What a hand we’ve been dealt, huh?
I often get to thinking that, had I been born around a decade earlier, I would have hit the sweet spot. I was born in the early 90s, but I imagine an early 80s arrival would have suited much better. I’d have had a super-fuelled 80s childhood, a legendary 90s adolescence, and hit the job market in the booming 2000s. I would have seen my slew of horrific crises, sure – the ‘87 crash, the Global Financial Crisis – but they would have come along at much more manageable times in my life.
As a Millennial, the timing has been laughable.
For those Millennials on the older end of the spectrum, the Global Financial Crisis hit right as careers were beginning. For those Millennials on the younger end, the COVID-19 crisis is hitting in the exact same way. We face the ever-present threat of climate change, more than one head of state across the globe is a literal buffoon, all while jobs have never been more precarious. Add to that the reality of Hustle Culture, and you have a near-perfect recipe for a breakdown.
Hustle Culture (you might think of it as Relentless Positivity Culture) is the persistence of the idea that one should be achingly, crushingly in love with their job. Actually, they should be obsessed with it. Gone are the days of complaining about your 9 to 5 to your colleagues. In fact, gone are the days of working from 9 to 5.
Nowadays, you’re more likely to be told to think of your work colleagues as a family. A weird, fake family – one that never complains about each other. You’re also more likely to be working from 8:30 to 6.
At quarterly performance reviews, one’s “passion” for their post (be it a call centre or a claims office) is seemingly given as much weight as one’s competence.
Of course, there’s a difference between a job and a vocation – but I think Relentless, Hustle, Love-My-Work, Positivity Culture negatively affects the latter, too. Because the thing about work – and you’ll learn this quickly as a writer – is that it’s still always WORK. It’s a slog and it’s dull, and it’s punctuated by brief moments of inspiration and (if you’re lucky) brilliance. But the slog is still a huge part of it, and doesn’t do anyone any good in the long run to pretend that, if you love what you do, work will never be hard.
When we pretend that workers are supposed to have an unbridled passion for their day-to-day jobs, we rob them of the ability to be real about the grievances they may be facing. A workplace that is structured around passion – and especially one that pretends to be a “family” – disempowers its employees. It creates a breeding ground for power imbalance and bad behaviour. I mean, when you and your colleagues are a “family” – one that sticks up for each other no matter what – it’s rather hard to report your superior for harassment.
An essential part of a healthy workplace is the ability to challenge things that aren’t working, correct mistakes without ego, and report inappropriate behaviour without trepidation, no matter who it was committed by.
That starts by stripping away the notion that we are all desperately in love with our work. Actually, if we could be real about the fact that work occasionally sucks, it would be a lot more meaningful when we did celebrate the wins. Because it isn’t one way or the other. Life is nuanced. And so is work.Support Villainesse