Wednesday, July 17, 2019

She Lost Her Motivation to Work

I am not posting about this letter because I have a solution to the problem. In truth, I do not even know what the problem is.

Responding to the letter New York Magazine’s Alison Green offers a standard list of ways to solve the problem. I have no objection to any of them, but I am not convinced that the problem is that the letter writer has lost her motivation to work.

And yet, as she describes the situation, there is no reason why she should not love her work:

I am absolutely done with my current job. I’ve been here for just over six years now and honestly, I probably should have left a long time ago. My co-workers are lovely, my boss is super supportive, and the benefits are amazing. I just hate my actual job.

I started getting bored about two years ago, and I’ve grown to realize I really don’t want to do this type of work anymore. I stayed for so long because I kept getting promotions and new projects. But I’m SO bored, and I have zero motivation to do anything. I spend most of my days online shopping, reading blogs, and reading the news. I do the bare minimum to get by without someone actually noticing I’m not working half of the time. I’m mortified by how far behind I am on some of my goals, and I’m terrified my boss is going to check in about them soon. Nearly 75 percent of my emails I open and think, “I don’t care,” and go do something else.

The thing is, I’m not like this! I’ve always been a really motivated worker. I used to be horrified when co-workers would say they spent most of their day watching YouTube videos. I’m actively applying for jobs, but that could take months. I’m also afraid that these awful work habits will follow me. How do I keep my act together and find motivation to work? How do I make sure to start my next job off on the right foot? I don’t want to leave this current job completely ruining the good reputation I’ve built here for the past six years. 

Fair enough, Green addresses the specific issue… loss of motivation. And yet, can we really pretend to know what the problem is without knowing anything else about this woman’s life. We do not know whether she is married or single, committed to a relationship or hooking up, with or without children, with or without friends. We do not know what kind of work she does. We do not know where she grew up, what her family life was like, and what it is like now. Heck, we do not know whether or not she is in therapy. 

What would her motivation look like if she were working in an insurance company and her therapist convinced her that the insurance business is evil and that she can only find fulfillment by feeding starving children in the third world?

And we do not know whether or not she has suffered sexual harassment? If so, it would explain her attitude. We do not know whether she might have been excluded from meetings and outings because male colleagues are afraid to fraternize with females. 

So, we do not know whether the problem is contained by her work situation or whether her demotivation at work reflects a larger and more difficult problem.

Of course, we do not know what she does on the job… and this makes it far more difficult to evaluate her situation. We do not know about the nature of her relationships with her colleagues, her subordinates or her boss. She says that she is behind in her work but that no one notices. If such is the case, how good is her relationship with her boss? 

The problem with the letter is that it is sorely lacking in specifics. This tells us that she has tuned out of her job and perhaps even of the rest of her life. It is effectively a sad letter, but one we cannot reasonably address without knowing more about the letter writer. If she, perchance, is trying to address her problem by avoiding all specifics and merely generalizing her problem into a haze, then she will never figure out what is wrong.

1 comment:

whitney said...

I know someone that was kind of in a similar situation. Female, never married, no children, mid-thirties, professional. She ended up getting fired, it took her over a year to find another job. It came just in time because she just put her house on the market she's going to be able to keep it now. She suffered through tremendous stress while she was unemployed. She rediscovered her motivation. Sometimes life's not perfect you don't get everything you want but it's always better with a roof and food.