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Is a Pampered Employee Making a Deal with the Devil?

This title may seem melodramatic.  Deals with the devil generally mean selling your soul.  Well, in the realm of work, I’m asking if you’re selling at least a part of it.  If you thoroughly accept the loving embrace of a company that caters to so many of your daily needs, can you maintain a perspective that allows you to see life from outside the courtship?  

In cool Silicon Valley companies, you work ten, twelve, fourteen hours a day.  As a recent college graduate, you’re unencumbered by family or other adult obligations and can readily plunge into work.  Aside from a possible romantic interest, what else outside is compelling enough to grab your attention? 

Your manager says your project is vital to the long-term life of the company.  He realistically reports that the competition out there is fierce and if the company does not continually innovate by bringing development projects like yours to fruition, it will fall behind.  And falling behind in the technologically sophisticated markets occupied by the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter leaves a pretty short road to failure.

You already feel proud because you were offered a job that is as hard to score as at Google.  Just being selected in the small percentage of applicants Google hires means that you are exceptional, especially after surviving its notoriously difficult interview process.  Or does it?  Joining this elite band means you have to prove yourself.  What if the company made a mistake and misjudged your abilities?  You’re determined to measure up.

The veteran employees who show you the ropes brag about how much they work.  The first thing they emphasize is the dedication you need to make it.  Are you going to be the first one heading to the door at five o’clock?  I suspect not. 

When you look around, the veterans seem to have no thought of leaving.  A couple of them approach you around seven pm to take a break and ask if you would rather play foosball or shoot pool. Throw in the fact that you are working with others about your own age who are doing the same thing and the path looks enticing and paved with gold. Hmm.  

Dr. Thomas Begley is dean of the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.