Roxane Gay: Your Job Isn’t All-Important

Yes, Your Job Is Important.
But It’s Not All-Important.

Here is how to think about the gulf between what you should do and what you can do.

By Roxane Gay

Though I receive a lot of questions as your work friend, there are a few common themes. Mostly, people want something different, something more. They want more satisfaction or more money or more respect. They want to feel as if they’re making a difference. They want to feel valued or seen or heard. They want the man in the next cubicle to chew less loudly so they are afforded more peace. They want to have access to drinking water outside of the bathroom. They are employed at a family business and are ambitious but there’s no room for advancement for nonfamily members. They work at a very small company without a formal H.R. department so there is no recourse for the many work issues that arise. They want to have more time for themselves and interests beyond how they spend their professional lives. They want and want and want and worry that they will never receive the satisfaction they seek.

Mostly, people are worried. They have families and mortgages or rent and student loans and car loans and all the other financial obligations that consume our lives. They are in their 60s and don’t know how to navigate the contemporary job market, or they are in their 20s and worry they will never be taken seriously. They are two years away from vested retirement and can’t afford to make a career change. They are just out of college without a strong résumé and can’t afford to be selective. They’ve been working for 30 years but never had the chance to save for retirement. They have a disability but don’t want to disclose that to their employer for fear of reprisal. They want to bring attention to a terrible wrong but are their family’s breadwinner.

Mostly, people are trying to figure out how to navigate ever-evolving workplace norms. As the ongoing pandemic waxes and wanes, they want to work from home forever, or they miss the din of the office and happy hours with their best work friends, or they want flexibility to enjoy both working from home and spending time in the office. They want to unionize for better working conditions, and they want parental leave, and they want to know they won’t be fired for simply being who they are. They want to stop living paycheck to paycheck but are making minimum wage and can’t see a way past that. Read the full piece at the New York Times.

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