Some people live for sports. Usually it’s a team or a particular sport. Football guys love football, baseball people love baseball, and the stories are legion about the insanity of the dedication of some international Football (soccer) fans. The sports aficionado constantly check into the results on their phone, it’s on their TV during family events.. They go to games, they listen to sports radio and podcasts, they go to sports bars to watch games with other like minded people. They tattoo their bodies with their teams logos, name their kids after team players, and generally their identity is that of the sports team.
The same thing exists for CEO’s, overly competitive management, and entrepreneurs for their companies. They work non-stop, 24/7. They constantly check emails, they read reports on the weekends, they are connected into the business operations 24/7, even at family gatherings. They are completely obsessed with their company. There really are allot of similarities to the sports obsessed.
But there is one big difference for the bystander, the friend, the acquaintance.. the person who is only at the game for a couple of hours as an entertainment distraction and then can go home. They don’t have to be engaged any more than they desire to. For example they don’t usually get calls at midnight from the sports fan who wants to discuss the game, and if they did the friend would shout a few curse words at the caller, hang up and then go back to sleep.
The same can’t be said for the employee.. The difference is that the employer holds too many keys to the employee’s life. Through salary and benefits the employer controls the employee’s housing, their medical care, their transportation and their family commitments. It is for this reason the employer can get away with the unrealistic expectations. The the highly competitive manager will say unreasonable things like: “I sent you an email last night at 9pm, why did it take you two hours to respond?” because these things aren’t unreasonable. There are no boundaries for the manager so they don’t see any for the employee. The employee is always worried about losing what they have gained or of reprisals both overt (termination, censure) and subert (subtle workplace reprisals too numerous to mention).
If we all had three outstanding job offers at any time then it wouldn’t be a big deal. We would leave the place with the horrible work environment and go work somewhere else. But that’s not how it generally works. PIC’s usually have a niche, they are either highly trained for, or shoehorned into a particular job category. Because of this, unless you happen to be in a uniquely high need niche, it can take months to find a comparable position with comparable compensation.
So what’s a Professional Individual Contributor to do? Unfortunately their is no real solution. It’s kind of like going over your budget before you buy the house or the car. You have to do your homework before you start. If your in a situation where you have to take the job, start planning your exit before you start on day one. If your at a stable but possibly lower paid company.. or wanting to make a move to better yourself, then you have to decide if you want or don’t want to be involved in a professional position where there is no boundaries. If you choose to take the job then make sure your life is set up accordingly, i.e. no family, no kids, and an interpersonal relationship that doesn’t require much time.
Point of note: Companies tend not to broadcast that they are completely unreasonable and have no boundaries.. they will use euphemisms like “We hold ourselves to a higher standard” and “this isn’t a 8-5 job”. If you hear things like this, then you can count yourself on notice.