Workaholism, Leisure and Pleasure - Part IWritten by Sam Vaknin
The official working week has been reduced to 35 hours a week in France. In most countries in world, it is limited to 45 hours a week. The trend during last century seems to be unequivocal: less work, more play.
Yet, what may be true for blue collar workers or state employees - is not necessarily so for white collar members of liberal professions. It is not rare for these people - lawyers, accountants, consultants, managers, academics - to put in 80 hour weeks.
The phenomenon is so widespread and its social consequences so damaging that it has acquired unflattering nickname workaholism, a combination of words "work" and "alcoholism". Family life is disrupted, intellectual horizons narrow, consequences to workaholic's health are severe: fat, lack of exercise, stress - all take their lethal toll. Classified as "alpha" types, workaholics suffer three times as many heart attacks as their peers.
But what are social and economic roots of this phenomenon?
Put succinctly, it is outcome of blurring of boundaries between work and leisure. This distinction between time dedicated to labour and time spent in pursuit of one's hobbies - was so clear for thousands of years that its gradual disappearance is one of most important and profound social changes in human history.
A host of other shifts in character of work and domestic environments of humans converged to produce this momentous change. Arguably most important was increase in labour mobility and fluid nature of very concept of work and workplace.
The transitions from agriculture to industry, then to services, and now to knowledge society, increased mobility of workforce. A farmer is least mobile. His means of production are fixed, his produce mostly consumed locally - especially in places which lack proper refrigeration, food preservation, and transportation.
A marginal group of people became nomad-traders. This group exploded in size with advent of industrial revolution. True, bulk of workforce was still immobile and affixed to production floor. But raw materials and finished products travelled long distances to faraway markets. Professional services were needed and professional manager, lawyer, accountant, consultant, trader, broker - all emerged as both parasites feeding off production processes and indispensable oil on its cogs.
The protagonists of services society were no longer geographically dependent. They rendered their services to a host of geographically distributed "employers" in a variety of ways. This trend accelerated today, with advent of information and knowledge revolution.
Knowledge is not geography-dependent. It is easily transferable across boundaries. It is cheaply reproduced. Its ephemeral quality gives it non-temporal and non-spatial qualities. The locations of participants in economic interactions of this new age are transparent and immaterial.
These trends converged with increased mobility of people, goods and data (voice, visual, textual and other). The twin revolutions of transportation and telecommunications really reduced world to a global village. Phenomena like commuting to work and multinationals were first made possible.
Notes on the Economics of Game Theory - Part IWritten by Sam Vaknin
Could Western management techniques be successfully implemented in countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE)? Granted, they have to be adapted, modified and cannot be imported in their entirety. But their crux, their inalienable nucleus – can this be transported and transplanted in CEE? Theory provides us with a positive answer. Human agents are same everywhere and are mostly rational. Practice begs to differ. Basic concepts such as money value of time or moral and legal meaning of property are non existent. The legal, political and economic environments are all unpredictable. As a result, economic players will prefer to maximize their utility immediately (steal from workplace, for instance) – than to wait for longer term (potentially, larger) benefits. Warrants (stock options) convertible to company's shares constitute a strong workplace incentive in West (because there is an horizon and they increase employee's welfare in long term). Where future is speculation – speculation withers. Stock options or a small stake in his firm, will only encourage employee to blackmail other shareholders by paralysing firm, to abuse his new position and will be interpreted as immunity, conferred from above, from consequences of illegal activities. The very allocation of options or shares will be interpreted as a sign of weakness, dependence and need, to be exploited. Hierarchy is equated with slavery and employees will rather harm their long term interests than follow instructions or be subjected to criticism – never mind how constructive. The employees in CEE regard corporate environment as a conflict zone, a zero sum game (in which gains by some equal losses to others). In West, employees participate in increase in firm's value. The difference between these attitudes is irreconcilable.
Now, let us consider this:
An entrepreneur is a person who is gifted at identifying unsatisfied needs of a market, at mobilizing and organizing resources required to satisfy those needs and at defining a long-term strategy of development and marketing. As enterprise grows, two processes combine to denude entrepreneur of some of his initial functions. The firm has ever growing needs for capital: financial, human, assets and so on. Additionally, company begins (or should begin) to interface and interact with older, better established firms. Thus, company is forced to create its first management team: a general manager with right doses of respectability, connections and skills, a chief financial officer, a host of consultants and so on. In theory – if all our properly motivated financially – all these players (entrepreneurs and managers) will seek to maximize value of firm. What happens, in reality, is that both work to minimize it, each for its own reasons. The managers seek to maximize their short-term utility by securing enormous pay packages and other forms of company-dilapidating compensation. The entrepreneurs feel that they are "strangled", "shackled", "held back" by bureaucracy and they "rebel". They oust management, or undermine it, turning it into an ineffective representative relic. They assume real, though informal, control of firm. They do so by defining a new set of strategic goals for firm, which call for institution of an entrepreneurial rather than a bureaucratic type of management. These cycles of initiative-consolidation-new initiative-revolution-consolidation are dynamos of company growth. Growth leads to maximization of value. However, players don't know or do not fully believe that they are in process of maximizing company's worth. On contrary, consciously, managers say: "Let's maximize benefits that we derive from this company, as long as we are still here." The entrepreneurs-owners say: "We cannot tolerate this stifling bureaucracy any longer. We prefer to have a smaller company – but all ours." The growth cycles forces entrepreneurs to dilute their holdings (in order to raise capital necessary to finance their initiatives). This dilution (the fracturing of ownership structure) is what brings last cycle to its end. The holdings of entrepreneurs are too small to materialize a coup against management. The management then prevails and entrepreneurs are neutralized and move on to establish another start-up. The only thing that they leave behind them is their names and their heirs.