If you’re like me, until recently you never even heard of ERI, let alone know if you suffer from it.
The term, coined by Johannes Siegrist, senior professor at the University of Dusseldorf, stands for Effort/Reward Imbalance.
The idea is that we all make a mental calculation when it comes to work. How does what I’m putting in compare to what I’m getting out of it?
In this insightful article on the topic from the Guardian, the author quotes Siegrist, saying there are two types of imbalance. “You can either do too little and receive too much or do too much and receive too little.”
In both cases, these imbalances can prove to be unhealthy. For those whose effort is great and reward small, it has been linked to heart problems and depression.
Surprisingly and perhaps less sympathetically, those on the other end who may feel their reward is unearned may also experience mental health issues.
So what is our response?
Well because no one likes to feel off balance, we recalculate our Effort/Reward for ourselves and dangerously for others.
We overstate our effort while understating those of others. And we minimize our own reward while overstating the reward of others.
In the process we throw shade on others in the form of guilt or shame.
The problem is both effort and reward are hard to quantify in our own lives let alone try to judge in others.
Both effort and reward are relative. They vary from day to day. They are both a point in time and a reflection of a lifetime of activity
So what is one to do?
If you’re reward is in excess of your effort — work harder… for others.
If you’re doing too much and receiving too little — demand more… with and from others.
You see the solution to ERI is not something we will find in our own heads but something we must seek in the company of others.
Thanks for reading the latest from Moving Up.
This July 4th most Americans will have a vacation day – one “free” from work. But how free or independent does your work normally make you feel?
Technology was intended to be the great liberator – transforming our lives and ushering in the 15-hour workweek. I’m not there yet are you?
The number of people working in blue-collar jobs has decreased since 1970 from 31% to less that 14% today. Automation promises to dispatch more people working in what we might describe as hard labor.
In his new book Bull—- Jobs, David Graebar raises critical questions about why this shift and others hasn’t “freed us up” to enjoy life more.
His central tenet is that most jobs now require us to serve at the whim of others – decreasing our independence and the meaning that came from once making things.
One of the most provocative questions he raises is “Why do so many people have to squeeze doing the things they love — like writing novels or woodworking — into their free time, while spending grim hours under the fluorescent lights of an office doing pointless tasks?”
The answer might be found in the etymology of the word work itself. As this essay in the Guardian points out, it dates back to the same root words that are associated with compel, persecute and torture.
It is interesting to note that two of the most identifiable parts about being American. The ethos of hard work and the belief in freedom are, in fact, at odds with one another.
Ideally it is the work that provides us with the freedom, financial and otherwise, to enjoy our lives. But as Alissa Quart points out in her new book, Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America, that is becoming increasingly difficult for more and more Americans.
The potential of the gig economy persists but its promise will go unrealized until we tackle fundamental policy questions around wages, childcare, healthcare and retirement.
Until then, we should just ask ourselves a few simple questions. If you are an employer or manager of people, what can you do to help your employees feel more independence and freedom? And if you are a worker, how can you go and get it?