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Why do people work? – ‘The Why’

Welcome to the newest edition of The Why.

Everywhere you look the media is pushing you telling you who to follow, what to watch and when to watch it.   You’re even sometimes told how to do it all.  Truth is, here at American Live Wire we do a bit of that too.  The big difference is we also tell you why.

You ask the questions.  We provide the answers.

“Why do people work?”

“Why do people work?” you ask?

When your ALW writer read this question his first impressions ran similar to those of the folks at CNN and Fortune magazine.  When you ask someone why they work they will probably respond to that question “, in a tone usually reserved for slow children and dimwitted in-laws” and tell you they work for the money. American Live Wire readers however, especially readers of “The Why”, are for the most part not children and are certainly not dimwitted.  In fact, we have the stats to prove it!

why do people work

So let’s explore this a bit further, shall we?  Yes, people work for money so that they can become more financially independent and gain more control over their lives.  But oft’times there is more to it than that.  Witness an observation made in Fortune magazine in 1994 by “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams.

His corporate-based comic has made him quite familiar with the American workplace.  He said: “In your 20s you’re mostly concerned with having enough money to eat and get laid. In your 30s you start thinking: Is this all there is? Am I going to be an accountant and die?”

Seriously, while money might be the bottom line for some, the question: “Why do people work?” cannot be so easily answered.   Robert Weis, a research professor at the University of Massachusetts, conducted a survey on this subject.

He asked people if they would still work if they had inherited enough money to live comfortably.  80% said they would still work.  So, why do people work if not just for the money?  It has to be something more substantial.

Fortune conducted its own survey.  The three most common reasons they were given beyond “paying the mortgage” were as follows: “to make the world a better place”, “to help themselves and others on their (work) team grow spiritually and intellectually” and “to perfect their technical skills.”

Why do people work?  The MyFuture website lists the following additional reasons as to why people work: People work because they enjoy spending their day doing something at which they are good; People want to be productive and they have skills other people need and they therefore feel obligated to supply said skills.

One other reason why people work is purely psychological.  It’s something called co-dependency.  Some people rely on their company or their current profession for their identity.

While practices like downsizing has reduced the amount of this seen on any given day, some people still work because they are proud to closely align themselves with their jobs.  Besides, what would they be if not an employee for a specific company?  (“I’m an ALW Writer!”)

why do people work


Why do people work?  Research indicates that more and more people work for some sort of satisfaction.  People work because they have some individualistic, underlying emotional need to do so.

Why do people work?  Well-known consultant Warren Bennis offers one more obvious reason: self-esteem.  He told once CNN: “Work really defines who you are. So much of a person’s self-esteem is measured by success at work.”  As an example Bennis recalls asking famous author of Roots Alex Haley what it was like to be a success.  Haley responded: “People listen to me now.”

Why do people work?   After all this discussion, the answer remains a simple one.  People work because they have to—whether for financial reasons or more psychological, personal reasons.  When people work, they satisfy their personal needs and thus feel good about themselves.

“Why do people work?”  Now you know.

You ask the questions.  We provide the answers.

American Live Wire . . . Listen and be heard.

 (Image courtesy of Scott Hodson and Orion Consultancy)

About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.