Kalleberg's Different Aspects of Military Job Quality

Mar 22, 2019 in Term Paper

National armed forces play an important role in societies. This idea is affirmed by the fact that each country keeps such forces. Pursuing a career in the military is interesting although many challenges are involved. Therefore, the job of interest is a military office in the armed forces. The paper acknowledges that the quality of work is diverse although it is observed that a good job provides the workers with a certain degree of control and intrinsic benefits, as well as economic gains such as wages and fringe benefits. In order to understand the classification of the job according to Kalleberg’s criteria, the description of the job is presented.

Military Officer

A military officer works in the armed forces of a country. The primary role of such workers is to defend the nation against any external aggression. The officers from the forces are also tasked with the role of participating in the peacekeeping missions outside of their countries. In addition, such workers also take part in different humanitarian activities, which involve the delivery of aid to the areas in need.

In various countries, the ministries of defense are in charge of the recruitment of military officers. Often, the recruits pass initial training at the level of cadets before being taken through additional learning when they venture into the specialist fields (Edwards, 2001). Upon graduations, officers are sent to the local or foreign stations.

Although previously disregarded, careers in the military can be rewarding. For instance, officers acquire skills and experience, as well as attain unique milestones (DOD, n. d.). Besides, the field opens an array of opportunities in the armed forces and other sectors, for example, investigative positions in the private sector.

Depending on the occupied position, the responsibilities of a military officer significantly vary (DOD, n. d.). However, as a rule, all national armed forces play typical roles. Some of the duties include:

  • Preparing maneuvers, assigning roles, and communicating with the other staff effectively
  • Training, leading, and commanding subordinate workers
  • Monitoring the well-being and development of the recruits
  • Overseeing and maintaining equipment, vehicles, and warfare systems
  • Assuming specialist tasks and skills such as the air traffic control, engineering, administration, and training
  • Preparing reports, presentations, and briefings
  • Distributing resources, paraphernalia, and manpower

The choice to work in the military is considered more a lifestyle rather than a career decision. Edwards (2001) reckoned that the job is highly demanding as it requires dedication and a constantly high level of physical and mental training. The workers encounter dangerous and life-threatening scenarios; besides, they operate under immense pressure (DOD, n. d.). Despite such circumstances, the soldiers must shoulder weighty responsibilities not only for their personal sake but also for that of their subordinates and the society, in general.

As a part of their working schedule, armed forces are required to provide their services during the irregular hours (Bowling & Sherman, 2008). In addition, military officers might spend long periods away from their homes as they perform duties in the distant locations. Travelling is also a major aspect of working in the military since the officers can be posted to various destinations around the world. While working in the foreign countries, military officers also experience and have to deal effectively with the cultural differences.

Salaries and benefits for the military officers differ based on their position and rank in the armed forces (Asch & Heaton, 2010). In practice, the top-ranked officers enjoy superior perks while those in the lower positions earn fewer benefits. Therefore, the hierarchical approach to remuneration is commonly used.

Good or Bad Job, Kalleberg’s Criteria

Kalleberg’s criteria of a good or bad job draw on three cases that the author uses to illustrate the quality that a work accords employees. In particular, the economic compensation (salary and fringe benefits), the level of control the workers hold, the skills required, advancement opportunities, and job security are the main determinants of the quality of a work. Kalleberg, however, noted that such factors are not constant because each individual considers important different aspects while evaluating a job. Nonetheless, the presence or absence of the components mentioned above alongside the variations in peoples’ judgments lead to the classification of jobs as being either good or bad.

While delving into the components of a good job, Kalleberg (2013) realized that it was hard to come up with a definitive answer. For instance, some individuals look for the challenging activities while others seek routine tasks. Other people consider a job to be good if it allows for the advancement to higher-level positions and provide security. Nevertheless, most employees tend to agree that a good job is the one that is enjoyable. However, the meaning of enjoyable also widely varies. On the contrary, the consensus exists on the constituents of a bad job. In brief, a bad job is the one, which is not well paid and does not provide enough benefits such as retirement or insurance (Okpara, 2004). Such jobs are insecure besides failing to offer notable opportunities for the advancement.

For the economists, the wage and benefits elements of a job are the main determinants of its value. Consequently, good jobs are those with good salaries or income while bad jobs provide low earnings (Acemoglu, 2001). However, while sociologists appreciate the role of the economic element of the quality of jobs, they emphasize work desirability as the major element of quality. Workers must be able to exercise a certain degree of autonomy from their work for them to claim that they have a good job. Psychologists have also echoed the sentiments of the sociologists having underscored the role of autonomy at work as a determinant of the quality of a job (Acemoglu, 2001). For the psychologists, a job satisfaction is a critical element of quality.

Based on the above discussion, it is obvious that the categories of good or bad are relative. From an economic perspective, working as a military officer is a good job since it is well remunerated and provides some other benefits. In addition, it has job security and offers opportunities for the career growth (DOD, n. d.). However, in the context of sociology or psychology, working as an armed forces officer is a bad job. The reason is that the officer has no autonomy from the job. Officers can be called to duty any time and can also be deployed to distant areas without regard to their feelings and wishes. In addition, they work under a command framework, which does not allow them to influence the direction of work.

Job Fit into the Polarized Structure

Working in the military has become more complex than it used to be in the past. In particular, the demands in terms of qualifications have significantly increased. Therefore, the possibility of securing the job and retaining it has also declined. Below is a list of some of the required qualification and training.

Regarding the requirements required to join the military, it is noted that in the United Kingdom, the US, and Australia, any graduate is allowed to enroll as the military officers. The recruiters are interested more in the capabilities of a candidate to lead (DOD, n. d.). Similarly, the suitability of individuals to provide service to the military outside of their degree of training is assessed.

Despite the observation that any degree holder has an opportunity to join the armed forces, the preference is given to those with the qualification in sciences, technology, and engineering (Edwards, 2001). The reasoning behind this logic is that the special knowledge is of a more value to the military forces. However, the postgraduate qualifications are beneficial although not mandatory. Similarly, the time one spends at the university or school cadet corps is helpful although not decisive (Edwards, 2001). In most cases, the graduates start their military careers as the cadets. As it was recently reported, the competition for the positions is rather fierce (DOD, n.d). Consequently, numerous interviews and other tests are used to select the candidates.

Some of the skills required include the ability to think calmly, knowledge of the military operations, ethical debates on warfare, age requirements (below 26 years in most countries), and possession of a strong vision, as well as color vision (Asch & Heaton, 2010).

Other skills include:

  • Capacity to communicate clearly and concisely to both the superiors and subordinates, in both written and oral forms.
  • Ability to execute the duties calmly and decisively, especially under precarious and high-pressure circumstances.
  • Outstanding teamwork and leadership skills.
  • High degree of physical fitness (for drivers, there is a need for a perfect color perception and vision).
  • Self-determination, motivation, and discipline.
  • A demonstrable dedication to the military and loyalty to the country.

Perceptions of the good jobs and bad jobs are correct to some extent. It is argued that the gap between the two categories has polarized. According to Lowe (2000), using the two categories is a representation of the shorthand for the increasingly uneven distribution of the working conditions and wages in the service economies. As a result, some jobs have become better while others have become worse in terms of the wages, job security, autonomy, and advancement opportunities. Whereas, some workers feel that their jobs are not secure, others earn more opportunities to be in charge of theirs. It is also noted that the poorly paid jobs have increased in number while the well-paid works are also on the rise.

Osterman (1999) contended that such findings were consistent in the American labor market given that the country was reflective of both good and bad jobs almost in the equal measure. The need in the high-performance work has made many employers adopt innovative organizational approaches leading to the rise in the number of the interesting and challenging works. In addition, many professionals have witnessed an increase in the demand for their specialized skills. However, the job insecurity has also increased. The relationship between employees and employers has become more strained as it is characterized by the increasing layoffs, as well as higher non-standard work arrangements and number of lowly paid jobs. Besides, Osterman, (1999) reported that many workers had lost their autonomy.

According to the above discussion, it is arguable that the changes in the job market have not affected the military significantly. As pointed previously, the armed forces work under different circumstances as compared to other professions. It is also important to note that the changes that have been introduced have provided the military members with more freedom. For instance, the military is becoming more open by allowing the bisexuals and homosexuals to serve the military without victimization (Bowling & Sherman, 2008). Although the tendency is positive in terms of the worker’s autonomy, not much has taken place in order to increase the control that the military officers have over their work activities. The members of the armed forces remain closely tied to the stringent working rules although the wages remain relatively attractive. Similarly, the job security is not under threat. However, the shifting labor demographics have meant that people seeking to join the military must meet high standards before admission.

Job Segmentation

Some issues of the workplace diversity continue to draw special attention. The armed forces are not an exception in this regard. It is noted that the workers can be categorized based on their race, gender, age, and social backgrounds. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2001), the ethnic and race differentials imply that the employers must employ creativity in how they solve the problems and face the emerging issues at the workplace. Although diversity can increase the quality of work, it can also generate some discontent.

Historically, the United States military has engaged the minority ethnic groups in the service. Previously, the White Americans were the group predominantly recruited to the armed forces (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). Although the White population still dominates the forces, it is acknowledged that the national minorities such as the African-Americans, Latino-Americans, and others have increasingly been employed for the service. According to The Department of Defense (n. d.) between 1973 and 1999, the rate of the minority representation in the military grew from four to seventeen percent. Despite the increase in participation of other ethnicities in the military, the ethnic intolerance still pervades the forces (Bowling & Sherman, 2008). In a bid to improve the working environment, the armed forces spend large amounts of money at fostering this diversity (Edwards, 2001).

Discrimination based on the sex/ gender is also a concern that the militaries have had to deal with for a long time. It is noted that the representation of the females in the military is small. Today, women account for less than thirty percent of the U.S. armed forces (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). Although significant efforts have been made in order to manage the trend, the issues of representation are still criticized.

Whether based on the sex, race, ethnicity, or social background, discrimination has a negative effect on the performance of any organization because the minorities that feel sidelined do not enjoy high levels of job satisfaction. It should be recalled that, in the classification of jobs as either being good or bad, job satisfaction is the major factor (Okpara, 2004). With specific reference to psychology and sociology, job satisfaction influences the quality of work. Therefore, it is held that the military jobs are segmented based on the race, gender, and other social backgrounds.

Summary of Kalleberg’s Different Aspects of Job Quality

In her conceptualization of the phrase, Kalleberg indicates that the complexity of jobs and diversity of features imply that settling on the constituents of job quality is difficult. Principally, there are many attributes that the workers consider the positive aspects of jobs. By citing the Commission of the European Communities, Kalleberg (2013) proves that the job quality is a broad notion as it is both relative and multidimensional one. However, the Commission holds that a good job is one that provides equal opportunities irrespective of the gender or disability, allows flexible work schedules, permits better reconciliation between the work and personal life, facilitates lifelong learning, guarantees health and safety, and allows for the employee engagement, in addition to encouraging diversity.

Against the above background, Kalleberg focuses on the two primary rewards: (a) those bordering on the workers’ degree of control (task and schedule control) alongside intrinsic benefits and (b) economic gain such as wages, fringe benefits (retirement and insurance benefits). In essence, both economic and non-economic gains are the critical components of the quality of a job. Kalleberg also studies the employment nature by focusing on the opportunities for advancement and job security. The author notes that both the advancement opportunities and job security are the important parts of the job rewards. It is noted that these components influence the way people perceive their continued presence at their workstations.

While contending that the job quality was relative, Acemoglu (2001) agreed that the jobs that provide more economic gains and opportunities for growth were the most desirable ones. Based on the two aspects, working as a military officer is a good job because it guarantees reasonable income and provides the workers with an opportunity to rise through the ranks. However, from the perspective of Lowe (2000), the quality of a job is measured based on the job security, autonomy, and income. In this regard, it is arguable that working as a military officer is relatively good because it provides income and security although it cannot guarantee autonomy.

Other benefits that the employees can derive from their work include traveling convenience, productive social relationships, good working environment, and contributing to the improvement of the societal wellbeing. After realizing the unsettled nature of the quality of a job, Kalleberg (2013) narrowed her choices to control over work, economic gains, employee relations, work values, and work attitudes. Regarding the first component (control over work), Kalleberg indicated that the main considerations were the control over tasks, intrinsic rewards, work intensification, and control over work schedule. In terms of the economic rewards, earnings, and adequacy of wages and fringe benefits are significant. Regarding the employment relations, the author emphasized the aspects of the job security and provision of opportunities for the advancement. In referring to the work values, Kalleberg underscored the role of the selected work facets. Finally, the researcher was convinced that job satisfaction was the determinant factor in the attitudes towards work.

According to the Kalleberg study, the degree of control is an influential factor in the overall work engagement. Alternatively regarded as discretion, self-direction or autonomy is of great interest to the sociologists, economists, and psychologists. The task discretion is the extent, to which employees have an influence on the tasks that they perform (Lowe, 2000). On the other hand, intrinsic rewards relate to the benefits gained from carrying out a task.

Applying the above components against the military working environment generates interesting observations. For instance, working as a military officer allows an individual to serve his or her country. However, the level of control over what the officers do is highly limited. The soldiers are trained and directed to do what their bosses want. In this regard, the military officers lack control over the tasks they perform. However, regarding the intrinsic part of the job, it is possible that the officers feel a sense of accomplishment for serving their people and country.

In terms of the economic rewards, earnings, adequacy of wages, and fringe benefits are deemed critical. Within the armed forces, such benefits are high, and the officers who occupy some specific positions earn considerable benefits. The overriding issues in the employment relations are the job security and opportunities for advancement. It is noted that the workers in the military enjoy job security in addition to having access to opportunities for the career growth.

Having assessed some of the most significant elements of the quality of work as suggested by Kalleberg, it is held that working in the military is relatively a good job. It is because the officers in the armed forces have access to many benefits although they lack autonomy, which is considered an important component of the quality of work.


In drawing her conclusion, Kalleberg (2013) observed that the American people valued the fundamental aspects of work. In particular, the ability to find meaning, as well as a challenge, remained the major determinants of the quality of work. Similarly, with time, the workers have attached more significance to the role of income. Perhaps, the shifting nature of the employment relations explains the change towards the income-returns dimension that the workers have taken. In addition, the attainment of jobs with security has proved problematic. It is held that, although the quality of work differs from one person to another, it is generally accepted that the income, opportunities for progression, job security, and employee autonomy are the most critical components of the quality of work. The line of thinking affirms the position that Kalleberg uses in classifying the jobs as being either good or bad.

The workplace environment is overly dynamic; this aspect complicates the attempts of predicting the future. Nevertheless, in drawing upon the attributes such as the labor force dynamics, it is arguable that the diversity is likely to increase in the future. On the other hand, the education level of the workers is likely to rise. Similarly, the employment of minorities such as women and racially underrepresented populations would also increase. Owing to such changes, there exists a possibility that the degree of autonomy that the officers have in the service would also be enhanced.

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