As I read Chapter 5 (â€śConnections in the Workplaceâ€?) in Putnamâ€™s Bowling Alone, I couldnâ€™t help but reflect on my own work environment I work full time for Hennepin County in the Economic Assistance Department specifically working with the elderly and disabled population. Five years ago when I started the Department restructured. In the past a financial worker would have had an individual client case load of about 300 cases. Now ten financial workers are assigned to a team with a caseload size of about 3500 cases. The workers work together to determine how to manage the work.
In my experience my work place environment has contributed to my social capital. As Putnam states â€śâ€¦.an added benefit of workplace-based connections is that the workplace is much more diverse, racially and even politically, than most other social settingsâ€? (87). Everyday I work side by side with ten different people from all walks of life in addition to the clients I serve. Even if no personal relationship fostered from these interactions I still have learned the skills necessary to communicate and relate to a variety of people that would be difficult to learn outside this environment.
Being that I work in social services there isnâ€™t as great of a variety of political views amongst my co-workers. I am not at all politically active and many of my co-workers are. My daily interactions and conversations with them regarding current political issues and candidates have encouraged me to become more educated and aware of current issues as many affect my job or clients directly.
I am involved in the Union and several other committees that have further expanded my informal work connections. My involvement alone has allowed to be considered for jobs that with my education alone I would not normally be considered before. Itâ€™s not really about what you know but about who you know as Putnam talked in an earlier chapter.
Putnamâ€™s basic argument is that overall places of employment have fostered changes to encourage a more social connectedness but this has not increased social capital. I donâ€™t necessarily disagree with Putnam but I think in my experience my employment does contribute to my social capital as a domino effect. How many times have you gone to a restaurant, an event or movie at the recommendation of a co-worker? The skills learned in the workplace are carried out in my more personal relationships and have encouraged me to interact with people I normally may have not. I do have a few personal relationships with my co-workers that are continued outside the workplace but I think my less personal interactions with co-workers are just as important.
Everyoneâ€™s workplace experience is different. You get out of it what you contribute to it. Many of my co-workers do not discuss personal items at work or chose not to be involved in any committees or workgroups. I feel this inhibits the growth of social capital. As Putnam says there needs to be greater security for free speech and privacy and a â€śbetter integration between our work lives and our community and social livesâ€? (92,91)