Does the suit make the man?

How many people in the US are employed in the classic salaryman position? Corporate types in a cubical or office (sales, marketing, management, IT, accounting, corporate lawyers, and whatever else I’m forgetting). I’ve run into a couple of online groups where the consensus seems to be the everyone lives this type of life. They might be urban hip or suburban unhip, they might be higher or lower on the corporate ladder, but they are all in the corporate game. The problem is that I don’t see this in the people around me.

Maybe its a perception thing. Does my job, high school science teaching, fall into that category? In general it has enough of the manifestations (controlled work environment and seemingly arbitrary or more or less meaningless job requirements being the big ones) that you could rewrite Dilbert in a school setting with very little effort. Yet I do not find it soul crushing. Certainly avoiding the horrible commute and thus gaining 1-2 hours per day is a big plus as is being around high school students (for the most part a pretty creative and energizing bunch of people).

I’ve always assumed that the difference was because I had the three things that seem most important to satisfaction with a job.

1. Creative control
2. Meaningful work
3. A feeling of competence

This article summarizes it as “A good job requires a field of action where you can put your best capacities to work and see an effect in the world,” which seems to fit even though teaching is not a trade (although it is arguably a craft).


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