• If you worked in the civil service and you had a higher degree of control10 over your work, you were a lot less likely to become depressed or develop severe emotional distress than people working at the same pay level, with the same status, in the same office, as people with a lower degree of control over their work.Michael remembers a woman named Marjorie.She worked as a secretary in the typing pool, where she had to type documents all day, every day.We were not allowed to talk,11 she said, so they had to sit in silence, typing up documents that might as well have been in Swedish for all they were told about them, to go to people they did not know, surrounded by people they couldn’t talk to.The thing that characterizes Marjorie’s work is not how much demand there is on her, but that she has no discretion to decide anything at all.By contrast, if you were a top civil servant and you had an idea, you had a good chance of making it happen.That carried through to your whole existence.It informed how you saw the world.Imagine a typical Tuesday morning12 in a large government department, Michael wrote years later.‘I’ve been thinking, Nige.We could save a lot of money if we ordered our supplies over the Internet.The higher up you went in the civil service, he found, the more friends and social activity you had after work.When work is enriching, life is fuller, and that spills over into the things you do outside work, he said to me.But when it’s deadening, you feel shattered at the end of the day, just shattered.As a result of this research, and the science it opened up, the notion of what constitutes stress at work has undergone a revolution, Michael explains.The worst stress for people isn’t having to bear a lot of responsibility.[where] they die a little when they come to work each day, because their work touches no part of them that is them. Joe, then, in his paint shop, by this real standard, had one of the most stressful jobs there is.The staff investigating tax returns kept killing themselves.So Michael spent time in their offices to find out why this was happening.It felt like it would engulf them.Holidays made them unhappy,14 Michael noted, because the tidal wave of paper would build up so that, on return, they would be engulfed.If these tax inspectors worked really hard and gave it their best, nobody noticed.And if they did a lousy job, nobody noticed, either.Despair often happens, he had learned, when there is a lack of balance between efforts and rewards.15 It was the same for Joe in his paint shop.

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