by Dorothy Marcic
European Bahá'í Business Forum
Annual Conference 2007
My grandfather worked as a farmer and in a diesel engine factory. My grandmother toiled as a cook in a college dormitory. Then there were my parents, who held various jobs from parking lot attendant to school bus driver to steam presser at a dry cleaners. I think I can say with great confidence that none of these jobs would have lifted them up Maslow's Heirarchy to Self Actualization. Work was something you did to pay bills and put a little away for rainy days.
No one in my family understood me going to graduate school. None had been to college, so they barely got the idea of higher education. What was the point, when you could get perfectly good jobs after high school? And when my husband became a management consultant, something he really enjoyed, they were filled with anxiety until he got a "real" job as a professor, a job with a regular paycheck.
The generation that came of age in the 1960s and 70s was arguably the first to consider fulfillment as an important aspect of work. It was a time of unprecedented disposable income, home ownership, college attendance. New opportunities sprang up. New industries were created from nothing. And so we had the chance to look for meaningful work, jobs that gave us a sense of purpose beyond the paycheck. Gradually over several decades, as social change often happens, such demand for fulfillment has become the norm, so that enlightened companies have caught on that if they want to attract and keep the best talent, they’d better make sure that talent can experience job satisfaction.
As far as I can make out from various stories, my parents got their satisfaction from working hard and providing for their family, from getting a decent wage from an honest day's labor. It’s almost unimaginable how much this has changed in one generation. What they never dreamed of, or even had any consciousness about is now nearly a requirement in the workplace. It makes me wonder what will be the requirement for our children, what they will demand that we can’t even imagine yet.