by Jay Johansen | Oct 10, 2009
At any company there are two kinds of employees: Group A are those for whom this job is their life. They work hard all day, put in long hours, and take work home. Their primary source of satisfaction in life is doing their job well. They are passionate about their jobs. They are the ones who will argue at meetings about how to do the job right. Group B, on the other hand, are those for whom this job is a source of income, period. They do the minimum to get by. They arrive just in time and leave when the clock hits 5:00. They never have a suggestion, not because they're not smart enough to have good ideas, but because they just don't care that much. They do their jobs, but their real interests lie elsewhere. Many men have a hobby or a social cause that is their real interest. For many women their primary concern is taking care of their home and husband and children.
Yes, you could quibble with some of what I just said. You might say that these are not really two distinct groups, but rather a range, with some falling at each extreme and some in the middle. That's true, though I think most people tend toward one of the extremes. Personally I think I am an example of someone in the middle: I have periods when I work hard and others when I slack off. You might say that there is also a Group C, those who don't even do the minimum, but arrive late, leave early, and spend most of the time in between goofing off. Also true, but they tend to be rare, and in a private company, they tend to not be around long. And of course someone will say that my characterization of men being consumed with a hobby and women being dedicated to family is sexist. Yes, as a single father myself, I appreciate that there are men who take time away from work to care for their children. and I realize there are women who have all-consuming hobbies or causes. But I am speaking in generalities -- "many" and "most" -- and I believe that my statement is statiscally accurate.
Employers, of course, want all employees to be in Group A. They want everyone to be totally dedicated to their jobs, preferably regardless of the meager pay. Some seem to honestly not comprehend the idea that there employees might have lives outside the office.
There's nothing wrong with being in Group B. Indeed, one could honestly ask, Which is more important? Raising your children or filling out paperwork at the office? Where would a society be if everyone was so dedicated to producing that there was no one who was willing to spend his or her free time doing volunteer work at the homeless shelter or caring for stray animals? Even if your passion is an activity for your own personal pleasure, who but you can decide whether your life is better spent working overtime at the factory, or spending that time fishing?
I have only one problem with the people in Group B. That is when they complain that they do not get the same rewards as the people in Group A. Because in real life, I often hear people who do not work very hard, complain that someone else got a raise or a promotion or a bigger office than they did. I can only say, well, duh, they put in twice the hours you do and work twice as hard when they are here. In fairness they should get paid four times when you get. Why do you begrudge them getting 25% more?
You have made your choices. You decided, say, that working for some important social cause was more important to you than getting ahead in your job. If the cause is not more important to you than money, why did you make this decision?
Or perhaps you decided that taking care of your children was more important than this job. In the long run, that may well be the better choice. If Alice devotes her life to her family while Betty devotes her life to her job, Alice may come to the end of her days surrounded by children who remember her fondly for all the time she spent with them and all the sacrifices she made, while Betty dies a lonely -- but succesful! -- old woman. Who is really better off in the end? Alice will enjoy the rewards of her decisions. Why should she begrudge Betty the rewards of hers?
© 2009 by Jay Johansen