Office environment with magnifying glass over one desk

I can’t say I’ve ever read Roxanne Gay’s Work Friend column for The New York Times during the last four years, but I enjoyed reading her sign-off article. She talks about the advice she really wanted to give people (usually “quit your job”) and the things that we really want, but will never be able to get, from a job.

To work, for so many of us, is to want, want, want. To want to be happy at work. To feel useful and respected. To grow professionally and fulfill your ambitions. To be recognized as leaders. To be able to share what you believe with the people you’re around for eight or more hours a day. To be loyal and hope your employers will reciprocate. To be compensated fairly. To take time off to recharge and enjoy the fruits of your labor. To conquer the world. To do a good enough job and coast through middle age to retirement.


We shouldn’t have to suffer or work several jobs or tolerate intolerable conditions just to eke out a living, but a great many of us do just that. We feel trapped and helpless and sometimes desperate. We tolerate the intolerable because there is no choice. We ask questions for which we already know the answers because change is terrifying and we can’t really afford to risk the loss of income when rent is due and health insurance is tied to employment and someday we will have to stop working and will still have financial obligations.

I was mindful of these realities as I answered your Work Friend questions. Still, in my heart of hearts, I always wanted to tell you to quit your job. Negotiate for the salary you deserve. Stand up for yourself. Challenge authority. Tell your rude co-worker to shut up. Report your boss to everyone and anyone who will listen. Consult a lawyer. Did I mention quit your job? Go back to graduate school. Leave some deodorant and mouthwash on your smelly co-worker’s desk. Send that angry email to your undermining colleague. Call out your boss when he makes a wildly inappropriate comment. No, your boss should not force you to work out of her kitchen. Mind your own business about your colleague’s weird hobby. Mind your own business, in general. Blow the damn whistle on your employer’s cutting corners and putting people’s lives in danger. Tell the irresponsible dog owner to learn how to properly care for the dog. No, you don’t owe your employer anything beyond doing your job well in exchange for compensation. No, your company is not your family. No, the job will never, ever love you.

This is all to say that I wish we lived in a world where I could offer you frank, unfiltered professional advice, but I know we do not live in such a world.

Source: Goodbye, Work Friends

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