Sunday, May 6, 2012

Work Work Balance

I was promoted to my current job role in November of 2007. When I came to India in 2011 people here thought I was crazy for accepting the same position. They told me I should have demanded a promotion. I had a personal motive for coming though, which could be achieved without requiring a loftier designation.
Since arriving in India, I've been a bit surprised by the mentality of the corporate employees. They seem to believe that if they aren't getting promoted every 6-12 months, it's time to find a different job in a different company. I regularly see people company hopping and often taking friends with them. They'll start out in one position, move to another company for a promotion, then bring their friends along, all getting promotions along the way. They may have the same boss at three consecutive companies, but with each company jump, they get a better designation.
Up until this point, I felt it was really unreasonable to expect such career movement. I've grown up with the mentality that companies don't owe their employee's anything. That you're lucky enough simply to have a job. That you don't go to your boss demanding promotions or raises or bonuses. You're fortunate enough taking what they offer you. I've never negotiated a salary and I've always felt sincerely thankful for any raise or promotion I've been given.
The second major realization I've had since coming here is the lack of work-life balance. A common week is spending 60 hours physically in the office, logging in before and after the shift from home, and again on the weekends. Everyone does it. It's not a matter of working inefficiently during the week, it's a matter of having so much damn work to do, there's not enough hours in the standard office day to do it all. Our weekends go towards hiring events, trainings, "team outings." If we get a day off, we'll spend it logged in, catching up on emails, monitoring inventory volumes, and often times, spend at least some time at the office, due to some or the other emergency that just happened to crop up on our day off.
After doing this for almost a year, I was really getting depressed. My goal in working is to create a nice life for myself and my family. The office is a place I HAVE to go in order to make money to go to the places I WANT to go. While I believe in giving your all and doing a job you can be proud of, it's just that: a job. A former boss once told me: A job is something you do, not who you are.
After pondering both of the above observations parallelly for the past year, I've finally found where they intersect. For Indians, it IS who they are.  It's not just a job, it's a self defining proclamation of who they are and what they stand for. It's bragging rights, not only for the employee but for their family. There's no concept of "good enough." That's what drives them to put in more hours, take on more projects, and devote their lives to their jobs, under the guise of devoting their lives to their families. It's acceptable to spend 16 hours a day at the office earning, if you know while you're in office, your family is sitting comfortably at home. The more promotions you get, the more marketable you are, the more earning security you have, and the more comfortably your family can exist. I guess it makes sense, but....
While I want my family to be comfortable and enjoy life, I want to enjoy it with them. That's the purpose and the value in having a family. I married my husband because I enjoy spending time with him. I crossed 8600 miles to be with him, not to spend my days slaving away in the office.  I plan to have children that I will raise, not that will be raised by a nanny while I'm holed up in some conference room. Besides, life is short and there are no guarantees. Take the time out for the ones you love and care about. Don't put some meaningless office task between you and what you enjoy. If you got hit by a bus tomorrow, would your boss miss you? No. They'd have another guy filling your position within a week. But what about your family? They will be left with an unfillable gap. No amount of money you earned in the past will afford the glue it will take to piece their hearts back together.
Think about what's really important.

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