“Work Hard, Play Hard”? Run.

I have something that many people seem to consider a personality flaw – but less so as I grow older.

When I was a child, I believed it was important to have “professional” relationships.  Specifically, when I would go to an event where a specific thing was to happen, I would go expecting to do that specific thing.  Bible Studies?  I went expecting to actually open a Bible.  Basketball practice?  As bad as I was, I went expecting to throw a basketball.  I was never very tolerant of tomfoolery.

I remember one time when I was sixteen, I went to take a state mandated driving class.  I went expecting to learn how to drive.  The other teenagers in the class just went on talking about sex.  It bothered me so much I went to talk to the “teacher”, who basically just told me to suck it up, she’d pass me.  Or something like that.

I felt this way about college, as well.  I went to college to learn.  I did not go to party, I did not go to make friends, I did not go to have social events.  I went to learn, and I looked strongly down on anyone who did not share that same devotion to purpose.

(I will be clear that given my chosen major, which was well within the fine arts, this was an entirely unreasonable expectation, and quite frankly, I chose very, very badly when it came to majors.)

So I entered the workforce with the same attitude.  Generally, when I worked at a place where older folks worked, they shared somewhat my devotion to purpose.  There was a bit of tomfoolery, but generally they went to do a job and go home to their families.  I certainly respected this!

But later in my career, tech companies or teams were starting to take the attitude that to attract good employees they had to have a “work hard, play hard” attitude.  In theory this meant that they wanted to make sure their employees enjoyed their time there.

In practice, this meant a lot of drinking, probably a lot of sex I wasn’t aware of (thank goodness!), trying to get people to handle issues while drunk, alcoholic VPs…  it was a mess.  I didn’t respect them.  And they knew it.

But I don’t see that as my problem.  I was behaving responsibly.  They just wanted to drink.

I learned some valuable lessons from these experiences, though.  The biggest was that i I find a company that puts anything similar to “work hard, play hard” in a description of their company culture, to run away fast, do not pass go, do not collect $200.  It needs to nothing but trouble.  I can expect to be judged by how well I fit into the culture, which basically means “am I willing to drink, and how much.”  I can expect that there will be no work-life balance, as work is life and life is work.  I can expect that people will take the job seriously, but will not take the workplace seriously.  And I have no interest in ever dealing with that kind of culture again.

(This, by the way, is one reason why I so abhor the “woke” culture that is infecting so many workplaces right now.  I go there to work.  I don’t give a toss about anyone’s political views, and would prefer they don’t inflict them on me).

So what have I learned to look for instead?  Work-life balance.  A company that expects an honest day’s work out of you, and then you get to go home (or leave the home office, as it is now) and not think about work again until the next morning.  A company that may provide voluntary activities that some people will find fun (not so much alcohol related) but does not judge people for their lack of participation.  A company that values what I bring to the table professionally and otherwise just lets me be, because I have little interest in sharing anything that does not directly relate to work except with select coworkers I choose.

Maybe for young people just out of college “work hard, play hard” would be attractive.  They can have it.  The company will reap what they’ve sowed.  Me, I’d rather have nothing to do with it.  Just let me do my job in peace and don’t regale me with irrelevant shit.

Please and thank you.

“Work Hard, Play Hard”.  Run fast and hard.  It leads to nothing but trouble.

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