Is It Possible To Love Your Job Too Much?

Have you allowed your job to take over your life?
Have you allowed your job to take over your life?
Image Credit: Schlomo Rabinowitz

As managers, it’s pretty easy to feel good about our job. I mean, we’ve worked hard to get to where we are and now we get to bask in the glow of being successful. It makes us proud when we tell others what we do for a living. Managing a team of professionals and being able to accomplish difficult projects makes us feel good about ourselves. However, this can be a slippery slope. Has your job become all consuming? Has your job taken over your life?

How Important Is Your Job To You?

I think that we can agree that we all put in too many hours at work; we probably don’t take vacations and we can’t say no to that 7 a.m. conference call. Underneath all of this is something bigger: we have an emotional attachment to our jobs that can exhaust us and can squeeze out the other parts of our identities. Keep in mind that for years we’ve been told to find meaning and purpose at work, while other parts of our modern life, like going to church, receded. This was all fine – then came the pandemic.

Sure, some of us leveraged remote work to sneak in noon naps or shirk one job with a secret second gig. But for many, work has taken over and become our lives. We sat down in front of our computers back in the spring of 2020 and really haven’t gotten up since. The problem that we are all facing now is that we can’t figure out how to turn it off. Do you think that we learned to care less? What do you think would happen if we learned to let go, just a little bit? What’s interesting is that the answer turns out to be not much. If we were to back off just a bit, no one would really care.

What we have to be able to do is to ask yourself: is this real? Is this thing that I am doing really a part of my job? For that matter, do I really have to do it? Let’s all agree that sometimes the answer is yes. Things like a strategic business lunch with an important person might be crucial to your continuing to earn a paycheck. However, I’m willing to bet that something else probably isn’t. It’s a bit amazing, but there is the real possibility that as much as a quarter of the stuff you’ve taken on over the years may be an unnecessary time suck. What you need to do is to learn to let those things go.

How To Back Off From Your Job

All of this backing off from your job and not allowing it to take over your life is easier said than done. We don’t live in a vacuum. Our tasks have ballooned as our colleagues have left in a wave of quitting or our companies opt to stay lean after a round of layoffs. Nearly 90% of workers that were surveyed said they’d experienced burnout over the past year. More than half of these people said their workloads had increased during the pandemic. Some companies say they care, but does any manager actually want their team members to be less obsessed with work? Firms have tried to combat burnout using listening sessions and extra days off but many employees say they end up wedging more work in anyway.

As managers we need to understand that if we ask for everything and need it tomorrow, obviously our team is never going to feel like they can relax and take a true break. Productivity might slip in the short term but easing up can help with keeping and attracting members of your team. If we are able to push back on our job and free up some more “me” time, our next step will be figuring out what to do during all that extra time we used to spend working. We need to realize that overachievers like us often throw themselves too zealously into new hobbies.

The idea is to make extracurricular activities sustainable, not to pile on a different kind of stress in your life. And remember that we need to remind ourselves that taking a full hour for lunch or end our day early to head to our child’s soccer game doesn’t make us a bad worker. In fact, you might end up being better at your job. With less on your plate, and more perspective, every task may stop feeling like a fire drill and all of sudden you can focus on what really matters.

What All Of This Means For You

Look, it’s ok if you like your job. That’s a good thing. However, it turns out that it is possible that you might just like your job too much. If we are not careful our jobs can expand and start to take over our lives. Managers need to be aware that things like this can happen and we need to take steps to make sure that our jobs are only one part of a much fuller life.

We do a lot of different things as a part of doing our job. We’ve always been told that we can find meaning in being good at our jobs. The pandemic allowed many of us to start to focus more specifically on our jobs and we pushed many other things out of our lives. Now we have to take a step back and determine what really matters to us. We are probably doing a lot of things that just aren’t that important. Our lives have become more complicated as people have left and our workload have increased. It turns out that we can probably stop doing so much and nobody would ever notice. When we do this, we’ll have to find other activities to fill our time.

As managers we want to do a good job. However, with the way that the world has changed in the past few years, we need to understand that we may be doing too much. If this is the case, then we have to take a step back and try to balance our lives. Yes, work is important but it is not everything. If you can find a way to do this, then you’ll prevent yourself from burning out and you just might find yourself becoming even more productive.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If you stop doing something, how can you determine if anyone cares?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

It’s no great secret: everything is now different. The way that the world was before the pandemic is now just something that exists in our memories. The world that we are now living in very different. As our team members spent a year (or more) working from home, they discovered that there are other jobs at other companies out there that they might enjoy working at. This means that as managers one of our new responsibilities is finding ways to keep the team members that we have. The good news is that this can be done, we just need to learn how to go about doing it.