Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Three Reasons Why You Might Be Staying In A Job You Don’t Like

Chapter 5: The Role Of Circumstance

In the last post, I told the story of “Sue” who stayed in a negative working environment until she became sick, both physically and mentally.  I believe that staying in an unhealthy work environment is a form of corporate idolatry because one is following a value system that prioritizes work over personal health.  Several women I interviewed went so far as to say that they felt like they were in an abusive relationship with the company.  

[The competition for jobs in the market] makes me feel stuck and dependent on the company.  The battered wife who keeps on going back and won’t leave, sometimes I feel like that. 

People I interviewed cited a number of reasons why they don’t leave negative situations.  Here are three of them.

  1. Loyalty to peers or reports: I did not have any corporate allegiance.  I had personal allegiance to people within the company.  I wanted to protect my staff.  [Not wanting to] let that team down was part of [why I didn’t leave.] I made it my mission to at least try to make their work environment better than mine was.  It was frustrating because I could only make it so good, could only fix it so much.
  2. Learning [The executives] need to find different ways to value people.  It’s arrogant. I’ve seen a lot of turnover.  The main reason I stayed was I was learning so much.  I had a lot of great friends and colleagues.  I couldn’t have asked for a better learning experience the last few years.
  3. Momentum [I was] very well compensated and it’s hard to give up a large paycheck.  [Leaving] came to mind frequently.  One [good] thing would happen – it’s never all bad.  I’d find some silver lining, and choose to think about the action plan to fix what I wasn’t liking, visualizing success of the plan. 

But of all the circumstances I heard about, the one that had the biggest impact is the time in your career.

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The Secret GPS For Work Life Balance

Chapter 1: My Corporate Idolatry Post 14

The third and final part of Busting Your Corporate Idol: How To Regain Control Of Your Values & Regain Control Of Your Life is called “From Worship to Work.[i]” These final four chapters chart a path from excess devotion to a more balanced life.  Many people who have transitioned from worship to work remain employed in the corporate world, but with a better awareness of their true values, which empowers them to set different priorities and to make different choices.

Chapter 7 gives the first step, to secure an identity that puts people first, ahead of the company.  “Sue”, a director in the hardware industry has a serious identity issue.

It’s almost like [I am a] battered wife, where I take a lot of abuse by the way of hours and demands that I impose on myself.  It is hard for me to set limits.

But one person in isolation isn’t strong enough to resist the constant pull from the company for more time and attention.  It takes support from a community of like-minded people, and Chapter 8 teaches you how to build such a community.  In Chapter 9, you will learn the business case for good, a method to subvert the system of forecasting and power politics to guide the company and your management to make decisions in line with your core values.

Chapter 10 explores provocative questions and practical metrics to advance you down your new path.  You will see the world in a different way, and you will say no to additional work without regret or hesitation. One director told me how he became a different person when he started shutting off his devices on the weekend.  I didn’t realize it until Sunday night, when I started feeling the low level stress in my belly.  It was coming back.  Idolatry always tries to come back.  But when you understand the dynamics, you can prevent it from taking control.

Life is like an eleven-sided triangle.  You can look at it from a lot of different directions, and see many different triangles.  All of them are correct, but none of them are complete.  Busting Your Corporate Idol presents another lens with which to examine the world, a lens that helped me see why my life was out of control, and what needed to change to make it right.

Reconnecting with my values was like getting a GPS for my life –I could now drive to a better place, one street at a time.

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[i] The phrase from ‘worship to work’ comes from Being God’s Partner: Hot to Find the Hidden Lind Between Spirituality and Your Work by Jeffrey Salkin p. 158. FYI I like parts of this book, especially its message that values should be the same at work as they are at home.  However, I disagree with the fundamental premise that the solution to chronic overwork is to bring a sense of spirituality to the workplace.