Possibly random thoughts of a oddly organized dba with a very short attention span


another (possible) nonsense correlation

I was reading news stories on Reuter's this morning and came across a new study. Researchers have determined that men who work in unchallenging jobs with little control over their future tend to be less active off the job as well.

Now, I don't doubt that there is a relationship between a passive work role and the amount of activity someone engages in off the job. However there are a few quotes from the researchers in the article that raise the specter of a nonsense correlation.

Here's a summary of the findings:

Job passivity didn't influence how active women were outside work. But men who were in passive jobs at all three time points were 16 percent more likely to have low levels of leisure time physical activity than men who had never worked in a passive job.

And here's the conclusions that I think cross the line:

"We need to consider what type of jobs we are creating,"

"upstream interventions that reduce dull, demotivating and unchallenging jobs may be worthy of consideration."

Just my opinion of course, but I think they've got this one backwards. Suggesting that changing the job role will make passive men more active in their leisure time seems to be a bit of a stretch. Suggesting that the job role made the men become couch potatoes is an even bigger one. I wonder if the researchers took into account how active the study participants had been as children or in college before entering the work world. A more logical conclusion might be that passive men are drawn to passive work roles. Or perhaps, passive men are less likely to take the initiative to get out of an unchallenging work role. Looking at it from the opposite direction, it seems unlikely that active men would remain in a job role that gave them no control over their destiny.

Perhaps there is more behind the study, or maybe it's the news story that has created the nonsense correlation. We don't have the information to determine the validity of the research, but that was the point of the last post. News articles tend to add the cause and effect relationship to the published research, leaving the public with little insight into the validity of the research or the announced conclusions.

I'm staying in the context of the study by focusing on the men, but the same would be true of the women I know. I've had a few friends who have chosen more passive roles at work because it gave them more time to focus on family, but if someone makes that choice the 'lack of control' factor is negated.


A very lightweight post on a Saturday morning, but it's nice to be posting again at all. I have much admiration for those who returned from Oracle Open World with many very informative posts. I returned with a list of topics I hoped to write about, and a backlog of work that pulled me completely out of that line of thought. But OOW 2009 was a very different sort of conference for me anyway. Most of my conference related activity was partner/business strategy related this time around and if it hadn't been for Oracle Closed World, I wouldn't have gotten any technical content at all.

Fortunately, UKOUG is coming soon and there are always exceptionally good technical sessions in Birmingham.


Linda said...

I think your conclusions are correct. How many of us chose IT because it was a more introverted job than others (some jobs more than others, etc). If I'm a DBA because I prefer working on a computer over talking to a person then would forcing me to talk more during work hours make me more social after hours? The reverse might be true, I might be more likely to "hide" in my personal time in order to recuperate. Not to mention that if I were forced into extreme social situations (i.e. presenting before the board) then I'd likely be so stressed that it might cause health issues. I might conclude that being a hermit is my best choice. Certainly not the same type of conclusion as that study. :-)

Robyn said...

Hi Linda,

Sorry for the delayed response, but yep, you got the point of the post perfectly. Even when we try to choose a career based on some other criteria, like earning potential or job availability, our natural inclinations and personalities are likely to influence the direction our paths take us. And that can be a very good thing if it leads someone to work they enjoy. We spend an enormous portion of our lives working, being happy and successful in our work makes the time worthwhile. But expecting work to change us into different personality types? Guess these researches haven't had their Myers-Briggs profile done yet :)

thank you for the comment ... Robyn

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