Getting to Yes, And

Is Your Work Worth It?


Christopher Wong Michaelson & Jennifer Tosti-Kharas

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Kelly sits down with philosophy professor Christopher Wong Michaelson and management professor Jennifer Tosti-Kharas to talk about their fantastic new book "Is Your Work Worth It? How to Think About Meaningful Work."

One of the most interesting areas you discuss in the book is this tension between paid work and unpaid work.

"The dilemma is about how we should spend our limited time doing worthwhile things, and some of the most worthwhile things we do are unpaid. I think, in our society, especially, that unpaid work tends to fall on the shoulders historically, of women, because housework is the most obvious example of unpaid work that is not classified by tax authorities as work. But come on, we all know it is work.”

How does Marcel Duchamp end up in a book about work?

"The genius of Marcel Duchamp was turning everyday objects into art. He not only submitted that tipped over urinal to an art exhibition, but he also captured a vial of Parisian air and tried to bring it to New York as an exhibit. He used a coat rack as art, and basically, what he was trying to do was provoke the question, 'what really is art?' And the reason that we talk about that in our book is that that raises the question, 'what really is work?' Because we all think we know what work is, but we don't. It's what scholars sometimes refer to as a social construction. Whatever society generally agrees upon as falling into that definition gets credit for being that.”

Talk to us about the differences between jobs, careers and callings.

“There have been hundreds of studies done on this job career and job calling typology. So, when work is a job, it's a means to an end and usually a financial end. It's a way to make money and then work stays at work, and you expect to maybe live your fullest life outside of work. When work is a career, it's again a means to an end. But this time, it's sort of advancing within or climbing up an organizational hierarchy or gaining more acceptance within an occupation. And then, when work is a calling, and of course it's hard not to think about the religious undertones of this, but it is work as a meaningful end in and of itself. It's a source of deep, positive meaning for the individual doing it, and it usually, but maybe not always, contributes something more broadly to society and makes the world a better place and - no surprise in our in our world - we tend to privilege callings, and we tend to denigrate jobs.”


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