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  1. Hertzberg’s initial working theory was derived from field interviews during the 1950s of a large group of accountants and engineers from Pittsburgh, PA. Hertzberg and his group posited a discontinuous scale of work satisfaction, suggesting that workers could be dissatisfied at work due to so-called hygiene factors, or satisfied at work due to the existence of motivating factors. The relationship with one’s supervisor was one of the identified hygiene factors, suggesting that workers were less dissatisfied (NOTE: that’s not the same as more satisfied) when they had a decent working relationship with their supervisor.

    For the original skinny, see: Hertzberg, F., Mausner, B. and Snyderman, B. B. (1959) The Motivation to Work. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

    A more managerial presentation can be found at: Hertzberg, F. (1968) One more time: How do you motivate employees? Harvard Business Review, 46(1), 53-62.
  2. For the academically inclined, Zedeck & Mosier (1990) propose five models of work/life balance. One is known as the spillover model, describing a permeable barrier between work and life, with each spilling over and necessarily influencing the character of the other. So, when the boss keeps calling, you keep trying to erase the spillover (see Zedeck, S. and Mosier, K. (1990) ``Work in the Family and Employing Organization'', American Psychologist 45: 240-51.).

    Clark (2000) uses the metaphor of a border, suggesting that we are constantly crossing from one state to another, i.e. we are border crossers. We consciously cross the work/life border, reinterpreting and constructing the reality of each … “Gotta get a handle on the situation | a should solution for my frustration.” For more, see Clark, S. C. (2000) “Work/Family Border Theory: A New Theory of Work/Life Balance”,
    Human Relations 53(6): 747-70
  3. George Pelacanos, Uncut Magazine.
  4. Hackman & Oldham’s classic 1980 work posited that the conditions of a worker’s job (skill variety, autonomy, task identity, task significance, and feedback) would influence critical psychological states of the worker (knowledge of the outcome of the work, experienced meaningfulness of the work, and experienced responsibility for the work), resulting in differentiated work outcomes (work quality and work quantity). The critical issue here is that since motivational forces reside both inside and outside the individual, it provides an opportunity to create job conditions that at least amplify or indeed create motivation beyond the individual. You can, as a manger, put a tiger in their tank.

    For the full story, see: Hackman, J. R. and Oldham, G. R. (1980), Workplace Redesign. Redding, MA: Addison-Wesley.
  5. Motivation is generally described as the set of forces both inside and outside the individual that induces outcome-related effort, influences its direction, intensity, and persistence. For a good description and discussion, see:

    Latham, G. P. and Pinder, C. C. (2005) “Work Motivation Theory and Research at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century”, Annual Review of Psychology 56: 485-516.
  6. The Expectancy Model of motivation is a cognitive view of motivation, suggesting that workers are motivated when they perceive as set of circumstances that will likely lead to a desirable outcome. The linchpins of the theory are that when when workers perceive that their effort will lead to a desired outcome (expectancy), that their outcome will be rewarded (instrumentality) with a reward that they value (valence), then motivation will be stronger. Note that once again, the conditions that transform worker effort to desired outcomes is very often in the hands of the organization (better tools, good supervision, training). Once again, then, management has an opportunity under this model to enhance the worker’s internal motivation … provide an organizational tiger in the tank. See the foundational work here:

    Vroom, V. H. (1964) Work and Motivation. New York, NY: Wiley

  7. Do we have a “work” me and a “home” me? Can we manifest differing personality traits in various contexts? Or, is that too difficult for us, making us long for the “Five O’Clock World,” wherein we can act like our true selves? There is a robust field of research in this area, and conclusions that support both views, that personality is consistent across disparate contexts, or that individuals vary their personality traits in accordance with situational context. In this song, I’m thinking our subject has a hard time adjusting the expression of self at work, and just can’t wait to ditch the work clothes and climb into his “Five O’Clock clothes.”

    You can find a nice summary and bibliography of this subject in Sheldon, K. M., Ryan, R. M., Rawsthorne, L. J., and B. Illardi (1997). Trait Self and True Self: Cross-Role Variation in the Big-Five Personality Traits and Its Relation With Psychological Well-Being and Subjective Well-Being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 73(6), 1380-1393.

Work Songs

Work songs have been around since people have been working. They are described as music closely associated with a particular task or work activity. Work songs were often sung in time to the work activity ("while working"), or provided a descriptive narrative of a given trade, job, or activity ("about working").

From an anthropological standpoint, work songs provide a view in to the nature of work throughout the ages. The songs that follow aren't meant to be anthropological ... mostly, they're just good music about work. And what better way to relax when thinking about job searches and fretting over resumes … a bit of good music.

You’ll need to download Spotify’s player to hear the songs; the free player will work just fine. Tell us what you think in the comments section below. And, be sure to send us your requests ... we're always looking for some good work tunes.

Our Record Cabinet

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The Songs

We might as well start with a classic take on work. Haven't we all wanted to have enough to tell the boss to ... well, you get it, right? Recorded in 1977, it it hits the low notes of 15 years of hard work with little to show for it. Find the lyrics here at Metrolyrics.

“One of the great rock’n roll performances, and as close to a perfect song as anyone’s ever recorded.”

It may be a stretch to think of this classic ballad as a work song, perhaps because we marginalize the work of artists. In the workaday world, we forget that the artist very often toils in isolation, motivated only by the hope that someone will like their work. And, maybe, just maybe, they’ll be willing to pay the artist for their efforts. And that’s the work hook here … the joy of the payoff when your work is recognized:

“Tell him this is his last chance
to get get his daughter in a fine romance.
Because the record company, Rosie
Just paid me a big advance.”

I’ve always loved those lines.

You’ll find the lyrics
here at the official Springsteen site. For a real treat, check out a 1975 performance at the Hammersmith Odeon … with hats!

“You load sixteen tons and what do you get? | Another day older and deeper in debt.”

Well, there’s a motivational set of lyrics to get you up and going to work on Monday! This is a classic example of a true working song, and just a plain old classic song. Written about life in the coal mines, the song evokes a deep sense of melancholy. We hear the worker not only complain about the lack of pay for his labor, but the despair of being trapped in a job he doesn’t like:

“Saint Peter don’t you call me ‘cause I can’t go | I owe my soul to the company store.”

It’s got to be pretty bad at work when you don’t even think you can call in dead, let alone sick.

For the academics and managers in the crowd, we might look at this as a lack of motivation from an Expectancy
standpoint … the worker doesn’t expect a valuable return from his efforts ( “… further in debt”), so why work any harder? So, if you want more than Sixteen Tons, you may want to offer an opportunity for the worker to receive some reward that has valence to them.

Aww, but who cares about that. This is just a cool song and a great opportunity to hear the classic baritone of Tennessee Ernie Ford.

Get the lyrics to, and story behind, Sixteen Tons right
here. Wikipedia has a good write-up of the history of this song here.

Ostensibly, I’m including this song to illustrate the issue of work/life balance. It seems as if it is becoming more and more difficult to discern where the line is between the two. So, after a while, we may just want to step out of the work part and take a break in our own lives:

“The office keeps calling with complications
Big breakdown in communication
They keep leaving messages I keep erasing.”

Just can’t get away unless you make it a point to keep work away, even for a little bit: “Gotta get a handle on the situation.”

You may find the song has a bit too much of a “pop” feeling to it, and the repeating of the refrain each line in the opening stanza may be a bit much. Me, I just like any excuse to listen to Jennifer Nettles sing.

Get the lyrics at Sugarland’s site right

The recent passing of B. B. King leaves a hollow note in the general realm of musicians, blues in particular. This is his cover of the classic blues tune Big Boss Man, originally performed by another blues legend, Jimmy Reed, in 1960.

“I’m gonna get me a boss man | One who’s gonna treat me right
I work hard in the daytime | Rest easy at night.”

This is an interesting set of lyrics for those interested in the workplace. Frederick Hertzberg’s classic Two-factor theory of worker satisfaction
suggests that the interpersonal relationship with supervisors at work is a critical hygiene factor, on that can lead to dissatisfaction at work. These lyrics point to a better work life by way of better supervision: “One who’s gonna treat me right.”

An interesting side note: Dixon and Smith were writing these lyrics right around the same time that Hertzberg et. al. were publishing their findings on the impact of a Big
Bad Boss Man … must have been something in the air back then.

Find the lyrics to the original tune here at
Lyricsfreak. Visit the B. B. King website for all the official B. B. music here.

An upbeat number about the downbeat of working. Anybody else have their check spent before it shows up on Friday? Don't complain though, 'cause you need the work. right?

“Hey I’m not complaining’ cause I really need the work |
Hitting’ up my buddy’s got me feeling’ like a jerk. |
Hundred dollar car note, two hundred rent |
I get a check on Friday but it’s already spent.”

Released in 1982, it still rings true. By the way, is there any band that seemed to have more fun making music than the News? Find the lyrics here at the band’s
web site.

Originally released and performed by the great Muddy Waters in 1960, Joe Bonamassa recently released a tribute album (Muddy Waters and Howling’ Wolf) that included this blues standard. While many choose to focus on the supposed sexual innuendo in the lyrics, I’ll look elsewhere using a few great lines:

“One thing I look for you to do
you give it a push and if the car don’t crank
You know you need a tiger in your tank.”

That’s Monday morning, on your way to work. If your car just doesn’t want to crank, it reminds us that motivation
can come from outside, too. If you’re a manager, you can create the conditions that lead to more motivation … you can put a tiger in your workers’ tanks. Maybe it comes from providing job conditions that put your workers in a “mind” to work, or by providing the type of meaningful conditions and rewards that workers expect … motivation is not a one-way street. Managers need to remember that sometimes they just “got to put a tiger in your tank.”

Find the lyrics l
yricwikia. You can enjoy Joe Bonamassa performing the song live at Red Rocks here (horn section enjoying the guitar solo at the 2:40 mark). For the original, check out Muddy Waters performing at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival here.

Never a bad thing to listen to some Grateful Dead, especially when the topic is work. I mean, who better for an interesting take on work than the Dead:

“Still got to work that eight hour day | Whether you like that job or not | Keep it on ice while you’re lining up that long shot.”

That’s the tough part about work; we always seem to be looking for something bigger and better. And, I suppose that’s the motivation to keep looking for better work … trying to get your long shot to come in. But remember, while you’re waiting:

“When Monday comes, don’t forget about work.”

Recorded live at the Hartford Civic Center, October 1983.

Find the lyrics here at the band’s web
site. You can watch a 12/30/83 San Francisco performance of the song here.

This is just great song all around. Merle Haggard is a classic, and this 1969 tune showcases him at his best. And, he captures the struggle of many workers, but delivers the message with a light touch:

“Well, I keep my nose on the grindstone, work hard every day | Get tired on the weekend after I draw my pay. | But I go back working’ come Monday morning’, I’m right back with the crew | I drink a little beer that evening, sing a little bit of these working man blues.”


Find the lyrics here at
Metrolyrics. For a real treat, watch Merle perform the song on Youtube here.

Money ... written by Berry Gordon and Janie Bradford; performed by Barrett Strong

Released in 1959, this is about as prophetic a title as there is, as this single was one of the tunes that launched Gordon’s Motown empire. The lyrics also speak to work as one of the central cores of life for many:

“Your love gives me such a thrill | But your love won’t pay my bills.”

It might sound overly materialistic, but that’s the point for many. Work can be rewarding and can offer many psychic rewards. At the end of the day, though, most of us just want
“a lotta money,” because its the money that allows us to buy the solutions to all of Maslow’s physiological needs. After all:

“Money don’t get everything it’s true | What it don’t get I can’t use.”

What he could use is a break on his claim that he was left off the copyright notice for a hugely profitable song. You can read about the bad break at

You can find the lyrics to the Barrett Strong version at

“Just got done working' and my feets feel like lead.”

I guess even The King had some of those days at work ... so tired at the end of the day that you can hardly move. Then again, The King could always move. For the rest of us, we just need a few minutes to get off work’s dance floor, kick back and “set a spell.”

This mix was released in 2010, but the original version was released in 1963 as part of the sound track for the movie
Fun in Acapulco. Find the lyrics here at Metrolyrics.

This isn’t really a “work song” but a portion of the lyrics speaks to our need to work … asking for a “doggone raise” because his baby wants to go to France. The classic boss’ response:

“money’s tight | You know there ain’t no chance.”

If you’re not familiar with Keb’ Mo’, you’ll like his approach to the Blues … great songsmith, just enough sandpaper on the voice, sweet steel guitar. Find the lyrics here at

Seems like a constant refrain … get a job! Written in 1959, this doo-wop classic by the Silhouettes hits the mark:

“She throws the want ads right my way | And never fails to say | Get a job.”

Always those lucky enough to have a job finding it easy to tell
you to get a job. So, while It does seem hard to find a good job these days, you might as well have a great tune in your head as you pound the pavement looking for one. Get the lyrics at The Silhouettes website.

“Friday | payday | Lordy gotta get away!”

Can’t miss with an opening line like that. Time to leave the work behind and go have some fun, right? And, if you can hide from the office …

“if anyone asks | not that they would | We’ll be down in Mississippi and up to no good.”

No better voice than Jennifer Nettles, and it really is an great tune for the end of the week. You’re done with the boss’s work, done with the house work, might as well start your work:
“running’ for the riverboat | All you’ll see is asses and elbows.”

Get the lyrics at Sugarland’s site right

Millworker is more of a contemporary work song than any of our previous posts. Written in 1979 for the Broadway show Working, the song offers a plaintive picture of a young woman trapped in a dehumanizing job, never likely to see “the man who’s on the label.”

The lyrics to
Millworker almost evoke a Marxian work setting, deskilled to the point of detachment:

“Millwork ain’t easy | Millwork ain’t hard | Millwork ain’t nothing | But an awful boring job.”

Coupled with an empty future,
“Then it’s me and my machine | for the rest of the morning | (and) the rest of the afternoon | And the rest of my life,” one’s heart breaks at the emptiness of this woman’s work life.

Not an upbeat rendition of work, but one of the most powerful and evocative expressions of hopelessness at work as you will ever hear. Just great a great artist at work and a riveting insight into the life of the alienated worker.

Get the lyrics at

A lyrical lament of a young worker cloaked in a wonderfully upbeat song. Too bad the protagonist ends up in jail, but at least he did it for love!

Springsteen is at his musical best when he pours out the heart and soul of the average man in ballad form. And
Working on the Highway doesn’t disappoint on this count. Released in 1984 as part of Springsteen’s iconic Born in the U.S.A. album, Highway tells the tale of the New Jersey working stiff, saving up his money for an ill-fated romance:

“I work for the county out on 95
All day I hold a red flag and watch the traffic pass me by.
In my head I keep a picture of a pretty little miss
Someday mister I’m gonna lead a better life than this.”

In the classic “live to work” vs. “work to live” debate, this one falls squarely, and desperately, in the “work to live camp.” You catch a glimpse of the workingman’s weekly struggle:

“Friday night’s pay night | guys fresh out of work
Talking about the weekend | scrubbing off the dirt
Some heading home to their families | some looking to get hurt
Some going down to Stovell wearing trouble on their shirt.”

Ok, the lyrics aren’t exactly upbeat, but it does paint a vivid picture of a young laborer struggling to make a life out of work. And the song is just plain ol’ good.

Then again, it’s Springsteen … what else did you expect?

You can watch a great concert version
here, and get the full set of lyrics right here at the Springsteen website.

For many of us, payday is the most important day of the week. And, if not the most important day, it helps pay for whatever is the most important day. Released in 1972 on the album Rio Grande Mud, this song gets right to the point:

“I just got paid today | Got me a pocket full of change.”

Driven by ZZ Top’s brand of Texas Blues Rock, Just Got Paid opens with the good side of payday, the pocket full of change, but quickly ints at the dark side of payday …

“It’s the root of evil and you know the rest.”

When we work to live, payday is the most important day. But when living costs more than we’re paid, ‘guess we’ll just have to hang in there until the next payday.

Get the lyrics at For some more fun, check out the cover of this song by Joe Bonamassa on Youtube; Billy Gibbons and Joe Bonamassa … that’s some really good work on the guitar.

Released in 1991, as track 5 on the album Hard at Play, this song is bit of a fooler. A driving upbeat tune, but the lyrics revolve around needing to get away from the grind. Well, as we approach the holiday weekend, that works for me.

“cause I’m only human, I’m no machine | I need a little loving only you know what I mean | Don’t misunderstand me | I’m not getting soft | All I want is a couple days off.”

Amen to that … happy holiday weekend!

And, can I say again … does anyone have more fun making music than Huey Lewis & the News?

Get the lyrics at

“They offered me the office | offered me the shop | They said I better take anything they’d got.”

When jobs are tight and you can’t get the work you want … well, let The Clash do your ranting and raving for you. Released as track 9 on their debut punk rock classic,
The Clash, this song screams with disaffection and rails against the lack of opportunity for working class youth in 1970s Great Britain.

The band’s bare energy and emotion really drives the message here. Clothed in a driving punk beat, you can’t help but feel the frustration of the search for work that just isn’t there. And, you can’t help but hear the rebellion against the powerlessness of the worker in tight job markets …

“Every job they offer is to keep you out the dock | Career opportunity, the ones that never knock.”

Get the lyrics from the band’s website

I was actually searching Spotify for another Blake Shelton song when I ran into Buzzing’ … not sure what to make of this song, but a work song it surely is. Well, truth be told, it’s more of a weekend after work song. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

“Work, work, work, man that’s all I ever do |
Been hitting it, getting it, giving it, living them working man blues|
Working on that pick-up, working on that check.”

Doesn’t get much more “work” than that for the opening of a work song. Work as an means to an end, not necessarily the end itself. That’s the common lament of work that isn’t really actualizing, but provides the means by which to acquire things we need. You know, Maslow in a country western song.
The dissatisfaction sets in, though, when the commitment to work seems to much, or at least too much effort relative to the returns:

“Hey, can I get a little “Hey, man.” |
Anybody been where I’ve been? |
It just don’t stop when you punch that clock.”

We all need a break from the long work week, and this song interestingly blends the two,
“Gotta rock on right through the weekend.”

And then there’s Monday morning. Ouch.

You can find the full set of lyrics
here. All of Blake Shelton’s music resides at his web site.

This is a classic 1960s tune … embedded into the consciousness of those of us old enough to have heard it. Released in 1965, Five O’Clock World reached the top of the charts for one of the more popular vocal quartets of the 60s (and the pride of Turtle Creek, PA). A soulful song with pop overtones, it evokes a strong feeling of an unbalanced work life, one where sanctuary hides on the other side of quitting time:

“I’ve been going’ trying’ to make my way |
While I live for the end of the day.”

Five o’clock … quitting time in the 1960s … and you can leave the work world behind:

“But it’s a five o’clock world when the whistle blows |
No one owns a piece of my time |
And there’s a five o’clock me inside my clothes |
Thinking’ that the world looks fine.”

The modern quest for work-life balance just begs for a “five o’clock me,”
the ability to protect and own time that work cannot claim. The backdrop of this song hints at 5 o’clock as only a temporary reprieve, though:

“Up every morning’ just to keep a job |
I gotta fight my way through the hustling mob |
Sounds of the city pounding in my brain |
While another day goes down the drain.”

This is an interesting work song … at times a sad lament, at times a hopeful ode, all wrapped in a well-produced, intoxicating performance. Gotta be part of your work song playlist.

Get the lyrics from stlyrics

Just for Christmas … It’s the classic workplace scenario - the boss needs someone with a specific set of KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities). And, in this case, Rudolph has developed those skills while he was on the bench and was ready for the opportunity:

“Then one foggy Christmas Eve Santa came to say | Rudolph with your nose so bright won’t you guide my sleigh tonight.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

OK, it’s a stretch, but it is the holiday workweek, so why not celebrate the greatest workplace promotion in history … Rudolph to the front of the sleigh!

This version of the song can be found on Willie Nelson’s 2012 release of
The Classic Christmas Album … a worthy addition to anyone’s Christmas collection.

Happy holidays, all.

If you need them, you can get the lyrics from Metrolyrics

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