“We are a family!” No, this is a job.
Job loyalty, company culture, and why your job is not your identity.
“Job loyalty is dead, no one’s sticking around anymore.”
Founders are moaning on LinkedIn about their company’s high turnover rate. Obviously, there’s no mention of the piss poor work conditions they’ve subjected their employees to cause that.
Let’s be honest, how many times have you seriously considered quitting your job?
More than once or twice, I’m sure. If your workplace has been less than understanding about remote work and pandemic, you’ve probably wanted to send the “I QUIT” email that’s burning a hole in your email drafts.
But what if your company is a great place to work — free snacks & drinks, decent healthcare and other benefits — there’s really nothing to complain about, is there?
You’ve lucked out, but great places to work are also double-edged swords. They cut both ways.
“Work hard, play hard”
First things first — your workplace is not your family, tribe, or whatever new word they’re using to lure young, impressionable people under the guise of “office culture”. If we were a family, employees wouldn’t be the first thing to go during difficult times or do you routinely eliminate your family members during rough patches?
The big tech companies (particularly FAANG) are famous for creating amazing places to work. You’ve got all the perks, including free massages, therapy sessions, gym access, and anything else you could need. Most of their employees eventually build their entire life (social & otherwise) around their workplace. Sometimes, without even realizing it.
When you spend one-third of your day working with the same people every day, you get familiar. Your colleagues become your best friends as you all work through the night, sharing a late-night pizza or as you celebrate closing a deal at the bar. Your company provides every single thing you need — it becomes your first home, and you only return to the place you pay rent to maybe have dinner and sleep.
But there’s no guarantee that the life you’ve built around work will remain intact.
A woman who worked at Google found out this the hard way. She loved her job; she excelled at it too. But when things went south, as they can, especially for women, she realized she had nowhere and no one outside of work to turn to. As soon as she registered a complaint, she went from being ‘a part of the family’ to being “just an employee, one of many and disposable.”
We’re in a panini
The pandemic has shifted our priorities. So many dreams and goals are ‘on hold’ until the situation clears up. For a lot of us, the last year has brought the ephemerality of life to the forefront. The idea of spending 8 hours (if you’re lucky) a day working for a company you don’t care for in a job you hate seems absurd now. Millions of millennial and Gen Z folks have started quitting their jobs, buoyed by increased savings from spending a year indoors.
Buying a home and raising a family seems like a distant, unachievable dream for most of us. The real estate market has boomed, but our salaries clearly didn’t get the same memo. I know so many people who work for INR 30k a month in Bombay, where the cost of living is insanely high. In fact, that’s a decent salary for most — especially if you luck out with a company that doesn’t make you work 12 hours, six days a week.
In India, labour is cheap, and so, people are dispensable. Even if you perform well and kiss the right asses, you could still lose your job the next day. There’s absolutely no guarantee that your income will remain stable — you’re at the mercy of a company that underpays and overworks you. Even if you’re paid well, the moment you become a threat, you’re going to be replaced in a heartbeat.
Ironically, companies rarely show the same respect to their employees that they demand. You can be fired on a Friday morning and out of a job within minutes. But if you want to leave your job, you have to “serve your notice” (anywhere from two weeks to three months).
Also, here’s an unfun fact: employees who stick around with a company for more than 2 years get paid 50% LESS. You’re loyal to your company; are they loyal to you? Are they paying you what they’re paying new hires? No.
Your job is just that: a job
We all know the schtick companies pull — the whole “we’re a family” shebang. The culture of belonging and familiarity they try to build as they try to survive in a capitalist world. One could argue that all of this comes from a positive place, that they “actually care” about you. But like I said, I’d bet my life that the minute you stopped being useful or stepped out of line, you’d have to look for a new family.
It’d be wise of us to check how much of our identity comes from our workplace. The takeaway from this should be that we need to demand our worth and remember that our job is just a job. It’s something that pays you so you can have a roof over your head and food on your table.
So, there’s no need to feel guilty about using your paid time off (seriously, take your holidays and sick days) or wanting to look for better opportunities. Know your worth and know that there are companies out there who will pay you well without overworking you.
We’re the generation that’s been dealt an awful hand — a crumbling economy and a dying planet. The idea of working all our lives only to maybe retire at 65 (which seems like a distant dream thanks to student debt, the cost of living, and the low salaries) seems exceptionally stupid right now.
Companies have created a Catch-22 situation. If you stay too long with the same company, you haven’t picked up new skills. If you move around too much, you have no loyalty to your workplace. So, just do what you feel is right for your career and nothing else.
I know that everyone’s situation is unique — you may not have another choice than to work 12 hours for 30k. But you choose how much of your self-worth comes from your job.
You ≠ your job.
You’d do well to remember that.
tl;dr: This article isn’t telling you to quit your job — all I’m asking you to do is remove the pink-coloured glasses to notice that your company has red flags and that your job doesn’t determine your self-worth or identity. Make smart decisions friends, I believe in you.
See you next week,
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