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The Marriage Wars: What does it take to enjoy work?
Oct 17, 2013 | 2237 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print

I help gurus chop down thousands of trees to publish books and papers about life-work balance. It’s obvious that there needs to be a middle ground between the driven workaholic and the slacker employee who cares little for the job and contributes even less.

    We all have to figure it out individually. Does work make me happy? Does it add or detract from my self-esteem? Am I staying at my current job for any other reason than the paycheck?     How does the job impact my family life or personal ambitions? How frustrated do I have to get before I join Johnny Paycheck in singing, “Take this job and shove it!”

    I see my job as an extension of myself but I don’t define myself by my employment. For me, that is a work-life balance that complements my daily activities. I work so I can enjoy non-work activities: restaurant meals, exploratory vacations, books, concerts, etc. along with the essential bills we all pay. I could opt for a “dream job” but I would have to significantly reduce my spending on things I enjoy.

    With that insight, I don’t pay particular attention to job annoyances. Being tortured is one thing, but being slighted is something else. I don’t relish hearing criticism or off-cuff remarks of fellow co-workers, but neither will I stew about it and let it affect the job I was hired to perform. I’m willing to make sacrifices for the employer: stay later than normally assigned, accept extra duties, and help other employees with errands or deliveries. I won’t demand that I be compensated for these additional tasks; a mere thank you is enough.

    A wise boss gives thoughtful appreciation and praise, acknowledging that some employees ride an emotional teeter-totter. He or she also understands that employee slots are not interchangeable, and some need more one-on-one time than others. Honestly, poor performance is often the fault of a clueless boss, not an under whelming employee.


For most of us, job satisfaction ebbs and flows. I use a three-point work philosophy to keep things in perspective.

First, do you like what you do? Maybe it’s not the life-affirming career that you envisioned in college, but it’s not soul-sucking either.

Second, do you like you who you do it with/for? If the work itself doesn’t fulfill you, do you work with good people? Does your boss have your back? Sometimes the support of co-workers can make the dreariest job manageable.

Lastly, are you getting paid enough? Sure, making more money is nothing to scoff at, but making enough money in a job you love with a boss who cares about you is a fair trade.

I’ve always thought that three out of three is the impossible dream. Two out of three is tolerable. One out of three means you better start looking. And zero for three means “Are you some kind of sadist?”

So much of work is out of our control. We can work as diligently as we are able, doing everything asked of us and more, and it might make little difference. In some cases, loyalty is often a one-way street. For many of us it is a question of personal integrity. Professionally, we should give our all, care deeply, and hope for the best. Apathy is not an option.

I was cursed by my father to have a ridiculous work ethic. My job satisfaction is directly tied to my personal happiness. This is not the healthiest way to have a balanced life. I’ve been striving to be more zen-like about work. As my husband likes to remind me, we work to live – not the other way around.

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