It is not uncommon for a CEO and other top executives to proudly announce that the employees at their company are family. “We’re just like a family here,” they’ll say. While this warm sentiment can feel good, the reality could not be less true. In fact, when a company is insistent that work is family, it’s a red flag that you may want to run the other direction.
One of the big differences between family and everyone else in your life is boundaries. No family is perfect. We can all think of an alcoholic uncle or a manipulative cousin we are related to. These are people we would likely not be friends with. But, in a family, they’re hard to escape. They are part of a larger family system that we want to hold on to.
Family also never stops. If your brother’s car has a flat tire, he may call you at midnight on a Tuesday or in the middle of the day on a Sunday. You are expected to answer and to help. Family support can be an around the clock labor of love. With work, boundaries are important. Unless there is an emergency, your boss should not contact you late at night or on the weekend. You need space to recharge. And, your company doesn’t own you; they employ you.
Additionally, at work, you should have the option to keep your private life private. Whether you are dating someone new, or going through a divorce, or are having a medical procedure, it’s your private business. You don’t have to share the details with anyone at work unless you choose to. In a family, there is often an expectation that everyone is up to date on your private life.
What I’m getting at is that work and family are not at all the same. When the leadership at a company claims they are, they are sending an underlying message. One is that you should be willing to sacrifice anything for the company. The next is that you should be flexible with your personal boundaries. It is a technique to peer pressure you into going along with behaviors you are not otherwise comfortable with.
One nice thing that can happen at work is that you may become close to some of your coworkers. You can choose to be friends with them outside of work. And, when you get a new job somewhere else, you may choose to maintain your friendships. But, this is all something you decide. It’s something you are in control of. And, if anything goes wrong, you have the option to address the issue, distance yourself, or walk away from the friendship altogether.
Implying that work and family are the same disrespects employees. It doesn’t acknowledge that you have your own family and boundaries. A good leader will say that you’re part of an excellent team, not a family. Work is not family.
In today’s workplace, it cannot be overstated how important it is to take care of yourself. Jobs come and go, but you are here to stay. If you’re not careful, work stress can take a toll on your health and personal life. This is especially true in the United States, where work culture tends to reward those who overwork themselves.
I am a strong believer that for employees with a desk job, we are often able to accomplish just as much work with less time if we are rested. When we work long hours, we may be slower, less creative, and less focused on the clock.
Granted, working long hours can result in more brownie points. You may impress your boss or coworkers with your dedication. But, will it truly change your path at work? Don’t get me wrong. Work is important. But, sacrificing yourself will not necessarily have a positive end result. Your health could suffer, and so could your personal relationships.
So, when should you prioritize taking care of yourself over work? You should take care of yourself when you don’t feel well. Whether you have a cold or a serious medical issue, your health is always important. You should take care when your children are sick or are having problems. The same applies when you are going through a pregnancy.
There are times when taking care of yourself is a luxury. You may not always have the ability to prioritize yourself first. I do understand this sad reality. However, there are often times when we have a choice, and we choose work.
You are probably familiar with various famous quotes around work and life. They say that when you die, no one will remember what you achieved at work. They’ll remember what sort of parent or friend you were to your loved ones.
What can you do to make the shift? For one, consider separating your methods of communication. At work, use a work computer, and use a work phone. At home, use a personal computer, and a personal phone. Keep your uses separated. This relatively small change can make a big difference. It helps to ensure that you aren’t distracted by personal tasks while you’re at work. And, when you’re home, it keeps you focused on your personal life.
Also, try to reduce the peer pressure at work around working outside of work hours. The biggest way that you can do this is by paying attention to your own email habits. In other words, if you do need to work on the weekend for some unavailable reason, try to wait to update your colleagues until Monday. Try not to push out email communications during off hours that will prompt others to begin working.
Most people agree that taking care of yourself is important. Let’s work together to make it a reality. We’ll accomplish just as much in less time, and with more sleep.
At work, employees often wear many hats. You might play a role that you don’t typically play in your personal life. Or, you may go through periods of time when you put up with things at work that you wouldn’t normally be okay with. For example, if your office environment becomes unhealthy, you might just put up with it. After all, you have bills to pay and a family to provide for. You can’t fight every battle. You go to work with the understanding that things are just not going to be perfect.
Recently, a friend shared with me that they finally feel like themselves at work. They feel good, comfortable, and appreciated. They feel like they’re in the right place. That sounds amazing, right?
This simple phrase “I feel like myself” is incredibly enlightening. So often, we don’t look for roles that allow us to feel like ourselves. We’re simply looking for a job. We’re looking for a paycheck. We may be looking for a job title. And, it’s understandable. But, if you are looking for a new role, keep this concept in mind. There will be certain roles or companies that align to who you are. And, there are others that will not.
When it comes to finding a role that will be a good fit, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, is the team inclusive? Will you be different than everyone else you’ll be working with, or does the company value people with diverse backgrounds?
You should also consider whether or not the company’s values align to yours. For example, if you have strong negative feelings about certain industries, perhaps those are industries to avoid. Or, if the company takes positions on social or political issues that you strongly disagree with, you should take note.
Is the management team supportive of their employees? A manager can make or break your experience. This can be hard to judge from the outside. But, websites like Glassdoor.com have employee reviews that are often fairly accurate.
And, don’t forget the role itself. What are your favorite parts of your job? Do you love managing people, or are you a talented individual contributor? Are you an expert in a particular topic that you find especially enjoyable? If there is something about your job that you truly love, look for that in a future role. And, if there’s something you strongly dislike, try to find a role that doesn’t have a strong emphasis on that.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not always possible to find the perfect job. Work isn’t always about fulfillment and happiness. Sometimes, it’s just as important to bring home a paycheck and to make rent. But, if you do have the luxury of finding a job that’s a good fit for you, take the opportunity to look around. Keep your eyes open for a job that will make you feel like you. There’s nothing like it.
The title of this piece is a bit controversial, but hear me out. Artificial intelligence has gotten a lot of press lately. In fact, it has become so popular that AI is receiving a similar number of searches on Google as Taylor Swift. There’s a lot of talk about companies incorporating AI into everything they do. And, fear around AI replacing our jobs is growing.
Some companies are using AI to do incredible things. But, many other companies are using AI as a new marketing term. From the outside, the entire topic can feel confusing and alarming.
I had an enlightening conversation recently about AI. My undergraduate education is in computer engineering. Not long ago, I was discussing the topic of AI with a friend. This friend is a bit younger than me. He’s also a computer engineer, and he now develops AI technology. I shared that when I was in college, artificial intelligence and machine learning didn’t exist. I felt like I had missed out on many of the new concepts that exist today. My friend shared that the education had not actually changed that much. AI is just a new way to talk about technology. It’s a new language. Yes, some companies are doing big things with AI. But, many other companies are using AI for their branding. AI and ML are new terms that sound smart.
So, what does this mean for you? Think back to the time before AI when we were nervous that technology would replace our jobs. Computers became common and helped to make things more efficient. In some cases, jobs changed or evolved. But for the most part, we’re all still here, still working. This is not unlike what will likely happen with AI.
AI will certainly help us do some things faster. It may help make writing a bit easier. It may help with planning. But, at the end of the day, humans are still needed. Humans create strategy. Humans add a level of care and insight that a computer could never provide.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there will be no impact. AI will influence change to occur. But, the real impact is likely being exaggerated online today. Companies are throwing around terms like AI and ML because it makes them (the companies) appear to be up to date with technology. It’s a marketing tactic.
What does this mean for you? If you can learn a little about AI, it may help you to ease your fears. If you believe your job will be impacted more than others, it may be time to evaluate your other skillsets. Think of your professional skills like you would think of an investment account. Diversifying your skillset can help to avoid any major issues.
But, try to remain calm. AI is interesting, and it has some great potential. But, it is likely not set to take over our human workforce.
In the past few years, I’ve had the honor of working with a number of professionals who are part of Gen Z. They’ve been honest, principled people who care about the world around them. I have been impressed with their awareness of current events, and how strongly they feel about social issues.
But, employers are also complaining that Gen Z is hard to work with. One poll of managers found that 74 percent find Gen Z to be challenging to work with. Another found managers were more likely to fire Gen Z than any other group. You can find the frustration in these surveys, and in casual conversations with friends and coworkers.
This may be a case of young people being young people. Every new generation is considered difficult at some point in time. But, there may be more to it with Gen Z. After all, Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with computers and technology in their hands from day one. And, they went to college during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Let that sink in for a moment. An entire generation has communicated more using technology than any other generation. And, not surprisingly, many of the complaints from managers are around communication skills. At work, your ability to communicate is often just as important as your technical knowledge. Some employers also reported that Gen Z is entitled, easily offended, and not productive.
If you’re a manager in this situation, there’s hope. Many Gen Z employees are looking for more mentoring. They may also need more direction and coaching at first. Because they have spent part of their early career remote, they haven’t had as many opportunities to observe those around them. Spend more time with them, and they will thank you.
If you are a Gen Z employee, it’s important not to overlook this concern. Being smart is not enough to get ahead at work. You must also learn to communicate well with others, and to work together with a team. If you feel you are lacking in these areas, it is your responsibility to learn. A workplace is much different than a university. Your boss and peers aren’t guaranteed to teach you, or to keep you happy. If you’re learning new material, seek out mentors who agree to help. Or, look for online resources or classes you might take.
It’s also important to remember that the workplace is made up of people with very different viewpoints. And, although it’s fantastic that companies are trying to be more aware of social issues, you will disagree with some coworkers about personal or political topics. That doesn’t mean that the work isn’t still important.
Your career is something that’s built, block by block, over many years. You are the CEO. If you’re struggling, it’s your responsibility to ask for help. It’s your job to keep working at it. It’s the only way to move forward in your career.