We all want a satisfying and rewarding job, and taking pride in our career is only natural. For so many it’s who we are. But have we gone too far in our quest to succeed in the workplace? At what point do we cross the line of balance between work and family and what are we losing in the process?
When traveling in Europe a few years ago I was surprised when businesses, including stores, literally closed for 21/2 hours each day so that families could be together for the midday meal – what a wonderful practice! For that matter I recall it was difficult to find coffee or tea ‘to go’. The expectation was that you sit down and enjoy your beverage instead of gulping it down on the run, so it was served in a glass cup or mug. How civilized is that!
North American society has developed this 24/7 mentality that sees our personal lives being encroached upon more and more by work related duties, and mandates are endless because no sooner do you complete a project than a new one is assigned. The more you give, the more they expect. Lap tops, Ipads, Blackberry’s and cell phones have only added to the burden by keeping us ‘connected’ to the workplace 7 days a week, 365 days per year, so you’d better love your job….. because you can’t escape it.
There are those who revel in their jobs. They live and breathe the corporate culture, and they identify themselves first and foremost by their ‘career persona’. Men tend to fall into this category more than women. Women identify themselves as wives, partners, and mothers first because the home front is typically their domain. The career is second, or even third, but as women gain ground in the workforce priorities are shifting, even for them, and often not by choice. Many prefer the challenge of working outside the home and that’s great if it works in their personal lives, but too often they are having to give more than they want simply to stay employed.
Demands of the job are taking over not only our personal lives but our personal goals. Employers want us to complete a 75 hour mandate in a 40 hour work week and if we dare to complain of overwork, we are quickly reminded that there’s any number of people out there happy to have our job, so we sacrifice home and family to keep the job, because we need the money.
And if that isn’t enough, employers also want us to perform community service, in their name, and on our time. (What happened to charity begins at home?)
Too often I’ve witnessed the career driven individual who gave their life to their career only to find themselves downsized or eliminated when their purpose has been served, and nothing is more devastating to them – their personal purpose is gone, along with their confidence. “But don’t take it personally…it’s a business decision” the employer tells them. “We’re just moving in a different direction with the business and your skillset is no longer relevant.” This is the stuff breakdowns are made of and I shake my head at the complete lack of corporate conscience.
Let’s learn from our European neighbours. What if we took time every day to be with our loved ones, without any corporate devices? Enjoy a meal with friends or family, read a good book. If we are motivated to do charitable work then do it for ourselves, not to improve your employers corporate profile.
People are working longer and harder in jobs that are less personally satisfying. A job well done used to be rewarded and appreciated. Now it’s expected in half the time and appreciation is not forthcoming because you’re just doing what you’re paid for. I can remember when employees wanted to play on the company baseball team, and colleagues would go out for a drink after work on a Friday night. They were happy, and it reflected in their performance on the job because happy employees do better work. Now people have been so squeezed of their energy and joy in the workplace they are reluctant to socialize with colleagues at all. Even company Christmas parties have lost their attendance because employees are tired and undervalued so they don’t want to spend any more time in the workplace than they have to.
At the end of the day we all have to do what is necessary to support ourselves and if you’re truly happy in your workplace, lucky you…because you are not the norm. Just look around. Most are overworked, stressed and unhappy. If you can make the changes to balance your work and family life do it, because no one is impressed with an obituary that reads “Here lies John Doe, who dedicated his life to the corporate cause (which, by the way, is also what killed him). He leaves behind a family who barely saw him.”
The obituary will be followed by a job posting for his now vacant role, because business is business.