Important Notice:
This site has moved to, please update your bookmarks. If you were looking for a specific post, you can use the site search option or archives at the new domain to find it. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Profession or Life?

Another blogger posted his thoughts about people who consider their employment a profession verses those who think of it as a job. He got pretty seriously blasted and ended up deleting the post (just when I was planning to link to it, curse him!). To respect his decision, I won't link to his blog, but I do have some things to say about it.

I do see myself as having a profession. However, at this point in my life, I'm not willing to work full time. I'm not willing to stay until 2:00 a.m. to solve a problem. I'm in HR people, it's not brain surgery and no one is going to die if headcount isn't done until the next day. That being said, I'm also an efficient worker who tends to be able to use my computer skills to automate tasks that previous people have spent hours and hours per performing.

Some people in my department have differing views. They are willing to stay until 2:00 a.m. and are unwilling to say no to senior management, regardless of the absurdity of the request. That would seem to shout "this person is dedicated to the profession!" They aren't necessarily willing to find a faster way to do the job.

But there are perception problems all around this concept. Does someone who has to work from home when their child is sick, or takes two hours off to attend the 5th grade talent show lack dedication? (Of course, I think I would go out and get a job in order to avoid attending a 5th grade talent show. Yeesh, I am such a bad mother, but tell me, does anyone enjoy any part of such things other than their own child's performance? I thought so.)

HR is female heavy and my department is no exception. There are 23 people in my department, 20 of whom are women. Of those 20 women, 16 have young children, and one of the childless ones is pregnant with her first. For all 16 of those, the mom is primarily responsible for childcare.

Every single one. If the kid is sick, mom stays home. Now, keep in mind that this group has those people described above who are willing to stay until the middle of the night working on a project that will not save the world. They are dedicated. Some feel this is their calling. Yet, even among those who make substantially more money than their husbands (I know way too much about my co-workers lives), they are still the primary care givers.

So, at which point do we judge someone's dedication to their job? By the number of times they can't come into the office because family responsibilities take precedence? By the number of times they stay late at the office? By the number of times they work from home after the children are asleep?

I advocate for throwing all of those criteria out the window. We should look at the end product: What are they producing?

We give credit for face time. Why? 90% of my work is done via e-mail and phone calls. My function supports all of our US and Puerto Rico sites. I couldn't have face time at each of those sites even if I wanted to. So, why does it matter if I show my face every day at the office?

It shouldn't. Should it matter if it takes me 8 hours or 6 hours to accomplish a task? I'm an exempt employee (no over time), so theoretically I'm hired to do a job, not punch a clock.

And to give credit where credit is due, my female heavy department is fabulously flexible. They do still reward face time (especially face time where you are in your manager's office rather than your own accomplishing something--which I don't understand at all), but understand that while this is a profession, it's not a life.


Anonymous said...

I consider myself a professional woman due to the nature of my job. But, while I am 100% dedicated to my employer while I am working, my personal loyalties and obligations are with my family. In this day and age, no one has job security. For the most part, most employees in the rank and file cannot depend on their employers for the long term. If my car breaks down, who am I going to call to pick me up? My company's president, or my husband.

In the end, I believe that I would regret the things I didn't do with my family because of work vs being sad I didn't accomplish more on my job because I took my kids to the amusement park.

I am an assistant controller with a privatly held company.


deb said...

oh dear. this speaks volumes to me, and thinking about all this is what has led to my search for balance & sanity. (which i've been failing miserably at lately. ha)

i like to think of my job as a profession, that's just the way i'm made. i *want* to be passionate about what i do. but as i've been doing a time study in our department and taking a serious look at where we spend our time and what we really impact, i'm coming to more and more of a realization that it's just a job.

and i'm okay with that. i really am.

what bothers me is when different standards are used for different people. let's take these two examples, one being me:

1) a man with 15 years of experience who has a stay-at-home wife & mother, who leaves at least once a week for at least three hours in the middle of the day for doctor appointments, parent-teacher conferences and all sorts of other family and personal obligations. this man works approximately 40-45 hours a week on average and spends a lot of time chatting with peers and doing things that really have little impact on the bottom line.

2) a single, child-less woman who picks up the slack and works as many hours as the general manager (60-70 a week), giving up activity in community organizations and time with friends and family in order to work more and more, knowing that she's not saving the world, but wanting to truly have an impact in the organization.

the problem? the first person gets promoted, gets frequent raises and large bonuses. the second person has to go through the spanish inquisition in order to get any time away from the office for any reason and is seen as "letting things slide" if she works any less at all.

is either less dedicated? no. i don't think so anyway. but what is person #2 likely to start thinking and doing?

also, extreme loyalty and sacrifice is expected of those who willingly (yep, i recognize it's "willingly") do so, with promises made left and right of promotions or getting help for the department or whatever works.

when i explain that, as melissa said, job security is a thing of the past and the lack of "corporate responsibility", along with forgotten promises past and present, has led to a workforce who, like me, have decided we want to work to live and not live to work.

still, i struggle with leaving things un-done or not doing things as well as i know they could be done. but more and more, i figure what's good for the gander is good for the goose.

but here's the best part of my own personal experience. i'm supposed to be working while going to school in search of an entirely different career. and i allow my job (my JOB) to consume so much of my time that it interferes with that pursuit.

silly, ain't it?

so yeah. it's a job.
and no, the powers that be do not like or reward that.
but i'm working on being okay with that.

all the best!

Lisa said...

Ditto everything said above. I'd write more but my daughter is setting up the restaurant for us to play. When it gets to much and I feel like I can't get away, she is what helps me keep it in perspective. I choose not to take on certain tasks or committments at work because of my family time and unfortunately, feel that I am taking myself "out of the game" but it just could not be any other way for me.

deb said...

lisa, you hit the nail right on the head. most of my thoughts lately center on "what am i willing to give up, and does that mean maybe i don't want to go any higher in this company"?

of course, for's my dog who brings me bliss. ha

all the best!

juglark said...

I'd like to look at what we mean when we talk about being "professional".

My understanding is that a professional, is someone who is a member of a profession, that is, a body which requires training in a particular area, mastery of specialised knowledge and skills, AND, most importantly, adherence to a code of ethics.

This means that sometimes, someone who acts in a profession is held to a higher standard, and is required to act contrary to their own self interest.

We often use the phrase "professional" to refer to a set of attitudes, and standards. I.e. dressing in a particular way, responding to correspondence within time, communicating with courtesy, and meeting standards similar to those met by people within recognised professions.

This is where we "look professional" or "act professionally".

The other use of the word (which I think may be more the sense used in the original post) comes from the distinction between professionals (who do something for pay) and amateurs (who do it for love). This is the distinction used by sporting professionals - only Amateurs used to be able to compete at the Olympics.

Whether you are professional or not has little or nothing to do whether you are working long or short hours. Often, lawyers, doctors or other professionals were expected to serve their community and be on call all hours of the day and night.

But you can be professional (in both senses - doing a good job, holding yourself up to high standards), working 3 hours a day, 6, or 8. My experience is that, for a lot of jobs, people who stay longer are less efficient than those who juggle other responsibilities.

So, in summary: professional does not equal, in my view, presenteeism, it doesn't denote a time commitment, it's a mark of quality and ethics, rather than a reflection of hours worked.