Friday, April 9, 2010

What's This Book Going to Cost Me?

Daniel Pink's book Drive has gotten great reviews.I haven't read it; I plan to this summer.  I really hesitate to comment on a book that I haven't read, but the reviews for this book scare me.  The reviews all contain descriptions and quotations similar to those Laura Vanderkam has in her recent review. She writes,
. . . Pink offers a different prescription. The best motivation, he suggests, is intrinsic, that is, when people want to do the work because they find the work itself fulfilling. That doesn’t mean such workers don’t want to be paid well. They do, of course, and they also like free coffee and in-office massages as much as anyone else. But leaders who understand this higher level of motivation compensate people in a way that “takes the issue of money off the table, so they can focus on the work itself.” They pay their employees well for their industry, but equally important, people aren’t pitted against one another through compensation schemes that pay some people way more than others for the same work. These leaders create an environment where people want to do their best. This involves giving people lots of autonomy over their time, their tasks, their techniques, and their teams; providing them an opportunity to work toward mastery of their professional craft; and imbuing their work with a sense of purpose. [emphasis added] (What Drives Us by Laura Vanderkam, City Journal 5 March 2010)
Based on this review, Pink believes that people ought to have a calling rather than a job.  Michael Lewis explains the difference,
The distinction is artificial but worth drawing. A job will never satisfy you all by itself, but it will afford you security and the chance to pursue an exciting and fulfilling life outside of your work. A calling is an activity you find so compelling that you wind up organizing your entire self around it -- often to the detriment of your life outside of it.     There’s no shame in either. Each has costs and benefits. There is no reason to make a fetish of your career. There are activities other than work in which to find meaning and pleasure and even a sense of self-importance -- you just need to learn how to look.(Lewis, Bloomberg 10 December 2008)
In South Dakota, however, callings have consequences, as The Madville Times points out South Dakota pays the lowest wages per job of any state in the nation.  The Times points out "[i]n 2008, the per-job average here was $40,726. The next lowest state, Montana, posts $1462 more per job. The national average per job is $56,116.  According to the Times commentators, the story is  much more bleak; salaries in South Dakota are only about $33,000 whereas the national average is $42,270 (The Madville Times 6 April 2010).

Callings are wonderful.  In Greek mythology, Prometheus had a calling to bring humanity fire.  Clergy, missionaries, and doctors have callings to preach the gospel and help the poor and suffering.  Police and firefighters have callings to protect the public.  Most teachers claim they don't work for the money; in short, they claim to have a calling to teach.

In an ideal world, Pink may be right and his ideas may make workers' lives better and improve employer/employee relationships.  In South Dakota, however, private employers and school boards are more likely to use Pink's ideas to put  negotiations for higher pay in the same category as requests for "free coffee and in-office massages."  In other words, higher salaries are frivolous and a teacher's calling will be "so compelling that [the teacher] should be happy to build the teacher's "entire self around it."  Of course anything that rewarding should be done for the joy of doing it; therefore, no salary is really needed.

That's my fear; I may be wrong, but I doubt it.

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