“If you don’t work nights and weekends in your 20s, you’re not going to have a successful career. Sorry.” This tweet, posted on Christmas Eve by a cryptocurrency entrepreneur, set the Twitter world ablaze. While other entrepreneurs jumped to the poster’s defense citing their 70+ hour work weeks, many others called into question the pervasiveness of burnout and the toxicity of the modern “hustle culture.”
Much like the epidemic of “busyness,” there’s a troubling phenomenon in the workplace that idolizes unhealthy behaviors seemingly associated with success. “Hustle culture” is certainly not new, but has flourished in the past decade thanks, in part, to technology. The combination of 24/7 connectivity and the popularity of hustle culture entrepreneurs on social media has led to an acceptance of the always-on mentality. With notable young CEOs broadcasting images of themselves jet-setting using hashtags like #crushingit and #getthatbread, it seems like an entire generation of workers have been convinced that this is normal workplace behavior.
As these entrepreneurs glorify “the grind,” they promote the idea that you’re only a driven, hard-working employee if you’re willing to give up your life for the job. Success is measured by being overworked, burnt out, and sacrificing everything outside of the workplace (or at least appearing to do so). Additionally, hustle culture fosters the notion that short-term work-life sacrifices will result in long-term financial stability. For most workers who adopt this pace, the result is not a CEO title, it’s a stress-related health concern. The physical consequences of burnout range from exhaustion and insomnia to anxiety, depression, and cardiac events.
The damaging side effects of a hustle culture aren’t limited to those who opt-in either. The individuals who choose healthy workplace behaviors including normal work hours, utilization of vacation time, and staying home when sick can be perceived as less dedicated by misguided managers. In a recent post on an HR discussion forum, a manager sought advice on how to appropriately reprimand an employee who “only” worked the required number of hours. He was astonished by the responses within the forum as he was criticized for his toxic management mentality. Through the conversation it became clear this manager’s expectations have become clouded by the concept of a hustle culture. He no longer measured performance based on results, but on perceived engagement. Unsurprisingly, when pressed he admitted the individuals who worked the most hours weren’t actually the best performers.
While we can’t control the impressions being created by social media celebrity entrepreneurs, all leaders are responsible for promoting (or demanding) sustainable, healthy workplace behaviors.
- Leaders should be careful not to fall into the trap of “busyness” as that behavior is likely to be modeled by aspiring leaders.
- Leaders should evaluate their measures of performance to ensure they are accurately assessing results, and not perceived engagement. Specifically, efficiency and effectiveness should be rewarded publicly to show how the organization values innovation over busyness.
- Finally, find ways to celebrate your employees for who they are outside of work. Share hobbies, volunteer activities, family stories, pictures from vacations, etc. Remind employees that you value who they are as a whole person and not just the number of hours they spend in the office.