The seven work languages
You might have heard about “the five love languages.” They come from a ridiculously popular book by Gary Chapman by the same name, and they are purportedly the following:
- quality time,
- words of affirmation,
- acts of service (devotion), and
- physical touch.
Chapman’s idea is that, in order to be happier with your loved one, you figure out how they like to receive your love, instead of just doing to them what you’d have done to yourself. So you might like hugs and physical touch the most, but they might need you to say kind things to them. So you say nice things, and then they give you hugs, and everybody’s happy.
I like this list because it really does seem like some people respond more to certain things than others. Personally I’m a touch person, and someone who likes gifts seems almost fake to me, but putting them both on a list makes me realize that maybe we’re just wired differently. It helps me understand other people a bit more and reserve judgment.
I want to do the same thing but for work instead of love. The question changes from “how to you want to receive love” to “what motivates you to work?”. I’ve come up with the following list:
- social connection
- making a positive contribution to the world
- relief from boredom/ organizing framework
Ideally an employer would offer to people what they care about. Personally I care about making a positive contribution to the world, but most employers only offer money.
I’m the freak here, I guess. Most people would say they work because they get paid. But really it’s not that simple when you think about it. Some people value money past the point of security, which is why I separated out those two. For that matter, some people care about money as status, but on the other hand academics (generally) care about status beyond money, which is why I made status a separate category too.
The next three are self-explanatory, and I think independent, and for the last category I’m including musicians and artists, people who do stuff in spite of having no reason to think it will ever pay.
Well, my list might be imperfect, but I think it’s good enough to make one point. Namely, that most of those reasons are actually pretty much independent of money after all, so maybe I’m not such a freak.
The work versus money issue matters because of the countless discussions about what might happen if we ever get to the “Star Trek economy” stage of existence, where our basic needs are met and we’re capable of doing other stuff. When we have free time and the resources and security not to worry about food or shelter, what would happen next?
Would we all just play video games 12 hours a day and eat too much? Would we feel useless and dried up and depressed?
I think the answer is, it depends on your personality. If you are the type of person who works out of passion, this new world order wouldn’t slow you down a bit; you’d have even more time to pursue your thing. If you want to contribute to the world, or create meaningful social connections, you’d find a way to do that with likeminded people. If you’re an academic who wants to be the smartest person in the world, you’ll have even more time to do that (but probably way more competition for the title).
My guess is that the only people that would be deeply disappointed are the people who now really really like money for its own sake. I don’t really think there are too many of these people, but they are the very people who might create obstructions to the Star Trek economy’s existence, because they are both powerful and rich in this setup, and potentially have the most to lose.