What is our obsession with work? I hear people who brag about working 50, 60, 70, even 80 hours a week. They brag not because they’re proud, they brag because they’re trying to one-up someone else who is talking about a difficult job. We tie our identities into what we do for a living. We say things like, “I’m a technician” or, “I’m an accountant” or, “I’m a salesperson”. Our definitions of who we are are what we do. When we meet a new person, we invariably ask, “So, what do you do for a living?” We are consumed by our jobs and our careers. We put up with behaviors from our co-workers and superiors that we would never tolerate from friends and use the excuse, “Well, they pay my salary,” to justify our subjugation, yet grumble every moment we have away from the workplace, engaging in the afore-mentioned “Oh, yeah, well where I work…” game with our friends and families. We view others who don’t work as much as us with a certain level of disdain and those who don’t work at all with a level of contempt on par with our contempt for thieves.
We carry our cell phones and on our time off are expected to take calls from work to discuss work. We receive emails from work on our time off and are expected to respond to those emails on our time off. We say, “Well, I’m a salaried employee so I guess they can expect this from me.” We martyr ourselves to our jobs in the hopes that someone will recognize us for our unflagging devotion to our work, yet that recognition never comes. Still, we continue to sacrifice in the hopes that one day….
Taking time off for illness or recuperation is viewed as a weakness. If we become ill ourselves, we fear losing our jobs so we continue to work even at the risk of infecting others or worsening our own condition. When a family member is seriously ill or dying, we feel guilty for leaving work behind to be with them and return to our jobs 2 days after losing a loved one and are expected to do our jobs as if nothing has happened. No one wants to see or feel your grief at the risk of making them uncomfortable.
We expect stores to be open on holidays so if we forget an item, we can make that quick trip to the store. We seem to forget that someone will have to give up that holiday so we can buy the cranberry sauce we forgot. Why did we forget the cranberry sauce? We were so consumed with work we forgot to get it on the way home from work. We have no empathy for the employee working at the store on these holidays yet would be furious if asked to give up the same holiday for our boss.
We suffer from stresses, anxieties, rages, depressions and myriad other illnesses and conditions. We figure the best way to deal with this is to immerse ourselves in our work, never wondering if our obsession with overworking ourselves might be the cause.
Why don’t we learn to relax a little?