Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Question & Answer With Chabakuk Elisha - Trapped In A Cube

(Picture courtesy of andya.org.uk)

A Simple Jew asks:

I realize that this is problem many other wish they had:

Baruch Hashem, I have a well-paying, stable, and stress-free job that I davened long and hard to get for months. While I excel working under pressure and never shy away from working hard, there are few expectations in my new job and I have very little actual work to do each day. I do not have a lot of interaction with other people and feel somewhat like I was sentenced to solitary confinement in a cubicle. I perform my work diligently and in a timely manner. I have been told that I am an excellent worker. I know from experience that if I ask my supervisor to take on additional responsibilities I will be tasked with such "fulfilling" work as organizing the file room.

So, here is my dilemma: Do I seek to move to another office where my stress level, working hours, and work-load will increase exponentially, or do I remain in my cubicle, professionally unfilled but with a myriad of brochas to be thankful for? Do I stay in this position until Hashem gives me a sign to move on? What would you do?

Chabakuk Elisha answers:

It depends (of course). It depends on a lot of things… Instead of addressing this specific case, I would just say that IMHO, this is the way I'd go about the decision:

Ideally, if possible, we should spend our time learning Torah and being a better Jew to the best of our ability. Therefore, the goal is to find a job that pays well enough to support our family properly and leave us more time that we use in Torah, Tefiloh and general improvement in Yiddishkeit. If we find such an opportunity, we grab it; if there is a job that will detract from those things, we are best off thinking about what that will mean as far as our mission on this world.

Now, I'm not an ambitions guy at all (nothing to be proud of), so it's easy for me to say. Most of the time, I wait for a sign (which may simply be laziness on my part). A more ambitious fellow might need to find more fulfillment from his job or career, and therefore he would probably climb the ladder to better and better opportunities, while a less ambitions guy might be happier with an easier, more laid back, job. In either case, I think, the issue – as far as what the right answer is – comes down to a couple simple things (in no particular order):

1. Are you fulfilling your responsibilities (short-term / long-term)

2. What are you doing with your "other" time

3. How does it affect your purpose for existence

4. What are the motives for staying / seeking-to-move-on and are they positive ones

And this is the main one:

5. What does your wife say?

A Simple Jew responds:

1. Yes, to the best of my abilities.

2. My other time is split between my familial responsibilities, avodas Hashem, and running on the treadmill for exercise. [one can argue though that this should all be considered avodas Hashem] I don't watch TV or go to movies so very little of my "free time" could be considered a waste of time.

3. Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs states that the number one need is "self actualization". Self-actualization is defined as "the instinctual need of humans to make the most of their abilities and to strive to be the best they can." As I sit within the confines of my cubicle I can't honestly say that I am "self-actualized'.

4. My motives for staying are basically that I am lazy and it is easier to do nothing. My motives for wanting to move relate to my answer for #3.

5. My wife thinks Hashem gave me a huge brocha with this job and wonders why I would want anything else.

Chabakuk Elisha responds:

1. Ok, but would you fill your responsibilities any less if you stay where you are? Would you fulfill them more if you were to move on?

2. Would you have less time for those things if you move on? Would your family, your learning, davening or avoda pay a price? Would it be likely improve?

3. Do you find that this is affecting you? If so, in what areas and is it significantly so?

Personally, I think that our wives usually know best ;-)


At July 31, 2007 at 7:26:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the most satisfying and likely-to-be-noticed-for meaningful advancement work will come from your discovery of a need within the company and filling it.

If you ask for more responsibility, you'll get more grunt work instead. If you take initiative and take on responsibility without asking - such as identifying a system-wide inefficiency, documenting a confusing process, developing a great tool - then you'll add to your value and satisfaction at work, without being stuck in file-room purgatory.

At July 31, 2007 at 7:35:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One further note: Don't underestimate the value of organizing the file room. If the file room is a pit of disorganization, you will be doing a world of good in a visible way.

If you can make the filing room an efficient, pleasant place, then you will earn the gratitude of everyone who uses it.

Don't think this is beneath you to do. Instead, realize that it is an opportunity to show your system engineering skills to everyone. A secretary might not grasp the brilliance of your programming, marketing, or other technical prowess, and the CEO might never see your individual contribution. But, when the dungeon of a file room is transformed into a functional thing of beauty, everyone will notice.

Organizing is different than filing, and it is different than cleaning.

Just don't make it worse!

At July 31, 2007 at 8:09:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's no harm in discreetly (that's important!)investigating other possibilities. In the end, you can still decide to stay put if the new thing isn't better.

At July 31, 2007 at 10:29:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I read about a job that is "well-paying, stable, and stress-free," with "very little actual work to do," I thought it was a work of fiction! Such jobs actually exist?! I could give you a good picture of the opposite situation: stress, huge work overload, and ever-changing job definition that eventually led to total burn-out, physical illness, and a deterioration of home life and spiritual life. The first years in the job were enormously fulfilling, and I LOVED what I did. Yet, the workload, unpaid overtime, and stress almost killed me. Two years after leaving, I am still in the process of recovery.

ASJ, your job situation sounds almost ideal to me. As "juggling frogs" says, you can surely find ways to increase its value to you and your employer. And, even if you don't, you are developing skills and experience that will carry over to some future, more meaningful endeavor. Right now, you have time and energy for your family (including your blog family) and your religious practice, and I know you're finding fulfillment in those spheres of your life. When the time comes to seek further challenges in your professional life, I think you will know it.

At July 31, 2007 at 12:44:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think most people are bothered with questions how to cover increasing tuitions for cheder and yeshiva with some well paid job. :))

However to have a job that one enjoys as well as being paid well - is a perfect case.

At July 31, 2007 at 2:14:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

I appreciate all the reader feedback to this question.

By pure hashgacha pratis, a job in the other office was just advertised today. I sent in my application and if Hashem wants me to move to that office I know I will be offered the job. If not, I will know with 100% certainty that I am meant to stay just where I am.

At July 31, 2007 at 2:51:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, then, maybe the time IS right! :-) Good luck!

At July 31, 2007 at 3:29:00 PM EDT, Blogger Juggling Frogs said...


At July 31, 2007 at 6:51:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I sent in my application and if Hashem wants me to move to that office I know I will be offered the job."

How do you know that a job offer wouldn't just be a challenge or test? Possibly then you're really supposed to keep your existing job.

If you do have a choice, you may want to run any Torah-observance-related issues past a Rav you trust. One consideration is the possible effect of new working hours and/or work aggravations on Shalom Bayis.

At July 31, 2007 at 7:53:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Talmid said...

We say everynight "vesakneinu b'eitza tova milfonecha". See what Sichos HaRan 238 says about that. Ask Hashem to guide you in making the right decision. Also seek the advice of a tzadik.

At July 31, 2007 at 8:51:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Alice & Juggling Frogs: Thanks again!

Bob Miller & A Talmid: Thank you for giving me something else to consider. I think I will spend a considerable amount of time in hisbodedus on this one.

At August 2, 2007 at 12:28:00 AM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Nice Maslow quote. I'm a big fan.


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