Hot Issues of Skills Development

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SKY[Skills and Knowledge for Youth] home Hot Issues of Skills Development Job satisfaction and non-cognitive skills

Job satisfaction and non-cognitive skills Yujiro Yamazaki
  • Skills Needed in Labour Market and Issues Related to Skills of Workers


When the individual achieves their goals in the organization and can perform their abilities, the individual will feel job satisfaction for the work they perform and the tasks and the roles they play, such as “I am glad that I could do this work. Funakoshi and Kono (2006), in a study analyzing the job satisfaction of nurses, stated that the components of job satisfaction felt by each individual include non-cognitive skills such as self-efficacy, the capability of accomplishment, and self-control. Since there is a close relationship between job satisfaction and non-cognitive skills, research has been conducted on the relationship between individual non-cognitive skills and job satisfaction (Locke and Latham 2013). Since many business books on creating organizations that make people feel motivated to work, this paper will focus on the relationship between the issue and non-cognitive abilities rather than the positive aspects of job satisfaction.

To make workers feel that their work is worthwhile, companies will engage in task allocation that considers workers and organizational management that encourages the development of individual workers’ abilities. A system that trains employees’ skills and encourages each individual to perform at a higher level creates a “good workplace” (Sirota et al., 2005). On the other hand, instead of providing monetary security to employees, they may be compensated with psychological satisfaction, which Honda (2008) calls “exploitation of satisfaction” and discusses. Honda (2008) identifies four factors that contribute to the occurrence of ” exploitation of satisfaction,” which is not paid as work: (1) hobby, (2) game, (3) service, and (4) circle/cult. (1) hobbies are caused by personal preferences, such as “doing what you like as a job,” (2) gaming is caused by the freedom of autonomy that comes with being given authority, (3) service is caused by emotional labor that is useful to others, and (4) circle cultism is caused by the sense of unity of the entire organization, the sense of unity between the spirit of the organization.

What individuals like to do, what they can do freely, being helpful to someone, and a sense of solidarity are essential elements of a “good workplace,” but Honda (2008) cites the construction of proactive capabilities and the endless empowerment of non-cognitive capabilities as factors that lead to the exploitation of these rewards. In workplaces where people are encouraged to take the initiative, the workplace is interpreted by each individual as a place where they can demonstrate their abilities, a place where they can cultivate their abilities, and when they are not performing well, a place where they are aware of their lack of skills, and a place where they can see the abilities they need. At the same time, emotions and attitudes become new abilities one after another, and the number of required skills continues to increase. As a result, workers perceive the environment in which they continue to proactively pursue the never-ending building of abilities through empowering attitudes and emotions that go beyond expertise as “an environment in which they can grow” and have a sense of mental satisfaction. This can be replaced by compensation for work, which can lead to “exploitation of job satisfaction.

Graeber (2013) analyzes job satisfaction from the perspective of “bullshit job.” Graeber (2013) explores job satisfaction from the standpoint of “unimportant work,” and examines why “bullshit job” that does not help anyone, which even the person engaged in the unimportant work perceives as “meaningless work,” receives high salaries, and why the value of “essential workers” who are indispensable and valuable to someone is not fully recognized. Graeber (2018) analyzes this factor from the perspective of the duality of value: value in actual use (use-value) and value in exchange (exchange value). In the labor market, which is based on the market principle of equivalent business, the “bullshit job” worker does not consider the person’s use-value as a human being and assumes that everything is equal to being on the salary as exchange value. In contrast, the essential worker takes the “job satisfaction” of being helpful to someone else as On the other hand, the essential worker is said to have no consideration of the exchange value of salary for the value of their use as a “job satisfaction” of being helpful to someone else. Graeber (2018) points out that this overturning of the duality of value has led to the “rewarding exploitation” of essential workers, in addition to the unimportant work not disappearing even though it is eliminating human work.

It is evident to everyone that labor today is based on equivalent exchange, as in paying a salary in exchange for a worker. However, when the duality of equal value is mixed, it leads to a work environment of “exploitation of satisfaction” (overemphasis on use value and not enough exchange value) and “unimportant work” (overemphasis on exchange value and not enough use-value). In a conversation with Eno, Graeber emphasizes the importance of motivating each individual to work, setting goals, and fostering human emotions such as cooperation and empathy to eliminate unimportant work (Graeber & Eno, 2014). This point overlaps with the development of non-cognitive abilities. Still, as mentioned earlier, it is essential to note that in “exploitation of satisfaction,” non-cognitive skills fall into the category of building skills as compensation for labor. For this reason, we need to pay attention to the duality of the value of the capability itself. Since non-cognitive skills have value only when demonstrated in the context of the individual, it is essential to view them as a use-value for “utilization.



  • Graeber, D (2013) On the phenomenon of bullshit jobs: a work rant. Strike! Magazine 3: 10–11.
  • Graeber, D (2018) Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. London: Penguin Random House UK.
  • Graber, D. & Eno, B. (2014) In Search of Non-bullshit Jobs. Long player conversation. Artangel.
  • Sirota, D., Mischkind, A. L. and Seltzer, M. I. (2005) The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want. Wharton School Publishing.
  • Locke, E. A.; Latham, G. P.(2013)New Developments in Goal Setting and Task Performance, Routledge
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