Stressed at work? Russ Eisenstat recently made the suggestion on this site that we're not merely discouraged by news of a still sluggish economy or by wonky work-life balances, but that we feel pinched by company cultures that compel us to separate our true selves from the self that shows up for work. Not being able to bring our personal lives and passions to work has an alienating effect, this argument goes.
Eisenstat's research has led him to believe that people who do not feel forced to compartmentalize, people who are "able to bring their whole selves to the job and can connect what they do at work to a meaningful larger purpose" are happier -- and that the companies who employ such people are, by extension, more successful.
This sounds great, but I'm skeptical. It's true that people who have found a way to integrate their life's purpose with their job tend to be contented people. That combination is, as Dick Gochnauer, CEO of United Stationers (USTR), remarked, "very, very powerful."
But not all employers like the look of that kind of power. Why not? Because people in that happy groove are often people who care a lot about the product. Sometimes they care much more than their employer or immediate superior does. They're difficult to argue with. Ask them to compromise on a strategy or workflow or company output, and you're essentially asking them to compromise their values, their integrity, their very selves.
We have a term for such stubbornly integrated people who refuse to check their personas at the door when they sit down to work. We call them freelancers. Called in to help with specific projects, they bring their specific, highly developed skills to the table, and when said project is done, they move on. Unless they are experiencing a severe cash flow drought, they tend not to contract for projects that require too much compromise. The self-employed swap steady paychecks for the joy of not having to apologize to the boss when a child's illness means they need to clock out at 3 p.m.
Employees typically don't have that option. To keep their job or keep peace with colleagues, they're more likely to be put into a position where they're just following orders. Even at a time when forward-thinking companies claim to have abandoned the old command-and-control model, the fact that the company signs the checks puts a proverbial thumb on the scale.
But it's understandable -- and likely -- that companies will look at the examples Eisenstat refers to and wonder what kinds of programs might help them harness some (but not all) of the energy emanating off purpose-filled workers.
And here's where there's tremendous potential for ill-considered policies, particularly in the realm of "bring work into life" initiatives. Asking employees to participate in a company-sponsored program in which employees pack backpacks for underprivileged children is fine. Tell me that employee's children help too, however, and I'm envisioning extra hassle for the non-employee spouse. (It sounds about as voluntary as bringing cookies to a school bake sale.)
2012-01-10 22:53 编辑：kuaileyingyu