In a competitive and ambitious world such as ours, knowledge workers play a crucial role in overall development and societal progression. As wisely put forth by the Greek philosopher Socrates, ‘Knowledge is Virtue’ and every human being is bound to embrace even the minutest spark of knowledge which comes their way.
Types of Knowledge
Firstly, it is important to understand that the term ‘knowledge’ as most people think, is not just limited to the so called ‘Bookish knowledge’. According to a theory in cognitive science, knowledge has been divided into four major categories largely based upon the taxonomy of learning outcomes. These four categories include:
Factual and conceptual knowledge comprise the knowledge of ‘what’ and is the known to constitute lower level knowledge whereas Procedural and Metacognitive knowledge comprises the knowledge of ‘how to’ and is known to constitute higher level knowledge.
Difference between an Ordinary worker and a Knowledge worker
Secondly, proceeding to the term ‘Knowledge worker’, it is initially important to understand the difference between an ordinary worker and a knowledge worker. The key difference here is the level of skill and mental usage involved in the tasks performed by both these workers. While a knowledge/professional worker tends to use his/her skills and mind to perform a task, an average worker on the other hand prefers to work on jobs which require the least amount of thinking. The job of an ordinary worker thus becomes overly monotonous and makes least usage of his/her mental potential. Knowledge workers on the other hand are known to ‘think for a living’. In the past however, the possession of industrial skills was a necessity for the growth of an economy. However, in the current digital age, there is found to be a full blown demand for skill workers instead.
Importance of Knowledge
While knowledge may be a necessity both for an average worker as well as a knowledge worker, the use of knowledge may vary between these two sectors. Knowledge helps in building the foundation of an organization. Employment rules have seen a major change over the years where the demand for skilled laborors has outgrown the demand for manual laborers.
In the corporate world however, not all forms of knowledge may prove useful, rather the knowledge which may significantly contribute to the growth of an organization may be of great advantage. In fact, the key skill which almost every employer hunts for is the skill of problem solving and strategic thinking. Hence, the likelihood of an averagely educated but highly skilled individual bagging a hi-tech corporate job may be far greater than a highly educated individual with tones of bookish knowledge but no skill.
Role of Knowledge workers in a professional setting
Knowledge workers can be largely classified based upon their professions. A knowledge worker may work in different types of professional settings depending upon the skills they have acquired from their formal education. The occupation of a knowledge worker may be anything ranging from a scientist to a librarian. The one common skill possessed by all types of knowledge workers is their ability to precisely process both factual and theoretical information. Moreover, motivation and an urge to continually improvise and grow is one among many of the characteristics of a knowledge worker. What makes a knowledge worker successful in his/her profession is their ability to absorb, apply and retain the information learned from practical experience. Hence, in a professional setting, it is the knowledge workers who most often than not rise up as leaders.
The problem of Downsizing
Downsizing is a popular term which emphasizes the fact that a company has a surplus of Knowledge workers. This in turn results in most of these skilled and smart workers to be turned down by the company and explicitly told to leave, the primary reason being that most companies tend to associate smaller groups with increased profits. However, in their futile attempt to increase the overall profit, many companies end up losing a large number of valuable employees. This drastic measure may not only impact a company’s growth but also prove dreadful to an individual’s future and financial status. This is just one of the reasons why smart individuals sometimes end up jobless.
Why Knowledge workers sometimes display poor work ethics
Although highly skilled and competitive, knowledge workers sometimes seem to lack basic work ethics. This may undoubtedly result in the organization highlighting their lack of professionalism and in turn considering them as more of a liability rather than an asset.
Stress, anxiety and procrastination
One of the primary reasons of negative work ethics happens to be procrastination, which most often arises from low self esteem and a fear of failure. This happens when a person questions his/her ability to perform the task at hand with the expected level of perfection. Hence, procrastination has been classified to be more of a behavioral problem which is chiefly a result of an individual’s mindset. The most prominent characteristic of such an individual would be his/her habit of pushing out the priority work and piling it up until it is due.
Stress and anxiety are some of the major contributing factors of procrastination among knowledge workers. With this said, procrastination also known as laziness may take an obvious toll on an individual’s performance and proficiency. The most common pattern seen in almost all procrastinators is their habit of procrastinating work which is highest on priority. Graphically, we can say that an increase in anxiety and work priority leads to an increase in procrastination. The most desirable solution to procrastination is to plan and prioritize activities at the start of a busy workday.
Poor Teamwork and a failure to assume responsibility
Unity and teamwork are two main characteristics which signify the proficiency of an individual. Teamwork is a skill which sometimes requires sacrifice. An individual may sometimes be required to cover for his/her colleague during their illness/vacation period. Although knowledge workers may be highly skilled and ambitious, a person who is overly short tempered, lacks emotional understanding and ability to work in a team is most often than not considered as a liability by the company despite his/her professional skills.
Lack of commitment
There are certain cases wherein an individual is neither proactive nor willing to think beyond his/her paycheck. Although such individuals do not display the qualities of a typical knowledge worker, they may in fact possess the knowledge required for a company’s growth. However, they may choose to keep their skills dormant either due to a feeling of monotony resulting in a lack of interest or due to a carefree and easy going attitude. This has the company recognizing the individual as an average worker rather than a knowledge worker which may undoubtedly affect his/her career growth.
Unhealthy Work-Life balance
Every individual whether married or single, experienced or fresher needs to have a healthy work-life balance wherein he/she spends an equal amount of time at workplace and at home. There are however certain instances wherein individuals may compromise either of these two.
This may cause havoc either in the person’s personal life or professional life. Bringing personal matters into the workplace decreases efficiency to a large extent and takes a toll on a knowledge worker’s career growth. Similarly, carrying work-related anxiety and stress back home may have a similar impact on an individual’s family life.
How Knowledge workers can transform their weakness into strength
High demands and work pressure may directly contribute to stress. In such cases, a face to face conversation with a manager may help sort out the issues at hand. Maintaining a healthy relationship with the higher authorities acts as a gateway to smoother discussions and comfortable communication. Being diligent and hard working, most knowledge workers are often good communicators who are easily approachable. Having a private conversation with a manager and discussing their possible weaknesses may undoubtedly help in boosting confidence and eventually their performance. During their discussions, knowledge workers may learn various techniques which can help them become more organized individuals in the long run.
Passion is directly proportional to Proficiency
Lack of passion for the job at hand is one of the major reasons for a knowledge worker to become an average worker. With a degree in hand and being absolutely clueless about his/her goals and dreams, it is common to see quite a large number of skilled individuals displaying a lack of interest towards the job with the passage of time. This in turn affects the individual’s performance and reflects him/her to be a person who lacks drive although he/she may possess skills which may help improve the company’s productivity. In such cases, it is always advisable for an individual to move on to a job where he/she can show off their skills and put in their best. After all, it is not only important to keep the company happy but also to keep yourself happy!
Hence, it is indeed evident that knowledge workers can both be considered both as an asset and a liability by a company. It is therefore important to understand that ‘smart workers’ cannot be called ‘smart’ only because of the ‘knowledge’ they possess, but rather from the ‘intellectual smartness’ that he/she tends to possess.