Out of Work or Worked to Death

Have you noticed that there is hardly any middle ground in the workforce these days? It seems like people are either A) out of a job following a layoff, or B) worked to death as one of the remaining survivors.

This isn’t good. As any project manager can tell you, it’s important to have enough margin in the system to allow for both expected and unexpected events (I would argue even the “unexpected” should be expected – medical leaves and resignations are part of conducting business).

According to the financial press, a great many companies are profitable even in a recession. Why? Because they have a workforce that is pulling the weight that was previously shouldered by many more employees. And while those who monitor efficiency ratios and FTEs (full-time-equivalents) are naturally delighted, I observe the average worn-out and traumatized worker with concern.

As moms, we can all vouch that few things are as demoralizing long-term as the realization that we are unable to produce to the level of our capabilities.  We’ve all experienced it starting with the firstborn; of necessity, we have to let go of any pre-baby OCD tendencies and realize the schedule has to become flexible, we will forget to thaw dinner, and we can indeed carry on with one eye shut and four hours of intermittent sleep.

But we can’t do it indefinitely. After the initial euphoria of “Hey, I’m actually holding it together,” we start to go a little numb in a sad way. This is how the creep of survival-mode can overtake our mojo. We’re meeting our obligations, but there’s no glory in it.  That streak of brilliance, that stamp of workmanship that is uniquely ours, starts to get lost, because it’s all we can do to meet the daily demands of e-mail, deadlines, and a haze of meetings. After all, the work keeps on whether the cubicle next to ours is empty or not, and dinner time comes again as surely as the sun rises.

In an effort at self-preservation, we start to disengage a bit and accept that it’s just the best we can do. With the overtone of “you’re lucky to have a job/family/house,” we keep marching. We can submit our report knowing we wanted to do more, but since they cut the administrative staff we spent two hours of productive time at the copy machine. Yet there are no excuses to be made at home to a child’s adoring little face.

So moms, let’s agree not to be too hard on ourselves or the dads who are trying to endure this season. There are some brilliant minds on the sidelines right now that are eager to get back to work and just as frustrated that they can’t contribute. Hopefully they will be joining us again as soon as employers can observe that even a star employee can’t innovate or inspire when she’s burned out.

  • https://birminghammom.com Debeez

    You’re singing my song, sister! I’m overworked, our company has cut back, and my sparkling creativity has given way to a desperate scratch-and-claw just to keep up with the workload. We’re hoping our employer realizes this before we’re fried beyond repair. Thanks for the words of encouragement.

  • https://www.facebook.com/rachael.crutchfield Girl Friday

    Wow….I’m feeling that myself. Doesn’t take a mind-reader to recognize burnout in coworkers. Hang in there!

  • Amanda

    Wow… What can I say I am that group of unemployed. My husband was relocated here about three months ago and well I cant seem to get a job. I am a certified Ga Teacher, a certified dental assistant, and I have more than 7 years of administrative experience. It seems as if I have applied to every job in the surrounding area and I havent received one interview. Please help, how do I get a job here in Alabama????

  • julianne

    July 2009 I was the last Sales Person to be let go in my company’s imaging services department. Clever that my pipeline was full and commissions to be cleared at the time of my removal; my Department Director and Department VP split my commissions and sent an IT Support Analyst to a contract signing appointment with a Berkshire Hathaway Company President (big contract).

    My child, nearly 2, was at home with her new babysitter and her father that could not manage to contribute to our financials and I had a murmur of distrust that luckily told me to pay a babysitter to watch over my beautiful daughter.
    For 3 months I was the only person selling anything in my division but the deals were nice enough to keep all of us busy and employeed… but I could not do it all nor see a BIG red flag of substance abuse fogging my husband’s body.

  • Tina

    That’s a double dose of stress, dealing with the work crisis and the home/childcare situation at once. Sounds like you left nothing to chance with your daughter’s care and that was good. I think it’s tremendous that you were sustaining sales for your company and I hope that has made for a great accomplishment that you have been able to take to an employer who can appreciate the effort.