Why a new job!?

Should I change my job?
Ever since I joined my new company, I have been asked “Why did you join us?” several times. I have been creative and worded them nearly differently every time, but it really makes me want to provide just one answer. And there can be only one answer when you understand several of the underlying facets to a job and making a choice. Let me call my new company as T (since along with the first letter of my previous company it would give the industrial sector in which I work).

Before I get into that, I strongly disagree with people wishing to distinguish between their “personal” and “work” life. As if there is nothing personal about their work or they do no work in their personal life. I think there is but one life and there is a good mix of pursuits which are either intellectual or skill based, monetary in nature, aesthetic in nature and relational (relationships with people, other animals and Nature). Just because there exist various buckets of activities, it doesn’t make sense to consider them counter-purpose. I am not talking about the time spent on each but what we bring to each as our character. It is obvious that while doing one task, it might be difficult to do another. But why would I want to be honest to one task and dishonest with another? Why would I want to be sincere to my wife, but insincere to my customer? Why would I want to be frugal at home, but use my office’s resources as if it were infinitely available? Why should I be methodical and professional at work but consider it inappropriate in my relational pursuits?
I think if we stopped thinking of life as “work” and “enjoyment” then we can inculcate in our children the same equanimity towards the various facets of life. With our children empowered to look at life as a whole and not as something “that has to be done whether you like it or not” and “the fun you can have once you have done the chores” there is a great hope of a more conscious society. And this wouldn’t be mere pedagogy but actual demonstration and embodying of values. Children will be discouraged to look at life as a dichotomy of the boring and the entertaining, as the professional and the casual, as the sincere and the it-doesn’t-matter, as a chore and a passion. Even from an individual’s point of view (whether there are children to raise responsibly or not) it is vital for one’s own character to be Right towards every facet of our life. To consider it wrong to lie to your husband but ok to lie to your boss or obvious to move earth and heaven in order to get your child to the doctor but unthinkable of working extra hours to get your project out of danger reveals a complete lack of character in the individual and when continuously observed by a impressionable mind, this is what gets passed on.
We were always passed the message that work and going to office was the price we had to pay in order to have fun and the good things of life. Our theory of “no reward without pain” morphed into an example which we recognise as the work-life dichotomy. Soon, education, work, paying bills etc. all became the chores that we have to do so that we can go on a vacation in summer.
I have believed and felt the same. I used to think in the same way because I didn’t have a better model of representing life around me. But with each progressing day, I realised that I was maintaining the divide more pronounced and sometimes even beyond the natural level of demarcation. It was becoming difficult to manage matters as it amounted to maintaining two personalities – one who enjoyed some portions of life, and one who had to put on this facade in order to go through the chores of living. In this split personality scenario, it is but natural that one views the activities thrust down one’s throat with lesser respect and greater indifference and sometimes disgust. The chores became the villain.
Added to this is the emotional drama that relational pursuits bring in. To be sincere and committed to your work meant that you were a boring husband! To not trick your boss and be honest with him meant that you had no excitement in your life (look at Mr. Sharma! He got a medical certificate and took his missus to Singapoooor). To compare the energy you brought to taking Chintu to the doctor with the energy you bring to meeting deadlines is taboo because you are equating your son to a project which is merely work! How could you be so callous!?
Point is, no one was equating a human being to a piece of software. They are valuable in their individual places. What is being suggested is a single character that one takes to every aspect of life and living. Only knaves would recommend that one be honest to the Gods and lie to the Devil. I know of a person who told me, “E, how can you say thus? Work is work and Life is life. You cannot bring our work rules into your home” (and she wasn’t referring to a dress code but the resolve to be professional and committed).
I think I have deliberated enough on this particular point. An honest man can only be himself in every minute of his life. Given that, he would want to use his time and skill in an activity which allows him to remain true to his self, true to his capabilities, true to his intelligence and true to his aspirations – be this activity a marriage or a job or an evening spent listening to music. Clearly there is no debate in that matter. If a marriage forces him to lie or not give him opportunities to love to the extent he can or respect his intelligence and goodness or clearly cripple his every single plan that he had or wanted to have in the context of a family, then such a marriage is a disease. So be it with his occupation.
Each person brings their unique combination of individuality, capabilities, skill, intelligence, sensibilities and aspirations. Hence, there is no one size fits all. For me, a life was fruitful if I utilised my abilities to create, ideate and learn with a good dose of humour and relevance. I tried to achieve all of this in my non-work aspects of life, resigning to the impossibility of finding these in a job. I think I slowly started moving my idea of a job away from being software engineering and started exploring other arenas where I could achieve this so that that would become my job and I could be myself in nearly all of what constituted my life.
I think a job must provide 3 ingredients – environment, ethics and excellence. Environment includes the people (colleagues and clients) you work with, the wisdom they bring, the location of your work, the tools available, etc. Ethics covers the values that an environment breathes and embodies. This includes the intra- and inter-environmental dynamics. Excellence is essentially recognising that there is the Right way to doing something and going about doing it that way. Excellence mandates a willingness to learn, to perfect and caring enough to only provide what is the Right output.
Depending on the quality of each of these ingredients, a job can be anything between horrible and Heaven. A job which provides an eclectic mix of professionals with a variety of experience and wisdom, sharing the same values, with a genuine sense of Goodness and Rightness which is revealed in their character and conduct, where the focus is on learning and growing and enjoying it all, where one’s skill and intelligence is put to remarkably exciting use and in ways one hadn’t imagined, where honesty, integrity, courage, humility and hard work characterise each individual in the organisation and the brilliance that each person brings to their task is a delight in itself, would be a job that would interest me. Add to this a sense of larger good, consciousness, relevance and a drive to empower the rest of the world in suitable ways to experience the same delight in living a holistic life where there are good relationships, good work and good interests pursued over a field of joy and fun and calm, and you have an excellent job to include in your life.
I think we put very little thought into why we want a job and what we want from a job. So when people ask me the question, I usually answer thus – Why I joined this place was to make a last desperate attempt at removing all divides and creating one holistic life where I work, relate, create, ideate and aggregate with one set of principles and soul.
They usually ignore me after listening to this!

10 thoughts on “Why a new job!?

  1. There are differences in stance with regard to personal relationships of blood or marriage especially, as against that wrt work, surely? – I do not feel scarred and destroyed by even recurring job hops, whereas a marriage or relationships with parents siblings cannot be dropped as fast or that thoughtlessly, if at all they ever can, howsoever evil, uninspiring or dishonest they may be to me. Jobs can be dropped and maybe human beings are callous about friendships too that go against the grain of rightness, affection and goodness, and can drop them as and when.

    But family and marriage, even in this world of increasing demand for greater and greater perfection, is seldom dropped when they are repugnantly mired in wrongness and evil.

    So I beg to differ from your post…

    The human being who is most unaccommodating in his work life, is a bundle of compromises and ambiguity in his personal relationships because he knows honesty in him or demand for honesty in others by him, may well lead to his being without anyone around him and a searing horror of a lonely life.

    Tamizh wisdom says – Kutram paarkil sutram illai.

    So I may bring my uncompromising self to work or life or both, but I may find it more diplomatic and utilitarian to be a schism of comfort, playing by the ear and at the end of it all, be a successful man, leading a balanced life, carrying this or that moral or emotional position or stance to handle and tackle and swim in the specific instances of what life throws as a curveball or an easy sitter for a homerun…

    Invariably, I am not ONE person but a conglomeration of a million persons – only thus can I walk the tightrope of life with a minimum amount of jolts.

  2. Hi K,
    I was certain you would find resonance in this post. Glad you found it so… 🙂

    Hi P,
    I am not sure where you got the idea that I am recommending job hopping or am claiming that job hopping is similar to marriage-hopping. I don't think I claiming that at all. All I am saying is that one needs to bring the same character to work or personal relationships or any other activity. Not necessarily the same behaviour (I might be more elaborate and full of examples with a child and not with a cab driver) but the same character (the want to clarify). Perhaps not the best example… The same human being who feared being lonely should have also feared disrupting a team and destroying team bonding. But he didn't care, did he. A person who values his job immensely, would be careful with his job and takes his family for granted. Point remains, that he doesn't have a singular character or what I would call, an individuality. Being an amoeba is not individuality. So I don't think I said what you thought I said, and what I indeed said I still stand by.

  3. You refuse to see that a job abandoned does not affect either the job nor me as much as a marriage that abandons me or that i abandon – that being the case, why would anyone bring the same values of non-abandonment to both?

    Rightness of vibration to anything will take several forms – this time renunciation, that time a sticking power forever and ever etc etc.

    To play by the ear, given the situation, the people and the values that they evoke from me and vice versa, may make me an amoeba, but this is the only way of living a rightness in a world that itself is an eternally changing amoeba of characteristics.

  4. WOW. This post I loved reading 🙂 And the comments – even better 😀 And since you like long comments, something tells me this is gonna be a long one …

    I see your point E. And I agree that one must be committed to the same extent and yes, there is no – work life and life life!

    Personal life / Work life. What I do believe and advocate with respect to differentiating the two is only this : Dont bring work home! WAIT – let me explain.

    As a teacher, I see many things. I experience many things. Now, if one of my students calls me up in the evening when I have just opened up an exciting book, or have just started to key in a few amusing thoughts or just am listening to my mom talk about an adventure in her school … I WOULD NOT PICK up the phone. I mean as far as my students are concerned, their time with me is in school and there they must find time to clear their doubts. At home I DO NOT clear doubts of my students!

    BUT, at home I surely will teach my kids. And when I am teaching my kids I will be putting in the same passion I show towards my students. In fact a good teacher is one who when s/he finishes a lesson stops to evaluate the student and the measure used is – IF this was my son who is going to come home with this much knowledge, will I as a mother be satisfied / happy with the knowledge he has gained? So you see, I agree with you E – on the front that we cannot be two different people at work and home. BUT, on principle we also need to know where to draw the line. (This is the point I want to make – that this belief that we cannot be differentiating our work /personal life is and can be accepted only to a certain extent! If crossed, it will lead to much chaos and disaster – both personally and professionally!)

    As a teacher I cannot and should not take my kids to my class and keep them there – ALWAYS! And I should not be making myself available for my students 24/7! They will take me for granted and also they must know to learn by themselves too!!!

    OFFICE – Its a challenge to finish office work in the office. If it extends to homework … having a really understanding wife is a bonus!

  5. Whatever work we choose to do, it always will extend into ourselves, into our families. You said that if a marriage gives no room for a man to be himself it is better to be dropped. My question is : WHY in the first place should a man and a woman get themselves into such a situation? This is where I have a bone to pick with people who orchestrate marriages. When people become parents, they become demi-gods – I'm only talking about those people who insist on being the sole authority on knowing what their children want. In reality we really dont even know what we ourselves want / need! Takes time … My point is : If it is possible for the man to be thoughtful BEFORE the marriage and insist on letting the intended girl know about his ideals and principles and faith such a situation COULD be averted. BUT, if it is not so, then I am of the opinion that one must put up with it and hope that God in His mercy has done this with a purpose and actually, be creative and look for the silver lining in the present crisis – but certain ties should not be broken or just dropped!

    E – I understand the message you wanted to convey. And I also do understand the context into which you brought the marriage part. I cannot tell you I agree because I believe in prevention is better than cure. And I do happen to live in a situation where I know family and family beliefs can differ within the family, but as a member of the family one cannot disown ones own family, but one can always stand within the family and try to reason with them – yes, living would be full of strife in that case, but one can only hope that there is a greater cause and reason for the strife and that in the end it will all be worth it. Doing the same in the work place – would lead to either resignation or termination. Strife in the family leads to resentment, and no peace of mind. Both of which harms the soul and both of which CANNOT be solved by resignation or termination. The Account is not closed … kuch samjhey? *Grin*

    Hmmm…. let me read what I've written and post it 😀

  6. Lovely post. You raise good questions each time.. and for the moment that is what is most important: asking the right questions.. Dichotomies are tools, never the whole picture. Yes, the painting may be made of small blobs of colour.. but it is the entire painting that moves us…And would the colour be any different in each of these blobs? Wonder why we find it difficult to be who we are…
    Loved reading this. There are too many thoughts in my head, cannot put them down in words. Someday, when my mind allows itself to be represented by those things called “words”, you will know what I mean. 🙂

  7. Dear P,
    I think you are confusing things. I am not saying that the death of a son is the same as a pink slip. Hell! No. Why, the death of a son might not be the same as the death of a mother! Everything is different, and I am not focusing on that. I am asking for a common conduct. Someone who cares terribly about using his skills and being of use, might feel extremely bad like as if he lost a child, if he is removed from all work. It is not the presence or absence of each that I am discussing. My point is, if you are in a job then you need to be sincere to it and bring the same values and character as if you were in a marriage or if you were a father or if you were entrusted with all the gold in the world. Certain things do not change. The lack of character makes people sloppy in their work and ever loving to their spouse or conversely.
    If Rightness demands that I give up my work because my daughter is terribly ill, I will give it up but as long as I had it, I demonstrated the same character. That is what I am talking about and you seem to be missing it. I am not against change. I am putting the case forth for developing an individuality which stays constant and true.

    Dear L,
    Sorry for the delay in responding. How are you? Long time… 🙂 And as always, you haven't lost the energy to comment so elaborately! Thank you. I agree with your point of not bringing work home. But I suppose you also bat for the side of not taking home to the office (and going out to buy groceries during office hours or talking for hours to the spouse on the phone discussing family matters). Drawing the line doesn't mean you are being unjust to any one. One needs the maturity to say that I wish to spend only these many hours working, this much time with spouse and kids, this much time working out and so on. Or one could very well say that I will adjust according to the demand and priority, but you need to treat your work as priority too. I see a lot of people will rush home to take their wife to the dentist but will not wake up early to ensure that the overnight build was successful and ready for the customer. I also know of few people who will work and work and assume that their family is a self-managed system. Either stance is not sustainable and lacks character. Regarding marriage, I too believe that prevention is better than cure. Personally, I would never recommend that someone leave a marriage but try their best to make it work. Even in the post, I recognise it as a disease and not something s/he should drop. We all live with our diseases; we don't jump off the cliff. Arranged marriage or otherwise, I don't think the source matters as much as the values and principles each one brings to the institution. I have seen both of them go to the dogs and both of them flourish. So I am neither in favour nor against arranged/love marriages. Kuch Samjhey!? 😉

    Dear P,
    Glad you found it so. Questions are all I have (hence, the name). Take your time to put it down in words. I am sure when they do come, they will be a delight to the audience.

  8. The quality of the stimulus often decides on the totality of the sincerity in the response – if the work or the family is unfair to the individual or offers him very little that a job or a family is supposed to offer, howsoever great a character he may possess, he may simply not feel like doing what is right or what is needed for the job to be done or the family to feel that he is a good family member; though most probably he has to do what is right by them only because of the sheer fact that he still remains in the job or remains as a part of his family.

    Rightness is not a list of shoulds meant for all, all the time, nor is it just a trait of a person's great or not so glorious character. It takes many forms determined by a million things, including many amorphous intangibles that have an immense power in the ultimate objective action and subjective stance of the individual.

  9. Hi,
    Interesting blog. I agree with you about how this professional-personal divide causes a lot of biases and hence, socially acceptable behaviour which is actually unacceptable.

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