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Thread: The work-personal life divide

  1. #1

    The work-personal life divide

    I was looking at the comments on the last pages and a Manager asking about personal goals caught my interest. I was thinking about how different work environments are in France compared to the USA. Just stronger differences of being "reserved or open" in various scenarios, in contrast to what are the norms for that in the USA. For example in France people rarely socialize after work. Should I say never? There are work organized events etc. but getting together for beers after work is a rarity for several reasons. First people are so reserved that it's just uncommon to make friends at work and the time is arranged differently so there is less time for that. In Paris most people commute to their jobs by public transport of car and since it's really hard to move here, slower to sell, three months notice to rent, high prices, (you can rent agency apts that are short-term for students and stuff) if you change jobs you don't move, sometimes even if it's a city 200KM away. So, people expect to keep their time for going to and fro to work and rushed errands before permentanly going home for the evening and not going out again. Also the work day lasts longer and people do errands after work and go home for a later dinner. While in the USA people eat earlier and still have time after dinner to do something. So, people really don't socialize with co-workers. Or it's a great rarity. T

    he first idea I had when I read about the manager wanting people to speak about their personal goals I thought of job interviews I have been on in France; The have a different civil system here and they are not as strict about what can be asked at an interview, so basically anything goes. I have been asked how many children I have their ages, how long I have been married, do I rent or own, what kind of car do I have, I could go on, and sometimes they even do a handwriting analysis. I am not kidding. Then once hired they can let you go at any time for three months. And if they are still unsure they can keep extending that for up to a year. So people basically become crazed-conformist-work-zombies until that first part is over. Yet, after that phase you have basically a job for life with huge social protections. Like severence pay and up to three years of unemployment etc. One thing I miss about USA job interviews is that you don't have to put your age on the CV and you can take 5 years off by dropping experiences if you like in France you put your age right up their in the corner with your photo. Although generally people once a part of the office it is very warm and friendly. So that personal goals comment caught my eye because I was like jeesh I would have loved to have just talked about my personal goals to managers. On the flip side of being asked everything under the sun by management, although the general office or workplace reserve is very high.

    How that might make me behave differently in the workplace now I can only guess. I imagine myself being more reserved, only time will tell.

  2. #2
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Enough folks have expressed an interest in this topic lately that it warrants its own thread.

    I value having a certain level of separation between my work life and personal life. In fact, one of the biggest reasons I haven't pursued working from home more vigorously is that I fear those lines becoming blurred. To me it's important that I have some place to go to be free of the stresses and associations that come from work. I am one of those who strongly does not form their identity around their vocation/profession. To me work has always been 'just a job', a means of providing subsistence so that I may focus my other time on more meaningful and personally gratifying activities.
    Last edited by Maister; 28 Mar 2013 at 9:34 AM.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    One coworker and I share many interests so we talk a lot and know the ins & outs of our personal lives. As far as the other coworkers are concerned, there's no much sharing going on except in the case of major illness.

    I really try to separate my professional and personal lives when it comes to work and projects. However I've been in public meetings where someone from the public questioned where I live and such. When I replied that's really not relevant he got louder and throwing personal attacks. Thank goodness a commissioner was there and stepped in. That commissioner later said that if I would have responded any more, I probably would have been written up because I wasn't being sympathetic - WTF?!?!?
    "Whatever beer I'm drinking, is better than the one I'm not." DMLW
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  4. #4

    My past job I worked at the same place for 15 years

    My last job I worked at the same place for 15 years and lived in the neighborhood. So everyone would see me walking to work or walking around town. I got to the friggin point where some well known street people were waving at me, joy. So, it's not about how you are interacting with your co-workers if your in a community. For some reason that makes me think of a Ben Franklin story, being the general "operator" of all trades. He would get up early and make a lot of noise in his printing shop so everyone thought he was undustrious and then he would be out very early in the street pushing a wheel barrow around with his pamphlets for sale. Although he mentioned he could have sold them at any time. He knew it got him some positive capital in the community by doing these tricks. He used to also manipulate people by trying to get them to do something nice for him. He had this theory if you got someone to do something nice for you that they would do it again bigger and easier next time. So, his favorite thing was to borrow books from people to kinda prepare them for bigger and better favors later. I know that all sounds a big Machevillian but look at it as Machevillian-light.

    So, although at work I was seen as a bit of a loner but nice. I had this "face" to the public to some extent. Although it wasn't like I was thinking about it much. As for at work. My one year as a planner the boss didnt have children and was a nurse-planner. And she tried to make the office like a family atmosphere. It was okay but I didn't get much into it. A lot of the people she hired didn't have children. I didn't at the time either. Although about two or three did out of about 15 people. So, there was a high emphasis on blending work and socializing; they were pretty nice and easy going and not weird about it so it was okay. Although, sometimes it was tiresome. Espeically when we went to steak houses and it was expensive. So, although I agree that I prefer a big line between my work and private life. It depends on the office culture your in. I had a good friend in England whose husband doesnt drink just because he doesnt and they had such a strong drinking culture with the office and their clients he got fired over it. So, I dunno if you can write your own rules on this one. When in Rome do what the Romans are doing to the extent you don't have to start taking prescription drugs to cope, just kidding.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    When in Rome...

    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  6. #6
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by christinejosephine View post
    . It depends on the office culture your in. I had a good friend in England whose husband doesnt drink just because he doesnt and they had such a strong drinking culture with the office and their clients he got fired over it.
    Back up.....are you serious? This guy got fired because he didn't booze it up after hours? I have to believe the reason he got sacked probably had more to do with him being unwilling to socialize with clients than being unwilling to imbibe alcohol per se.

  7. #7

    Love Will Ferrell

    btrage if I was a man I would love to be played by Will Ferrell; who by the way is often on the French talk shows as they have a popular one here in the evenings associated with Miramax.

    yes maister, it was so sad, in England there is big drinking after work culture I don't really know that much about England maybe there are english people here who could elaborate on that. I know her husband personally he is easy going and nice, and there is an emphasis on drinking heavily with costumers, I don't know what Roy could have done differently, basically it was seen as a sign of not fitting into the corporate culture. My husband in his past company worked with a lot of people from South Korea and when traveling to south korea in some instances if everyone is not crawlin on the floor to the door you have been a poor guest or host. Although when the come to Paris they do that more light tipplin wine thing. My husband is a very light drinker but the guys that went to South Korea all the time always needed a recovery period. So, in Paris there is very little drinking although don't be the speaker at a conference before the champagne is going to be served and expect a great reception to your speech.

    oh, and i'm no expert on this cultural stuff. I know that even in the USA in different offices there were pretty big differences in the expectations for the office-culture standards.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    I don't socialize with my coworkers, or with my coworkers from cooperative agencies. I've been that way most of my workng life, and decided to keep friends and work separate when I worked in a grocery store decades ago. We're all going to get along better if we know as little as possible about each other.

    I also don't talk about personal life problems at work. I have one coworker who uses his personal problems to get out of doing a lot of work.

  9. #9
    Roy works for a Kuwait company and guess what zero drinking culture. I don't know if that was a factor in his new job but he seems to like it Okay.

    This is a weird comment but I remember when I was going to start graduate school I found that job working for a group of shrinks doing insurance afternoons and they paid a ton. And I remember this one guy who specialized in "student issues". And I read his book since most had written a book as they were university faculty. And in his book I read that many people make the mistake trying to re-create relationships they want or miss from their pasts. And one tip on how to avoid that in grad-school and I guess this could be applied to work also. Was that one should keep their support systems intact and not expect grad-school to fill this up. I remember reading, blah blah your grad school experience etc. you will make one or two life long friends and for the most part improve some skills and hopefully get a better job as a result of the experience.

    And then my general theory of work is that after 3 months all jobs become chicken-xxxx jobs to some extent. I often wonder if that's always true though? I saw a wonderful speaker at UNESCO after a long successful glamorous career he often felt bad that he might have made a mistake by not taking that job at Goldman Sachs? So who knows.

    Anyway, on my facebook now I have a lot of former co-workers so I guess that ya can't shake em totally.

    CJ
    Last edited by Maister; 28 Mar 2013 at 10:51 AM. Reason: sequential posts merged

  10. #10
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    I think because of the nature of work we do at a non-profit community development org we tend to be a little more touchy feely than most offices. In my division of 8 people we generally know what is going on with each other personally and professionally. My boss and I occasionally do lunch on the weekends, RT lives with me, and one of the other women in the division and I see each other outside of work often because we have a lot in common.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  11. #11
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    When I was in the Marines and living in the barracks with other enlisteds that I worked with every day and spent my leisure time with afterwards there was literally NO divide between work and personal life. Ever. You spent not only all your waking time with the people you worked with but even the time you were asleep too. It's difficult to adequately convey how complete the integration of the two spheres is to to folks who haven't experienced this, but suffice it to say the phrase "band of brothers" is not an empty phrase in such circumstances. Everyone literally had each others backs as your lives potentially depended upon it. WSU will confirm this fact.

    Fast forward to life in the civilian world where this type of arrangement was pretty much non-existent and a few back stabs later by co-workers that you thought were your comrades, I figured out it was essential to separate work and life spheres. That's just how it's worked out.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Fast forward to life in the civilian world where this type of arrangement was pretty much non-existent and a few back stabs later by co-workers that you thought were your comrades, I figured out it was essential to separate work and life spheres. That's just how it's worked out.
    I was never in the service, so it probably took me longer to realize what you've described above, but the message is loud and clear when it comes through, isn't it? "Chat chat chat, friendly friendly friendly, oh yeah, I totally plan to sell you out first chance I get..."

    I'm friendly at work because I just AM friendly. But I don't ever plan on anybody I work with "having my back" at all, and I really don't see them in any context other than work.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  13. #13

    Community living in general

    I have had a few experiences living community-living style (you have to have a strong motivation for it is my underlying conclusion). And I have this friend Ed who elevates this fantasy about community living to a utopia. He has these ideas of blocks of houses with shared yard and chickens, goats and stuff.

    To me the thought of having to share a community living situation is HORRIFYING. And chickens are mean and there is always one they are trying to peck to death and murder and as soon as that ones finished they are going for the next one and goats cry for breakfast at 5am. So, ixnay on the chxnays. Never mind people can be dangerous also.

    Before grad school I worked in an open office with 40 small desks. There were 38 women and 2 men. One was gay and spent his time reading French and thinking about France the other was a stoner who looked like he was about to go on a rampage. The rest were these kinda middleagey women and then assundry oddballs that didn't fit that at the time but I would now.

    That experience basically made me hate my profession but I later figured out it was also a toxic work environment with lots of pecking order stuff going on. My thought is that my favorite offices are those that have an equal amount of men and women. Kinda keeps the farts down to a dull roar and also avoids the totally destroyed chicken on the pecking order list of the day.

  14. #14
    In theory, I've tried to keep the two separate. In practice, it's not always worked. I've had experiences similar to Maister which makes me very cautious. However, depending on where you work, that's not always possible.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  15. #15
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    I've always been pretty friendly with the co-workers. I definitely notice a difference in the typical work-personal life divide here in California and elsewhere. For instance, every place I have worked in California has had groups of co-workers who are very friendly and socialize frequently. Elsewhere, I found that people were more invested in their own personal lives and less socializing with co-workers occured. I chalk it up to more of a nomadic family life being typical in California- that is, people maybe moved where they are and have less historic family/community ties. Elsehwere I felt more like (in general) people grew up there, their parents grew up there and they had long established personal lives that they did not have time for socializing with co-workers.

    All that said, I feel like people should socialize. It makes it easier to spend every day with these people. I have never (that I am aware of ) been stabbed in the back by any co-workers as a result of any social interactions. In fact I feel like I'm more likely to be stabbed in the back or treated unfairly by people who keep to themselves or who do not share my outlook on life.

    There is definitely a balance to be had however. I'm reminded of a Scrubs episode I saw, where somebody asked a co-worker, "Oh what are you doing this weekend?" and they replied "I'm minding my own damn business how about you?"
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    When I was in the Marines and living in the barracks with other enlisteds that I worked with every day and spent my leisure time with afterwards there was literally NO divide between work and personal life. Ever. You spent not only all your waking time with the people you worked with but even the time you were asleep too. It's difficult to adequately convey how complete the integration of the two spheres is to to folks who haven't experienced this, but suffice it to say the phrase "band of brothers" is not an empty phrase in such circumstances. Everyone literally had each others backs as your lives potentially depended upon it. WSU will confirm this fact.
    That was actually one of the things I disliked most about my time in the Marines - there was never a break from the same people! I countered that by never becoming friendly with any of my roommates and rarely hanging out outside of work with the people I shared an office with. My close Marine friends were usually people on the same bases but who worked at entirely different units who I may have met in passing.

    I've done pretty good about maintaining that work/life separation after leaving the Marine Corps as well. I am confident that the folks I work with have no clue what my wife and daughter's names are (even they even know I am married and have a child), they do not know which community I live in, they know nothing of my hobbies (except that I like to run), etc. I am sure there are some folks I work with that probably think I'm a snob or standoffish (the fact that I rarely say hello, good morning, have a good night... probably doesn't help) but those who work with me closely know that it just takes me a loooooooonnnnnngggggg time to open up about anything. I am very thankful that I don't work for boss that is always having after work social events or anything like that - once or twice a year there will be an evening gathering at a local watering hole for somebody leaving or retiring. In my 6 years here, I've never attended one.

    The only person I am semi-social with outside of the office is a supervisor for one of the divisions within the department and that's only because she happens to live about a block away from me and her brother and his family live just a couple houses down from me so I see her in the neighborhood quite often (last fall it seemed like every time I would go to the grocery store I would run into her).
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  17. #17
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by kjel View post
    I think because of the nature of work we do at a non-profit community development org we tend to be a little more touchy feely than most offices. In my division of 8 people we generally know what is going on with each other personally and professionally. My boss and I occasionally do lunch on the weekends, RT lives with me, and one of the other women in the division and I see each other outside of work often because we have a lot in common.
    Same here. I don't hang out with my co-workers outside of work except on rare occasions, but we do know a good deal about what goes on in our personal lives. Not in a gossipy way, but just because we are a small staff and you get to talking about what the weekend has in store, etc. We know the names of everyone's spouses and children, a good bit about what is going on in their lives, etc. I like it, actually. Makes work a more human place.

    At other jobs I have done more socializing with co-workers, but at this position and at the time of life I am in now, I don't have a lot of time to add more socializing. With two school aged kids and a handful of friends already, my calendar is full. I have a hard time staying on top of those obligations.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    I've worked hard at dividing my work and personal lives, to the point that I used to be irate when someone would accoust me in a store on a weekend over some work related issue. Keeping them seperate has been a lot easier since I commute over an hour to the office.
    The cookies are worth the drive

  19. #19
    Cyburbian terraplnr's avatar
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    At my current and previous jobs, there have been a somewhat high level of outside work socialization, but no one would ever get fired or looked down upon for not attending. At my previous job, most of the staff (non-management) were fairly young and without kids at that time, and the office was downtown so it was easy to schedule last-minute happy hours or the occasional hike or wine tasting trip. Also, there was a fairly high turnover for awhile so we had frequent "going away happy hours" or "welcome to the office lunches" for awhile, which were fun. At my current employer we have happy hours at work occasionally, and a group of us goes out for happy hour or dinner maybe every third month (mostly the empty nesters in the office and then me, the office is on the older side). I'm not a big socializer and small talker at work, I especially don't like to share personal information other than "what did you do this weekend", so I like the social gatherings for the most part, it helps to get to know people and I feel like it strengthens my working relationships because it adds that personal element.

    I agree with your observation about California imaplanner, most of the people who participate in the after hours socializing don't have family in the area or don't have long-term ties, they moved here for college or for the job.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    An interesting topic. I have had ranges of social interactions with various offices where I have worked. At my first long gig, I was one of many younger people in the office. We tended to hang out socially after work more than was typical, and I remain good friends with a few people from that office. At my second long gig, it was the opposite. Older crowd, plus me having kids and living farther from work, plus being in a managerial role, meant that I didn't get out much with the folks in the office. Nor, to be honest, did I want to. Now I have a slightly warmer relationship with workers in the office, but family and social obligations still take me away sooner than would be convenient. I have had to miss more after-work gatherings than I would like.

    There is a whole other side to this - on the one hand, having co-workers be your social friends is good for the office, it makes you more like the military and you may have each others' backs more. On the other hand, it's hard to harsh on someone you were out drinking with the night before...

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