There have been a couple great discussions this week at Get Rich Slowly. The article on tips for first-time homebuyers yielded many anecdotes and suggestions. My piece on the difference between a career and a job also sparked conversation. In fact, I wanted to share a counterpoint from Funny about Money, who wrote the following.

In a job where you’re not paid equitably, how much effort really should you put in?

In a job where employees are occasionally seen to get the shaft for organizational reasons having nothing to do with their performance, how much loyalty do you owe the employer?

Why are we working, anyway?

I spent many years of my academic career running myself ragged and indeed being congratulated in every annual review for the excellent work I did. Didn’t make my pay any better; didn’t make my workload any saner. Didn’t make me any safer from the arbitrary firing that happened to one of my colleagues in the same job class.

Then I escaped teaching by moving to a low-level administrative position, where I again ran myself ragged to do excellent work. Though the 12-month administrative job was better paid than teaching (what isn’t?), all the hard work did nothing to make my pay any better; didn’t change the risk level of my exempt position; didn’t make my employer any fairer to me or anyone else.

Over time I got very tired and very stressed. And I got very mad when the local paper published everyone’s salaries and I discovered a guy who does half the work I do running a related program earns $30,000 more than I do — on a nine-month contract. Then I looked around me and realized that mediocrity is the standard of the business world: I was the only one who was working her buns off around there, and I was receiving no real reward for doing so. No one even noticed!

When I decided to cut the stress level, I realized that we conflate our “careers” with our selves. A career is a job. A job exists to put food on the table and a roof over your head. It is not our self.

When you delete the distinction between “career” and “job” and you build a distinction between what you do and who you are, you gain a whole new perspective on the world of work.

I now do the best I can on my job — within limits. I do only what is expected and no more. I do not put in 14- to 18-hour days, I do not work on weekends, and when I go on vacation I do not answer my e-mail or the phone. Amazingly, the work gets done on time and it gets done pretty well. My unit continues to earn rave reviews from our clients. And my last annual review — after 18 months of putting in as little work as humanly possible — was the best I’ve had in all the 15 years I’ve worked at that place!

It’s true that if something is worth doing it’s worth doing well. But apparently it’s acceptable to do a job “well enough” and then stop.

These are topics I’ve thought a lot about in the past. Sometimes “good enough” is okay — sometimes it isn’t. How does one know where to draw the line? And just how much should we allow our “self” to become entangled with what we do? I face this question every day: my work as a blogger has become my life. It’s a good thing I enjoy it!

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