When I was in my 20s, I met a gentleman who had worked with my dad at a former job. My networking friend and I only learned that we knew my dad in common when we got to talking about our career histories.
My friend Kent was about 20 years older than me so he had worked in a lot more places than I had. He mentioned his former employer in New York and I said, “My dad works there.”
“What’s your dad’s name?” asked Kent.
That’s how we discovered that Kent and I had my dad as our mutual connection. Kent and I met in Chicago, but he had worked with my dad in New York and they were friends.
Kent told me, “When your dad and I were your age, we went to work and worked hard and then we went home. There was no expectation that an employee would be reachable at night or on the weekend. We didn’t even think about it. Now it’s commonplace to bring work home and to respond to requests from the office at any hour of the day.
“Back in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s we worked hard all week and rested on the weekend. On Monday morning everyone would ask everyone else at work, ‘How was your weekend?’”
“It’s so different now,” I said.
“I am close to retirement,” said Kent, “but I worry about the working world now, because these days our work is never done. We are never off the grid or out of touch. I worry about people’s health. I worry about their families, when our job descriptions nowadays require us to always be available and always respond to any request, even at night and on the weekends.”
Kent had good reason to be worried. He made his observation about the always-on workplace back in the 1980s. That situation is much worse now!
We used to say about people who could never stop working, ”That person is a workaholic!” but a huge percentage of the working population would fit that description today. A lot of people never stop working not because they’re dying to do more work, but because the work keeps coming and their boss always needs something from them.
When you take a job in a place where the culture is based on 100% reachability around the clock, it is hard to build a wall around your personal life. What working person hasn’t missed important family events because of work demands?
We can all get better at setting boundaries, but between the rise of mobile technology and the demands of the global, always-on workplace, it is very tough to hold a full-time job without impinging on personal time (or even trampling on personal priorities in order to finish a project or meet an impatient boss’ demands).
Here are five reasons you’re likely to be a workaholic whether you want to be one, or not:
Workaholic Tendencies Are Expected And Rewarded
We met a woman whose employer gave out a Most Dedicated Employee award every quarter. The quarter before our friend Sarah got disgusted and quit her job, the person who won the Most Dedicated Employee award had been a co-worker of Sarah’s who is a single mom.
After dinner at home with her kids, this employee would bring the kids back to the office with her so she could get more work done. The kids would play under their mom’s desk until they got tired, and then they’d fall asleep on a blanket on the floor. Around 11 at night or midnight the mom would pack up the sleeping kids and take them home.
Because Sarah’s co-worker spent so many hours at the office, she won the Most Dedicated Employee award.
Sarah said, “Something is fundamentally wrong with an organization when people who bring their kids to the office at night are rewarded as great employees. What kind of message does it send to the other employees when the lady with the sleeping babies under her desk is the person the managers hold up as an ideal?”
Author Liz Ryan. This article first appeared on Forbes.
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