By Caitlin Abber
I have been working in the tech start-up and digital advertising agency worlds for the past six years. These two worlds overlap in a few places—namely social media and the uncertainty of being able to pay their staff in six months. But there is another area where I have seen a commonality so real it has grown from a stereotype to an expectation: the notion that working, all the time—as in 24 hours a day, Christmas Eve and at your kid’s dance recital—is not only normal, but encouraged.
I wrestle with this a lot when I work with the CEOs of these companies. I want so badly for them to slow down, to take a week off to go hiking, and to chill out so they aren’t so testy with their employees, but I know that is not the culture of the industry. Hustle, as a point of strength and character, is often the way these guys (and yes, they are mostly men) prove they really care about and believe in what they are doing.
In Tim Kreider’s New York Times piece, “The ‘Busy’ Trap”, he talks about how this emotional need to constantly work to fill time may just be a cover-up because we are scared of what happens when we don’t have work. “They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.”
I think, for a lot of people, what we fear more than anything is failure, and especially in the tech world, the worst way to fail is by not working hard enough. Even if their company is not doing well, if a CEO is at the office until two in the morning, sitting at their desk looking stressed out, they feel they have done everything they can.