Let’s see how I do with the muddle (or, puddle?!) in my mind in this entry; you’ll see later why I say this.
Right before Christmas holiday, there was an interesting piece of news on BBC, about VW’s new policy of turning off emails on their employees’ blackberry. This was the outcome from a negotiation with German trade unions, and the policy doesn’t apply to management. The impetus came from employees’ dismay at having emails intruding in their home lives almost 24/7. So, the new regime will start the email transmission from ½ hour before the starting time, 8AM, on work days, and end ½ hour after the closing time. People can still use the blackberry for other “normal” functions. VW did stress that such policy should be made local and may not be appropriate (or appreciated?) elsewhere. A French information technology service firm’s CEO proposed to ban internal emails altogether from 2014. WOW!
Perhaps too paternalistic for most Americans? If a US company adopts such a policy, or better yet, our government issued a decree to such effect, people would cry “socialism.” Are all aspects of socialism evil? Is capitalism all encompassing wonderful? (or, one could say: are all aspects of capitalism evil and are all dimensions of socialism charitable?) Folks, we wear the either-or framework at our own peril.
Okay, off the preaching stand and onto the pavement of life and work. People, especially in the professional ranks, really cannot set their own boundaries, such as not checking emails after 8PM. A few can, but most cannot; the “fear” that they might miss something important, with consequences for promotion and the health of one’s career, or messing up a chain in the operation sequence, is difficult to let go. And organizations know it. So, while we pretend that we observe clear boundaries of not bringing our social “life” into work, there is no symmetry limiting the organization’s imposition upon us. Whatever work we cannot get done, we bring home to finish, and then some. Of course, if management is confronted by complaint of overworking, they can always fall back on the falsehood that “you don’t have to do it!” And a lot of people don’t want to admit publicly that they “can’t” finish their work during office hours; they might be perceived as “incompetent.” Of course, depending on the circumstances, putting in more hours can be viewed as “dedicated.” Either way (and pun intended), employees don’t really have genuine autonomy.
Have you also noticed that we tend to get sick when weekends come around? It’s as if we generate enough adrenaline during the week that we can keep on pushing even when we don’t feel great. Then when the weekend comes, our defense/immune system lets its guard down, and WHAM! we come down with a cold/flu or other forms of malaise. And the families and beloved ones pick up the extra chores and soldier on. Families are very much part of organizations’ scheme of things.
This issue blossomed for my family during the holiday when all three of us at one point or another came down with some nasty bugs, but manifested in different forms in each of us. Mine turned from an obnoxious cold to bronchitis, and quickly morphed into pneumonia (I just coughed continuously!). After two day of antibiotics, my brain is gradually coming out of the fog, but I still get exhausted and light-headed easily.
Enough about me. I just want to illustrate how we all are interconnected, even to the level of one individual person’s career within an organization. It’s that the organization doesn’t care – it keeps on taking and still wanting more – which irritates me. I heard a story about how after a scientist won a nice grant, the spouse sent out emails to the scientist’s colleagues to the effect that the spouse deserved some credit. That’s chutzpah. Maybe even bad form? Perhaps. But there is some validity as well.
Any more words will become gibberish. Till next time when I WILL be well, healthy, and
Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.
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