“The graveyards are full of irreplaceable men,” a former colleague once remarked to me.
I had told him how much he would be missed, and how hard he would be to replace, after he had announced that he was leaving the paper. He was a very dedicated editor and writer, often working late into the night after starting in the early afternoon. He put in a lot of free hours.
I’ve seen a lot of people come and go over the years at The Gazette, some of whom called the paper their second home, and their colleagues “family.”
Indeed, the workplace is a second home for the average worker. After all, we probably spend more waking hours at work during the week than we do at home (i.e. we sleep 7 or 8 hours a night at home, and, presumably, we don’t sleep at all at work). And in some of the business profiles I’ve edited over the years, I’ve seen bosses refer to their workforce as family, i.e. “We’re like family in this company.”
Personally, if I were to use the word “family” in reference to colleagues, I would qualify it with “fair-weather.” As in “fair-weather friends.” Colleagues are only “family” until they’re not, much like in-laws are only family until you get a divorce or your spouse dies — and they all forget about you. When you leave a company, you’re not family anymore.
I’ve also seen that no matter how hard people work and how far they went beyond the call of duty, such as putting in 12-hour days when they were only paid for 7 hours, their dedication, hard work and accomplishments are mostly forgotten when they leave. Such is the nature of the working world; every day is a new beginning, and what went before is largely irrelevant.
And, really, that is a reflection of our civilization, isn’t it. Think of the billlions who have come and gone — only a handful of them are remembered.
So, what’s the moral of the story? Well, work hard and do a good job for your employer, but don’t give any more hours than you are paid for, because those extra hours should be spent with your true loved ones, your real family, the ones who will be there for you when it comes time to part with your employer and your fair-weather colleagues.
True enough and guilty of doing the extra hours and missed a lot of time with my kids. Time that I’ll never get back.
I’ve worked for quite a few companies over the course of my career, I stayed with one company for about 10 years. Although I knew it would be emotionally difficult to leave this company after such a long time, I bit the bullet, left my work family, and stepped outside. I’ve done this a number of times since then, a couple of them through ‘downsizing’. None of these moves were emotionally painless, but each time I moved saying goodbye to my work family became a little easier.
Fast forward to the present and ‘moving on’ is what I do best; it provides me with fresh challenges and new experiences. I’ve come to view my work families as fluid entities, I suppose I do this to make grieving for them a little easier. Each time I move on I mentally take a few special work family members with me and we keep in touch. These people are spread all around the world and they’re very dear to me, they’re my ‘all weather friends’.
I stay in touch with my former boss from the ’10 year company’; he’s long since retired (downsized / insert stronger term), frail, failing, and living in diminished circumstances.
Many thoughts on this:
1. “Irreplaceable” is not the same as “will be missed.”
2. I think you owe your employer good value for the money paid you. How much “extra” you do/should do, depends on lots of things: (a) is it a once-in-awhile pitching in for the team when things get rough, versus they constantly expect that? (b) how much do you enjoy your job? (c) how much do you think your job makes a difference.
3. For many people, especially in modern, western life, their “family” is whatever they say it is at the moment, mostly friends. Since, as you say, you spend more time at work than anywhere else, your co-workers are indeed your family while you’re there.
4. It always grieved me that in the military people didn’t keep in touch when they moved on. It is the nature of military life, changing assignments frequently, so they learn to make friends quickly, but drop them equally quickly.
5. Often the boss’s view of “we’re like family in this company” doesn’t match the workers’ view. Recall one Medical School Dean who was big on “we’re family – and I’m the father.” Yeah, right, dude, I already have a father.
6. None of your work family, or anything else, follows you to the grave.