Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

Reporter: James Thomas

The audience laugh but for many the joke hides a painful truth, their job is making them miserable... Why?

"I think we are much more ambitious than we ever where before. The older view was that you worked just to make money. You worked to put money on the table and your real life goes on on the weekend" says Alain.

But today, argues philosopher, Alain De Botton, we seek fulfilment, happiness and a sense of identity at work. With such lofty goals is it any wonder we fall short.

"To suggest to people they will find their identity at work and become themselves. It is a beautiful democratic idea... But it has many many victims."

"One of the things I have a real problem with is the idea that companies try and suggest that your families and that their values are somehow warm and cuddly."

Alain suggests office rituals such as the birthday cake and accompanying song are full of pretence. Do we really care that it's John's birthday? Do we really care about Sally's baby? Not a jot according to Alain.

"I think we should look at companies that are entities there to make a profit. And that is much cleaner than the idea that they are there to love you and love your employees. Because no sooner than you are in recession and all this talk of love goes out the window. I'd rather some straight talk. You are employed to do a job, we like you as a colleague, but we are not your best friend, the whole point is there are these things called friends - because they are not colleagues" says Alain.

In Australia to promote the "Pleasures and Sorrows of Work", Alain hopes his work will help some to find the fulfilment many of us seek in our day to day jobs.

And if you feel you aren't making a difference Alain offer some advice to get your priorities in order.

"Think about death a lot. Not in order to depress you but in order to keep things in perspective. It re engineers your values, you suddenly start to think that some things are more important than others. So put a skull on your table and remind yourself - I am heading for that."

If the thought of dying tomorrow does jolt you into a major re-evaluation, don't ignore it.

"Go with your crisis. A lot of us are trying to deny it. If you have feelings of dissatisfaction etc, you owe it to yourself to take some time out and explore them even if painful."

"The other thing is realise how ambitious you are being. Don't give up, but realise you might be being very ambitious. The dream of the perfect marriage, perfect job. It is beautiful but just take a look at the statistics."

If all this fails, forget the philosopher, get a DVD copy of the Office and have a laugh at your own expense.