Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Just Realize Your Job Sucks? Here’s Why It Took So Long To Notice

Chapter 5: The Pivotal Role Of Circumstance Part 6

At the end of the last post, I suggested that excessive work hours could be a sign that someone is hiding from a bad relationship.  I would like to stress again, that being excited about your work and engaged with your company are good things.  Company engagement turns into Corporate Idolatry when work becomes the most important thing in your life at the expense of everything else.  Of course most of the time, the workplace is never all good or all bad.  As “Roger”, a VP in Silicon Valley put it

“It’s a very rare day when you look at your job and someone can say ‘this is awesome, everything is fantastic.’  No, there are lots of things in there that you’d like to change, but you have to take the whole package.The difficult part for Roger, and for many people is the change from good to bad can be very gradual.

At some point, I notice the scales have tipped.  It is not good enough and I have to move on.

But I wonder, how long does it take to notice that it is no longer good enough?  Many people who have left a negative circumstance say that the change was long overdue.  I’m sure there are many reasons for this, financial, emotional, social.  But I wonder if part of the issue is that it takes us a while to realize how bad things have gotten.  It turns out that we notice far less than we think we do.

From the book “The Invisible Gorilla” by Chabris and Simons I learned that we notice a lot less than we think we do.  Do you think you’d notice if the actor changed between two scenes of a short silent movie?  The new actor wore different clothes, different glasses and parted his hair on the opposite side. 70% of people think they would notice the change, but in reality no one did.[i]  Zip, zero.  If enough of the details are consistent, and we are not expecting a change, the discontinuity fails to register.  And when people were warned in advance, it was obvious and everyone saw it.[ii]

I think changes at work can happen in a similar way.  We don’t notice the changes as they are happening, and over time things can change pretty dramatically.  And when we are stressed and overworked, it is hard to notice anything.

In the next post, we’ll meet someone who wanted to be the one to bring the company back after both the market and the culture turned sour.

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[i] The Invisible Gorilla  And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons.  (2010) Crown p55-57.  These are examples of the illusion of memory and change blindness.