Why Hustle culture and bringing your ‘whole self to work’ is toxic

Why Hustle culture and bringing your ‘whole self to work’ is toxic

Anne Hellen Petersen nailed it in this NPR interview (listen here). It captures what I’ve felt (and science is now confirming yet again) ever since startup culture pushed young people (including myself during the dot com days) to work so much that your social and work circles are nearly indistinguishable.

Interviewer: Everybody is always about a corporate culture. And so many organizations and companies are like “We’re all big one happy family”

Peterson: NO! That’s toxic!! When you think of your corporation as a family, it’s a toxic family. And so, one of the things I think a thing that a lot of people, particularly millennials, have gotten used too is using their workspace as their primary source friendship or companionship. And that’s the result of working all the time and having your identity be solely defined by your job.
And so, as we start to dis-articulate ourselves from that understanding (via working from home), to try to figure out who we are apart from work, part of that means I don’t need to be best friends with everyone I work with. And if you have a more flexible life that isn’t in the office all the time, you can cultivate and sustain friendships that are not associated with the workplace. And that is so important.

We’re increasingly seeing Youtube, Twitch, and other stars speaking out against another aspect of Hustle culture: working 24-7 so that there isn’t a healthy separation between your social and work relationships. Rod Thill (TikTok’er with over a million followers) came to a similar conclusion :

After working at several startups with what he called toxic work environments, Rod Thill decided he just wanted a 9-to-5 job. So, he found one at a company, working in sales. It was a place with boundaries, where he could actually log off.

“As millennials, we were fantasizing about the startup culture — pool tables, exposed brick, coffee bar, open bar,” Thill says. “I’ve worked at all these types of places, but then I realized I would rather work in a cubicle with the 401(k) and a 9 to 5, summer Fridays —  leave, go home and just enjoy my life.” 

This is something that we seem to have had to re-learn. It’s not the first time we’ve had to re-learn work lessons that were first figured out 70 years ago.

She also goes on to make some other good points:

  1. Working from home has largely proven that productivity goes UP when not focused at the office. Offices have heavy overheads of commuting, synchronizing work times, distractions, etc.
  2. The push to bring people back to the office is largely because leaders haven’t stopped to re-examine what we are going back for. Is there really a reason – or can we re-think how we do things? It’s a moment we can re-think the real reason we do what we’re doing. For example: what does customer service looks like without an office building and maybe we can even do it better?

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