“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.

Never Family

No company, organization, or group is ever family. Remember this, and never forget it.

I have been in the computer field for over twenty years at this point. I have worked in the public sector, in retail, at tech companies, and at telecom companies over my career. Some companies were better than others (I have few to no bad things to say at the moment about the company I work for), but they all, to a one, worked under the delusion that they were somehow family and would take care of each other.

At some companies this is truer than others, but it is never true, and never believe anyone who tells you that lie.

It is untrue because any organization that can separate itself from you with little to no notice is not family.

Do not misunderstand what a company or group exists for. A for profit company exists to make money for its shareholders, and a not for profit company exists in order to do whatever its charter says it’s supposed to do. Employees, vendors, etc., exist solely to provide them the resources necessary to make their goals come to fruition. While it’s true that the good companies recognize that taking care of their employees can yield many strong benefits that help them ultimately towards that goal, and it’s also true that the bad companies see their employees as expendable resources, at the end of the day, the employees mean exactly the same thing to said companies. They are resources, and they are expendable.

And anyone who says you are family when you are not is not only lying to you, they are terribly lying to you.

There are many things that a company could say that is not a lie. They could tell you that you are a valued part of the company, and if you take care of them, they will take care of you. That’s entirely reasonable, and it could even be true. They could tell you that they will do what they have to in order to keep their company healthy, and if that means giving you a few perks to bribe your loyalty, they’ll do that. I’m not sure I’d work at such a company, but I’d admire their honesty. They can tell you a whole bunch of stuff that is not lies, that accurately represents your relationship with the company, and gives you a realistic idea of how they intend on treating you. And don’t get me wrong – that may even be well! As I said, the company I work for treats their employees far better than I have any right to expect, and for context, it is not a small company and is a household name in my country.

But they’re not family. They will never be family. And I do not appreciate the lies.

Let’s be clear, though – unions are not family either. You may think that a union exists to take care of you, as an employee, and look out for your interest. They don’t. They exist solely to be an opponent to management. As much as your interest and the union’s interest may coincide, at the end of the day, they are an organization much like the company they have a contract with. And they can also hang you out to dry if they choose.

I’m not intending, with this post, to paint an overly pessimistic picture of today’s corporate environment. Some companies are bad, and some are good. I worked for a company at Los Angeles about ten years ago for about three years – and the biggest regret I have is that I stuck around that long. I didn’t realize at the time that I had choices, and it really did traumatize me. They thought that offering free lunches made them a good place to work. Spoiler: It was a nice perk, but they didn’t. The company I work for now, as I mentioned, I have nothing but good things to say about at the moment.

But please note the “at the moment”, it’s the most important thing. That could change, and it could easily change. They treat me well, and I’m doing better financially than I ever have thanks at least partly to them, but at the end of the day, they are not family, and I feel sorry for those who think they are.

Family will not treat you badly, family will not abandon you, family will not care if you’re unable to produce, family will care for you without preconditions or conditions. Family does not have to worry about getting fired, family does not have to worry about getting screwed, family does not have to watch their back. Family is the antithesis of joining any company or organization.

Be clear about what you are, corporations, and be clear about what I am in relation to you. I have absolutely no problem with joining a company on a transactional basis. I give you work, you give me money, and maybe other perks besides if we agree on that. I have absolutely no problem with the idea that we can cut each other loose at a moment’s notice, as that is the arrangement we agreed to.

But don’t blow smoke up my ass. You are not family, and neither am I, and don’t insult my intelligence by pretending otherwise.