January 2012 Archives

Unlocking iPhone Work

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iPhones and other smartphones are frequently sold in a locked format so that Apple and others can dictate how they are used, at least to some extent such as choice of carrier. Apparently, Apple and others would similarly like to dictate a specific narrative about the jobs that Apple creates (or doesn't create). A wonderful New York Times story by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher, "How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work" (January 22, 2012), describes how almost none of the 700,000 people who engineer and build iPhones and Apple's other products work in the United States. According to the article, "Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option."

Last week I was at the annual meeting of the Labor and Employment Relations Association, an association notable for the number of academics, practitioners, and policymakers who are deeply concerned with employment issues in the United States. One panel featured Bob Herbert, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos. Mr. Herbert argued that we should fight the jobs crisis as we would a war. I'm not a fan of using war metaphors in the economics arena (too many corporate behaviors have been justified by seeing business competition as a war), but the more I thought about the severe consequences of the jobs crisis, the more this made sense (and it's not really a metaphor anyways!).

One element of making work meaningful to employees is helping them see how their work fits into broader organizational goals and accomplishments. Indeed, a lack of deeper connections for one's work is part of Karl Marx's argument way back in 1844 that capitalism creates worker alienation, though Marx typically isn't recognized as the basis for contemporary human resource management! In any case, in December I had an opportunity to present my research to interested staff here in the Carlson School of Management. This is part of a professional development series that aims to help connect staff to the school's faculty and their research. I truly enjoyed this opportunity, and I hope that in some small way I contributed toward making work more meaningful here in my own organization. The topic of my presentation was, unsurprisingly, "The Thought of Work," but I also try to answer the burning question "What the heck is industrial relations?" If you want to watch my presentation, it's archived here.

A New Year's Wish List for Work

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Happy New Year! As a new year starts, here is a wish list for work in 2012:

1. That the global unemployment rate declines so that the living standards of workers, their families, and their communities can improve.

2. That those who have too much work get less, and that those who don't have enough find more.

This page is an archive of entries from January 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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About this Blog

Whither Work? is a blog about work created by John Budd. I am a professor of Work and Organizations in the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, and the author of several books including The Thought of Work. Follow me on Twitter: @JohnWBudd.