On Hating your Job

I asked my students yesterday what, if anything, they hated about their jobs, and was perhaps not all that surprised to discover that the answer was, quite a lot.

What is it that people hate? In general they hate futility, sometimes stress, occasionally colleagues; they hate the repetitiveness of problems, meeting déjà vu, indecisive or absent-minded bosses, commuting, email, poor pay, insufficient resources, inadequate technology, unclear goals.

And they hate, sometimes, the incessant quality of most jobs, the fact that the pressure and work ratchet up beyond the reach of a holiday. But perhaps that could change. On her daily world service radio broadcast, financial journalist Lucy Kellaway tells the story of a high-powered friend of hers, the busiest person she knows, who some months before fell in love and as a consequence reduced her work commitments drastically, refusing to answer emails in the evenings or at weekends, coming in an hour later than usual, not attending networking events or most meetings, and so on. And the result? She was promoted and received her largest ever bonus.

Kellaway concludes that we should all learn to be a bit more idle, because idleness promotes a certain focus, a shrewd prioritisation. And it might mean that, though will we still, from time to time, hate our jobs, we might just hate them a bit less.

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