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Business people trying to balance on a pivot

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong by FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Workplace sociology keeps getting more and more interesting. With the new ways of working that technology has brought us, there are now new labels to consider. Integrator, separator and job warrior are three terms described in The Wall Street Journal online article entitled, “Late -Night Work Email: Blessing or Curse?

These terms aptly reflect their meaning. An integrator is adept at weaving a personal and professional life so one flows into the other, by conducting business calls during leisure time, leaving work early for a family commitment and working en route. This would include those lucky enough to build a career from their passion. The separator is more of the work hard/play hard type. Work is work and play is play, aka nine-to-five. The job warrior stresses about volleying back and forth between home and work. That was me many years ago.

Business woman jumps an abyss with a weight on her foot

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong by FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now I would say the label of integrator is more fitting for me. Working from home affords me the luxury of being able to talk to my son when he calls during the workday, without getting the evil eye, and also being able to work late at night when I sometimes feel more effective or need to catch up.

One of the interesting points that Sue Shellenbarger raises in this article is how this throws yet another wrench into the dynamics of corporate life. There has always been bantering and bitching among office staff about who works too hard or not enough, who is “teacher’s pet” and who takes long lunches. Now, the subject matter is not whether or not someone is really working but how they’re working.

Just like any other label, there is always the risk of discrimination. Integrators and separators can be at odds, one thinking they are better than the other and some being shunned from the workplace if the office culture is not aligned with their way of working. This is something to consider when interviewing and being interviewed. Different working behaviors may not impact productivity but may work favorably or not in terms of fitting into the organization, gaining respect and being able to exert influence.

This can also put people on the defensive. Once I was at a writing conference and of course most of the participants worked from home. I asked a question that somehow was misinterpreted as disrespect for home-based professionals. I took a bit of a lashing. I never intended to insult anyone, but I understand the reaction. I work from home and find I am especially diligent about being accessible, being on time for teleconferences and completing work ahead of deadlines. I consciously stay aware that resentment and suspicion is out there, and I want to mitigate the risk of being forced to return to job warrior mode because a separator does not appreciate my ability to integrate.

What’s really wonderful about this new working culture is that we have choices. Nine-to-five is still an option but not the only one. The hard part is the dilemma that exists in society as a whole: accepting each other’s differences.