3 minutes

Why you shouldn't care too much about your job

April 11, 2024

We are told that success comes to those who pour their heart and soul into their careers. We are told that success without being “on” and available 24/7 is impossible and that anything less than full devotion to our careers is irresponsible. However, recent research suggests that adopting a more detached approach to your job (specially when you disconnect) can actually lead to better job performance and overall well-being. This idea might seem counterintuitive (and we are not recommending apathy or indifference) but in fact, there is such a thing as caring too much about your job.

🔥 Reduced Burnout: When you are constantly thinking about your job and fail to disconnect, you are more likely to suffer from burnout. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that individuals who were very passionate about their jobs were more likely to overlook their personal needs and spend countless hours ruminating about their job which prevented them from disconnecting. This caused them to overwork and eventually burnout.

💡 Enhanced Creativity: Many of us are knowledge workers. Our “output” is a function of our ideas, execution, and ability to use resources effectively. Researchers from the University of Eindhoven in Netherlands discovered that a high level of cognitive detachment (not thinking about work when you are not working) is correlated to higher creativity. This is likely due to the fact that when you detach from work your mind is able to rest and is thus more effective when you start working again.

🚵 Increased Resilience: When we tie our self-worth to our career outcomes, we make it harder to overcome failures. If a project you are working on fails, our identify is threatened. We are likely to take it as a personal failure which will generate unnecessary anxiety and prevent us from identifying the learnings and moving on.

🧑 💻 Better Decision Making: When you define yourself as a person as opposed to a job (ie. I am Maria vs I am the VP of Product at XYZ company), you are able to make better decisions about your personal and professional life. This is because your decisions lose a lot of unnecessary emotional weight (ie. a decision to apply to a new role becomes a job decision and not an identity decision). Whereas you do play a role in the company you work at, that role is not your identity and differentiating the two can help you make rational decisions by silencing the noise created by defining yourself as your job title.

👓 Better Focus: The more we care about something, the more likely we are to overthink and second-guess our decisions. Have you ever been around somebody you REALLY wanted to impress or have them like you (ie. a crush or somebody famous)? In most cases, you probably became nervous and ended up saying things or acting in ways that are uncharacteristic of you. When you care too much about your job, you will worry about things that do not merit much attention and thus, fail to prioritize more important things. By caring less about your job, you can more easily focus on the things that matter without spending time worrying about every single detail.

The prospect of caring less about your career may initially seem counterproductive, specially if you are a mission-driven founder or executive. Nonetheless, we must remember that the goal is not to become apathetic. The goal is to care deeply about your work while drawing clear boundaries that enable you to take better care of yourself. This will make you a more effective leader.