The problems employers have in motivating workers are considerably reduced if people have their lives oriented to their work and particularly if they identify with their work and with the company that employs them. In this way, instead of having to force people to work hard through threat of unemployment and strict workplace controls, they will voluntarily consent to it.
The identification of people with their work is a phenomenon that corporations and employers have consciously fostered. In part it is a consequence of the work ethic and the system of status based on occupation which replaced a feudal status system. In feudal societies identification is determined much more directly by birth. This was still the case in the southern states of America right up to the civil war. In his novel The Fathers, Allen Tate’s narrator illustrates the differing cultures when he says of the pre-civil war South:
It was significant that we always spoke of the Carters of Ravensworth, the Carys of Vaucluse, the Buchans of Pleasant Hill. The individual quality of a man was bound up with his kin and the ‘places’ where they lived; thinking of a man we could easily bring before the mind’s eye all those subtly interwoven features of his position. ‘Class’ consisted solely in a certain code of behavior. Even years later I am always a little amazed to hear a man described as a coal man or the steel man or the plate-glass man, descriptions of people after the way they make their money, not after their manner of life.
The higher up in the occupational scale a person is the more likely they are to identify with their occupation and be self-motivated. The career structure fosters employees who demonstrate that they can be trusted to work unsupervised towards company goals. It encourages and rewards hard work, loyalty and commitment. Higher level employees are expected to compete with each other for favour from their superiors rather than to act together against them.
Jobs have a socialising effect, which employers are aware of and foster. Generally people find they have to adapt to a job, to make compromises and to see things in different ways, in order to be gain promotions. Pyschologist Paul Wachtel claims “As one enters the job market and does what is necessary to get ahead, one accepts new responsibilities and commitments that bind one to the system and change one’s point of view.”