The ‘L’ Word and Your Career

by Rich DeMatteo on October 15, 2009 · 3 comments

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tightrope looking downThis post is inspired by the brilliance of Matt Cheuvront. Matt runs a sweet and utterly awesome blog called Life Without Pants. Go lose yourself over there for a bit, you won’t be disappointed.

Matt recently posed the question, “Do you need to LOVE your job to be happy”, which sprung a debate between many Gen Y minds.   In three sentences I’ll try to summarize mattChevy’s thoughts, but before reading further it may be best you spend a couple minutes and read what he wrote.

Basically, Matt thinks the big “L” word may be a bit too strong when considering work.  He insists that maybe love should be saved for your spouse, kids, or even your dog.  When it comes down to it, Matt hopes you “Enjoy the journey” and “Let life be about the living.”

When reading his thoughts, my HR mind immediately thought of two things — Work/Life Balance and Employee Engagement. The level of employee engagement can many times be from the result of work/life balance.  My opinion is that most people won’t say they love their job, but that in itself doesn’t mean they can’t be happy overall.  This is where a strong work/life balance program comes into play.  When a company enforces a top notch WLB program, employees can enjoy flexible schedules, higher than average paid vacation, and maybe most important know that their employer actually does CARE ABOUT EMPLOYEES. Knowing, as well as feeling that your employer does care how decisions affect you is powerful.

Most HR pro’s will point out two levels of employee engagement — being engaged and disengaged.  My theory of employee engagement actually contains three levels.

Level 1 – Extreme Employee Disengagement – In this level, job satisfaction is terribly low.  Job stress imposes on outside personal relationships many times.  A strong work/life balance program won’t help the employee in some cases.  An employee in Level 1 absolutely hates their job, and is most likely a current job seeker.  They need out, and their employer probably is looking for ways to push them out as well.

Level 2 – Engagement – In this level, employees are satisfied with their position, although they may not LOVE their job or have the most passion for the work they do.  They have no problem working hard on a daily basis to complete tasks and are generally content with their job.   A strong work/life balance program helps to retain employees in this category.   Level 2 employees have their ups and downs in regards to job satisfaction, but overall feel pretty good. Most people are in Level 2.

Level 3 – Extreme Employee Engagement – In this level, employees are extremely passionate  and committed to work. These employees may be surrounded by work even when outside of work.  Hard work = success and happiness.  Work may get in the way of personal relationships for some, which can create stressful situations outside of their job.

I understand that not every working individual can be categorized as a Level 1, 2, or 3 employee, but it’s my theory!  My thoughts are that most successful people fall into Level 2 and Level 3.

So, does knowing what you love = an opportunity for happiness?

What I mean by this is if you KNOW your enjoyment in life comes from a hobby or activity that is not related to work, than maybe you should look for employers who value providing a balance of work and life.  Maybe you enjoy spending ample time with family, long-weekend fishing trips, committing to a 6 day per-week meat head gym routine, or even watching Oprah every single day.  Or, maybe what you love is work.    Once you know where your enjoyment comes from and what makes you happy, you can decide just how important work/life balance programs are for you.

My last point is hopefully obvious.  Life isn’t all fun and games.  Level 2 employes need to realize when outside activities should be cut back.  We all go through times when extra work is needed for our job. Besides, money is critical for many of our favorite activities.  Level 3 individuals that strive on constant work should know when to take a step back and relax.  Work will around for a long time, but there will come a day when it doesn’t.  Who and/or what will be there for you when work isn’t?

But neither Matt nor I are going to tell you what to do.  It’s your life, love what you do and ______ the rest.  (which movie is that line from?)

What level of engagement are you currently in, and how does your (if they have one) employers work/life balance program play into things?  Let me hear from you!

Photo Credit – Johnny Colino

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Great discussion, and some interesting points. I have found that what makes me engaged at work can vary. In terms of work/life balance, it will very much depend on where my priorities lie inside and outside of work at that stage in my life. A few yrs ago, when I was young free and single (take the single out now), things like annual leave entitlement weren't important to me, as I loved being at work so much, and didnt really have any other commitments. Then you meet someone, and things change. Suddenly I didnt have enough annual leave. That kind of thing. So what makes me engaged at work (or the contributing factors) change. I guess what I am rambling on about is that I think its a "fluid" thing. People's lives change, along with priorities and interests. And so, dont forget, do places of work. They evolve. Some people might like what a place becomes, and others may want to move on. That would affect your levels of engagment to some degree, and whether or not you might love/like/hate your job. J


Interesting post. I'm still young but I feel currently that being really motivated by my work is a large part of what makes me happy. Two things - my work and my girlfriend - are what do it for me. I think it can be hard to love your work if you work for one of those "soulless corporations" though. Especially if you don't have power over your life - all fine if your passion is inside the job, but not so good if you can't find someone to employ you to do what you want, or in the way you want it. This is why I am an entrepreneur :) Andrew

Jonathon Scott
Jonathon Scott

An interesting read and some thought provoking stuff BUT at Em(ic)* we think employee engagement goes beyond work life balance. Think of the wealthy couple - they don't have to work too hard, they have everything they want and life looks great. But do they really enjoy spending time with each other? Not always. Engagement with the company you work for and the job you do comes from the everyday simple life experience you have with your colleagues and managers. Do you laugh together, work together, play together, share similar goals. Work life balance is a 'hygiene' factor. What about those people who 'love' the job the day and will do it non stop for 20 hours a day if they could (we all know someone like that)?