(Image Credit – Mediamodifier- Pixabay)
‘I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.’ – Jerome. K. Jerome*
‘Do you want a Job or Career?’
Asked the Director of our company, a hefty man, who I always imagine will make for the perfect Santa Claus, given his structure and appearance. Let’s call him Super Ultra Boss-man. Ok, that’s long. Just Boss-man for short.
I had gone in for a short discussion regarding the working alternate Saturdays in our organization. We earlier used to have all Saturdays off. It was changed to working on alternate Saturdays – 1st, 3rd & 5th.
I wanted to discuss the probability of being allowed to work from home, seeing as I do not have much work on Saturday’s, spend close to 4 hours on my daily commute to work and do not consider the idea of physically going to office on a Saturday thrilling to begin with. I was fine with a leave or even my salary being deducted in return for this privilege, which was, as you can deduce from the tone of the discussion, denied to me.
But hey, I tried.
Here I pat myself for the effort. While being a generally good person otherwise – the deep down inside he is a good guy types, Boss-man is a royal pain in the neck to work for. And conversing with Boss-man actually frightens the nuts out of me, for he is, as mentioned before a hefty man. Also a temperamental workaholic, he frequently growls on employees and is generally in a less than good mood (and I hope he never reads this).
Coming back to the situation at hand. Thankfully, Boss-man was not growling at me, but rather, chiding me like one would, a child.
‘What time do you leave the office?’
‘Six. ‘ I answered.
‘What time do you arrive?’
‘Around 10-10:15. ‘ It’s actually between 10:15 – 10:30. I hope he never goes and checks the attendance record.
Our daily official working hours are 8 hours (I know of organizations with 9-9:30 working hours as well, I hereby label them as Evil organizations, but if all Saturdays are off, I suppose they still become the lesser evil now) and I am already cutting corners. But to be honest, I do feel like I am crossing all of Mumbai just to get to work, so I do not feel so much guilt about it.
‘You have become like a clerk. ‘ Thus spake Boss-man with emphasis on the last word. He then proceeded to give me examples of XYZ colleague who was spending so much (extra) time in the office, growing like coconut trees (OK, I made that up).
‘I will not invest in a person like you. I’ll invest only if you invest in me. ‘ It probably meant I could say goodbye to salary hikes, promotions etc. Fair enough. If there are people around me jumping hoops, it’s only natural they will get ahead. A small lesson in competition.
‘Mind you, clerks are also necessary.’ Boss-man continued. ‘Just that it’s a choice. ‘ He looked at me with some semblance of expectation that I am not making that choice. Obviously, it was a choice which was frowned upon. The choice of an individual who chose to not grow.
There were many other things that came in the discussion, which are out of scope of this article.
But the question stayed in my mind – Do I want a job or a career?
After much introspection, the answer came to me.
I want a Life.
Do all of us end up doing work that we love, you know, the type that gets you up BOING out of bed, gets your blood pumping and fills you with enthusiasm for the coming day?
The other day I asked a colleague of mine a question – he is in a senior position and I have seen him answer to mails & calls at less than sane times. Basically, he seems to be working hard at whatever that he is doing, and is at any rate, putting more of himself in his work than I am. I ask the same to you as well –
‘Are you getting a Kick out of whatever you are doing?’
If you are, then awesome. You need not read any further (Of course, feel free to read if you want to). His answer was rather vague and unclear. I took it as a no.
The founders of your organization most probably do get a kick out of it. There were motivated enough to ‘found’ the whole thing in the first place.
But what about the rest of us, who haven’t founded something epic on our own?
I say most of us, because I am surrounded by those like me. Life happens like an accident to us. We are the ones who got a degree in whatever that was supposed to get us employable jobs, who were too naive to understand what was driving them.
Or even if we did have an inkling of it, we ended up burying that spark, heeding voices other than our own.
We who were guided by the norm, guided by society, guided by parental choices and what not and who are now living on the salaries they are getting from those aforementioned jobs – Are we really all FIRED up to sell those products/services that our company is selling, so much that we can just spring out of bed like a Spring and do our work? Are we really looking forward to getting to our desks and making those countless reports which are going to help our organization make some badass, life-saving decision?
Was your answer a ‘no’?
Funny isn’t it? While we want our organizations to mint money like mad, so that our jobs are secure and our pay checks eventually get fatter, it does not necessarily mean we feel boundless enthusiasm for the same.
For most of the people I have observed, work is just that – Work.
We work, we get tired, we come home and then we go to work again. We brush up on skills, move up the ladder, get promoted and we do more work. And we look forward to coming home, we look forward to the weekend, look forward to that vacation. It’s still just ‘work’, you know, the stuff that you must do, in order to sustain your needs and hopefully afford a few fun things in life.
Do you still have to do it anyway – well, yes. A man/woman has to eat. Unless and until you can figure out a way to photosynthesize your food, you must work, cause it is what is feeding you. (If you are an avid risk taker, feel free to ignore this advice. But I am talking about commoners like me, who get anxiety at the prospect of being jobless.)
Should you give your 100% to it? Well, yes. You are being paid for it. Your employer is helping sustain you and your dependents in exchange for whatever service or skill set you are offering and deserves nothing less of you.
But should you also give your 200% along with your lungs, liver and kidney??
This, I believe is your actual choice, as a commoner.
In Mumbai I have observed that expectations have skyrocketed to an abnormal level. I am sure the situation is not too different in other Indian metros as well.
10 hours a day have nearly become a norm. All-nighter? Well duh, we have to do it to make the client happy. Working weekends? Of course. How else are we going to achieve kickass profits?
Like Rihanna* sings – Work, work, work, work, work, work.
Let’s keep at it. Let’s get double the work done. You managed to finish triple? Good job, Tom! You are an awesome performer. Hopefully the rest of the team will also mutate to your level soon. Oh look, they are already mutating!
What, you are not well? Go to the doctor, pop some pills. It’s covered in the medical. Stressed? Stress is normal. Heck it’s good. You’ll compete better. Oh, and don’t take too many leaves. Look, Tom is getting ahead of you.
Does that sound like your workplace?
There is a part of myself dedicated to giving the best of myself to my work. There is also another part that is dedicated to giving the best of myself to me.
This part helps me grow as an individual. This part of me needs time to introspect on how I am shaping with my hands, this life gifted to me. This part of me seeks love, health, family, friends and pets. This part of me wants silence, wants to look at beauty, to contemplate the cosmos. To become much more than what I am now.
This part of me also needs my time.
I realized that I cannot think of giving up this part of me.
If I did, I might as well become a drone crammed with technical data. And when the ‘Work’ part starts infringing on the ‘Me’ part, that is where I draw a line.
It might mean not jumping hoops. It might mean saying no to long hours. It might mean passing up a promotion. It might mean not getting that raise.
It might mean a lot of other things, but I am keeping my lungs, liver and kidneys to myself (as much is possible to keep, I believe they’ve already got my some of my kidney & spine).
As Boss-man said, it was a choice. I realized that to be a very important statement.
It meant that I had a choice.
Yes, it may mean that Boss-man would not invest in me.
But even if he doesn’t, I can make the choice – to invest in myself. The results will not be the same. I will likely not become a smashing corporate success. There are chances though, I might become a better human being.
And if at all someone came to a commoner like me for life advice, I suppose I can just tell them one thing – Choose wisely.
Authors Notes –
- The quote I have used is from Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, one of my favorite books and authors.
- Rihanna – In case you didn’t know Rihanna
I had a conversation with one of my managers about why he uses an Apple phone. More than choice, he told me its about perception. ‘Owning an i-phone instantly alters the perception with which you are viewed. Since we are a start up, this is important. ‘
Indeed, the more brands we wear – the more refined and sophisticated we are considered. Even though as individuals we might as well be empty inside.
So somewhere down the line, we run after more and more. We want to look good, cool, intelligent, even though our intelligence should not be affected by what we choose to wear, or what car/bike we are driving.
We work long hours and to combat the stress, we might turn to alcohol and smoking. In the long run, we utterly ignore what this lifestyle is doing to our bodies. At some point or the other, it often culminates in grave illness where we end up spending all our hard earned money.
I know there will be many shouldering heavy responsibilities – children, parents, home loans and what not. But I still urge you to think – what is the price you are paying and if there is any way at all to lighten the load – A happy mind and a happy body will go a long way in supporting you and your loved ones.
Comments and feedback, much appreciated.
Update – As of Sep 22nd 2017, I have left the job 🙂 Taking care of my organs for a while looking at a hopefully happier & brighter way ahead!