Work and play

It is sad, but this year the FA Cup nearly passed me by entirely. In fact, what gripped my attention most was that the cup itself was the third version of the trophy since 1911. As a child, FA Cup Final day was not to be missed, irrespective of who was playing. A whole ritual was built around it, which started early in the morning with the build up on TV and involved a kick about in the garden or street, which at the time we imagined to be the old Wembley stadium, before watching the match and the presentation of the trophy. The ritual was adapted as I got older, until my sons were old enough to give me the excuse to revert back to the original format.

Gradually, in my experience and opinion, the Cup Final lost its magic. The earlier rounds still have enough excitement, unexpected results and enthusiasm to generate interest. However, unless your team is involved, the final is only differentiated from the semi-finals by the presentation of the cup. It is just one more ‘big’ match that is televised. I did not watch it this year, although I did look out for the result and sought out a summary on the news. I would not say that I missed watching it. However, as I mentioned, the fact that it was the third version of the cup did pique my interest. In 1911, the first design of the FA Cup was manufactured. This original version lasted 80 years until 1991, being replaced in the 1992 Final by a new version. Unfortunately, in my view, the replacement lasted until 2013, a total of 22 finals, until it had to be replaced in 2014 by the current cup, which was awarded this year.

My first reaction to this information was to believe that the loss of magic I had experienced with the FA Cup was matched by a similar loss of respect for the trophy by the winners, leading to deterioration in the treatment meted out to the cup. Despite these suspicions, I do accept the official explanation given in 2014: the cup is used more in promotional activities than previously, when the convention was to keep it in the trophy cabinet at the winning club. One thing we can be certain of is change: I have changed; my circumstances have changed; football has changed; technology has changed; society has changed. The question is: how can we manage change to maximise the benefits without losing what is good?

I know it is a generalisation and I am only offering the following as a view for thought and discussion, as the note at the bottom of this article points out, but I have noticed a change in people’s attitude towards work. This is a complex issue and, like my view of the FA Cup, there have been changes for good as well as bad. Currently, the prevalent view of work seems to be a negative one. If you ask someone, in any social situation, how they are, the reply you receive is dictated by the day of the week on which you ask the question: Monday – not good, a whole week of work ahead; Wednesday – not too bad, half way through the week; Friday – good, it is the weekend. Sometimes it is more succinct: not good, I am in work. There has always been that Sunday evening feeling, a feeling we become familiar with while at school, with homework to finish and the freedom of the weekend coming to an end. This feeling stays with us as adults and is probably strongest when coming to the end of a holiday. In my experience, it would disappear once people were back in work but now it seems to persist, leading to a perception of wishing one’s life away.

As I have said, the reason for this is complicated, with a myriad of actual and potential causes. I also realise that people’s response to the question of ‘how are you?’ is often automatic because it is asked as part of a greeting by someone who is not really interested in the answer. Therefore, it is not a scientifically-based measure. Unfortunately, repetition of a negative view soon becomes established as the reality. A negative view of work neither helps us to do well at work, nor helps us to do work well. It also has an unfavourable impact on the work environment. So, if my observation is true, what can we, in NDT, do about it?

As you may expect, my answer lies in the human factors triumvirate: task; individual; organisation. As individuals, we can concentrate on the positives of the job, developing and promoting a positive attitude to work. Last month, I noted that a key motivation for work is the feeling that you are doing something worthwhile, making a contribution beyond your immediate environment to a service that is of benefit to society. Well, you do not have to take my word for it. A British Social Attitudes survey ( shows that approximately 67% of people view helping others and being useful to society as being important job attributes. This survey was referenced in a recent RSA lecture by Matthew Taylor, titled: ‘Why we need to talk about good work’ ( and is a good source of information to help with ideas for the task and organisation.

Please note that the views expressed in this column are the author’s own personal ramblings for the purpose of encouraging discussion within the NDT Newspaper. They do not represent the views of Amec Foster Wheeler or the HSE who funded the PANI projects.
Letters can be mailed to The Editor, NDT News, Midsummer House, Riverside Way, Bedford Road, Northampton NN1 5NX. Fax: +44 (0)1604 438300; Email: or email Bernard McGrath direct at

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