The hit piece that the NYT did about Amazon (which probably has some semi-truths to it), and a couple of other recent stories about employment and work, really got me thinking. One friend recently lost their job in a very arbitrary manner, while another was passed over for promotion for likely no logical reason, still another is watching the organization turn upside down from very poor middle management. Given our culture's desire to put so much emphasis on work as identity, it sucks for everyone involved.
Right now, I feel pretty lucky, because I like the company that I work for. Even as we grow (and that I say "we" is significant), I was able to talk to the CEO today briefly about some of our strategy, and that's pretty cool. Sometimes the work is hard, I have stressful days (though not as a pattern of continuous stress), but in the bigger sense, I generally feel like I'm supported and valued. I even feel that if that was not the case, we would be having conversations about it.
Here's the thing, I've been burned a lot by employers. I equate getting invested with a company a lot like getting into a romantic relationship. They only end with separation or death. You can be hesitant to fall in love in fear of being hurt again. Not counting contract work, I've only left a job twice voluntarily and not as a preemptive move to evade the failure of that company. The rest were layoffs and crumbling companies. Heck, I was at one company for a few months where they were literally asking me to lie to customers.
So in the case of my friends, or maybe the people who are having a hard time at Amazon, I can certainly identify with the disappointment of having your company more or less turn on you. But you know, the relationship analogy goes further. It's like the lottery, you have to be in it to win it. You have to risk pain to find love. Sometimes, a decade of service and awesomeness can disappear an instant, and finding it again can be hard.
For years I've tried to write this off as, "It's just business." If you're not invested, you can't get hurt, right? For better or worse, I'm starting to realize that it's not just business. Our work is often tied to our identity, and I suppose we have to be at peace with that. It feels good when it's good.