GCW) who demonstrate qualities such as high problem-solving abilities in challenging environments but are also used to extraordinary financial compensation, started to quit their positions in prominent Chinese cities to seek improved work-life balance, including, e.g., increased learning and development opportunities [1]. Today’s younger generations in China, while navigating the collectivist society, can also require, even from authorities, more radical openness and honesty, especially in case of perceived unfairness [2]. Researchers found that more professional freedom, meaningful work, and work-life balance constitute job characteristics increasingly crucial as a high-level tendency across different cultures [3]. Varying work values still need to be differentiated between even various countries in East Asia itself. For example, the Chinese tend to be more individualistic, while the Japanese are more risk-averse, and the Koreans are often found somewhat in the middle [4].

Insight-led Global Talent Management (GTM) and backward/reverse mentoring

Best practice Global Talent Management (GTM) in Asia is best led by insight into economic and cultural context [2], including the specific understanding of the youth. When re-assessing HR practices, consulting only with older senior management personnel might not provide sufficient and accurate insight into the thinking of the generation Y employees [5]. A demographic shift also takes place in China where the proportion of the population of over sixty-five years is growing, which is resulting in a shrinking workforce with implication for how to manage the pool of younger talents [6]. Cooperative re-negotiation of employee structures and roles within firms might be needed. The Gallup’s global employee engagement database reveals that two-thirds of Asian CEO’s are not engaged and often feel underdeveloped [7]. Bringing together the younger generations’ digital talent and the older colleagues rich experience in a kind of backward/reverse mentoring would offer an exciting approach [2].

Short and long-term view for win-win situations

Millennials often plan differently for their future, meaning that they seek more short-term employment (i.e., of one to two years length) to gain experience at the beginning of their career [8]. Consequently, talent management practices have to deal with more employee turnover. However, especially when talent acquisition is challenged due to a lack of matching organizational demand and graduate skills, short-term assignments might offer a win-win situation overall. This is the reason why both firms and candidates see internships as an ideal avenue at professional career start [9].

Empowering the youth

For the youth being able to bring their potential to the table, managers self-identified their central role as empowering their talents in furthering self-esteem and self-promotion capability [10]. For GTM, listening to the younger generation and consider their expectations is vital to positively influence job satisfaction, engagement, and work performance altogether [3].

References

[1] Roongrerngsuke, S., & Liefooghe, A. (2013). Attracting Gold-Collar Workers: Comparing Organizational Attractiveness and Work-Related Values across Generations in China, India and Thailand. Asia Pacific Business Review, 19(3), 337-355.

[2] Claire, M. (2011). Lessons from the East: next generation HR in Asia. Strategic HR Review, (4), 11. doi:10.1108/14754391111140954

[3] Walk, M., Handy, F., & Schinnenburg, H. (2013). What do talents want? Work expectations in India, China, and Germany. Zeitschrift Fur Personalforschung, 27(3), 251-278.

[4] Froese, F. J. (2013). Work values of the next generation of business leaders in Shanghai, Tokyo, and Seoul. Asia Pacific Journal Of Management, 30(1), 297-315. doi:10.1007/s10490-011-9271-7

[5] Lynton, N., & Beechler, S. (2012). Using Chinese Managerial Values to Win the War for Talent. Asia Pacific Business Review, 18(4), 567-585.

[6] Jackson, K. (2017). Demographic shift: implications for employment policy development in the Asia-Pacific. Asia Pacific Business Review, 23(5), 738-742. doi:10.1080/13602381.2017.1295558

[7] Ratanjee, V. (2014). Bridging the Leadership Gap in Asia. Gallup Business Journal, 4.

[8] Groden, C. (2016). Five Things You Can Do to Attract Millennial Talent. Fortune International (Asia), 173(4), 182.

[9] Rose, P. (2013). Internships: Tapping into China’s next generation of talent. Asia-Pacific Journal Of Cooperative Education, 14(2), 89-98.

[10] Middleton, J. (2012). secrets to tapping the talent in young Pacific people. Human Resources Magazine, 17(1), 34-35.

Traveling

Traveling

Visiting individual existences
Natural, awakening places
Kissing compassion and potential
Inspiring mysterious doors
Everywhere

Escaping forced appearances
Sterile, lulling spaces
Sucking possession and control
Depressing golden gates
Far away

Chamomile’s positive effect on relaxation, fighting depression and anxiety

mathias-sager-chamomile

Understandably, natural herbs can be an attractive home remedy alternative to physician prescribed psychopharmacology (Szafrański, 2014). Many people suffering from depression or anxiety could be helped if less expensive therapies were available (Amsterdam et al., 2012).

Continue reading Chamomile’s positive effect on relaxation, fighting depression and anxiety

Shaping one’s life

#61 RGB II (Mathias Sager, Oil colors water mixable on wood board, 3 panels each 33.3 x 22.0 x 1.2 cm)

A life nicely centered between birth and death
As it is acting like knowing its symmetry around a peak
Assuming a ceiling point until which to invest
According to plans for success and wealth
Allowing a balanced ascension and decline
All forming the pyramid of life

OR

A life interestingly gone astray in chaos of time
As it is anticipating what was never expected to occur
Assuming abundance seen as a result of giving
According to teachings for personal growth
Allowing an adventurous dive in uncertainty
All forming the pot of life

OR JUST

A life
As it is
Assuming nothing
According to nature
Allowing
All forms of life

A holistic career progress examination

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A holistic perspective on career reflection

A holistic career examination implies that the development that has led to the current situation, as well as a future outlook, shall be taken into account in a reflective way.  A whole person approach includes personal traits and socio-cognitive facets. Personal identity extends to life-story considerations, cultural context, and life purpose (Nilsson, 2014). Besides using the biopsychosocial model, biographical learning provides for a concept that is including both formal and informal learning processes, emotional, existential, and cognitive aspects (Hallqvist, 2014, p. 499). This post reflects on a (mid-life) professional career transition from a personal point of view.

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Lifestyle factors that predict longevity

mathias-sager-longevity-mount-kazbek-georgia1531917__340Geographical and behavioral differences are relevant for how long people live. For example, in an Abkarsian population of Georgia the chance for a citizen of reaching the age of 100 years was 13 times higher than the expectancy in the UK or the US. Weg (1983) found the following factors to be relevant for explaining the phenomenon:
  • There may have been a local gene pool of relevance
  • They have disciplined work routines
  • Their diet is low in saturated fat and high in fruit and vegetables
  • They do not smoke or drink alcohol
  • They are close-knit, with good social support
  • Reported levels of stress are low

However, the interpretation of correlations between such findings and other factors are difficult. But generally, the following 7 lifestyle factors found by many studies contribute to longevity (Laureate Education, 2014):

  • Sleeping 7 – 8 hours per day
  • Having breakfast regularly
  • Not smoking
  • Not eating between meals
  • Being near to medically-advised weight
  • Moderate alcohol use (or abstinence)
  • Taking regular exercise
I really think just these big 7 health habits are the ones everyone needs to consider and fine-tune to his/her personal situation, condition, and preference. Feasible, no? Or easier said than done?:-)