I must confess, when I started writing this piece, I didn’t think that I would end up using this screen grab of Jim and Dwight. By some strange twist of fate, however, both of them perfectly illustrate the types of people workaholics and weekenders can be.
Firstly, this is less of a guide and more of a conversation. There are various ways to approach work, and most of those are valid to varying degrees. So don’t be miffed if your priorities don’t match with mine: it’s to be expected, and somewhat encouraged, in a diverse society.
When it comes to work, there are two types of people. Those who work to live, and those who live to work. I am the latter kind. That means, and it pains me to admit this, but I have more in common with Dwight than Jim.
There are variants of both types, such as the types who avoid work as much as they can, while eagerly looking forward to the moment they can get out of the office and go to sleep as soon as they reach their homes. There are the bullshit artists who are quick to take credit of others’ work, persuading their superiors that it’s completely their idea or project.
To simplify this categorization, I am going to call them weekenders (Jim) and workaholics (Dwight). Michael is this weird hybrid who lives to work with the people he loves.
Don’t worry about Michael, he’s already got it made. He’s played by Steve Carell, and he also married the sweet, adorkable Holly instead of Jan. He can sit this one out and pretend to be a houseplant for all I care.
As a workaholic, I am always a bit worried about stretching myself too thin. And yet, in a weird way, I keep coming back to work, pushing myself just a bit more than I am comfortable with, trying to test my limits of endurance and consistency.
I naturally get invested with my work.
I get to both test and improve my skills, and also discover new avenues of thoughts through both launching and executing projects, and also with on-the-job training and mentoring from veteran employees and supervisors.
What You Should Be Looking For in an Office
I have a very simple litmus test based on evaluating four factors:
1. Does the work bore me or excite me? If it’s neither, then it’s very likely that the work infuriates me, and that’s something I try to be aware of whenever I venture outside my comfort zone.
Work is easier to tolerate and get through when you grow to love what you are doing, and sometimes you go above and beyond the call of duty.
It’s easy to do when you like your tasks, and it’s even easier if you are passionate about it.
2. What kind of environment will I be working in? What kind of bosses and colleagues I am throwing my weight with? There are some environments that are both stressful and filled with toxicity to the point that no one is there to watch your back. Everyone is looking out for their own self interests. In the pro wrestling industry, they call this ‘going to business for yourself’.
What I like about some of the environments I worked is the level of camaraderie I had with my colleagues and bosses. Now I am not saying that I didn’t have to work my ass off- far from it.
But what made the sleepless nights worth it was that my supervisor and boss was there in the chair next to me, nine times out of ten.
Not only was this a relief, but the way I also got to learn by watching him work was invaluable too.
3. An environment where I feel I am making a difference. Yes, not all of the accounts and pitches I worked on were as important as curing cancer. But in environments where I can step up to the plate, I feel safer and more valued.
One of the worst things to realize when you are working is that you are utterly replaceable.
It’s damaging to your self esteem, and that kind of thinking also impacts your productivity as well.
Dunder Mifflin is a paper company. The most it can do to contribute to society is selling paper. But Michael is the rare kind of useful idiot who cares about his team at Scranton. Thus, by trying (and failing numerous times) he makes life at least a tiny bit easier for everyone there. Although he is, at times, a terrible boss, Michael Scott is a good human being, and you need that kind of people in work environments.
4. Is the salary tolerable enough? Adequate compensation is always something to strive for, during negotiations and also when asking for a raise. A handsome compensation certainly helps, but I am willing to forgo that to a degree if it means working in an environment where I get to stretch my legs, both mentally and physically.
At one point, Michael quits Dunder Mifflin cold turkey and announces to his boss, “you have no idea how high I can fly”. After working in the company for over a decade, he had the epiphany that he wasn’t valued as much as he deserved, and thus he took a leap of fate.
Yes, he didn’t really do super well with the Michael Scott Paper Company, but his journey back to Scranton was instrumental for his character growth. It’s the kind of decision you have to make, sometimes, to move on to better decisions.
What They Want (and How they Work Towards it)
All of us have different metrics for what we want out of life, and by extension, work. For some, being part of a recognized multinational company is a big deal, and they may as well have built their lives around it. For others, money is a more important motivator.
Others still may approach work begrudgingly and slog through the work days, looking forward to the weekend as a starving lion in a zoo looks towards the doors of its cage, waiting for its carer arrive with food.
There are pros and cons for both workaholics and weekenders. For workaholic, maintaining a consistent level of output is essential, even as they find themselves getting buried under an avalanche of new projects, which also come with increased responsibilities. However, there comes a time when they must take a breather and take some time to recuperate.
Some workaholics are so stubborn that they ignore their depleted energies and continue to throw themselves into piles of projects and paper work, and by doing so, they increase health risks. Further more, stress is good for productivity and focus, if you can harness it that way.
When stress overstays its welcome, however, it can manifest outwardly in several ways, such as lower efficiency or a more irate temperament, which workaholics often vent at peers and younger employees, or even their friends and family.
Work is important, but if you don’t take good care of yourself you can’t be at the 100% you need to be crush it at work.
Similarly, some weekenders tend to become bare minimum players. They do just enough to meet the targets, or failing that, just enough to not get fired down the line.
Of course, not all weekenders are like this. Some are fantastic at this kind of multitasking, and their work rate and effectiveness is just as good as their willingness to party during the weekends.
The Need for Balance
In my last full time job, I worked with both kinds of people. As a workaholic myself, I could relate more to the workaholics more at first. But over the next few months, I also grew to appreciate the weekender mindset, and how that means they are constantly calculating how a new project or a new phase of an existing project may impact their work life balance and general peace of mind.
Weekenders who are good at what they do are, in my opinion, the most responsible and stable adults you tend to meet in an office environment.
However, some Weekenders are always passing the buck, and that kind of attitude can bring the collective mood of a team or department down by a significant margin.
Workaholics, on the other hand, invest so much of themselves and their time into work, that they have little leftover to then focus on aspects such as a healthy social life and activities that are almost therapeutic in nature, soothing racing minds and lulling their active brains into a free fall exercise of learning to live at the moment.
Workaholics often don’t work for the sake of doing work; there are several underlying factors such as competitiveness and the fear of falling short of expectations that make them work harder than they need, or even want to.
Some workaholics feel that they have something to prove with each project, and that sets up sky high expectations that they are almost doomed to fail. Workaholics often burn out, and in worse cases, have nervous breakdowns or panic attacks. These are the situations we can avoid by taking a good look at our physical and mental states. Yes, your work is important, but nothing is worth working yourself to death.
It’s important for companies to have a healthy mix of both, because they represent two sides of the same coin. Workaholics may not usually want to take vacation days or go traveling, but they might be more open to the idea of venturing out of their comfort zones when trusted colleagues and peers join them in such recreational activities. Similarly, workaholics often bring a level of quality and consistency to their projects that can provide positive insights to weekenders, in some cases inspiring the latter to pull more of their weight, if need be.
However, like some corporate version of the old yin and yang, the dichotomy between workaholics and weekenders is separated by a fine line of nuance.
Both workaholics and weekenders may not display obvious markers of their personalities and skill set, and that’s precarious for both the employee and the employer.
Thankfully, most offices have functional, if not robust, human resources departments, and after frank discussions (along with some soul searching, if you are up for it) with your peers and superiors, you will have a better idea of what spectrum of the workaholics and weekenders divide you fit into.
At the end of the day, we are leaving this world empty handed. As long as we are adults and honest about who we are and what we want to get out of work, we can coexist well, and in some cases, thrive under pressure by collaborating with a diverse team of professionals. Thus it’s a bit redundant to express condescension or pity at your colleagues.
Courtesy makes the world go around, and if I learned one thing in the last few years, it’s that words and smiles are often far more effective than anger flowing through closed fists. Live and let live, as the saying goes. The weak hold on to petty squabbles, but the strong forgive.
And then there’s always Jim and Dwight, who can fight among each other and try to copy each other, but they will always have each others’ backs at the end of the day. If that’s not true office brotherhood, I don’t know what is.