Why Do People Agree To Work In Boring Jobs?

Why Do People Agree To Work In Boring Jobs?
by David Greene and Shankar Vedantam
November 07, 2013

In the essay “The Myth of Sisyphus,” philosopher Albert Camus — who would have turned 100 on Thursday — explored the nature of boring work. There’s new psychological research into why people end up in boring jobs.

It’s a famous essay by Camus; and it looks at a Greek myth about a man who’s condemned by the gods to roll a boulder up a hill, watch it roll down, and then repeat the cycle for all eternity. And at one point, Camus connects this myth to the fate of the modern worker. He says the work man of today works every day in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd.

when you’re anticipating the kind of work that you want to do, how you think about it might be very different than the actual experience of the job, when you’re doing it.

GREENE: What explains that gap? Is it just the matter of a bad job description, or is there something else going on?

UBEL: No. Ubel and Comerford think there’s something else; that when we think about jobs that we have to do, we often are confronted by a host of different things to think about. And it’s difficult to think about all those things at once and so we simplify it, and we think about just one or two of the characteristics of the job.
So if I was to tell you, David, that there was a job opportunity and you had to choose between living in sunny Southern California and in freezing Michigan, which would you choose?

one of the factors Ubel and Comerford think we use is this phenomenon called effort aversion, which is that when we think about work and potential jobs, we pick the job that involves the least effort.

both Ubel and Camus are basically saying when you make choices, make them consciously. Make them deliberately. Don’t let unconscious biases guide you.