How much does Job Satisfaction Cost?

Of course these qualities Cost and Satisfaction are two distinct values which have psychological links but zero logical connection to one another (nonetheless you can bet there’s a statistical chart somewhere proposing to correlate the two on the vector of alternate Mondays!)

The economist calls the kind of either/or choice posed by this question, which is the daily dilemma for so many – especially those in web development work and in analogues of that industry – they call it a decision based on assessing ‘opportunity cost’.

What this ‘opportunity cost’ is in a few words – it is – in the case of this choice – commonly the value to oneself of what one would rather be doing set against the value of retaining a (harassing) job which pays for the necessaries and more of one’s life.

And so ‘opportunity cost’ here is a subjective weighing of relative strengths of value to oneself. That is to say, that when you become like Popeye and you have come to a point where ‘you can stands so much and you can’t stands no more’ and you walk out and quit; then at this point the opportunity cost of doing your own thing has shifted its balance in favour of your preference for freedom, for your independence, and embraces the risks involved in ‘going for it’.

The Scots poet John Barbour wrote a short but memorable paean to freedom in his epic poem on the exploits of Robert the Bruce

A! Fredome is a noble thing!                     Ah, freedom is a noble thing

Fredome mays man to haiff liking;          Freedom makes man to have liking

Fredome all solace to man giffis,             Freedom all solace to man gives 

He levys at ese that frely levys!                 He lives at ease who freely lives

A noble hart may haiff nane ese,              A noble heart may have nought else

Na ellys nocht that may him plese,           Nor anything else may him please

Gyff fredome fail; for fre liking                 If freedom fails; for free liking 

Is yarnyt our all othir thing.                      Is yearned for over all other things

Na he that ay has levyt fre                         And he that has always lived free

May nocht knaw weill the propyrtè,         Will not know well the property

The angyr, na the wretchyt dome             Of anger nor the wretched doom

That is couplyt to foule thyrldome.          That couples up to foul thraldom

Bot gyff he had assayit it,                          But if he’s had a taste of it

Than all perquer he suld it wyt;               Then it all by heart he should know

And suld think fredome mar to prise        And should prize freedom far more

Than all the gold in warld that is.            Than all the gold in the world

Thus contrar thingis evirmar                   Thus contrary things are evermore

Discoweryngis off the tothir ar.                Discoverings of their opposites

The poem gives a good picture of what loss of freedom costs.

Wherever a person is employed working for another person – maybe there are a very few exceptions – there ever arises that essential clash between the business’s needs (including its goals) and doing one’s job – for want of a better word – ‘properly’. This clash is grounded on a deeper foundation and arises out of it. This deeper foundation is the sale along with one’s labour of one’s free will; and this sale, although it is not supposed to happen to democratic citizens in democratic societies, is the norm and part and parcel of what one is constrained to sign up for when one is hired by another.

The constraint might be couched in terms of ‘the business being bigger than any single person in it’ or else as one needing to be ‘a good team player’ or else more bluntly, as ‘I pay the wages and so I say what goes and doesn’t go’.  Generally the larger the business the more attempt is made to disguise the root violence in such an oppression.  Big business uses what George Orwell called ‘the iron fist in the velvet glove’.  Certainly the more like a small family-run business one’s employment is; then the higher likelihood of one feeling valued, free, and happy there – the more job satisfaction one will enjoy.

With business largeness comes always alongside it impersonality – the essential heart in human relations is knocked out of things and so recedes; like Patrick Macgoohan one experiences employment as if one were become a number and so a prisoner.

In the same way the Absolutist monarchs of 17th and 18th century Europe (and on other continents) –  acted just as Louis XIV of France, who gaily decide to build a great Palace at Versailles on boggy land totally unsuitable for such a building, and against the advice of all his advisors; and he accomplished this by dragooning vast numbers of peasant subjects into unpaid drudgery for years on end, and working to death a high proportion of them on the way, and him arguing with his architects and yet getting his will despite all lack of deference to local conditions and to practical considerations.   In just the same way as all this kind of madness and wilful stupidity appears in the same way it did in ancient regime type setups, one will likelise find oneself enslaved and held hostage by,  and enduring all the same threats and menaces, when one is a brick in the wall at a large corporation.

And just like Louis XIV liked it to be known ‘he had built’ Versailles – and so it was not the hordes of ordinary folk who lost their lives who built it – corporations proclaim likewise their Brand names and logos as though they are trophies and them champions in the fields of rivalries – whilst the people who developed and manufacture their products remain a grey anonymous swarm of nobodies.

(Tune: ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’)

 Forward Joe Soap’s army, marching without fear,

With our old commander, safely in the rear

He boasts and skives from morn till night,

And thinks he’s very brave,

But the men who really did the job are dead and in their grave.

Forward Joe Soap’s army, marching without fear,

With our old commander, safely in the rear


It is often the case that drunkards are able to formulate better policy, and the guys paid to do policy can’t organise a binge in a brewery, and in fact they know next to nothing about the detail, and zero on the finer detail, involved in the tasks they pronounce upon and which employees are expected to perform and deliver to them.

This is the ‘charisma’ of executive office – the qualities by which and because of which these guys have got so far up the management ladder – they just blagged their ways up, having sent all the correct coded signals to their superiors (?) and said yes to all the required soul-selling in the company terms and conditions – happy, even satisfied, with – what it doesn’t take a nuclear scientist to call – a ‘half-life’.

And that is exactly what they pass down the line to the likes of you – their ‘half-life’ priorities – I baulk to call them values – their hopeless deadlines, and their obsession with how the company appears and comes off in the press and media– a kind of hall of mirrors world wherein nothing and no-one is reflected as they are at NTP.

Ramp this up and extrapolate it worldwide – thus is the ’victory’ of the free market and its open competition (worth yet another few articles these presumptions!) – and one is overwhelmed with the enormity of an Alice in Wonderland type bizarre surrealist Pandemonium raging everywhere – the Mad Hatter CEOs ever calling the changes of places – the absence of tea at their everlasting tea parties – the quibbles about words and the subsequent quagmires of conundrums these raise – and the raging Queen of Hearts roaring like a top executive shouting “Off with his head! Off with his head!’ to everyone and anyone within their purlieu who blinks in the wrong fashion – it is all here – the madness – all going under the guise of ‘open for business’.

The armchair punters who feel it is their prerogative and capability to pontificate on such modes of (dis)organisation and who, in order to stay on their gravy trains, will as soon as look at you proclaim that this is the natural order of things and that it is human nature at work and being reflected in a crazy global jamboree of depredation.

I tend to want to assume we went badly wrong somewhere, took a dreadful wrong turning some way back, and now we have so far bought-into and so rigidly have locked ourselves onto a nightmare merry-go-round treadmill of insanity; that were there even the will here amongst us to bring us back from the awful bedlam and precipice of insanity, with its universally embraced pointlessness and gladsome absurdity, we could hardly achieve such a reformation for ourselves.

The assumed trade-off – of wage slavery in return for the pick of a large array of dime-shop knickknacks and gewgaws which are in no way essential to life and are mostly sad distractions – this results always in a surprised disappointment and at the last always amounts to a great immovable regret for a life that one has failed to live.

A poor man who fears God, is more honourable and happy, than a man without wisdom and grace, however rich or advanced in rank.  What good can the soul do, if without knowledge? And he sins who will not take time to ponder the path of his feet.


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