Humanistic Work-Life Alignment Test (HWLAT)

Adi Holzer Werksverzeichnis 850 Lebenslauf-2[Wikimedia; 2014]

A lot of people think that it is good to have a job matching their values and priorities. Common sense suggests that, since we spend a substantial part of our lives at work, so much the better if we do something we like. But when it comes to defining what this means more in detail, and how to quantify the goodness of such a match, opinions vary. For example, one may try to define the distinctive qualities of a good job, and measure the match based on how a given job is close to such a golden standard. This viewpoint, which I will call the sociological approach (SA), can be tempting in that it gives the reassuring impression that this complex subject can be factorized, after all, in a limited and standardized set of variables. Defenders of the SA think that one can reliably define a golden rule using theories such as Marlow’s hierarchy of needs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs), and quantify the goodness of a given job in terms of degree of alignment with them. In this essay I will neither argue in favor, nor against any particular theory of value. My point is another: I advance that a good work-life alignment test (WLAT) should not commit to any particular theory of value, yet be compatible with all of them. Proponents of the SA are driven by their blind allegiance to the objectivity Demigod, which I reject entirely. My view, which I will call the humanistic approach (HA) is that what really matters in issues of alignment, is how I perceive the alignment, here and now. It is no consolation if one feels miserable in her job, to find out that such a subjectively miserable job is in fact a good one, according to some objective theory of value. In order to give an answer to the need for quantifying work-life alignment compatible with the tenets of the HA, I propose a method based on the following principles:

  1. The criteria which define what is a good job for person P1 may not (and need not) be the same as the criteria for person P2.
  2. Criteria which are relevant to person P at time t1 may not be the same as the ones which are relevant for the same person P at a later time t2 .
  3. The ideal WLAT method should allow to compare the alignment of job J1 with criteria C1, with the alignment of job J2 with criteria C2. In other words, WLAT(J1, C1) and WLAT(J2, C2) should have values in the same set S for every combination of job Ji and  criteria Ck.
  4. The ideal WLAT should allow for a graphical representation of the work-life alignment which is easy to understand without requiring knowledge of WLAT. In other words, the outcome of the WLAT shall be easy yo understand independent if the reader is WLAT savvy or not.
  5. The graphical representation of the outcomes of WLAT shall allow for uniform comparisons of alignment between different jobs against the same criteria, the same job against different criteria, and different jobs/criteria.
  6. The WLAT shall allow for sets of criteria of any size, with the only obvious constraint that there be at least one.
  7. If a criterion is already satisfied, increasing the satisfaction further will not increase the alignment rate, ceteris paribus.

I will call my method the Humanistic Work-Life Alignment Test (HWLAT). For convenience’s sake, before proceeding with the definition of the HWLAT, I will introduce a set of default criteria.

Default Criteria

  1. Salary
  2. Fringe Benefits
  3. Flexible Work Time
  4. Work from Home
  5. Work Hours
  6. Education Opportunities
  7. Career Opportunities
  8. Business Ethics
  9. International Context
  10. Small Commute from Home
  11. Positive Relation with Boss
  12. Positive Relation with Colleagues
  13. Opportunities of Internal Job Change
  14. Possibility to have a Sabbatical

Remark: Default criteria are not mandatory. The reader can use them as they are, or complement them with her own, replace some of them, keep some others, or even drop some without replacement.

Remark: Some criteria may only make sense for a job one already has, but not for prospective one. For example, one may know all too well how is her relation with her boss, but she can only guess the relation of her prospective boss, and not very reliably.

For the sake of argument let us assume that there be custom criteria as well:

Custom Criteria

  1. Custom Criterion 1
  2. Custom Criterion 2
  3. Custom Criterion 3
  4. etc.

To sum up, let n be the size of the chosen set of criteria C. For every criterion Ci, with i ϵ [1..n], the reader will express a weight in the range [0..10]. Higher weight means higher importance. Weight 0 means that the criterion should better be dropped because it has no importance. After that, the method requires the reader to assess the job at hand based on its degree of alignment with every single criterion. Results will look like this:

Criterion Subjective Importance (si) Subjective alignment rate (sar) of job J with this criterion
Salary 8 2
Fringe Benefits 7 7
Flexible Work Time 9 10
Work from Home 10 2
Work Hours 10 10
etc.
etc.

Now that we have data, the question arises, how can we build an alignment rate compatible with the tenets of HWLAT? My proposal is to pursue a representation like the following:

HWLAT Concept
The bigger the angle, the lower the alignment.  Angle Θ is in the range [0..π/2]. The alignment is maximum when Θ is 0 (employee and employer have fully compatible values and priorities) and it is minimum when Θ is π/2. Assuming that we are working in the trigonometric circle with radius 1, the overlap is measured as cos(Θ). cos(0) = 1; cos(π/2) = 0. I have now all the elements for defining the formula.

I will give the following preliminary definitions:

  • C = {C1, C2, … , Cn} is a set of n criteria, with n > 0
  • J is the job whose alignment with criteria C must be determined
  • ITM(Cj) is the subjective importance of criterion Cj with j ϵ [1..n]
  • SAR(J, Cj) is the subjective alignment rate of job J with criterion Cj with j ϵ [1..n]

Definition 1 – HWLAT%

Let C be the set of n criteria relevant to a person P, and J the job whose alignment with C, P wishes to determine. The Humanistic Work-Life Alignment Test in Percentage (HWLAT%) is the function defined below:

HWLAT% formula

In order to represent the alignment using the format introduced above, we need to compute the angle between the two lines. This can be easily done applying elementary trigonometry.

Definition 2 – HWLAT

Let C be the set of n criteria relevant to a person P, and J the job whose alignment with C, P wishes to determine. The Humanistic Work-Life Alignment Test (HWLAT) is the function defined below:

HWLAT(J, C) = arccos(HWLAT(J, C))

Remarks

HWLAT has values expressed in radians in the range [0..π/2]. Its semantics is angle Θ above.

Now that the method is fully explained it is possible to go through a practical example of its use.

Example

Let us consider the following situation:

Criterion Subjective Importance (si) Subjective alignment rate (sar) of job J with this criterion
Salary 8 2
Fringe Benefits 7

7

Flexible Work Time 9 10
Work from Home 10 2
Work Hours 10 10
Education Opportunities 10 6
Career Opportunities 7 2
Business Ethics

9

5

International Context

6

8

Small Commute from Home

8

3

Positive Relation with Boss

10

6

Positive Relation with Colleagues

10

10

Opportunities of Internal Job Change

7

7

Possibility to have a Sabbatical

6

6

Applying the formulas above we have:

HWLAT%(J, C) = ∼ 69%

HWLAT(J, C) = ∼ 0,806 radians = ∼ 46°

HWLAT Example

To sum up, in this essay I have argued against objective approaches to measuring work-life alignment, on the grounds of the inevitably subjective perception of one’s happiness with her job. After that, I have defined a new approach which I have called Humanistic Work-Life Alignment Test (HWLAT). Then, I have shown the graphical representation of results. Last, I have given formulas allowing to compute the HWLAT compatible with all the tenets above. I hope the reader will find it useful to apply this method for the determination of the degree of alignment of her current or prospective job with her values and priorities. Feedback is welcome.

Bibliography

Wikimedia; 2013, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a9/Adi_Holzer_Werksverzeichnis_850_Lebenslauf-2.jpg, accessed 3 February 2014

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