● LIVING A LIFE is enjoying whatever we do with a sense of purpose in line with our values and principles
● MAKING A LIVING is when we earn enough money to provide financial security for ourselves and our family
● Understanding this distinction can help determine whether your current company is a deserving employer
The salary that comes with a job provides an opportunity to MAKE A LIVING. However, it is the role we perform, together with the culture within an organisation, that impacts our experience of actually LIVING OUR LIFE.
When we work for an employer with a healthy culture our experience of life is enriched through our work. Being happy at work also creates a win-win scenario, as studies show that our performance improves when we enjoy whatever we are doing. It’s no secret that the companies that feature in Glassdoor’s Best Places To Work award outperform the stock market year after year.
With a good employer, we are more likely to enjoy our work and to be respected as a human being – creating a healthy scenario where we are MAKING A LIVING and LIVING A LIFE at the same time. In this situation work no longer feels like work.
In this scenario, we are like the runner who is coasting along, making effortless progress, enjoying every moment and gaining daily satisfaction with a strong sense of purpose. Just like the runner, we will give everything for our bosses and colleagues, working with passion, energy, commitment, dedication and sense of duty.
Despite all the evidence, too many companies are still dominated by an unhealthy obsession with short-term financial performance – at the expense of all other things, including people. Rather than investing in people to safeguard the long-term survival of the business, individuals are sacrificed to protect the numbers, share price and the bonuses of leaders. The short-sighted companies that operate in this way are treating people like human resources rather than human beings.
Companies may get away with maltreatment of a workforce for some time, perhaps even years, but once a rotten culture takes hold, a downward spiral inevitably ensues. Good people will not stick around for long. As the best managers exit the company, others will follow.
But because a salary is required to sustain our lifestyle and family, people caught in this situation (working for a bad employer) often have to compromise. In many cases, we are prepared to tolerate an unhealthy culture for a while, buying ourselves time (as we all have bills to pay) until we find a new job with a better employer. But if we can’t find a new job, we remain trapped in a situation where we are MAKING A LIVING but not LIVING A LIFE we desire.
Over 25 years of corporate work I’ve worked for some amazing companies. For example, at Cable&Wireless we turned around a failing business, losing $1 million per day, to become profitable again in less than 2 years. The turnaround was achieved by changing the culture to one of positive empowerment and honesty at all levels.
On the flipside, I’ve also worked for companies where the culture has been damaging to the business and the people in it.
My personal no-compromise beliefs are:
Whatever your own beliefs, it all comes down to whether our employer is aligned, or at odds, with the way we want to run our life, and the way we want to treat others.
When an employer fails to match our own standards and values, we should not hesitate to ask ourselves “do they deserve us?”
We will all have different views on what we expect from an employer and how much negativity we are prepared to compromise and tolerate. It’s ironic but entirely appropriate (for companies with a negative culture) that the term used to describe our pay is ‘compensation’. If your salary really does feel like compensation, i.e. compensation for wasting your life, or compensation for feeling physically or mentally exhausted every day – this is a sure sign that things are not right.
Yet not all organisations are the same, which means we can dramatically improve our circumstances, and quality of life, by moving to a new employer.
It would be reckless to resign from employment without any security in place. However, if an organisation failed to meet my no-compromise beliefs, failed to listen and showed no sign of changing, then I would walk away.
In my opinion, anything is better than a job that is damaging to your health, or if you are being asked to go against your personal values. In my view – it’s better to get out than sell out.
Choosing to walk away from a bad employer without a new job takes courage. It also requires a conviction and a leap of faith that things will work out. There is a risk in prioritising our values, and living life our way, over financial security.
But there are also rewards of a different kind: dignity, a clear conscience, respect from colleagues, peers and team members and even admiration.
At the end of the day, we will all be remembered for how we conducted ourselves and how we treated others.
Our personal behaviour is what defines us as human beings, not how much money we earned, or how much profit we made for corporate bosses or shareholders.
If you are genuinely happy with how your company treats you, that’s wonderful. If not, it’s worth the effort to find a more deserving employer.
Not sure what to do? Unclear which path to take?
You may find a previous article helpful – dream jobs don’t start on LinkedIn.
The concepts in this article borrow from the RUN A BETTER LIFE mindset that I cover in more detail in my book.
July 16, 2021