Predicting increases in technology

In the 1970s, futurists were predicting that increases in technology would dramatically shorten the workweek for most people. But in the wired work world of today, where employees can reach “the office” from wherever they are, many managers are finding it extremely difficult to get away from their jobs. In fact, one employment firm estimated that 30 percent of professionals take less than their allotted vacation time, and 42 percent said they have to cancel vacation plans regularly. Consider a few examples:

? Gian Paolo Lombardo might work for a firm that manufactures luggage for luxury travel, but he’s had precious little time for vacationing himself. During his last “faux-cation” 3 years ago, he spent most of the time in his hotel room in the resort town of Carmel, California, with his BlackBerry, while his wife Ellen chatted with other guests, hoping he’d finally finish with work. Ellen notes that no meal or movie goes by without her husband being hunched over his smartphone. She says, “I think he needs to go into rehab.” He agrees.

? Irene Tse heads the government bond-trading division at Goldman Sachs. For 10 years, she has seen the stock market go from all-time highs to recession levels. Such fluctuations can mean millions of dollars in either profits or losses. “There are days when you can make a lot, and other days where you lose so much you’re just stunned by what you’ve done,” says Tse. She says she hasn’t slept through the night in years and often wakes up several times to check the global market status. Her average workweek? Eighty hours. “I’ve done this for 10 years, and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of days in my career when I didn’t want to come to work. Every day I wake up and I can’t wait to get here.”

? Tony Kurz is a managing director at Capital Alliance Partners, and he raises funds for real estate investments. However, these are not your average properties. Kurz often flies to exotic locations such as Costa Rica and Hawaii to woo prospective clients. He travels more than 300,000 miles per year, often sleeping on planes and coping with jet lag. Kurz is not the only one he knows with such a hectic work schedule. His girlfriend, Avery Baker, logs around 400,000 miles a year as the senior vice president of marketing for Tommy Hilfiger. “It’s not easy to maintain a relationship like this,” says Kurz. But do Kurz and Baker like their jobs? You bet.

? David Clark is the vice president of global marketing for MTV. His job often consists of traveling around the globe to promote the channel as well as to keep up with the global music scene. If he is not traveling (Clark typically logs 200,000 miles a year), a typical day consists of waking at 6:30 a.m. and immediately responding to numerous messages that have accumulated over the course of the night. He then goes to his office, where throughout the day he responds to another 500 or so messages from clients around the world. If he’s lucky, he gets to spend an hour a day with his son, but then it’s back to work until he finally goes to bed around midnight. Says Clark, “There are plenty of people who would love to have this job. They’re knocking on the door all the time. So that’s motivating.”

Many individuals would balk at the prospect of a 60-hour or more workweek with constant traveling and little time for anything else. Some individuals are exhilarated by it. But the demands of such jobs are clearly not for everyone. Many quit, with turnover levels at 55 percent for consultants and 30 percent for investment bankers, according to Vault.com . However, clearly such jobs, while time-consuming and often stressful, can be satisfying to some individuals.

Questions

1. Do you think only certain individuals are attracted to these types of jobs, or is it the characteristics of the jobs themselves that are satisfying?

2. What characteristics of these jobs might contribute to increased levels of job satisfaction?

3. Given that the four individuals we just read about tend to be satisfied with their jobs, how might this satisfaction relate to their job performance, citizenship behavior, and turnover?

4. Recall David Clark’s statement that “There are plenty of people who would love to have this job. They’re knocking on the door all the time.” How might Clark’s perceptions that he has a job many others desire contribute to his job satisfaction?

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