Don't Take Work Personally

Published in Career / Wellbeing - 3 mins to read

I often find myself getting emotionally sucked into my work, and I think a lot of us do. It’s natural; we spent most of our waking hours on it five days a week, interact with our coworkers very frequently (sometimes more than family or friends), and even define ourselves by it in many situations - when you meet someone, after asking their name, what is the second thing which you ask?

I think this emotional involvement with one’s job can be a double edged sword. On one hand, if you are invested then successes bring with them a greater feeling of accomplishment, and one can find fulfillment and a sense of esteem by taking pride in what they do and excelling at it. The flipside of course is that the incentives of employers rarely line up with those of employees, and of course the former (ostensibly) has the balance of power in their favour and can duly exert said power on an employee, with potentially negative emotional effects on the latter.

An employment contract is essentially a mutual value proposition; you will provide your skills to an employer for a fee, and the value of the output of said skills will ideally be slightly higher than said fee, and in return they will pay you, provide training and opportunities to build career capital, and other perks (like making you 8 cups of tea a day). In a similar vein to the prisoner’s dilemma, it’s also in both parties interest to try to use their influence on the other in order to get a better deal for themselves. Whether it is something inherent in the employer/employee dynamic or more something to do with my personality (by which I mean, low self esteem and imposter syndrome), I often completely forget myself, especially because I really do care about my work, and lose myself in a spiral of pushing harder and harder to appease my employer, with little real benefit to myself even if I do meaningfully increase my output.

Instead, I think the unspoken contract should be in a constant state of renegotiation - and it can indeed become verbal if needs be - to ensure both parties are still in a mutually beneficial agreement. Furthermore, it is important to remember that just as much as you need to be a valuable asset to your company, your continued employment with them has to make sense as the optimal business decision for you as well. Seeing the situation through the lens of business and career development for myself, rather than emotionally (often being desperate to have my work and skills validated) is something that I have worked on a lot in the past, but think I am going to revisit in the coming months.