Why caring about my job worked for me

Occasionally, I like to share my personal experiences with my “Get to Work” readers. Last night, I read an interesting article for the Financial Times called “Why not giving a D— at Work is No Bad Thing.” The title immediately grabbed my attention and reeled me in for a quick read.

An office worker puts on a happy face. (Getty Images)

An office worker puts on a happy face. (Getty Images)

The author Lucy Kellaway recalled working as a trainee on Wall Street and how a coworker often quipped about “not giving a s—” about their jobs. Kellaway says during that time it was socially acceptable and even cool for people to boast about how little they cared about their jobs.

The article brought back memories of when I returned to the Bay Area in 2009 after working in the Southeast for 15 years. I took a fundraising consulting gig for a San Francisco nonprofit. I remember my very first day on the job. I showed up impassioned by the company’s mission and excited by the opportunity to procure resources to support it. And then I met Shirley, a project manager who had been with the company for 12 years. She politely pulled me to the side and said some words I’d never forget.

“It’s nice to show up to work all dolled up and on the high swing, but sooner than later you won’t give a d— about this place just like the rest of us,” she said.

How did I respond you ask? I smiled a fake smile and excused myself from the conversation. But I remember thinking to myself, what the hell was Shirley thinking? While I was new on the job and knew little about its workplace culture, I knew one thing for certain. I never wanted to be like Shirley. In fact, I promised myself that if I ever found myself feeling indifferent about a job, that’s a clear indicator it’s not the job for me.

Here I was three years out of my graduate program. My instructors taught us to show up and put our best foot forward always. They encouraged us to be unapologetically invested in our work. Ironically in one moment and one phrase, Shirley challenged those teachings. Rather than take Shirley’s comment to heart, I remained enthusiastic about my position. I was working for a wonderful organization that had a great reputation. I saw the job as a great opportunity to establish myself in the Bay Area and begin building my network. I was highly motivated to do a great job for more reasons than one.

In the article, Kellaway says attitudes about work have changed since her days on Wall Street. She cites a shift in which “caring about work” a status symbol. As a result, it’s uncool for employees to share their true attitude about their jobs. Instead, they feign enthusiasm for their job to fit in.

Kellaway doesn’t see a correlation between caring at work and success since her coworker, who she frequently joked with about “not giving a s— about work” went on to start a successful company that was acquired by Sir Martin and Sorrell. Was he on to something? Was his lackadaisical attitude about his job the impetus for his entrepreneurship?

Have you ever found yourself indifferent about you job or certain aspects of it? What did you do?

Kia Croom