So a couple days ago I wrote about how nervous I was to approach my boss about trying to seek a promotion or new position somewhere in our company. In that post I wrote about the relationship between employer and employee and how different it was from say, when my parents were working for companies and even more so from when their parents were working. It got me thinking to the time around three months ago when I was coming in late to work, generally disinterested and unmotivated, and my boss pulled me into the same room I used to speak with her to ask me if I still ‘loved it here’. And between those two experiences I started to think about work and how it relates to relationships and love and I wanted to share some of my thoughts.
I think it’s very interesting that the question of ‘love’ has any sort of bearing or relevance when it comes to work. You know this blog really started from a place of love. Of missing love, wanting love, and seeking love but firstly, of working to define what it is to ‘love’ and what we want when we say we want ‘love’. And when my boss asked me that question I was so taken aback and so insulted that she could have the audacity to relate such an important and integral aspect of the human experience to something as paltry and pedantic as my 9 to 5. Love my job?! I don’t have to love my job! I have to do it, do it damn well, and leave it at the end of the day. That’s my work and that’s about as much responsibility and affection as I can stomach or muster for this.
I would never, ever, agree to the idea that one should ‘love’ what they do. I know full well that the reality of life is that there are many people who are in jobs they don’t love, but they do it for the ones they do. All work is noble, but certainly not lovable. This is not some mind-blowing revelation, nor is it anything to be sad about. When my father first arrived in the US he was a gas station attendant. My mother was a phone salesman for a rug company. I look at my friends and I know for a fact that they all almost immediately ‘turn off’ at 5. Sometimes earlier. Hell, I’ve been known to sneak out of the office at 2 or 3 in the afternoon if I know no one needs me or is looking for me. But just because we aren’t in love with what we do doesn’t mean we are any sadder or that our lives are any less complete. For the most part, we are in successful, consistent, and reliable gainful employment that allows us to save for our future, enjoy our present, and share with the ones we love. There is nothing to be disappointed in being able to do all that just because we aren’t skipping and singing to work every morning. So no, I don’t love what I do, but I’m not discouraged by that fact and I’m not sad for it. This shouldn’t be a necessity to do good in whatever it is that we do.
But, I have come to realize that, just like in everything else, having love for your work can certainly be an asset and an improvement. Love is a motivation and an inspiration. Some of the greatest and most successful innovations in any industry have either come from a very deep-rooted sense of professionalism and business acumen or from a place of pure love for the work or the product. In the long run one could even argue that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, one from the other. Employees who feel love in their work are often more motivated, more enthusiastic, and yes more loyal. There is always room for love in the workplace, for the workplace, as an effective business asset. But I would be wary to ever put any credence or value in the oft-quoted and very untrue expression ‘if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life’. This is a lie, best buried in the graveyard of Instagram cliches. Love is work. To maintain, to grow, to find, and to keep. So if you are fortunate enough to do what you love or love what you do, you’ll know that it takes just as much if not more work, but you will find it personally and professionally satisfying.
When love becomes part of the supposed compensation, this can also be a problem. When I was a teacher, I often heard from other teachers and family and friends that ‘we [teachers] don’t do it for the money, we do it for love’.
Pardon my French, but FUCK that.
Doing something strictly for ‘love’ makes you two things. Dumb and poor. There’s no reason why, if you provide a valuable service, you shouldn’t also expect an equally valuable form of compensation. This sentimental argument has been used to keep some professions down and make them feel bad for trying to change their status. There’s no denying that there is a higher sense of purpose and calling for those who decide to pursue education. It is a grueling, often times thankless occupation, but it is a pillar of society to create and improve future generations. Teachers are some of the most valuable and selfless members of our community. As such, we find it so easy to take advantage of their giving natures. We question their expertise, undermine their authority, and when it’s time to start ‘trimming the fat’ so to speak, we are quick to put them on the block first. Simultaneously, teachers have so embedded into themselves this sense of selfless sacrifice that they feel uncomfortable or awkward asking for more. They can, and often times do, sacrifice their financial security and prosperity because they believe the love they have, for their profession, their students, their subject, is more important. But you can’t eat love, now can you? So many want to convince us that doing what we love and loving what we do is so essential, but at the same time these same people want to take advantage of the love we do have for our work to undercut our compensation. Listen, maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to love what I do. And maybe one day I’ll do something for the love of it. But definitely this day, one day, and for every day in the future, I will need to be compensated.
I think if we talk a bit now about the relationship we have with our jobs and our employers, we can see why ‘love’ became such a hot topic to begin with. I believe there was a time when the relationship between employer and employee was actually very much akin to the relationship of two lovers. There was a time when being ‘married to the job’ was true in more than one sense. It used to be a person could come into the same place of work every day for their entire life and know that a) their job was secure b) their pay was fair and c) their future was being provided for. My father hung his hat on the same hook for over twenty years. Back then I think companies took a much more honest and caring approach to their employees. You didn’t think about hopping from one company to another. Compensation, opportunity, and security could all be found right where you were. You used to get gold pens and watches on work anniversaries, and a retirement was like losing a family member. 9 to 5 is 8 hours of your day. That’s 1/3. Five times a week, 50 weeks a year (minus vacation of course), that’s 2000 hours or 1/4 of your year. When you spend upwards of twenty or thirty years in the same place, you start to build actual relationships. And you might as well, because you’re going to be here a while. So much of our work culture and language are interchangeable with family and married life. Being ‘married to the job’. Having a ‘work wife’ or ‘work husband’. Meeting your significant other through work was much more common. Granted, so was meeting the person you’d eventually have an affair with but, hey, it all comes with the territory. The point was, you could realistically spend a good portion of your life in this one place. Work was like a second family or a first wife (or husband, whatever). In this marriage-relationship you knew that the two parties were equally responsible but for different things. You cared for the company, and it in turn cared for you. Work for reward. Security for loyalty. For a very long time the relationship between employee and employer was one akin to marriage.
I don’t see that nowadays. I see a complete and utter lack of concern or interest from employers to employees. There is a deep-rooted sense of ingratitude on both ends I think, that causes both parties to distrust each other and so relations deteriorate. Employees still want very much of the same thing. Security, good pay, benefits. The major difference now is that with much more job mobility and flexibility, when an employee realizes he or she isn’t getting these needs met, we have more freedom to get up and leave. So retention goes down. Loyalty goes down. In turn, companies start to mistrust their employees and invest less value in them. We’ve turned companies into stepping stones and companies have in turn turned us into interchangeable parts. I don’t know of a single person in my generation who has worked in the same company for longer than three years. And don’t get me wrong, I fully realize I am part of this problem. I too am currently looking for a new and better position and yes, I am not opposed to the idea of leaving this company. I just recently hit two years and I’m looking around and seeing how many faces are different and whose faces are the same and I fear I am not smart enough to leave yet and I don’t want to be the last rat off a sinking ship.
I think companies are trying real hard to throw the wool over our eyes too. Yes, my company has a bar and free drinks every first Friday of the month. We have barbecues and outdoor parties in spring and summer. I did a slip ‘n slide for Christmas. There’s this rampant atmosphere of party and free perks. But I never asked for beers and a beanbag chair. I wanted to be able to work my way up and know my efforts would be recognized and rewarded with further responsibilities and therefore compensation. Companies nowadays are very good at enticing you to get into the door. But they don’t know how to keep us there. It’s all flash and pomp and circumstance but no real substance. At a certain point, companies stopped taking care of us and we stopped taking care of companies. I don’t know which came first but at this point it doesn’t really matter because I see no signs of any sort of improvements or changes to this. It’s hard to love or feel love in a relationship when you know both parties stopped trying a long time ago.
Man: 210 Loneliness: 33