When loving your job isn’t enough

Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. Have you heard that saying? I personally think it’s garbage. First of all, I love what I do. I’ve had three careers in my life – my first one was as a stay at home mom. Then I went back to work as a sign language interpreter. Now I’m an HR practitioner. I’ve loved all three, passionately. But let me tell you, in every one of these careers, I worked. HR is rewarding, but it’s not easy. Wading into the messiness of people’s lives can be exhausting. Still, I wouldn’t trade it.

The other reason I hate that saying is that it presupposes you have the luxury of choice. I’m pretty sure that not all the folks ringing up orders or stocking shelves find the same kind of career satisfaction that a ‘profession’ brings, but implying that anyone’s job is ‘less than’ because it doesn’t involve passion or calling takes away from the dignity of that person, and the dignity of work. If you make a living by asking ‘do you want fries with that’, and you bring your best to each interaction and earn your paycheck, you deserve to be treated with respect, not looked down upon. Not everyone has the luxury to make career choices based on passion.

Why is that important for us in HR? Two main reasons. First, if we believe that we must love every part of our job every day, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. No matter how much we love our chosen profession, there are things about it that are work. For me, invoice reconciliation will always be a necessary evil. Not only will we experience disappointment, but we can trip ourselves up if we expect the love of the job to overcome the hard work of the job. If you expect to ‘never work a day in your life’, do you doubt your career choice every time you have a bad day? That’s no way to live. HR is fun, and we can practice it on purpose every day. Some days that is our experience. Other days, that is a deliberate choice we have to make.

The other reason that ‘follow your passion’ is dangerous to believe is that we cannot, as HR professionals, serve our employees if we expect all of them to be passionate and called to their work. Many of our employees come to work each day primarily for a paycheck, and that’s ok. An employee who didn’t choose their job out of love can still be a fully engaged employee. And isn’t that part of our job as HR? To figure out how to make the employee experience positive in spite of the nature of work? If the work alone brought everyone intense satisfaction, we wouldn’t need to worry about employee engagement, stay interviews, organizational culture, and all the rest.

HR needs to be looking for ways to affirm the inherent dignity of work, regardless of the job, so that our employees at every level will know they are valued and respected. We need to be sure that we are valuing each employee’s experience and whatever drives them to come to work each day. In that way, we make room for them to do their best job. How are you looking past the ‘do what you love’ mantra to make room for engaging your employees whose primary driver is a steady check?

2 thoughts on “When loving your job isn’t enough

  1. I can’t answer your excellent question, but can give an example of what shouldn’t be done: public shaming. Where I work, this is part of the protocol. The protocol is metric measurement of everything, down to the second. More than twenty measurements are produced and distributed daily to all the employees in the department. Every measurement that exceeds the prescribed limit is highlighted. To add emphasis, the distribution email lists by name everyone who errs, and by how much. Did Jane Doe come one minute late? Did John Smith take 30 seconds more on his lunch hour? Did anyone take too much Personal time? We all know the euphemism for Personal is Bathroom. Naming people who spent too much time heeding the call of Nature is a disgrace, but that is what is done. And when it happens a few times, the manager adds comments for all to see, such as possibly requiring a doctor’s note in future. If you really want to demoralize your workforce, public shaming is the way to go.

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  2. some great ideas, thanks so much for sharing. So many of these resonate with me and are things that I have experienced over the years. I completely agree that even if it is something that you love there are days that are challenging beyond all belief, and there are aspects of what you do that are not enjoyable. As a stay at home mum, I obviously love my two boys more than anything else on this earth, but there are times that are challenging. After all, we are humans, and there are days when we just aren’t at our best. Being 7 months pregnant in 90 degree heat with a 3 and a 1 year old running around the house all day long can be difficult to cope with at times! Also I don’t particularly enjoy cleaning up food from the floor or having to wash bedsheets after my 3 year old had an accident. However, they are part and parcel of the job, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. No matter what you do there will always be not so fun parts, but the great times make it all worthwhile!

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