Most of us need work in order to be complete. We would go so far as to say that it is in our nature to work. But there is a difference between good work and what we might call toil. Good work gives us meaning and purpose, energizes us, and provides a forum for creative engagement and contribution. Toil is dehumanizing. Some jobs really have little silver lining. They are boring, meaningless drudgery.

What makes the difference between good work and toil?

Think in terms of capacity, competencies developed by training, helpful supervision, and appropriate rewards.

Have you ever seen a sniffer dog in action? We totally enjoyed the spectacle of Lucy doing her thing at our local airport. Lucy loves her work. Watching her, we could see all the principles of what makes for good work.

CC photo courtesy of ukhomeoffice

Work should match capacity.

Lucy’s natural capacity is perfectly suited for this job. She was chosen for it because of her ability to detect scents.  Lucy is wired by her biology to sniff. She can do her job all day long and never get burned out. In fact, she is energized by her work.

Training builds competencies.

Lucy has received excellent job training that built on her natural talent by giving her competencies in advanced smelling. She was trained to target her sniffing to bags including purses, luggage, and computer cases and to differentiate particular smells that indicate the presence of danger.  Her capacity and competencies overlap perfectly.

Supervision promotes good work.

Her relationship with her handler is a great example of good supervision. The handler knows he can’t do what Lucy does. As a result he doesn’t try to micromanage her sniffing. He appreciates Lucy’s talents and loves to see her do her work well. He offers frequent and positive feedback to Lucy about the excellent quality of her work.

Good work is rewarded.

Lucy is appropriately rewarded for her work. She works decent hours and has time off for rest and play. She enjoys a comfortable and dignified life that includes good nutrition, shelter, companionship, exercise and health care. She is a happy dog.

Watch this video to see more about training a sniffer dog.

How about you? Are you happy with your work? Do you have all the benefits that Lucy enjoys? If you are missing capacity, competencies, training, good supervision or appropriate rewards, it might be time to do something different.


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