Age differences in the consequences of overwork
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Age differences in the consequences of overwork book
Time and energy are finite; the demands of the 24/7 global economy seem not to be. As the old social contract structuring employment relations shifts, so too have the ways in which individuals work. Most notably, work in the 24/7 global economy is characterized by long hours and reconfigured work days in which work time is deepened, accelerated, expanded and otherwise transformed from the previous ideal of a five day work week characterized by regular 9-5 work days. Transformed work-time has led to a reproblemetization of time and work and reconsideration of its costs and benefits. To that end, social scientists across disciplines have sought to understand, unpack and explore these phenomena (see, for instance the new research volume, Research in the Sociology of Work: Workplace Temporalities, Rubin 2007). One persistent outcome of these changes is the feeling of being overworked as symptomatic of the quality of work in the new economy.1 This chapter focuses on two major issues – the negative effects of feeling overworked and possible age differences in those negative effects. We focus on the negative effects of being overworked in the United States because overwork seems to be a ubiquitous characteristic of the contemporary US economy. Though there is evidence that the reshaping of workplace temporalities and subsequent problems of overwork are a global phenomenon (Poster 2007), we focus here on the US experience. The Families and Work Institute report, “Feeling Overworked in America,” (Galinsky et al. 2004) indicates that roughly one-third of US workers are chronically overworked. Given the centrality of work to people’s lives and to the life of a society, understanding and explaining the characteristics and consequences of how people work reveals much about the social world more broadly. We are, however, interested in more than just the negative consequences of overwork. The research here tests hypotheses drawn from two competing explanations for the ways in which age might moderate the negative impacts of feeling overworked on employees’ feelings of stress and anger in the workplace. While normative contract theory suggests that the shifting social contract renders the costs of overwork higher for older workers (Rubin 1996; Cappelli et al. 1997; Rubin and Brody 2005), life course theory (Moen 1992; Moen et al. 1995; Scheiman 2003) implies that costs are greater for younger workers. Normative contract theory assumes that social relations are driven by norms of reciprocity.