Why You Hate Work-A Sociological Approach

Why You Hate Work

SOC 101-1N1 Bethany Herold

Pikes Peak Community College


The article “Why You Hate Work” was written by Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath on May 30th, 2014, and was published in the New York Times on June 1st, 2014. The article discusses the increasingly high amount of white collar workers that are unhappy with their jobs. Ranging from average workers to executives at the top of the corporate ladder, the American workplace is steadily becoming less and less of a fulfilling environment (Schwartz and Porath, 2014). This article makes use of several sociological theories and concepts, including functional analysis, the looking-glass self and Verstehen.

Brief Summary of Article

Giving a brief illustration of the average white collar worker’s day ending in misery, Schwartz and Porath show the never ending strains of the modern work environment brought on by “technology, competitiveness and a post-recession work force” (2014). Throughout this article, they peer deep into the dark corners of the modern business world to uncover the source of work-related depression that did not seem to befall our more recent ancestors. A 2013 survey of twelve thousand, one hundred and fifteen workers worldwide found that “many lacked a fulfilling workplace, and that only thirty percent of Americans and thirteen percent of the entire world’s population truly feel engaged in their jobs” (Schwartz and Porath, 2014). Often carrying over into the home life after a day’s work, technology is the key culprit demanding time from workers that is excessively exceeding their capacity. By bringing about constant information day and night, employees feel compelled to address all issues, and ultimately feel as though they have no true breaks. (Schwartz and Porath, 2014). The authors concluded that organizations need to put people first, as well as acknowledge the demands that an excess of technology has put upon their workers. This can be achieved by caring for the employee’s needs and renewing value, focus, and purpose (2014).

Aspects of the Functional Analysis Theory Identified within Article

Throughout this article, the functional analysis theory is the most prevalent sociological theory presented. The functional analysis theory, also known as functionalism and structural functionalism, was originally suggested by Robert Merton, and it “is a theoretical framework in which society is viewed as composed of various parts, each with a function that, when fulfilled, contributes to society’s equilibrium” (Henslin, 2012, p. 26). Functionalists, in essence, view society as one giant working machine that is made up of parts that should work together to flow smoothly. If the specific units do not perform and fulfill their designated jobs, there is chaos. To analyze society, “functionalists say that we need to look at both structure (how the parts of a society fit together to make the whole) and function (what each part does, how it contributes to society)( Henslin, 2012, p. 26).” This article is an accurate example of functionalism, as it views a company as comprised of many parts. The issue raised is operations within a given business are not flowing smoothly, and this is effecting the company’s over-all production. Workers and supervisors alike are unengaged, which in turn makes the work day unproductive. Things had been flowing smoothly in the work world until recently with the rise of technology, which is why chaos has ensued.

“The most obvious answer is that systematically investing in employees, beyond paying them a salary, didn’t seem necessary until recently. So long as employees were able to meet work demands, employers were under no pressure to address their more complex needs. Increasingly, however, employers are recognizing that the relentless stress of increased demand — caused in large part by digital technology — simply must be addressed”

A new and uncharted problem, technology itself has caused a latent dysfunction in our modern society, which is “an unintended negative consequence” (Henslin, 2012, p. 26). Although technological advancements have had mostly positive influences, the excessive amount of resources and contacts made available to employees can leave little to no down-time in a work day. With unlimited access to this large amount of contacts and projects, and the previous option of multitasking becoming more of a requirement, employers can expect too much of their workers. In an experiment, Schwartz and Porath asked a firm to allow its worker to take small, multiple breaks throughout the day as opposed to a sole scheduled mid-day lunch break. Schwartz and Porath concluded “With higher focus, these employees ended up getting more work done in less time, left work earlier in the evenings than the rest of their colleagues, and reported a much less stressful overall experience during the busy season” (2014). This is an example of a step a company can take to reach a symbiotic state again where all its part are running smoothly, which is the core of functionalism. Both Schwartz and Porath show through studies and interviews that our work relationships and environments must be adjusted if order is to be restored.

Aspects the Looking-glass self and Verstehen within Article

To address the issues at hand, both Schwartz and Porath suggest employers to use Verstehen, “a German word meaning to understand” which was introduced by Max Weber (Henslin, 2012, p. 15). By understanding and connecting with their employees’ basic needs, great company success will be reached. Employers must provide opportunities for renewal by allowing multiple breaks throughout the day, which creates more effective work progress in a shorter amount of time (Schwartz and Porath, 2014). Employers must also understand that an employee’s view of himself can be largely based upon his given supervisor and work environment. The Looking-glass theory, first introduced by Charles Horton Cooley, is “a term to refer to the process by which our self develops through internalizing others’ reactions to us” (Henslin, 2012, p. 66). By utilizing this concept, Schwartz and Porath show that an employee’s sense of value and purpose at work often spawn from his reaction to how he feels his supervisors and company view him. According to a study researched for the article, “Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67 percent more engaged” (Schwartz and Porath, 2014). By implicating small modifications to start, it is suggested within the article that it takes very little to use Verstehen and integrate these changes.

“The simplest way for companies to take on this challenge is to begin with a basic question:’What would make our employees feel more energized, better taken care of, more focused and more inspired?’ It costs nothing, for example, to mandate that meetings run no longer than 90 minutes, or to set boundaries around when people are expected to answer email and how quickly they’re expected to respond. Other basic steps we’ve seen client companies take is to create fitness facilities and nap rooms, and to provide healthy, high-quality free food, or at subsidized prices, as many Silicon Valley companies now do (Schwartz and Porath, 2014).”

For a company to succeed, the supervisors and company must provide an uplifting mirror through which the employees can find positive reinforcement.


Due to technological advances in the modern work force, it is becoming increasingly common to find miserable and unmotivated workers within any given industry. In order for everything to function properly, it is necessary to meet the basic needs of workers, as well as provide them with a sense of value, purpose, and focus. This can be addressed by employers trying to understand and care for their employees’ needs, and by striving to inspire and create in them a passion for their jobs. When comparing Costco and Walmart, Schwartz and Porath found the company that incorporated these ideas rose to greater success, “Between 2003 and 2013, Costco’s stock rose more than 200 percent, compared with about 50 percent for Walmart’s” (2014). In short, the key to a company’s prosperity is to have all its parts and members operating smoothly. By paying attention to the specific area of employees, and going above and beyond their needs and wants, a company can truly thrive and grow.


Henslin, J. The Sociological Perspective. Introduction to Sociology. Saddle River: Pearson Education, 2012. Print.

Schwartz, Tony and Christine Porath. “Why You Hate Work.” The New York Times. Sunday Review: Opinion, Pg SR1. Printed 1 June 2014. Retrieved from Web. 7 June 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/opinion/sunday/why-you-hate-work.html? module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Opinion&action=keypress&region=FixedLeft&



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