1.14.2013

Work Is Most Dangerous When It is Enjoyable

http://philipbloom.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/IMG_4054-670x394.jpgI really like my job.  I like the topics we cover in our consulting practice, the clients I get to serve, and the people I work with.  I even and especially like the inner workings of work: setting up processes to make things more efficient, mining our financial data to see how we're doing, and thinking big-picture about how to grow our firm. 

This makes me somewhat unusual in some (not all) of the circles I run in.  I think in particular of my extended family, for which family is first, food is second, travel is third, and work is non-existent, when it comes to topics of conversation at get-togethers.  Not to say that my relatives don't have important jobs or don't like their jobs, but that it just isn't something that they value when we are with each other.  I recall a relatively large family gathering I attended about a year ago, in which one of my cousins had just gotten a great new job, and when we asked her about it, she hurriedly gave a half-sentence description and then waved away the topic with her hand, both out of genuine modesty as well as a nod to the assumption that no one else wanted to hear more than a half-sentence about it.  Indeed, soon enough we were back onto new babies, great recipes, and recent vacations.

Not to pick on my family: I've had similar dynamics with church friends, parents of my kids' classmates, and neighbors.  And not to judge, either: work isn't everything, and there are many other things that are more important in life and more enjoyable to talk about in social settings.  If anything, this reminds me that I skew towards workaholism more than others, and that I need to be careful.

For a workaholic, the fact that a particular work situation is enjoyable makes it all the more dangerous.  To be sure, miserable work situations are not good for one's health and wellbeing, either.  But great work situations can become traps, too, as they make it all the more difficult to set healthy boundaries.  After all, if I like what I do, why wouldn't I let it eat into my leisure time, since I would naturally want to choose enjoyable things to fill that time?

But it can be a slippery slope.  Just because I like my job doesn't mean I don't need a break from it, for sanity's sake and to maintain a healthy balance.  And just because my work world intersects with a lot of my personal interests doesn't mean I shouldn't cultivate other interests.  And, lastly and most importantly, the fact that my work provides for my family financially doesn't negate the importance of also giving to my family of my time and energy and brainspace, both of which can easily be depleted by my work.

We should keep an eye out for ourselves and others when work ceases to be fun, when we dread going into the office or taking on another responsibility in our jobs.  But we should also keep an eye out for ourselves and others, if we tend towards workaholism, when work is supremely rewarding and stimulating, for it makes us need to set boundaries and seek balances all the more. 




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