My dad worked damn hard his whole working life. He had to, to raise us as a family. He often had three jobs at a time to make ends meet and worked 7 days a week for months on end. As far back as I can remember he’d say things like “there’s no work in him” when talking about a colleague who was taking it easy on the job. And “I’ve never had a day off ill in my life” was his most-heralded badge of honour.
It rubbed off on all of us – his values, his attitude to work and money, his fear of being laid off and penniless with no safety net in the bank with which to keep the family fed and watered.
I’ve always been very committed to the employers I’ve worked for, largely through that same fear of not having a future paycheque come through the proverbial door, to the point of exhaustion and near-breakdown on two occasions. My sister too. She’s worked tirelessly in a range of jobs, sacrificing her health many a time for the success of the company she worked for, and she continues to do so.
Time after time
In my current job, I see the same proud drive in some of my colleagues. They make a point of emailing late at night and early in the morning, showing they’re forever plugged into the corporate machine. They’ll say with fake indignation (and intended pride) they had to work all weekend on a report for the board or a new budget forecast for the MD.
It’s a false prophecy. The fake angel at play. I know most of the time there’s no need for them to work such hours, let alone do so without saying any of this to their boss, the one person who should be aware.
Then there are others who appear to be on easy-street. They roll up half an hour late, always leave on time, take a full hour for lunch, never work at home late into the night and have the carefree demeanour of a holidaygoer strolling along a deserted Caribbean beach.
I used to secretly sneer at these people. “No work in them” I’d say to my wife, echoing my dad’s often-used put-down from decades earlier. “Lazy sod. He can’t take the pace.”
Not anymore. I admire these people. I’m fascinated to see how they’ve managed to cruise through on roughly the same career and salary trajectory, never getting stressed to the point of sickness or being cajoled into taking on more project work in a week than there are waking hours. They’re the smart ones!
And me? And my family?! What on earth have we been doing? We’ve been killing ourselves in the name of corporate gain. And for what? You don’t get more money at the end of it. In fact you get less. You end up reducing your hourly pay because your hours go up, for the same monetary reward. You end up saying “no” to nights out with friends and weekends away with your partner or family because you need to burn the midnight oil on a high-profile business pitch. You might get a nod of appreciation. But so what? Where’s the real value in a quick smile of thanks? Bugger that.
With my plans for financial independence now well and truly up and running, I’ve looked back and seen this work behaviour from a different perspective. I’ve been questioning this so-called ‘work ethic’ and the benefits it really delivers. And the answer is quite simply “none”.