orientation to work
orientation to workthe objectives and expectations that employees have of their work, and which influences their interpretation of their work experience, thereby determining to some extent their JOB SATISFACTION. The notion of orientations to work first gained currency in the SOCIOLOGY OF WORK in the late 1960s after the publication of a major study of workers’ attitudes (the Affluent Worker study) in a car assembly factory The researchers found that these workers assessed the satisfaction obtained from their jobs not in absolute terms but in relation to what they wanted from their employment. Thus the technology, for instance, did not directly determine the level of job satisfaction; the orientations developed out of people's social experiences outside work. Three types of orientation were identified.
- solidaristic, where the value of work lies in its capacity to provide intrinsic satisfaction and social contact with other workers. Work is a central life interest and work friendships extend outside the factory gate.
- bureaucratic, where the worker sees work in terms of a lifelong career, and work satisfaction depends on the extent to which work meets career and status aspirations.
- instrumental, where no intrinsic satisfaction from work is sought and work has primarily an economic value to the worker. Those with this orientation attach little importance to friendship with workmates and tend to lead a ‘privatized’ existence separate from the rest of the community.
It was argued that the ‘affluent workers’ had the latter orientation. Although the work was undeniably tedious these employees did not express dissatisfaction with their jobs as long as high incomes could be gained. The Affluent Worker study was a landmark in the sociology of work because it emphasized the importance of the meanings people attach to their work.