Nobody (to my knowledge) has died because an agency or freelancer failed to deliver a campaign. Yet our working identity is all consuming. We treat it as thought life itself is at an end.
No small business or non-Apple company has ever seen people suicide because a product wasn’t released on time or the wrong adjective was used in the marketing copy.
The failure to have reports to prove the social media is working has not exacerbated an existing world conflict or made Ebola harder to treat.
No companies were saved from ruin when the marketers decided to burn the midnight oil to get the creative to the printers first thing.
And yet, most of us who work in marketing and communications act as though we complete super human feats. Many of us have lost so much touch with the real world that we spend our time exclaiming how busy we are (got to get me some of that approval, stat!).
Or worse, tearing around feeling incredibly indispensible is so freaking novel to us we don’t realise how mundane a blue sky, a hamburger, a view, or a coffee is to others.
So we plaster them like badges of honour amongst our social media shouting “OMG I can actually enjoy myself! Without a computer or phone! This is freaking unbelievable!”
Except for millisecond reserved for posting that revelation, of course. Fluff that working identity. Preen it good.
We’re so busy making noise about how much business we do, we don’t realise how hollow the din we’re making can be.
Real life dissolves. It no longer matters.
All that is left is business and busyness, white collar celebrity and the hunt for praise.
Busyness and the business of being busy are our all-consuming passion.
We define our identities through our work.
Probably because work monopolises our day and our life. And because when we meet strangers they ask us “what do you do for a living?” when the conversation stalls, we crawl over broken promises to our families and friends in pursuit of the boss’ cheerful, five second ‘atta boy’!
Our working identity is our first introduction to most people. Why is that?
Even if we spend most of our waking hours dreaming of the boss or client’s face on a dartboard, we pursue their praise in preference to time spent with people who actually give a damn.
And the more we do it, the more normal chasing praise from the wrong person becomes.
It’s like a white collar form of emotional abuse. The more we accept, the deeper we go. And the deeper we go, the more normal it becomes. What we earn, how many hours we pull, and little blue likes from the bored person at a bus stop become the measure of who we are.
The meaning of life is to leave a trail
It’s a lot easier to succeed at work than in romance, family and life, right? So I think I’ll be the boss’ go-to gal instead.
You wouldn’t say that out loud or even dare think it. But is it buried somewhere among the reports, meeting schedules and post-it notes?
After all, we want life to have meaning. But meaning in life is hard to quantify.
So we pour productivity down our necks and chase it with a shot of success. We are tipsy on time-sheets and drunk on leadership. Our working identity gives us satisfaction and so we choose to substitute meaning with this instead.
And we stand around the water-cooler hung-over and assured that, despite none of it being particularly memorable, for a brief moment we felt good about something yesterday.
That it mattered.
Back pats barely stop echoing as we hunker down for another campaign. Another shot at the glory of the big time.
Hip, hip, hooray, the awards are on their way!
Hiding in working identity is better than real life any day!
We’re so caught up we forget people who actually choose to willingly spend their time with us in favour of people who are paid to do so. And we invent an entire model of affirmation and ‘proof’ that this is a completely worthwhile pursuit.
Even if the part of us who wanted to be a rock-star or fireman as a child tugs at us and asks with lisping, lilting voice “is this really what we should be doing?”
This is the art of making noise and hiding in working identity.
It is the moments where you choose to make some process, something and someone more important than they truly are.
And it is about time we stopped. Don’t you think?
Before it screws up another relationship or hammers another liver. Before it takes excitement and a healthy amount of stress, and turns them into anxiety and depression. Or before another inner child resigns themselves to a fairly rotten existence and gives up completely.
If you want to find a way out of hiding under working identity, contact me now.