UK: Cashier and satisfied ?
publié le 2009-03-08
Job satisfaction does not necessarily coincide with the quality of work. Whilst job quality and economic rewards are crucial; there is a need for a wider definition that includes social and organisational relations.
The concept of quality of work is increasingly important, yet there are no clear measures of the quality of work and those that exist are often defined in terms of employer values – commitment to the organisation and ultimately the drive to increase worker productivity, based upon discretionary effort. These suggest that there is a link between quality of work, mostly determined through job satisfaction, and overall worker productivity. This article summarises research exploring the quality of work from the perspectives of a group of, mainly women workers, employed by a leading UK supermarket.
These workers’ testimonies confirm Green’s focus upon ‘skill, effort, personal discretion, wages, and risk as key indicators of job quality’. Checkout operatives felt there was little of inherent interest in their work; ‘the job’s intrinsically boring`. Their work could be repetitive, but they valued a sense of control and ‘being trusted to get on with the work’. Pay was not the major factor determining satisfaction, although workers were aware that their pay rates were comparable with other supermarkets. They felt that working for a large organisation in mass retail offered secure employment.
The research highlighted three further key related factors defining job satisfaction; workers’ expectations; work-life balance and social relations at work. Women’s understandings of the quality of work was mediated by norms and expectations defined by gender and class. Few had aspirations for any particular type of work or had not been able to pursue the career of their choice. Yet the perception that the supermarket provided opportunities for training and career progression was important and positively affected how workers valued their jobs.
The interviews exposed a tension between job satisfaction and the quality of work. The quality of work was perceived in personal rather than in economic terms; ‘you could be in the most high flying business in the world, earning millions an hour, but if you don’t like what you’re doing then it’s not quality to you’. Just because workers enjoyed their job did not mean they saw it as a ‘quality job’. Work was consistently defined in terms of the wider social relationships within the workplace, with customers and managers, but mainly with co-workers, ‘at the end of the day it’s a job … it’s the people that I work with, it’s good’.
The balance between work and life outside of work was crucial to workers and those with caring responsibilities joined the company because of the availability of part-time hours, which could be fitted around the rest of their lives and adjusted to suit changing circumstances. Workers appreciated the degree of flexibility or control of their working hours, but often saw this as part of a reciprocal arrangement whereby they were required to be flexible.
Sian Moore is Reader at the Working Lives Research Institute, London Metropolitan University.
See also :
Green, F. (2006) Demanding work: The paradox of job quality in the affluent society, Princeton: Princeton University Press.