Towards an improved process for balancing jobs

Originally published at: » Towards an improved process for balancing jobs

One of the main institutions of a participatory economy is that jobs are balanced for desirability and empowerment. That is, the collection of tasks that a person does in their work are comparably desirable and comparably empowering to the collection of tasks that every one does in their work[1]. I would like to explore some…

Our existing workplaces tend to be hierarchical and in some instances due to some individuals having more experience than others. For example where I work we have entry level junior analysts, senior analysts and managers. A manager and senior analyst basically share the same skill sets, except that the manager has HR related responsibilities. But the junior analyst has fewer skills mainly due to lack of experience. I’ve coached junior analysts and sometimes they are reluctant to take on more responsibilities because they find them intimidating. In other instances they haven’t got the experience to work efficiently.

How would you sort something like this out?

Hi, @Claude

To be fair, your question isn’t related to the topic I raise in this post (that of a suggested improvement for balancing jobs). But you pose an interesting and important question nevertheless: How should balanced jobs account for different levels of experience among different workers in a workplace?

I’ll offer this as a tentative solution: Tasks in a job can be made more rudimentary even if they are desirable and empowering, then adjusted once new and recent members of a workplace gain more experience. This has been my own experience in (admittedly hierarchical) workplaces and in gamification theory that’s referred to as “scaffolding” — starting out easy and then progressing to increasingly more difficult tasks, but staying balanced the whole time.

This merits more discussion and thought, maybe as an episode of the forthcoming PE podcast. I’ll add this to the list of proposed topics.

I think this is an improvement. Is your job bundle above or below zero? Good, easy.

What about also factoring in duration to a workplace’s job balancing formula? If a person spends longer hours as part of their job than a co-worker on an undesirable task, then this more negatively impacts them.

It will be very interesting to see the different approaches workplaces might take. There is obviously a trade-off between accuracy and practicality with balancing jobs. For me personally, I would favour fewer categories. The simplest could be just two categories, where everyone does something empowering and then the stuff that nobody wants to do is shared out. I guess the relevant question is what is sufficient so that everyone feels empowered enough to participate and comparably fulfilled at work.

There is also the issue of how this would work if jobs are also balanced between workplaces, but I think that deserves a whole separate article and discussion on.

I think you’re right that it won’t always be possible to balance jobs perfectly in every workplace because, like you say, of differences in experience and skills that will exist, especially considering those entering the workforce. I don’t think it can ever be perfect, but I think every workplace can set it as a goal to try to eliminate any persistent differences in empowerment that exist over time through training and job shadowing, and the education system of a participatory economy would play an important part in that too. Of course, another important difference to work today is that less experienced junior workers would still have the same income for their efforts and voting rights as more experienced workers.

I was thinking again of my own workplace how this could play out. First off, a lot of the new employees coming in are actually quite competent. They lack practical experience but have a lot of technical experience. I’ve actually been playing a role of coach to a few newbies at work. what they lack in experience they make up for in motivation. Their main obstacle in their case is confidence in carrying out some of the tasks. For example, leading meetings in certain circumstances. So long as I provide them with support at the meeting, or I model for them at a meeting how to proceed, then let them take the reigns at the next meeting, this approach seems to work out just fine. So overall, there has been a bit of a job balancing where I work, where I’ve taken on some of the more mundane roles of reviewing some of their work or just being there as a support person, while they’ve had opportunities to do some of the more empowering tasks like leading meetings, (while I’m there as a support person, less empowering).

Depending on individual attitudes and if they are of a collaborative and cooperative nature, it should not be a big reach to achieve some sort of balance at work.

Another thing to consider in terms of work dynamics, is that there would no longer be a culture of moving up the corporate ladder. This would be a pretty important cultural shift for people to get used to in and of itself. But it creates a vastly different environment if workers are not trying to score points by being at the forefront of accomplishments to claim credit. This is an area that may have already been studied hopefully so that we are not starting from scratch to figure human behaviour in this area.