The cause of this misinterpretation of skills is the flagrant use of "efficiency experts" and other similar advisors in the business environment. Imagine you were hired to find out how IBM's employees could work better. Aside from the obvious arguments of more hours and promotions for successful employees, what could you recommend that has not been attempted in the history of human labor? The problem of getting more work out of the same people has existed since the first band of hunters didn't bring back quite enough meat. To be blunt: there is nothing that people can do to other people directly to elicit greater work from them that hasn't been done before. Humanity hasn't evolved for thousands of years by missing huge work-savers for centuries. The only methods proven to bring about this increase in efficiency is a different model of organization and increased technology. However, you, the theoretical efficiency expert hired by IBM, can't in all logic walk into the boardroom and proclaim that there is nothing to be done! What you need is something that sounds good, is intuitive but not obvious, and can't really be proven. Sounds like the ingredients for pseudo-scientific psychology. Thus, it was so. Personal growth and self-esteem joined and/or replaced hard work and fair promotions as motivators.
Being the psychic I am, I know exactly what you are thinking now. "If you have all that figured out, genius, then how do we fix it?" This question reminds me of my high school definition of climax. It was "the point in a story when the conflict is solved or found to be unsolvable." I have no solution to this deepening problem, and perhaps that is because there is no practical solution, i.e., it is unsolvable. After all, every major labor failure in the world has either ended in a crippling depression or to a social revolution with the same result. Either way, it lead to a fundamental change in the way things were done, and thus revitalized a new, different work force.