During our Path Forward Leadership Workshops, and on our radio show/podcast The Boss Show, we often discuss the idea of bringing your whole self to work, of being authentic, and not having to wear a mask in your work life that results in you being a different person there than you are at home.
So of course I read with interest the recent survey that indicated 47% of Americans don’t have even $400 cash in hand to cover an emergency expense such as a car repair. If almost half of all Americans are walking on a financial tightrope, I’d say it’s fair to assume this is stressful for them and their families.
And of course a person in this situation has to bring this financial stress to the workplace to some degree. Seeing your job as either the only potential way out of your financial duress, or as the limitation that keeps you from enjoying financial success has the potential to change your relationship with your job. Instead of seeing your job as purposeful and engaging and pleasurable, financial stress might cause you to think of it as the only thing that stands between you and ruin. That’s not a very inspiring way to look at one’s career.
And by inference, it has to change your relationship with the people you work with, and most notably the bosses who decide how much money you make and whether or not you get the promotion that would help you pay off your credit card debt. If you’re experiencing financial stress, you may end up feeling frustrated, distracted, and defeated at work. And you may end up feeling that work – and life – are unfair, and that if they would just pay you what you were worth you’d be OK. Financial stress causes your relationship with your employer to feel dependent rather than interdependent. You need them more than they need you. Without them, you’re in deep trouble.
I don’t want to blame the victims here, so if someone makes $10 an hour it may be simply impossible to save any money. But for many or most of these 47% of Americans, saving money is possible. And if you’re not saving money, and you have no financial security, you may find that it damages your work-life in significant ways. Put some money aside, and maybe your relationship with your job will lighten, will seem more doable, more of a choice you made rather than a circumstance in which you’re trapped. Maybe you’ll stop cussing out the boss. Maybe you’ll even experience the freedom to leave a bad situation.
When we lose any sense of financial independence, we potentially suffer a loss of partnership and self-worth at work. Maybe the best thing you can do to make your job more enjoyable is to set yourself up so you don’t need it so desperately.