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Opinion: Work calls or work creeps?

telanganatoday.com | November 30, 2022
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Activities considered an exception before have now become the norm and it’s time to seriously rework the work culture

We live in a world where our work defines our existence. The overly-discussed workplace culture has now become synonymous with stress and burnout among other problems and health issues. The idea of ‘work is worship’ has translated into this toxic idea that if one does not go above and beyond what is expected of them, they are not doing enough. The meaning of ‘enough’ has also witnessed a considerable change over the years. Activities considered an exception before have now become the norm. Work keeps creeping into our lives, and there is no end in sight.
 

Job creep is defined as the ongoing pressure employees feel to do more than the requirements of their jobs (Dyne & Ellis, 2004). Those not doing more than the job requirements are perceived as lazy, unproductive and not the ideal worker. The hyperproductive and capitalistic world that we live in today has us all running and breathing ‘work’ every second of our lives.

Badge of ‘busyness’

The lack of boundaries at work is one of the many reasons why work seems to be creeping into our lives as per Anthony Klotz, an organisational psychologist and associate professor at University College London’s School of Management (Tatum, 2022). The translation of exception to expectation occurs when norms of reciprocity, which have evolved over time, no longer apply.

The extent and intensity of “busyness” are seen as a badge of honour. Employers don’t seem to have a problem with it. They rather appreciate and promote these behaviours. Although this toxic culture is normalised, it looks like partially it is on its exit route. The pandemic has pushed people to take a clear stock of what has been going on in every aspect of their lives. People are re-evaluating the idea of work and what it truly means to them.

Clearly, most are not okay with the idea that doing well at work means doing more at work, explains Katie Bailey, professor of work and employment at Kings College, London (Tatum, 2022). The younger generation has a much better understanding and awareness of their overall health and they are refusing to accept the fact that the only way to the top is ‘burnout’.

Falling Returns

Employees also realise that while the demands from employers are progressively increasing, the returns are not, and the mismatch between the two makes them question the real benefactor of their overwork. However, it is important to note that the option of job switching or quitting jobs is a privilege very few can afford. In times of rising unemployment, recession, social barriers and meagre wages and salaries, having a job then become a luxury.

Fineman (2006) argued that it is often difficult to distinguish the positive aspects of the job from the negative and this requires a more nuanced and balanced understanding of organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB). OCB is defined as “individual behaviour that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognised by the formal reward system, and that in the aggregate promotes the effective functioning of the organization” (Organ, 1988). Job creep is a result of escalating organisational citizenship behaviour which makes employees engage in work-related activities beyond their regular work hours.

Dyne and Elias (2004) provide the reactance theory of OCB in terms of over-fulfilment of employee obligation and explained the role of interplay between supervisor and peer perception of obligation and employee’s self-esteem and personal control. Research suggests job creep results in employees having a poor work-life balance and often too little time to replenish their energy through leisure or sleep (Jonge, Shimazu, & Dollard, 2018) which severely affects their overall well-being.

Silent Killers

Scholars have also argued that the lack of transparency and communication could be one of the reasons for the effect of job creep (Harrin, 2018). Michael Wellin (2007) indicated that in the job creep effect, behaviours and performance that were once optional have now become expected. The changes in these non-subtle workplace norms are more problematic than it looks. Sias & Duncan (2019) interestingly explain how job creep can be affected by the level and intensity of the relationship between leaders and their members. Thus, the debate on the outlook of OCB and job creep in terms of its positive and negative antecedents could be better understood by the process of psychological norm shift or psychiatrisation (Haslam, Tse, & Deyne, 2021).

While the role of external competitive pressure, poor (task/product) planning and lack of communication visibly stimulate job creeps in teams; several interactionist frameworks such as power distance, upward influence, locus of control, boundary-blurring, and organisation of assistance could reveal better ways to shield job creeps.

Structural changes even though immediately required will take time to come in full form. However, we must keep in mind that everyday phenomena such as quiet quitting, job creep and every similar phenomenon that may emerge over time, are forcing us to relook at the fact we seem to have conveniently forgotten – human beings are NOT machines. However, when treated like one, they will eventually burn out and shut down. It is high time to acknowledge, understand and seriously rework the work culture instead of taking pride in it.

This article has been co-authored by Prof. Moitrayee Das, Faculty of Psychology, FLAME University and Shrirang Ramdas Chaudhary, Research Consultant, Pinsight by PV-Global Human Capital Company.

(Source:- https://telanganatoday.com/opinion-work-calls-or-work-creeps )