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Countable Chores: Quantitative v. Qualitative Jobs

November 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Employment is a formalized allotment of energy in which an employer expends energy for financial reward. These financial rewards vary significantly: variances in pay occur with all jobs and, perhaps most interestingly, rates of reward vary among employees doing the same exact chore. This inequality is beyond this post; though, instead I write to consider the events that make up that allotment of energy known as “job.” In these events of the day we can consider each job position and explore a clear distinction between all jobs.

All jobs are either quantitative or qualitative in nature. One classifies a position in this paradigm by considering the employee’s daily tasks. A worker who is expected to produce fifteen widgets per hour functions in a quantitative environment. He or she likely finds a similar day to day experience when he job market spoils a new position at the candy factory becomes primary employment. Now fifteen widgets are fifteen candy bars and the hourly expectation which defines the procedures of the day strikes him or her as common and comfortable.

This clear-cut expectation provides clarity for the worker and he or she may find the daily operations in the office above the candy store to be very confusing. In this office the marketing department does not have a common daily list of chores. The marketing department that simply arrives, produces fifteen posters and then leaves for home is failing at its responsibility. A day may have its countable expectations, for example the need call three executives for a meeting or a need for two new campaign ads but these quantitative components are only ingredients in a system of qualitative functioning.

I argue that all jobs can be categorized according to this paradigm or quantitative or qualitative means. A job’s daily list of chores defined by a numerical measurement of accomplishment is quantitative in nature. Employees who function in this environment have the potential to clearly define a successful a day and, if the expectation to produce fifteen candy met, a distinct sense of accomplishment. This sense is not present in the qualitative job. An employee working here cannot enjoy a sense of completion on a daily basis. In this job environment there are projects beyond completion and the overarching sense of “even more to do.” A qualitative job requires each employee to define his or her contribution and, via bittersweet empowerment leaves productivity in the hands of each worker.

While empowered, the employee functioning in the qualitative environment may rarely or never feel a sense of accomplishment. Each day may feel wasted as the employee simply inches forward on a project. This lack of clear lines of accomplishment may strike a worker more familiar with quantitative jobs as lacking or emotionally vacant. As our society moves away from quantitative labor due to technology’s ability to compete these chores more quickly and safely, our population becomes one of increasing qualitative employees. One wonders how this transition will take place within the emotions of these workers or if it may ever be known. I argue that this transition will be a difficult for quantitative-familiar workers and, though we may never explicitly hear of it, our culture may struggle deeply with the emotional variances at play in this distinction. Worker unhappiness may be less about pay and conditions and more about the psychological dynamics of each day and the inherent lack of success present in jobs qualitative in nature.

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