I’ve been working in a graduate role for a few months now and during this time I have realised a few things. If truth be told, these realisations aren’t anything out of the ordinary. In fact, they are probably so well-known they are actually borderline cliché. They ranged from the obvious, such as you have good and bad days at work, to the fanciful, we should all try to have a job we love. Despite the various thoughts I’ve had about the nature of working at a job, none of them came close to the one my friend surmised the other day.

“We overcomplicate how we earn money,” he said.

My friend is somewhat aligned to the far left, this often causes me to step back and question whether what he has just said is a radical musing. This was my knee-jerk reaction in truth, I passed it off as some “hippy” statement he had read in a book. After getting over my initial hastiness, I thought about what the statement really implied. It is actually quite profound. I’ve never heard a comment about jobs put so plainly as that, but as I reflect on what I have been doing for the last few months it makes sense in a number of ways. We’ll investigate a few of these meanings here.

Firstly, we can apply it to the large, corporate business world. Having worked within a large enterprise for a few months, it is easy to see there can be many complications from even the smallest of actions. To prevent anything truly bad from happening, businesses often put a series of hurdles in place that make sure the right people are aware of what is happening. This is could be informing your line manager, who informs theirs and so on, until everyone who should be concerned is aware. Another option could be circulating an overview of what is to be changed and getting various people’s approval.

Going through these processes of approval is the correct thing for any big business to do, what concerns me is the effect this can have on the people. Instead of just going with an informed (or un-informed) opinion, the person has to wait for other’s approval. Not being able to go straight ahead with a decision based on your own intuitions can leave a person feeling like a blunt utensil. If we think of money very rudimentarily, it is a payment for doing tasks. Overcomplicating the task you wish to complete can complicate you earn a living and make you unhappy.

We can also view the statement as a call towards having simpler jobs. We can divide this into two separate understandings. Firstly, it could be that we should take on more basic job roles. The focus here could lie more on enjoying simpler things and doing a certain task properly and carefully. For example, Rob, supermarket manager has a passion for giving people great food. He could leave his manager role and instead set up a market stall and sell his produce this way. Of course, this is very idealistic! It is very hard for people to give up their jobs in such a manner. Also, with big retailers offering goods and services very cheaply, those people brave enough to take on simpler jobs like this would most likely loose out. Suffice to say, for this understanding to work, there would need to be some sort of mass, societal revolution.

A second and more fathomable understanding of having simpler jobs can come about from how we set our job goals. If we return to Rob, we can find a better understand what simpler job goals mean. As a manager of a supermarket, Rob could have lots of different aims and goals that he has to meet. These could include meeting numbers, improving sales of frozen goods and receiving positive feedback from customers. Having so many different aims and goals overcomplicates how a person earns money. How often have you found yourself sinking with so many different priorities to focus on? Perhaps if Rob realigns everything he does towards one aim of making customers happy, he might be happier in his role. Everything he does would be driving towards one thing and from there he could measure his achievements. Whilst he would still have to worry about numbers and sales, it would all come back to his one basic aim.

A final sentiment we could take from this statement is a sad and anarchist one. We have overcomplicated how we earn money and there is no turning back. It should be simpler. It should be based on small communities exchanging goods and services. How we earn a living now is removed from what makes people happy. This may be the case… But why bother wasting our time on such pessimism! There are ways for people to make earning a living a simpler and happier process; they just have to find ways to make it so. Leave a comment if you feel strongly about any of the views expressed!