Dream Big

Timote Geimer

9 to 5, when we’ve lost the meaning of work

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It might sound strange, but let me explain what I mean by it. I am a Gen Y fellow graduated in 2011, so I have roughly 3 years of experience in the labor market. Until now I never worried about when my workday was starting and when it was finishing. I am connected all the time, checking my emails, answering on the phone, tweeting, etc.

Moreover I only have one mobile number shared for business and personal purpose and all my emails are centralized in one common application. As a consequence, when I check my emails or message I do it for both private and professional reasons, being it at 7 AM or 11 PM.

Until today, considering that behavior as not normal was out of scope. My colleagues and relatives have a similar behavior, so I thought it was absolutely normal. But recently the normality of such behavior have been challenged… here’s why (bit of long story, so bear with me):

One of my relatives is facing a lot of challenges at work. She is working for an organization that gives a lot of freedom and flexibility and does not control people in terms of hours of work or performance. This obviously brought at lot of deviance that led to a conflict between someone that we’ll call “Anna” and her colleagues.

Anna is a person with strong work ethics. She is doing her best to accomplish all her duties and ensure that her work is always perfect and on time. Her peers have recognized her performance in many occasions. That’s where the problem might have started. 2 years ago, Anna joined a new team that had already two people as part of it, and since the very beginning has been performing very well or perhaps too well. During her first year, she didn’t want to bring a big discrepancy between her performance and the rest of the team.

This year, she has been increasingly put under a lot of psychological pressure by the team leader (let’s call him “Charles”). Charles is called the “Coordinator”, so theoretically the driver of the team. Yet, in the recent months, Charles started to be more and more aggressive with Anna, trying to undervalue her value in front of other professionals, avoiding giving any feedback, neither assigning tasks.

The organization was so flexible that Charles is doing two full time jobs “to pay the bills” as he says. Let’s make some math… 35 hours + 35 hours = 70 hours a week! In normal circumstances we could consider Charles a superhero! But, not so fast. Charles is a smart guy. He is doing the minimum and quickly saw that Anna is a passionate person, highly performing, which will do her very best to ensure herself and her peers are performing well. As a consequence, Charles stopped coming to the office and only goes to his second job, where the control is higher.

Very recently, Charles started to have a dual behavior towards Anna. Either being very aggressive, either being very gentle. Sometimes he would call her to ensure she was not working. Reason being she was working too much. If at the beginning Anna thought that Charles was just being kind and attentive to his team wellbeing, she soon realized she was wrong. Few weeks ago, Anna realized she was feeling oppressed and couldn’t accept anymore to be treated “like a dog” for doing her job and Charles taking the credit, despite the fact he was never there. Anna got to a limit and burst, entering into a strong conflict with him.  After intense weeks at work, Anna had a strong decision to make: either leaving the team and going for another assignment or fighting the devil and continuing working in the team doing what she is passionate about.

“You are confined only by the walls you build yourself”

Anna chose the hard path. She fought against the climate installed and got the courage to invest her time in changing the ways things were being managed. She spent hours meeting Charles and her colleague in order to express her frustration and make them understand that they were not accomplishing their job anymore and that the whole department was suffering from their behavior.

Today, Anna finally got hold of the whole team and after a long meeting Charles recognized at half words the reason of their discrepancy in terms of performance. It all comes down to the meaning of “work”, and the main trigger for me to write this article.

For Anna, her team had to respect their 35 hours contract and when they were not working “enough hours”, they should compensate in another moment. Anna also communicated to Charles that despite understanding that people can work remotely, that was not meant that to work for a second job and sending one or two email to his team during lunchtime.

“Succes isn’t just about what you accomplish in your life. It’s about what you inspire others to do”

Charles felt bad because he realized that Anna was performing very well and just doing her job, compared to him that was being highly paid and clearly underperforming. His reaction had been to become aggressive and mean with the only purpose of making sure Anna would do less. He is literally pulling her team down to feel better.

No solution has yet been found but we can trust Anna’s work ethic to do her best to bring the team back on track and to fight against deviant behavior.

So, this story is not unique. How many times have you been in a situation where have different understand of what “working” really means? Is it just doing something that roughly occupies you from 9 to 5 and pays your bills? Is it something that has to be done because you are forced to? Is it right to always do the minimum and even less if possible?

“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow”

Anna and Charles are having similar ages, so claiming a generational gap does not explain the differences. Probably the reason comes from their culture of work (background and previous experiences).

Charles works for the same organization for more than five years now and the lack of control and structure from its very beginning clearly influence his behavior and leadership style. But do we have to completely blame an organization for the behavior of its employees? I believe it’s a complex question and we are in a grey zone, in between organizational responsibilities and individual responsibilities.

However, individuals have a choice. Charles has always been free to choose another path and perhaps leave the organization. Yet, he’s still there and enjoying more than ever the possibility of being paid for few work.

Why would people do this? In my perspective working is not a duty, it’s a right! We should not work because we are forced to, but because we want to. Working occupies more than 50% of our awaking time during the week. Shouldn’t we try to find a way of doing something we love, something we are passionate about?

Working is a great way of knowing ourselves, of doing something we can be proud of. And I don’t talk about changing the world, it’s sometime just about changing our own world! Think about the satisfaction one’s have when you have a great day at work. Don’t you get immediately in a better mood? Isn’t your environment shinier, happier, afterwards?

I am a young professional, savvy, passionate about my job and will answer to my professional emails at 1 AM, if I am awake and concentrated. If I have a great idea during the weekend I’ll share it with my team and I’ll be proud of it. I am a true believer that we can be happy at work and that every company should support us in reaching that goal.

In my opinion working is not a 9 to 5 job, but a 24/7 journey that will lead you somewhere yet unknown. Thus let’s do our best and ensure our journey leads to an awesome destination!