This Job Is Killing Me! Could It?

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How many people do you know who become jittery on Sunday afternoon with the very thought of having to go to work the next day? While I’d be the first to admit that the weekends go by way too quickly, I can’t say that I sense some level of despair with the thought that the weekend is coming to a close. I can’t truthfully say there haven’t been times where work related issues on the periphery of my consciousness distracted me from fully enjoying a weekend, but that happens infrequently. In fact, it happens so infrequently that I’d say it is inconsequential. I guess you could say I have the good fortune of living to work and working to live.

I recognize that job satisfaction is not always the norm. In one of his books, Max Lucado asserts that:

  • “One-third of Americans say, ‘I hate my job.
  • Two thirds of your fellow citizens labor in the wrong career track.
  • Others find employment success, but no satisfaction.
  • Most suicides occur on Sunday nights.
  • Most heart attacks occur on Monday mornings.”

“Many people dread their work! Countless commuters begrudge the 83,000 hours their jobs take from their lives. If you’re one of them, what can you do?”

“If you’re one of them what can you do?” He asks a good question. Initially, I was inclined to promote the concept that I’ve always loved my work. At some level that is true, but it is also true that I can remember periods of my work history where things were less than ideal.

For example, I worked for many years in state government providing child welfare related services. Until toward the very end of my experience in that venue, I mostly loved my job. I had the good fortune of working with folks that garnered my respect and we were always a harmonious unified team. The last twelve years of my tenure, I was in a position in state office and worked in a unit with a relatively small number of people. We functioned pretty much like an extended family. We’d have office get-togethers and there were many occasions that our families interacted. It was a nice place to work. I liked the people with whom I worked.

My boss for the majority of that tenure was the same person who initially hired me as a child protective services worker in 1970. Interestingly, we continue to be friends to this day. At any rate, about three years before I left the agency, he was promoted to a different position and someone from outside our group was named as the director.

She was a person with many strengths and abilities. She was articulate. She had the ability to think on her feet. She was smart. I concur with all three of those assessments. Yet, in some respects I think I can truthfully say, “She was also her own biggest fan”. She dressed for success. She drove only a premier automobile. She lived in an elite part of Austin. She made it abundantly clear that everyone knew she brought a touch of class to the agency. Someone in high places obviously thought she had the skill set and expertise to lead us toward the future. Maybe they were right. Maybe they were wrong.

There was a very subtle undercurrent of discontent (no “discontent” is too strong a word – instead of calling it “discontent”, I’m going to coin it as “confusion”) that began to surface shortly after the new leader began her regime. As a first order of business she set up private interviews with each of the team members in State Office. I’m assuming she asked everyone the same kinds of questions she asked me. She began by asking questions related to my work and individual areas of responsibilities. She wanted to know my assessment related to personal strengths and work ethic. She also asked for identification of areas where I felt I could benefit from additional growth. The questions were all appropriate. It seemed like a carefully orchestrated “let-me-get-to-know-you-and-maybe-you’ll-get-to-know-me” exchange of information. All of it was above-board and made total sense.

Yet before the interview was completed, the focus shifted from my self-assessment of my strengths and weaknesses to her asking questions regarding my assessments of the strengths and weakness of my co-workers. She crafted her request with, “You can trust me. I really need your candid and truthful responses to all of my questions.”

Maybe I’m overly simplistic, but by her asking questions regarding folks who were both colleagues and friends, I immediately connected the dots. At least from my perspective, she was not a person I could trust. I thought the questions were unethical and clearly out of line. Almost three decades later, I still think the questions were unethical and inappropriate. I answered her questions regarding my colleague’s strengths, but I was very vague in identifying any areas of weakness.

I actually was never in conflict with the new boss and when I opted to leave the agency three years later, I did so under the most amicable of circumstances. Yet, under her leadership, my love for my job began to wane. I also saw a couple of folks who previously had been the closest of friends drift apart in an attempt to win the favor of the lady who was in command.

So what do you do if you hate your job? The answer to that question could be a life and death situation.

Max Lucado makes the assertion that most suicides occur on Sunday night. My quick research through Google found that is not actually accurate. Wednesday is thought to be the day that most people commit suicide. Perhaps it is strategically in the middle of the week that folks realize, “I can’t take this any more.”

It is true that most heart attacks occur on Monday mornings between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. These findings were substantiated in a study of 683 patients, predominately middle-aged men with implanted defibrillators and a history of life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias. The data lead researches to conclude that Monday is the most stressful day of the week when it comes to risk factors for a heart attack.

Interestingly, even for folks in the midst of retirement, one physician said, “I believe that your body always remembers and anticipates stressful events. So, even though the participants in the study were not working, the fact that their bodies anticipated going to work on Monday triggered the identical biochemical stress hormones, increasing the heart attack risk factors that led to potentially lethal ventricular arrhythmias.

Somehow the study seems to add credence to the notion, “This job is killing me.” I’m glad I don’t have one like that.

All My Best!

Don

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