By Sibonokuhle Nxam
The purpose of this research report is to investigate and analyze the distinction between a job and the
actual work that must be done. This is a relevant and important topic, as it has implications for both
individuals and organizations.
This paper will begin by exploring the theoretical framework surrounding this topic, and then move
on to analyze real-world examples.
What is the difference between work and a job?
A job is a role or position that is defined by a contract of employment, while work is the activity or
tasks that are performed as part of that role. So, a job can be seen as more of a formal, legal
arrangement, while work is more about the actual tasks that are performed. For example, someone
might have a job as a salesperson, but their work might involve making calls, sending emails,
attending meetings, etc. So, a job is more about the structure and conditions of employment, while
work is more about the tasks and activities involved.
Dr. Myles Monroe, a minister and author who wrote about the difference between “jobs” and “work”
argued that a job is something you do to make money, while work is something you do to make a
difference. He said that a job is something you clock in and out of, while work is something you pour
your heart and soul into. In other words, according to Dr Monroe, work is meaningful and fulfilling,
while a job is transactional and temporary.
Dr. Monroe’s argument is based on the idea that humans have an innate desire to find meaning and
purpose in their lives. A job, as he defines it, is merely a means to an end, a way to earn money to
survive. But work, is a calling, something that allows a person to express their unique gifts and talents
and contribute to something larger than themselves. Monroe’s belief is that work is more than just a
way to make money; it’s a way to find personal fulfillment and make a difference in the world.
Job titles vs the actual work
There is some evidence to suggest that job titles can be more important to people than the actual
work they do. For example, a study by researchers at Cornell University found that people tend to
value job titles that signal status and prestige, even when the job itself is less desirable. In other
words, people may be willing to do work that they find unfulfilling if it comes with a title that carries
social status. This suggests that, for some people, the meaning of a job may come more from the title
than from the work itself.
The study was titled “The Psychological Power of Titles: How Job Titles Affect Task Evaluation and
Performance,” and it was conducted by PhD candidate Yoona Kang and psychology professor Robb
Willer at Cornell University in 2018. The researchers used an online survey to test how participants
evaluated and performed on a set of tasks, depending on the job title assigned to the tasks. The study
found that even when the tasks were identical, participants rated the tasks with prestigious titles as
more meaningful and performed better on them.
A great hypothetical example is if you can imagine a software developer named Sisanda who lives in
Cape Town. She is currently working as a software developer at a local tech company, but she has two
job offers: one from a small start-up company that is working on an innovative new product, and the
other from a large, well-known company that offers a more traditional software development role.
Sisanda will have to to decide which job to take. She may consider factors like salary, benefits, and the
work environment, but she may also be influenced by the prestige and status associated with each
The distinction between a job title and the actual work
The distinction between a job title and the actual work can be seen in several ways. Many entry-level
jobs in South Africa have prestigious-sounding titles, such as “Junior Associate” or “Junior
Accountant,” but the actual work may be low-level, repetitive tasks that don’t provide much
opportunity for professional growth. Additionally, in the informal sector, many individuals work as
hawkers but do not have official job titles or contracts.
Also, Stokvels are savings clubs and are popular in South Africa. Members often have titles such as
“Treasurer” or “Secretary,” but these titles are more symbolic than functional. The actual work of
running a stokvel is often done by one or two individuals, who may not have any official title at all just
the ability to do the work required. This example shows how even in informal settings, there can be a
gap between a job title and the actual work that must be done.
How people from different parts of the world view a job vs the actual work
Scholars like John Mbiti, Frantz Fanon, and Nkiru Nzegwu have written on the role of work in African
societies. Their work was to helps people from different parts of the world to understand how culture,
values, and beliefs shape the way people view work. In Africa, for example, in many African societies,
working and having a job are seen as essential for survival and as a way to contribute to the family
and community. In the culture of the Akan people of Ghana, work is viewed as a moral duty and is
considered a source of honor and respect. For the Zulu people, work is seen as a way to achieve social
status and recognition within the community. As Africans, having a job is often a source of pride and
fulfillment regardless of the nature of work.
According to the work of several scholars in the field of cross-cultural studies, people like Geert
Hofstede, Edward T. Hall, and Fons Trompenaars, there can be some cultural differences in how
people view jobs and work. Although much of their research was conducted in the 1980s and 1990s,
their findings are still considered relevant and applicable today.
For example in the US, there is a strong focus on individual achievement and career advancement,
and so a job is seen as an important way to achieve success and self-fulfillment. In other cultures, like
in Japan, the focus is more on group harmony and cooperation, and so work is seen as a way to
contribute to the common good. So, depending on the culture, there can be different perspectives on
the role of work and its importance in life.
How men and women view the job and the actual work
Dr. Monroe argues that men are more likely to view a job as a means to an end, while women are
more likely to view work as an end in itself. In other words, men may see work as a way to earn
money and provide for their family, while women may see work as a way to express their creativity
In 2002 the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology published a paper titled the “Work and Family
Life: Gender Differences in Motivation, Emotions, and Health,” The study was conducted by a team of
researchers led by Dr. Sharon E. Houseknecht, a professor of psychology at Oklahoma State
The researchers surveyed over 1,000 working adults and found that men and women had different
motivations for working and different emotional experiences related to their jobs.
The study showed that men and women do, in fact, differ in their motivations for working, it was
found out that men are more likely to prioritize financial security, while women are more likely to
prioritize personal fulfillment. This difference may be due to a variety of factors, such as social
conditioning and gender roles. Men are often socialized to be the primary breadwinners, while
women are often socialized to be caregivers and homemakers. These expectations can influence how
men and women view work and jobs.
It can be concluded that the distinction between a job and the actual work to be done within that job
is an important and complex issue. While the two may be related, they are not the same. In order to
understand the nuances of this distinction, it is important to consider the theoretical framework as
well as real-world examples, I hope that this research report will provide a deeper understanding of
the topic, and that it will be useful in distinguishing between a job and work.