What is a job? The Social Contract.

30 May


If you don’t like your job, wait five minutes and it will change.


A couple centuries ago political philosophers formulated the idea of the social contract.  This laid the foundation for democracy.  The job is a social  contract many people seem not to understand.  It is a deal between an employer and an employee.  An optimal contract is one where both parties benefit.  Under ideal conditions here is my take on the contributions that the two parties provide.


Employer                                       Employee

• Compensation                             • Time

• Working environment                • Skills, knowledge, experience

• Tools & training                             • Best effort

• Fair management                        • Engagement, involvement

The most striking characteristic of this relationship is its constant change.  During the 20th century the relationship has become more complex and of more mutual benefit.  For an in-depth discussion of this social role go to Beyond Luck.

Next week, the job as a social role in a repertory of social roles.




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One Response to “What is a job? The Social Contract.”

  1. Craig Fricke June 7, 2012 at 7:21 am #

    John… regarding the social contract, it seems that an additional pair of “contributions” needs to be added to the list of four above. The employer needs to support and encourage ongoing learning and expansion of job duties/responsibilities within the context of persistent escalation of performance expectations. The employee needs to perform as a perpetual learner driven by relentless curiosity. Without specifically adding a pair of “learning-centered” elements such as these, an employee may be stuck in a mode of having one year of experience twenty-five times rather than twenty-five years of progressive professional growth – Craig Fricke (this is my first post to your blog… do I receive a prize or coupon??)

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