People's Attitude

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What attitudes do people have to work? How do attitudes differ between different categories of people? How can these attitudes be explained? These are the questions underpinning this dissertation. We can illustrated them with the quotes below. One comes from a woman in her fifties. She is married and has three grown-up children who have left home. When they were little, she was a housewife for some ten years, but now she has a senior administrative position in a public authority. The other quote comes from an interview with a young man who works in a hamburger restaurant. I want to work! I like working! My work gives me a number of advantages apart the salary. We have a great work environment, flexible working hours and an incredible team spirit and harmony at our workplace I have wonderful colleagues. When the children were little, I stayed at home to take care of them and our home. It felt important then, but now I think I can say that my work is the most important thing in my life. If I didn't have that, I don't know what I would do. I don't work to get money just for rent and food, but also for travel and other leisure activities. I spend almost all of my leisure training and of course, travelling. Apart from my own training, I serve as a coach for a group of younger boys. In one way I sort of get on well at my job, but it is not something I would want to do in the long term. The work is not so interesting, it is monotonous and under-stimulating. But since the labour market is the way it is, I can't really leave this job. The above quotes represent two distinct ways of looking at work. The first sees work as a goal in itself the speaker has a committed attitude to her job. In the eyes of the second speaker, work is a means of achieving goals outside work. This may be referred to as an instrumental attitude. The interviews not only indicate different attitudes to work, implicit in them are also possible reasons for these attitudes. Working conditions may well be important. The woman, who experiences her work as the most important thing in life, also describes the aspects of her work that she finds of value: a good work environment, flexible hours and a team spirit. The man raises the issue of monotonous and under-stimulating tasks, and also considers his leisure more important than work. The interviews also imply that attitudes to work may be related to one's life situation outside work. For the woman, who had previously given priority to family and children, work has a prominent place in her life, whilst the young man only sees work in terms of providing for himself. The main interests in his life seem to revolve around his life sport and travel. Whether these two cases are representative, which attitude predominates and how these different attitudes can be explained are issues that need further investigation. In an attempt to find answers I distributed a questionnaire to a random sample of employees in Sweden. 1,928 people responded, and the findings were complemented with about twenty interviews.

Attitudes in General

My point of departure for attitudes to work in general is the classification of the various meanings of work by Gunn Johansson and her colleagues. They distinguish between the absolute centrality and relative centrality of work. In the former, the meaning of work is evaluated in absolute terms without relating it to anything else. In the latter, work is seen in relation to other important aspects of life, such as family and leisure. They also distinguish between the meaning of work as an evaluation of work in general, an evaluation of the organisation that one is working in, and an evaluation of a particular job one's own. If we combine these two dimensions, we obtain the table below, which contains questions that are operationalisations of the different attitudes. One of the six boxes is empty. The reason for this is that this table was not designed for constructing the questions,...
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