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"It Doesn't Pay to Have a Work Ethic"

A LinkedIn Thread Response

By Nicole FennPublished 2 years ago 13 min read
"It Doesn't Pay to Have a Work Ethic"
Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

“Working hard becomes a habit, a serious kind of fun. You get self-satisfaction from pushing your self to the limit, knowing that all the effort is going to pay off.” ― Mary Lou Retton

Very rarely will I venture onto LinkedIn and actually take the time to read the comments to a post I find intriguing. Most times it ends up in me sitting there with knitted brows and a headache already starting to bloom in the temples of my forehead. It's nonsense, it's a waste of time, and it's more difficult to sit there and not respond in any sense. I'm the social media "manager" at my company, my personal LinkedIn profile is being used so I can have admin access to my company's social page. I don't post anything on that page other than what I need to for the company - but people from the company follow me personally and see what I post, respond to, comment on, etc. I don't post anything or respond to anything radical, or that would jeopardize anything but I certainly do not keep my voice silent when it needs to be heard.

This Linkedin post and thread certainly not evading my voice and need to just respond.

To summarize, the post talks about providing living wages to employees, and the - rather exhausted - concept of providing a "stress-free" work environment by allowing employees to utilize on-site sleeping pods or rooms for naps, and the like. The comments do their due diligence by both agreeing and disagreeing. And to even go as far as to - like always - direct the topic elsewhere and the discussion of America's health crisis when it comes to obesity vs. starving and what's proven to be either.

This was honestly a post and comment thread I was able to look at - in a while - and read through a good bit without feeling a sense of frustration boil from within me. That was until I was scrolling a little further and saw a few comments referencing millennials and thought, "oh, here we go". I'm the weird generation almost between Millennials and Gen Z. I'm a 1997 baby, not quite a Millennial, but an older Gen Z who remembers a good bit of my childhood and teenage years to not include phones, the internet, or technology. I used VHS tapes growing up, watching "The Fox and the Hound" and always crying at the same parts. I remember using this tiny MP3 silver player that used one AA battery and could only upload about 100 songs at a time. I remember choosing from CDs in the car during road trips and, when I did get my first phone at around 13, having to press one button 3 times just to use the letter "P". Needless to say, any comments about Millennials, I would at least feel the sting a little.

Although, I had to remember what my dad had once spoken so wisely: "It's a mindset. Millennials, Gen Z, Boomers; it's all a mindset, a stereotype that people have conformed themselves to." Which is an interesting thought to keep in mind when reading through these comments. However, after a while, it no longer became about generations, but just the general state of things, society, and how nothing is really adapting.

"It doesn't pay to have a work ethic"

I saw this quote in one of the comments that talks about a Millennial worker confessing to her employer or fellow coworker of this - and I literally stopped scrolling and stared at it for a good few seconds.

Does it pay to have a good work ethic? You really...doesn't...

That's all I could think after reading this, of course chuckling a little to myself after seeing the comment in response to that that called out, "Why point out that this person was a Millennial? They're a burnt-out and frustrated worker, that's it." Which of course - respect.

But then I started comparing this quote to my current situation and felt something significant shift.

Currently, I've been working at the company I'm employed under for a year and a couple of months - and yet it feels like I've been here for at least 5 years. I work in marketing, in a very niche industry, and was hired as the in-house graphic designer, brand-keeper, trade show manager, photographer, copywriter and editor, social media manager - all under the title of Marketing Coordinator. Which, cool, I'm doing things in this position I actually went to college for, what I got my degree in; a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and studied two minors in Photography and Creative Writing...I could have honestly gone for a third minor and studied under a professor - if I had the time and money. I'm doing what not a lot of designers get to do after graduating college with a degree, at least not right away.

My first year in this position taught me a lot about the company, granted I'm still constantly learning this industry, but I've found myself adapting well. The first year went great with one in-person trade show under my belt with another virtual one to add to the experience; considering the pandemic of course. Until July, when my manager announced that she was pregnant barely a year after having her first daughter. And then October when my only other coworker quit. We were a team of 3 down to a team of 2. And now? As I write this? A team of 1 - me.

People talk about not taking time off, not going on vacations, going a couple of weeks without a "mental health" day, and so on. I honestly don't think I've been on any sort of extended vacation since the first week of June 2019. Haven't taken off for my birthday since I turned 21, which was just my luck, on a Saturday. Haven't taken any sort of mental health days before, even since starting this job.

My worth ethic has always been, more or less, through the roof when it comes to pushing myself.

Perhaps I get it from my mom who does the same, herself not having anyone to cover for her, so she just doesn't take time off and deals with it. Perhaps it was high school and college where I was rewarded with not missing school, used to staying up until 3-4 am making last-minute edits to papers, last touch-ups to projects. And I've never known a work ethic to be any other way.

Missing school meant missing lessons, homework assignments, tests, events, important announcements. And if you didn't have someone reliable to help you catch up on all of that stuff, then you'd be left behind in the dust. So I never missed school, never missed classes. Even when I had a cold, wasn't feeling well, depressed, or exhausted; I still got up every morning, got dressed, and went to school, commuted to classes. That was just how I worked. It just wasn't worth trying to catch up after the fact.

It's still that way now, about 7 years after graduating high school and 3 years after graduating college.

Although, this time, it's a tad different. And this quote from a comment on LinkedIn, as I saw it, made me realize that I can keep this work ethic and no one will notice it - no matter what.

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.” ― Tim Duncan

My manager is on maternity leave, has been since the end of January, and will be until late April, early May; and I am currently the only one working in the Marketing department of my company.

I was hired for, to me, a specific position that not many people can pick up and do in a similar fashion as myself. Graphic Design is not for everyone. Writing, copywriting, editing is not for everyone. It especially doesn't help to have the calendar full every single day of things that are due to publications, design due dates looming over, webinars scheduled, trade shows to plan for, a social media schedule to keep up on. All of these things exclusive to one person - me. And I was made the main contact for these publications, the person to go to for this, that, and the other thing.

How can I even dream of taking a day off when I know upon my return, 100 or so emails will be waiting with the looming guilt of, was it worth it? Taking that time off, was it worth it? Was missing 100 emails, 10 calls, 15 people coming to your desk and not seeing you there - in desperate need of an answer about something. Was it worth it?

I'm exaggerating a bit with those numbers, but going off of what I deal with daily, how would that be different compared to when I'm not sitting in my office chair for 8-9 hours, staring at a screen, responding to last-minute requests and pushing for feedback on something I should have received already at the beginning of the week?

Honestly, none of that is worth missing. A vacation, time off, a mental day -it's not worth the amount of work to come back to, or at least the guilt of knowing you weren't available to someone or something that needed to be done or a question that needed an immediate answer.

At least - that's what I was led and learned to believe starting from the simpler years in school.

Or is it also just based on the fact that - I have no one to cover for me? I am the backup currently in my department? I am absolutely burnt-out - I don't even have the motivation, passion, desire for my own hobbies and interests; I'm so tired all the time. I am absolutely in need of an extended vacation. But - there's this consistent guilt that if someone needs something from me while I'm gone, and it affects them to the extent where what needs to be done, doesn't get done? That's on me - for not being there, for taking some deserved time off - when someone needed me.

That's on me.

So, does it really pay to have a work ethic?

Well, what was the original point of the post? Providing living wages to employees and not to go all out with pointless ways to make sure their mental health is kept by having naping rooms and a free subscription to Calm.

Everyone's situation is different. Everyone is working different jobs, under different companies, positions; with different degrees or levels of education. So, yes - sometimes work ethic can pay.

Just recently I was recognized by my company's CEO for dealing with an entire department by myself and splitting myself into these different positions that I originally was not hired or have had any real training for. This was highly appreciated by myself as he was expressing his appreciation in me as well. This was honestly beyond anything I've experienced in a work environment before, a show of gratitude, of appreciation for any hard work - or just regular work and daily dedication I put into each job.

Of course, things like daily dedication are aspects that are pretty much already expected in the work environment - this is obvious. However, on some occasions, it feels as if daily dedication is unattainable or unrealistic as even you showing up to work every day, not taking time off, and showing the company and job a commitment; is all not enough - because it's just expected, right?

So why is it so hard for some of us to take off work? Why is it so hard to leave a computer screen for an extra day or two tacked onto the - let's be real - already unfairly short weekend compared to the workweek? Why is there guilt while others have no problem taking multiple days off within several weeks, or months?

Is it a pay difference of sorts? Is it seniority within companies? Is it really work ethic and recognition that'll ensure you a pay increase or no guilt for taking just one day off?

I do get paid time off - of course, it's not unlimited - but it's a fair amount to potentially tack on a Friday for an extended weekend. However, there's this fear as well that the time I am taking, I should not be getting paid for - or deserve to be getting paid for, because...I wouldn't be doing anything "productive" to society really. Sleeping in a few extra hours? Sitting on the couch playing video games? Taking the time to write more or work on personal projects? None of that - to me - feels like it would qualify I should still be paid for as "time off from work" because it's unproductive nonsense.

However, a very looming feeling could also be - I feel as if I do not get paid enough to not feel guilt; as if every day I do work ensures me a better chance to get a decent raise or be paid more. I live paycheck to paycheck. I'm not starving, I still try to fill my fridge and make recipes that produce leftovers for the week and are cheap when acquiring ingredients. But, between bills, rent, loans, groceries, etc. - there's not much left over to me to feel comfortable with. I already have anxiety, but finances, in general, create this whole other level of anxiety and worry that keeps me from any sort of...just thoughts of taking time off for myself, for my mental health?

I have to keep working - to show this dedication, this hard work, this resilience - to be considered a good employee, a productive employee; and to potentially be given a better wage, a better opportunity to just feel comfortable - at the least.

So, DOES it actually pay to have a work ethic?

There are a good few sources out there that are claiming the same number - around 50-55% of American workers are not taking time off or utilizing their time off.

69% of employees say that they would work harder if they were better appreciated by their employers.

63% of Americans have been living paycheck to paycheck (since Covid hit).

Having a work ethic - a strong work ethic - does not pay; at least maybe a good 8-9 times out of 10, it will not pay. But, where's the actual truth? With the state of the world, the state of society, the state of this country; any sort of worth ethic is the basic requirement - of course, this was also the norm in any state of the world and country as well, all of this just seems as if it's been magnified after the last few years.

It's unfair, and when it does seem unfair, it also feels as if you're made to be felt guilty at thinking it's unfair because everyone is going through everything; which is absolutely true. But this also shouldn't encourage employers to sweep their employees under the carpet because it's just too many individuals who are dealing with low wages, who are struggling financially - just not being able to take time off because they cannot afford it, they're too dependent on the job; we all are.

There's no, work/life balance in today's society. And for most, unfortunately, having that strong work ethic - even if they don't have a choice - just doesn't pay.

What's going to be done about it?


About the Creator

Nicole Fenn

Young, living - thriving? Writing every emotion, idea, or dream that intrigues me enough to put into a long string of words for others to absorb - in the hopes that someone relates, understands, and appreciates.

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