Whiskey, Wellness, and Wisdom

with Matthew Bachman

Man sitting down depressed.

“Every step of my career was hard work.”

Virgil van Dijk

After being laid off at my job due to COVID-19 lock down in my home state of Pennsylvania, I once again found myself at a new job. Believe it or not, being a writer is not necessarily a lucrative business to be in – especially when your blog is only a few months old. This job was in a warehouse setting which was in stark contrast to the careers in business I was heading towards, but I needed the work and the pay was good.

As I stood with my new group of co-workers listening with great intent to my trainer, someone asked, “What’s the turnover rate in this place like?”

“High,” the trainer said matter-of-factly. “You know, it comes with jobs like this.”

I’d worked in warehouses before; places where they worked you to death in a stuffy high temperature environment at minimum wage or slightly above. Sometimes they’d give us ice pops to cool down, but those instances were few and far between. This certainly did not seem to be one of those gigs.

I looked my co-workers over and tried playing a little game with myself called, “Who will last and who won’t.” My money was on the two college age kids cracking jokes and not paying attention to the training as being the first to go – places like this ate those types alive as soon as they found out they actually would have to work for a living.

There’s this overwhelming belief that we should be enveloped in a constant stream of fun at our jobs. Many people seem to expect the 2,500 year old Confucius quote, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” to apply to the rapid expansions of modern society. I’m sorry, but that just does not reflect reality.

It is true, that happy employees are going to be more productive. According to a study at the University of Warwick, a business will see a 12 percent spike in productivity among their happy employees. In contrast, there is a 10 percent drop in productivity with unhappy employees. So that’s it, right? Open and shut case, it is in the business’ best interest to promote employee happiness. More productivity equals more dollars, after all.

Not so fast.

It is an employers responsibility to make you happy as much as it is for them you make you you miserable. We are living in times where employers are taking on the costly and time consuming burden of promoting employee mental well being. You see employers like Verizon or Facebook who have amenities such as fitness centers at their corporate headquarters. Even the factory I work at has a ping pong table, although it barely gets used considering we’re too exhausted from the manual labor to enjoy some recreation during break-time.

I don’t completely discourage employers from having such awesome amenities. If they’re willing to take on the added burden of making the workplace a fun experience, then more power to them. I know I would love to work at a place that had a gym and an arcade. Who wouldn’t? A bar would be pretty awesome, too.

Man laughing on park bench drinking whiskey.
They didn’t believe me when I told them I work best with copious amounts of whiskey in my system.
Photo by Gregory Hayes on Unsplash

But let’s go back to what most employers offer. They offer pay and they offer work for that pay. Sometimes the work is stressful and physically exerting and sometimes the work is tedious and boring. The pay, of course, varies depending on the skill sets you poses and what is required of the job. The hours, again, can vary, but the national average is somewhere around 44 hours a week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Is any of that unreasonable? I certainly don’t think so, which is why I constantly find myself asking why it is that so many people hate or even despise their jobs. The answer is simple really: people are always looking for somebody else to make them happy. I mean, how dare an employee expect you to do your the job that you agreed to when you signed on for the role you applied for after carefully reading the work outlined in the job description.

I completely understand hating the places that are just a mere step or two above sweatshops paying minimum wage. I couldn’t imagine anybody liking a place like that, I know I didn’t. But let’s take a look at my most recent employer that pays good, the work expected is reasonable for the pay and explained during the interview process and yet the turnover is incredibly high. Whatsmore, I’ve even heard people complain about lifting weight of 40 pounds or more on a continual basis (which is in the job description) and suggest that a machine should do all the heavy lifting for us – you know, so we can all be out of a job.

Statue of hard worker John Henry.
John Henry would be so disappointed.

It seems that, somewhere along the way, people have forgotten what it means to work for a living. They’re looking for handouts and perks that just don’t make any sense. A a gym or rec room in the workplace is definitely a great perk, but it’s not necessary to be happy with your job. Everybody likes to push the concept of happiness being a state of mind anecdotally, but refuse to apply those same principals to work. Again, I’m not talking about toxic work environments here.

Those college kids I talked about earlier only lasted 2 weeks before quitting. I don’t hold it against them, they were young and don’t have a full understanding of the world yet. I hope and have faith that one day they will develop a strong work ethic in the near future. I know that I was miserable at my first job at Wal-Mart, not because I thought the company was terrible, but because I hated dealing with people, which was a me problem. I now try to live by a very simple principal, “Be passionate about any opportunity that comes your way.” You may never be the best at something, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be passionate about it.

Stop looking for your employer to make you happy and instead start looking deep inside for what you can change about yourself. It’s true that employers love happy employees, but they also hate miserable ones and if they’re making you miserable, then they should be held accountable. However, more often than not, I have found that they’re just expecting you to do the job that you signed on for.

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