The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme with a prompt featuring a book related question. The hop begins on a Friday and ends on a Thursday and should hopefully give people the opportunity to learn something new about the blogger.
The Book Blogger Hop can be found on Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer and obviously my answers can be found here!
I truly love this question as I think it’s such an interesting one to try and answer.
If this question was – ‘does reading make you a better writer?’ – my answer would undoubtedly be a yes. However, this is not what the question is asking.
I’m going to try and expand my thoughts in this lengthy blog post which meanders quite a bit. Sorry about that.
What exactly is meant by ‘better’ employees anyway?
Well we know what the dictionary definition of ‘better’ means but there’s a lot of variables at play here. If we are asking whether readers are better employees than non-readers would we not need to know what output we are measuring?
But what exactly makes a good employee? This is going to differ by country culture, by industry and even by department.
A social psychologist named Hofstede created a framework of values and provided a lengthy analysis on how those values related to different country cultures and the subsequent impact upon businesses.
I chose 4 countries to play around with in the Hofstede culture compass and I think the graph below tells an interesting story.
I’ll only highlight a couple of points and how country culture may impact what is considered a ‘better’ employee.
Japan has a high uncertainty avoidance score which could mean that Japan has an incredibly risk adverse culture resulting in slow decision making and changes that don’t come easy or often. A ‘better’ employee for this culture could be someone who is anxious about risk and who would engage in situations with a cautious and analytical mind.
In contrast to Japan’s low score on individualism, the USA scores highly. An individualistic society is one where its members focus on the uniqueness of self and can often be seen to be ‘taking care of one’s own.’
In business this may mean that employees feel they should be in charge of their own destiny and seize opportunities that would be a direct benefit to them. Perhaps a ‘better’ employee would be one who is independent and self-reliant and isn’t afraid to be assertive when the need arises.
Industry & Department
Countries may have their own culture but certain industries are also known for their specific cultures.
The culture within the legal field (demanding and competitive) is going to differ to that of the medical one (demanding but with a mix of competition and care – depending on your role). The culture within academia is going to differ to that of the culture of performing arts. Manufacturing, engineering, teaching etc. will all differ.
What would make a ‘better’ employee in the legal field? One who is thick skinned? One who can think on their feet and thrive on pressure? One who is cautious but assertive?
What about the medical field? I mentioned above that this could depend on your role because if you drill deeper into roles and departments you’d be looking at different qualities again. A surgeon and a nurse perform different roles – so what would make a ‘better’ surgeon and what would make a ‘better’ nurse?
Would it matter if one was particularly caring and the other wasn’t?
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t think reading snobbery existed.
I tend to stay off Twitter because that place is as scary as heck. I’m also quite fortunate that the majority of blogs I follow are filled with lovely people who have their strong opinions but are non judgmental.
There are of course those who are opinionated and who are quite judgmental indeed. It’s not just bloggers and readers but critics and authors.
If we’re asking ‘do readers make better employees’ do we need to be discerning what type of books a reader reads?
If you’re reading books specifically about your career than you may very well become a better employee in your field than your colleague that doesn’t.
For example: If you’re both research scientists trying to find a way to cure a zombie guinea pig virus and one of you is reading everything you can get your terrified hands on including, ‘The Complete and Unabridged Guide to Cavy Behaviour’, then you may have a better shot at saving humanity than the one that’s reading the newest book in the ACOTAR series.
Joking aside – book snobbery totally exists.
Readers may think they are better than non-readers. Readers of adult fiction may think they are better than readers of YA. Serious literature (what is that anyway?!) may even be seen as better than fantasy.
For some reason a large majority seem to turn their nose up at romance.
I like to read anything. There may be some genres I prefer over others and there may be some genres that I’ve changed my opinion on over time but there isn’t a genre I hate. I support anyone’s choice to read anything they want.
But there will be people who will answer this weeks question with a sense of reading superiority. Yes, they may think, a reader is a better employee than a non reader. Full stop.
Others may think, ‘Yes, a reader is a better employee than a non reader but only if you read the right books.’
I’m guessing, and this is a massive assumption on my part, that many people responding to this question will say, ‘Yes – reading does make you a better employee.’ Like I said, it’s a massive assumption on my part.
The reason I make that assumption is because… drum roll… it’s the consensus in all articles that I’ve read on the subject matter so far. However, the people that have written those articles are… another drum roll please… writers and readers.
See above re. book snobbery.
I’m a reader (obviously) and from a completely biased perspective I would love to agree. If I could say that something I enjoy doing as a hobby has made me a better candidate for employment than that would be the delicious icing on an already delicious cake.
But it would be bias making me say that my darlings, bias.
If the question were to ask, ‘Do you think reading provides useful skills that can be applied to your life and/or career?’ then I would have answered with a strong and unapologetic ‘yes’.
Back in January 2019 I did a Top 5 Tuesday on Reasons I Love Reading because boy do I.
Some of the reasons I gave for why I love reading are also beneficial outputs for example, gaining knowledge and improving my own writing skills. Other benefits to reading are:-
- Mental stimulation and memory improvement
- Stress reduction
- Improved analytical skills
- Improved concentration
- Increased empathy
- Expanding community via shared interests
But is reading the only activity that provides all those skills? Let me play devil’s advocate here.
- Mental stimulation and memory improvement – anything that involves mental activity will contribute positively to mental stimulation and memory improvement.
- Stress reduction – exercise is also supposed to reduce stress but if you ask me to partake in that, just sit back and watch my anxiety skyrocket. Reading will only reduce stress for an individual if the person in question enjoys reading in the first place.
- Improved analytical skills – maths, science and even card games will also do this.
- Improved concentration – having kids will also do this. They have a tendency to need someone to keep an eye on them.
- Increased empathy – Charles Manson and Ted Bundy were apparently readers so… um…. yeah
- Expanding community via shared interests – again, anything that’s a shared interest will do this. As long as you’re not completely anti-social, introverted or shy which as it turns out many readers stereo-typically are…
I do need to take a moment to say that I believe a basic level of reading comprehension is vital in life. Literacy is so incredibly important. An advanced level will happen to add an edge.
In my opinion reading has wonderful benefits other than being an enjoyable hobby and I feel that I have personally gained skills from being a reader which I could say has benefited me in work.
If we asked the main question again but drilled down into specifics, I’d probably give you different answers. Here are some to consider:-
- Do readers make better librarians/ teachers/ publishers than non-readers?
- Do readers make better electricians/ chefs/ tennis coaches than non-readers?
- Do romance readers make better employees than science fiction readers?
- What about if those science fiction readers are scientists? What if they’re vets?
- Does a reader who is constantly late or absent make a better employee than a non-reader?
Ultimately it comes down to too many variables for me to answer the main blog hop question as a yes.
Do I think reading has made me a better employee? Yes. I’ve said this already.
Do I think reading has made me a better employee than non-readers? No.
Do I think reading in my field would make me a better employee in that field than colleagues who don’t? Yes.
There are elements of what I do that I don’t think I would have the skill or confidence to do unless I was a reader.
My day job is in Human Resources. I have seen the ins and outs of people in their place of work and I have come across some brilliant employees and I have come across some not so great ones (and I’m saying that very diplomatically).
I am sharing this with you this because I want to convey that I have seen some bad employee behavior from intelligent and educated people, people that are likely to be readers.
Readers aren’t immune from being human, there are no halo’s around our heads for keeping a book in our bags.
The deep questions for me are these:-
- How much of me being considered a ‘good’ employee comes down to me being a reader and how much of me being considered a ‘good’ employee comes down to me being me?
- How much of ‘me’ comes down to being a reader?
- Is it easy to distinguish those factors? Am I reader because of my personality or is my personality the way it is because I’m a reader?
How easy is it to disentangle any of those answers? Probably not at all.
I thought that this weeks question was particularly interesting and I wanted to explore it, it’s quite not as lengthy a post as I could have done (because boy I have thoughts) but it was still quite lengthy so if you’re still here, get yourself a ‘well-done’ cookie.
I’d love to know your thoughts, whether you are in agreement or not and why.
Let me know in the comments below!