Positive Business: Is your work a calling?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Positive Business
This photo of a woman working in a warehouse was taken by Magnus Fröderberg, released via Wikimedia Commons.

This photo of a woman working in a warehouse was taken by Magnus Fröderberg, released via Wikimedia Commons.

What do you think of the work you do?

Is work a curse? Just what you have to do to make a living? Or, does your work serve a higher purpose? What work means to you—and how you can recraft your job to make it more meaningful and joyful—are parts of positive business.

Let’s start with: What does your job mean to you? Work orientation is the phrase we use to refer to the meaning of work for a person. The seminal work on this way done by Amy Wrzesniewski, a business school professor at Yale University. Amy discovered three basic work orientations. Usually, each person has a dominant orientation.

Which one comes closest to how you feel about your work?

  • JOB ORIENTATION: People with a job orientation look at work as something they do to earn a livelihood. They might be very good at their work, but it doesn’t have any special meaning or purpose for them. They do it for the money. If they won the lottery, they would quit right away.
  • CAREER ORIENTATION: Those with a career orientation see work as a means of getting ahead and moving up the ladder. A good job is one that has good opportunities for promotions and advancement. Getting ahead, we know, is one of the 10 core values I documented in United America.
  • CALLING ORIENTATION: People who see their work as a calling believe it serves a higher purpose and does good in the world. Those with a calling orientation have a passion for what they do. They are fulfilled and energized by their work. If they won the lottery, they would keep doing the same work.

Kathryn Dekas, my former PhD student now in People Analytics at Google, and I got interested in the origins of work orientations. One big influence is parents: How your parents (or guardians) saw their work when you were an adolescent influences your work orientation now as an adult.

One of the most intriguing findings involves the calling orientation. You are more likely to have a calling orientation now if both your parents had calling orientations when you were growing up. Parents who spoke about their passion for the work they did are more likely to produce offspring who also see their work as a calling.

Which orientation is yours: job, career, or calling?

Does it match your recollection of your parents’ orientations when you were growing up?

No matter what your work orientation is, you can recraft your job to make it more meaningful and energizing. Care to learn more about how to do this? Go to the annual conference on positive business this week at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, Ann Arbor, MI.

Mother’s Day: Were moms working 150 years ago?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Mother's Day
Woman cooking in a 19th century kitchen

Woman cooking in a 19th century kitchen. Photo by Jorge Royan, offered for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Were moms working 150 years ago?

That’s a trick question. Of course, mothers have always worked, whether at home, outside the home, or a combination of both. Do you know what percentage of mothers worked outside the home—in 1860?

This Mother’s Day is the centennial of the official Mother’s Day proclamation signed by Woodrow Wilson. To commemorate the centennial, this week we’ve looked at the original proclamation and the flag display it recommended, divided opinions about the traditional gendered division of labor and whether a child needs a mother and father at home to grow up happy, and the rising trend of stay-at-home moms. Today, we go back in time and look at working mothers over the last 150 years.

The U.S. Census began collecting data on occupations for women in the 1860 census. Ancestry.com, a leader in DNA genealogy, has analyzed census records since 1860 and just issued a short report about what they learned.

Here’s what they learned: “The growing trend of working mothers in the United States is as old as Lincoln’s presidency.”

In 1860, 7.5% of women indicated that they were working outside the home, according to Ancestry.com analysts. By 2010 (the latest Census figures), two-thirds (67%) worked outside the home. All told, that’s an 800% increase.

The trend since 1860 was not a straight line. The percentage of working mothers grew slowly and fluctuated with world wars. The World War II era started an upswing. The growth rate quickened thereafter, propelled by the Civil Rights movement, Women’s Rights movement, and other social changes. Economics also mattered. The increase in the percentage of women working outside the home tapered off when the dot.com bubble burst.

And now some trivia that will stump your friends and family: Which state had the fastest growth rate and now has the highest percentage of working mothers? South Dakota. This Mount Rushmore state had the lowest percentage of working mothers in 1930 and now has the highest. (Visit the Ancestry.com blog to see the other states that boast the highest percentages of working mothers.)

What trends in working mothers have you experience in your family?

What will you do on this special 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day?

Mother’s Day: Is it Mom’s job to look after hearth and home?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Mother's Day
DURING WORLD WAR II, the U.S. government encouraged women to leave home and join the labor force. This photograph was widely distributed in 1943 with this caption: "Leaving her youngster at a well-run nursery school in Oakland, California, this war-working mother can devote all her thoughts to the job, knowing that the child will be kept busy and happy during the day."

DURING WORLD WAR II, the U.S. government encouraged women to leave home and join the labor force. This photograph was widely distributed in 1943 with this caption: “Leaving her youngster at a well-run nursery school in Oakland, California, this war-working mother can devote all her thoughts to the job, knowing that the child will be kept busy and happy during the day.”

OK, I know that’s a provocative title to today’s column. But I asked this question in one of my national surveys. Given that this Mother’s Day is the 100th anniversary of the nationwide Mother’s Day proclamation, I thought I would ask you the same question:

Is it a woman’s job to look after home and family?

I grew up in the “Mad Men” era, characterized by a traditional gendered division of labor. My father was the bread winner; my mother stayed at home. As a young woman, she was one of the best trumpet players in the nation—an amazing feat, given that female musicians were relegated to “All-Girl” bands. But she chose to give it up. She wanted to get married and raise a family. I once asked her if she ever regretted giving up her musical career. Her answer was swift and clear: never.

So, what do you think? Is it a man’s job is to earn money and a woman’s job to look after the home and family?

Times have changed since my childhood. Only 18% of Americans now agree with the traditional division of labor. About 15% are neutral on the issue.

Overwhelmingly, Americans disagree with the traditional division of labor. Almost half (46%) say no, they oppose the idea that a woman’s job is to look after home and family, while the man’s job is to earn money. One of five Americans (21%) strongly disagrees.

Is it the man’s job to earn money and the woman’s to take care of family and home?

How about the other way around?

How were you raised?

Big Government: The biggest threat?

US Capitol Building at nightAs we close out 2013 and head into 2014, most of us are thinking about our hopes and fears. And, a new Gallup poll offers a remarkable insight into our fears.

Americans have always had an uneasy relationship with government, especially anything perceived as Big Government—the idea of an intrusive, micromanaging government. Americans’ preference for limited government is distinctive among economically advanced democracies. But is Big Government an actual threat to the country?

Is it a bigger threat than Big Labor or Big Business?

A record number of Americans think so, according to this Gallup poll. Almost three quarters (72%) said that Big Government “will be the biggest threat to the country in the future,” compared to Big Business or Big Labor. That’s the highest percentage since Gallup starting asking this survey question in 1965. Then, only 35% of Americans felt that Big Government was a bigger threat than Big Labor or Big Business.

Today, only 5% say that Big Labor is the biggest threat to the future of the country. Big Labor was perceived as a much bigger threat in the past. In 1965, 29% of Americans said that Big Labor was the biggest threat. Fears of Big Labor began to drop in 1995.

How about Big Business? Concerns about Big Business have fluctuated over the years, but in 2013, 21% named Big Business as the biggest threat. The figure was 32% in 2009. The peak since 1965 was 2002, with almost four of ten (38%) saying that Big Business was a bigger threat than Big Government or Big Labor.

Americans have become more opinionated over time. In 1965, 19% said that they had “no opinion” about the question at hand. This percentage declined into the single digits in 1999 (9% with no opinion) and has not been higher than 6% since then. Today, only 2% say they don’t have an opinion on which institution—Big Government, Big Labor, or Big Business—is the biggest threat to the nation.

Do you feel that Big Government is the biggest threat to our country?

Is Big Business the biggest threat?

What about Big Labor?

Gender Inequality: Why is the wage gap closing?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Gender Inequality
College graduates at Pittsburgh University Commencement

A photo of a graduating class at the University of Pittsburgh shows the gender mix of students. Photo released via Wikimedia Commons.

Equal opportunity is a core American value, but it has proved difficult to live up to. Gender inequality in the workplace, for example, has been the norm for decades. Historically, men have been paid more than women, even when working in the same jobs.

There is new evidence that this is changing.

“Today’s young women are the first in modern history to start their work lives at near parity with men,” say analysts at the Pew Research Center, based on their compilation of government labor data. In their just-released report, they show that Millennial women (ages 18 to 34) in America are now paid about 93% of what their male age peers are paid. In 1980, American women who were then 18 to 34 were paid about 67% of the wages of their male peers. The gap has been closing ever since, and is close to equality. (These percentages are based on comparisons of median hourly wages.)

Why is the wage gap closing?

It’s not simply because women have been catching up. True, the trend for wages paid to women is upward. The median hourly wages for women has increased by 25% since 1980. But the trend for men is downward. Overall, wages for men of all ages have declined by 4% since 1980. The downward trend is even steeper for young men. Wages have dropped by 20% since 1980 for men in the 18 to 34 age group.

Rising levels of education for young women is the main explanation. About 45% of Millennial women are enrolled in college, compared to 38% of Millennial men. About 38% of Millennial women hold Bachelor’s degrees, compared to 34% of men of the same ages.

What does this portend? Will near-parity last as Millennials age? Probably not, if the experiences of recent cohorts of men and women are repeated. As women of recent cohorts aged and assumed more responsibilities for family and parenting, they tended to fall behind their male age peers.

Are you surprised to learn about that the gender gap in wages is closing?

Do you think that wage parity can be maintained?

Are you concerned about the rising numbers of young men who are falling behind?

Income Inequality: What, me worry?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Inequality in America

MAD-Magazine-Alfred-e-neuman-for-presidentSHOULD Alfred E. Neumann run again?

I started this week’s series on income inequality in America with a satirical reference to Dr. Strangelove and I’m closing this week on a similar tone: Is it time for MAD magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman to run for president again? Next year is Alfred’s 60th anniversary as a fixture in American popular culture. He first ran for president in 1956 and has been grinning on the sidelines of American politics ever since.

Among Neuman’s classic lines related to this week’s themes are these: “America is still a land of promise, especially during a political campaign.” And, “Elections are when people find out what politicians stand for and politicians find out what people will fall for.” And, “It’s a good idea to save your money. One day it might be worth something again!”

I think it’s a serious question:
Is anyone worrying?

I hope to hear from readers about why the historic gap in American income levels is causing relatively little public outrage, especially given the magnitude of our income gap. A new report from the Pew Research Center compares this issue in various countries around the world:

IN THE U.S.: Today, the incomes of Americans in the top 20% are 16.7 times higher than the incomes of those in the bottom 20%, notes the Pew Research Center. But, only 47% of Americans think the gap between rich and poor is a very big problem, according to Pew.

IN SPAIN: Three of four Spaniards (75%) say the income gap is a very big problem, and the income ratio there of the highest to lowest groups is 6.8.

IN GREAT BRITAIN: Half of Brits (50%) say the income gap in their country is a very big problem—yet the British ratio is only 5.3.

IN GREECE: A vast majority (84%) is very worried—but the gap there is only 6.0.

Are you, personally, concerned about the high levels of income inequality?

Is a high income gap a threat to democracy?

Or should we just stop worrying? Are Dr. Strangelove and Alfred E. Neuman our real cultural poster boys?

Faith and Money: Take this job—and love it?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Faith and Money
Cadillac assembly plant. Photo released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Cadillac assembly line. Photo released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

The real relationships between faith and money are surprising. All this week, we’ve been looking at recent research on these two powerful forces, based on reporting by journalist David Briggs. The first three findings this week were somber news for people of faith.

So, today and Friday, I’m highlighting two potentially inspiring findings. The first concerns our faith and our daily work: Does religion help us in our daily work? Or, does faith take our focus away from our careers into other-worldly pursuits?

The fact is, “an increasing body of research showing that faith plays a major role in the workplace,” Briggs reports, “from being an indicator of how long employees will stay at one company to how well they do in their jobs.”

Faith informs how the faithful perceive their work and its value. The majority of Americans who frequently attend religious services see their work as a mission from God, according to the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey Briggs cites. Three-quarters of these frequent churchgoers “say that often or always pursue excellence because of their faith.” One might say that a religious calling induces the view of work as a calling.

Faith also influences choice of work, especially for the majority of Americans who say religion is very important to them. Citing findings from the Portraits of American Life Study, Briggs reports that faith exerts more influence on choice of work than it does on the choice of where to live—or even the number of children to have!

The world of work is typically viewed as a secular arena in which religion has little or no place. These provocative findings suggest that religion could be a competitive advantage.

Are you surprised by the positive influence faith has on work?

Could religion be a source of competitive advantage?

Or, should religion be kept out of the workplace?

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