Dream killers are people who poke holes in your aspirations. Or they pull down their pants and take a smelly dump on everything you hope to be and achieve. Misery is the main reason why they brandish their salty words at unsuspecting idealists. These common thugs are unhappy with their lives — personal and/or professional — and take pleasure in dragging hopefuls down in the pits of despair.
Dream killers can pop up anywhere. In this season of Mad Men, copywriter Ken Cosgrove’s dream of becoming a science fiction author stares down the barrel of Roger Sterling’s gun — plated with a shiny coat of hater chrome. At a dinner party with agency partners Roger, Pete Campbell, Don Draper, and their spouses, Ken’s wife Cynthia brags about her husband’s gift for writing thought-provoking fiction. Little did she know, she’d just ordered a hit.
“When this job is good,” Roger says during a one-on-one meeting with Ken at the office, “[this job] fulfills all your needs.” After Roger busts a cap in Ken’s dream, viewers can almost see the blood on the carpet. At the end of the episode, Ken tells Peggy Olsen that he’s abandoned the silly idea. As he walks away, he tracks blood on the floor with his shoes.
This episode got me thinking about how our personal aspirations fit in our 9-5 lives. Latoya Tardy, president and owner of Work Wonderful, explains how much of our lives our employers truly own and gives advice on how to save our dreams from sudden death on the job.
Why is it that companies believe they’ve bought an employee’s entire life with a salary?
Employers believe employees should be grateful to have a job. These employers pile on extra work, are less mindful of employees’ personal obligations and assume employees’ will stand for the treatment because they have no other options. Many employers don’t realize that the job market is actually changing. When they experience excessive turnover, they’ll realize employees can’t be bought.
On the other hand, the minute your employer knows that you’re the “super employee”— meaning you’ve been there for a few years, don’t rock the boat, accept incremental raises, and always put your best foot forward — your life has been purchased. You’re paid well for what you do according to your employer, and for those reasons, they’ll use you.
Technology has increased our accessibility for better and worse. How much of an employee’s time does a salary actually buy?
When you move up or around in an organization, you’re expected to make certain sacrifices. Time is usually one of those sacrifices. We’re always connected and essentially always working. Salary does not buy time, but the expectation that employees are responsive and attentive has been taken out of context because of technology. You set the bar for how much time you’ll allow your employer to take from you. If you answer the e-mails on Saturday, the bar has been set that you’ll always answer e-mails on Saturday. Even doctors break away sometimes. Everyone should.
How can employees balance their 9-5 job with outside, lucrative interests?
If you trust your employer, you should disclose your outside interests to them. Most companies require employees to disclose outside endeavors that require time and resources and generate income. If an employer feels that you’re being totally honest with them, then they’re less likely to scrutinize your outside opportunity. Build it into your vision of growth for the company. Show them how your outside endeavor can help you grow and help the current business. Once you have their buy in, they’ll be more understanding if you can’t stay late because of another obligation.
Mad Men is set in the 60s. Do you think employers are less or more supportive of employee’s endeavors outside the office? Or do they care?
Do employers care about these endeavors? They absolutely do! Retention is becoming a problem and employers are getting nervous. They’re less supportive if it means this endeavor could potentially take you away from them. They also need to be sure you’re not sharing trade secrets. Employers are supportive of your outside endeavor if it’s not deemed as direct completion for the company, doesn’t use the knowledge you gained at the company and if the employer feels you’ve been up front with them about your career plan.
Latoya Tardy is a human resources professional with 13 years of experience in building teams, managing recruitment, creating staffing and retention programs, managing compliance and observing behavior in corporate America. Work Wonderful is a northern Virginia based consulting firm designed to help both employees and employers forge better working relationships and create workforce synergy.