Over-employed: Do I Have A Choice?

While most of our Crossroads Career content is about being unemployed or unfulfilled, being over-employed can be equally, if not more, of a problem with which to grapple. Over-employment is defined as “a situation in which a person consistently works more hours than they can sustainably work” (thefreedictionary.com). Over-employment may be someone’s choice although, from my personal experience an observation, many times we don’t feel that it’s a choice.

We are seeing an incredible increase in the number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs. Some of this is due to stress, burnout, and disengagement, as last week’s blog highlighted. Over-employment, as defined, can easily be a root cause of those symptoms. In fact, “Since the pandemic, research shows that people are logging an average of two more hours of work per day” (Forbes, 7/28/21).

So, with over-employment being a strong factor in this newfound phenomena of “The Great Resignation” happening in the marketplace, how can one address the root causes within his/her control before pulling the plug on their current employer?

First, let’s start with a Biblical lens to look at our situation. God created rest (Genesis 2:2), and put that structure in place for our good (Mark 2:27). If we aren’t giving our bodies rest, that’s not just a physical issue, it’s a spiritual one.

Second, assuming we agree with the need for rest and desire it, we may feel we “can’t afford” to set aside time for rest due to the demands of our work. Then we need to address another spiritual issue…have we made work our idol? If you’re like me, you may develop all sorts of logical paths for “why” you need to work the hours you do. However, when I truly was honest with myself, my work wasn’t just about providing for my family, it oftentimes dealt with my pride, stature, promotability, financial outcomes, and being self-absorbed in what I felt was important. Gulp!!

Third, once we get through those two filters, we probably need to look at what the expectations are for the work. Not our own personal expectations (see two points above), but what our boss and the organization expect from us. I’ve rarely found supervisors who intentionally desired an employee to be overemployed. They recognize that is unsustainable. Rather, most of the time, I found that expectations are not clear, and that an employee’s fear creeps into the process. Fear of not being fast enough, competent enough, etc. for what they imagine the supervisor is thinking. So, an upfront expectations discussion is usually in order.

Ultimately, Scripture tells us simply to “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

Scripture doesn’t set an expectation for us on the career we should have, the hours we should work, or the economic outcome we should attain. But it does tell us about the kind of life we can live in Christ. Let’s rest in Him, trust in Him, and follow Him closely to address the ever-present possibility of over-employment.

Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.

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