On the one hand, this was soothing: after all, consensus on anything is hard to find. On the other hand, these responses—some of which were along the lines of ‘Yep, a job is just a job’—left me feeling compelled to offer a short postscript, not to suggest how other people should feel but rather to clarify my own views.
Of course there’s some wisdom, especially in a turbulent economy, in keeping perspective about one’s work. But just because I roundly reject the company-as-family metaphor doesn’t mean that I think work relationships are shallow, or necessarily fleeting.
Some of the most meaningful relationships in my life have been forged on the job and have endured way past whatever work roles we inhabited at the time. Why? Because while business decisions are rarely personal, the experience of working is, as far as I can tell, deeply personal. So much is at stake. One’s livelihood of course but also: where else, in today’s saber-toothed tigerless landscape, do we as individuals routinely confront so many deep-seated fears?
The fear of making a mistake. Or looking foolish. Or not fitting in. Hurting someone’s feelings. Letting someone down. The fear of plain old rejection. Or abject failure. In most work situations, and certainly in every challenging role, these fears–and more!–can crop up.
If you machete your way through that fear bramble with a few coworker confidants—people who also know about your aging parents or colicky baby or broken-hearted teen or the fact that you’re waiting on pins and needles for test results—then it’s practically impossible not to emerge with work relationships that matter.
Which is to say: I firmly believe that appropriate boundaries and meaningful emotional connections can co-exist in the workplace. Getting there requires, from everyone, a combination of discipline and openness that feels impossible to get 100% right. Happily, though, perfection is not needed. What is needed is a sustained effort to strike that balance, a ton of self-awareness, and continual course correction.
Before I go, a couple of programming notes:
- Here in Workings, I tend to write about broader topics, like what we’re aiming to do at Steyer or what, in my experience, tends to make some jobs more meaningful than others. That’s because content work is increasingly specialized, and what’s interesting to one type of content professional may not resonate at all with someone from a different discipline. But if you’re less interested in the culture of Steyer and more interested in the brass tacks, check out our case studies. New ones are posted every month, and they’ll give you a good sense of what we actually do for our clients.
- Also, if meetups are your thing, we have three coming up: an in-person trivia night in Seattle in October, an online portfolio workshop in November, and an online book discussion in December. We are still finalizing dates for each of these events but write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll make sure you get all the details.
Thanks for reading,