Reading03: I don’t want to be CEO, and that should be okay.

Reading03: I don’t want to be CEO, and that should be okay.

Can men and women have it all? That all depends on how we define “all”.

I think it’s clear that as we graduate college and enter the workforce (or go into grad school/academia) that we have to make decisions on how to spend our time – there are tradeoffs between hobbies, family, work, etc. I think the core problem when we discuss “having it all” is the way we look at our work.

We hold high-achieving, C-Level people as the most successful, the peak of workplace success. However, these are largely people who have made decisions to focus on their work over the rest of their lives. Personally, I would never want to be a CEO/CTO/CIO/etc – at this point in my life, I think that family and life outside work is too important to me to hold a role like that.

I want to be clear: I am saying that we shouldn’t view people negatively for choosing family over work. We should have the freedom to prioritize the different parts of our lives. At the same time, though, we shouldn’t begrudge those who do put work first – everyone has different goals and priorities. However, it is sensible to some extent to reward those who put work first to some extent; such a person would naturally be a better choice for a CEO. We just need to take care not to do so at the expense of those with other priorities.

After saying this, I suppose I would say it’s either impossible or prohibitively difficult to “have it all”. That is, if you define “having it all” as advancing far in the workplace while at the same time raising a family (or meeting other very involved non-work related goals). Tradeoffs must be made – for as long as I can remember, I’ve known that I want to have a family. That will (hopefully) be a priority for me in my post-graduate life, and I will likely make decisions that place family before work.

Still, if I am raising a family and also working, I have an obligation to place work at a reasonably high priority, enough to be a productive member of the company. However, the more pertinent issue at this time seems to be about the behavior of the company.

I think that employers should do their best to be accommodating of those who don’t put work first. If someone is trying to be a productive employee, but also holds family as a priority, they should be welcomed in, with the understanding that if they need someone to work 60+ hours a week, they should look elsewhere.

This is where the “greedy algorithm” fails – it’s in the employer’s best interest for its employees to all put work first. This is the kind of atmosphere that Amazon appears to be trying to cultivate, from the reading this week. It’s the strategy that leads to the most material gain for the company, at the expense of its employees.

However, this strategy doesn’t lead to the best outcome for everyone. Those who have other priorities can’t find a spot in a workplace like this, and will burn-out, have conflicts, or worse. An ethical workplace should have an understanding that it doesn’t necessarily have to be the #1 priority in each of its workers’ lives.