Suffering from Bad Work
- Hemant Karandikar


You are busy with your life. You are building your career. You are driving to work and a sharp pain forces you to shift in your seat slightly. It goes and you forget about it. You bend down to lift something and find it difficult to straighten up. You manage it by stretching. The pain keeps coming back at increased frequency. You try balms and pain killers. They help just for a while. Your back pain becomes your companion. Unknown to you, you start restricting your movements -getting up with support, bending gingerly, and sitting down every now then. As long as the pain is bearable or it can be 'managed' by balms, pain killers, or by adapting old person's habits you carry on. In case the pain gets unbearable, you get into the cycle of pain killers and all kinds of therapies. You have lived mainly on intellectual or emotional level, you have allowed your body to fall in disuse. You have gone too far.

Our Indian philosophy teaches us to strive for balance. Our Yoga, Ayurveda, and even our cuisine are designed to help us attain balance in whatever we do. If you are a strong willed person determined to get rid of your disability, you listen to the need for making corrections in your behavior rather than just depending on therapies. You take your physiotherapy sessions seriously and make a habit of them. You stand more and walk more. You take to running. You slouch less. You take adequate rest and eat more nutritious food. In short, you allow your body to heal itself by creating right conditions. You turn your back on a bad back. You restore your balance.

Whether you have had a bad back or not, it is quite likely that you suffer from 'Bad Work'. Haven't heard of this? Check if you have some of these symptoms. Symptoms of 'Bad Work'

1. Monday blues aren't blue anymore. They are dark.
2. It's Wednesday and you are already waiting for the weekend.
3. You keep thinking about work but don't actually get to doing it unless you are jolted into action by your boss.
4. You are unable to enjoy your favorite non-work activities or hobbies like watching movies, listening to music, or reading. You feel guilty and anxious.
5. You feel tired even without much physical activity.
6. You are not able to fall asleep quickly. You can't wake up easily.
7. You feel you aren't getting anywhere.

If any of the above statements ring bells in your mind, they are alarm bells for you.

You are suffering from bad work. You say instead, 'My work-life balance is not there'. Then you get that fuzzy feeling that it is just a question taking off some bricks of work from one pan and adding dollops of life in the other pan of an imaginary balance. All will be well once this little balancing is done.

It might mean that you have absolutely no idea about what is wrong.

Don't hide from bad work by talking about work life balance.

Problems at work

You probably think too much and do little. You worry too much and do little. You do little and expect too much.

There are many possible causes of bad work.

It may be that your employer believes that to get money's (salary paid to you) worth you must be made to put in long hours working -weekends and your holidays included.

May be, you hate your work. May be you like your work but you have to put in lot of efforts to get results. It is possible that everyone gets away with delays and shoddy work and you have to clean it up since you are the last in the chain. It may be that you don't get cooperation from your colleagues. Perhaps a tough market is causing difficulties. It may be that you simply are not good enough at what you are supposed to be doing.
It is possible that your work requires you to make compromises about your values.
There may be some other reasons. You must keep looking.

Difficult life
There can be many reasons why you are not happy even when you aren't working.
You obsess too much about material wealth or what you get. You obsess too much about your career. You expect too much from others and give very little.
It is possible that you haven't thought much outside your area of work. May be, you don't spare much thought for others including those near to you. May be, you don't express your feelings well.
Possibly, you haven't got into habit of good physical exercise.
You aren't learning anything new or you aren't doing anything differently. There might be some health issues, niggles, or bad habits which you have swept under the carpet. It is possible that you don't have anyone in whom you can confide and share your weaknesses or dark thoughts.
It is possible that others think that you are very selfish or unreliable and that is why they keep away from you. You are anxious or worried about future. It is possible that you get more tired by thinking about some unpleasant tasks than by doing those tasks.
A big possibility is that your 'bad work' is spilling over in your life and causing you problems.

Elusive balance
Unless you investigate causes behind your bad work or difficult life, any amount of work-life balance initiatives by your HR will be of no use. A chat with a good friend, or your spouse, or professional counselor might help you to get started. Consider some online tests which let you find out more about yourself.
The balance is not about avoiding hard work. It is also can't be achieved by slogging day in and day out.

The balance that we need is not like that having two pans and a pointer which needs to be at center. That's dead balance. The balance that we need is that of runner who enjoys his movement, or that of a musician who enjoys his performance despite the efforts and concentration. The balance that we need is that of working hard and well, and earning our rest as we savor the sweet exhaustion that comes with doing a good job. We know this feeling.

This balance is achieved by substituting bad work (shoddy, faulty, not useful to others in good measure, needing corrections) by more good work (good and clean jobs, helping others in doing good jobs)

Whether in sports, at work, or in life, such a balance is difficult to achieve. It happens if we practice to set up conditions of balance and then let go. Setting up conditions for good work

We must work well and long -but not so hard as to get so fatigued that we don't want to work again, not so little that makes us feel worthless.
What causes us to work too hard? Some of the causes are -ego or pride (need to show off), fear (I will lag behind), less skill, less knowledge, less experience, wrong methods, wrong tools, attitude mismatch etc.
What causes laziness? Some reasons are -fear, failures, not liking the work, energy or health issues, wrong attitude etc.
We need to prevent above conditions that either make us work too hard or make us avoid work. If we can identify our specific causes, we know what to do for setting up conditions for balance.
Like bad back, bad work can't be wished away. External therapies won't be enough. We need to take responsibility for getting rid of bad work. We need to spend more time in doing good work.
In essence, excesses disturb balance and cause illnesses or failures. The successes too will be short lived. We need to avoid to excessive work and excessive laziness. We need to be in zone between the two extremes and stay balanced.


-by Hemant Karandikar
Hemant is an alumnus of IIT Bombay with engineering and top management experience. He is author of the book 'Lead to Regenerate'. He provides startup mentoring and design consulting services. He writes on current affairs, economy, and management.
can be reached at Twitter: @HKarandikar