Welcome to the Workforce

My first full-time job as an adult was teaching. When I started, I understood that I had a “responsibility” to the school, to the students, and to the parents. However, in life we must operationally define our terms. “Responsibility” is one of those terms. You see, I assumed that a teacher with integrity, caring, and training would make for a responsible teacher. The administration at my school, however, felt differently. To them, responsibility to my school meant giving them my life. This meant, not only devoting my time to my school, but having it be priority number one regardless of the time of day. Now, I think there are many misconceptions at play here, but I’d like to focus on two. 1. Companies will only expect a reasonable amount of effort from its employees. 2. Employees won’t give in to unreasonable work conditions easily. I was wrong about both of these.

It seems that people who run large-scale businesses, whatever they may be, tend to possess a certain personality type – that confident, eager, “I know how to do this better than anyone else” personality. Don’t get me wrong, this can sometimes be beneficial; many times, it takes somebody like that to affect change. However, I think this can be the cause of many employees’ stress. These people tend to want to give everything they have to their companies. (I’ll let my speculations as to why that is remain bouncing around in my head for now.) But herein lies the problem – they expect everyone who works for them to share this priority! I felt like there was something wrong with me when I first started teaching. Everywhere I turned, there was this relentless attitude that the school’s success was the end-all, be-all determinant of a job well-done. (Keep in mind, this is a private school.) However, in addition, so many of the school’s employees seemed to define their personal success in life solely by the school’s success!

At first, I felt badly that I wasn’t as invested in my work as my colleagues were, but then I started investigating the source of these attitudes. After many months, I came to a conclusion, albeit based on a speculation, but a conclusion nonetheless. It seemed to me, that many of my colleagues didn’t really care about their jobs any more than I did. What seems to have happened was that their past selves were much more aligned with my philosophy on work-life, but had assimilated to their surroundings. It seems they were afraid of appearing as if they didn’t care enough about their jobs. However, after a while I think it became a part of them; whereas they used to put on a persona, they have now convinced themselves of the “importance” of their jobs. It’s almost like that psychological study that indicates that just by smiling you can make yourself happier. Their actions defined their future personalities.

Now, some of you reading this may say: “Yeah, you have to work your butt off, that’s what a job is.” And don’t get me wrong, I understand where you’re coming from. If somebody wants to put everything they have into their professional life, that’s their prerogative. I would even say that this type of person has an immensely admirable work ethic. However, what really gets my goat is that American workforce society has trained us to view this mentality as the only option. Why is prioritizing a happy, healthy family, or self for that matter, a sin?! Because let’s face it, it’s nearly impossible to reach your full potential in your work-life and family-life simultaneously. Why is working hard from 9-5 and disconnecting from your work email so that you can play with your kids akin to being a bum on the streets?! I simply wonder if this mentality, that perhaps is just a guise that everybody adopts so as not to get fired, is really worth it.

My intention here is neither to bash the workaholic nor to trivialize the importance and benefits of job fulfillment. I simply want to publicize these two misconceptions about employers and coworkers that many young people, including myself, generally have.

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