Service of Caring too Much

May 8th, 2014

Categories: Attitude, Caring, Excess, Passion, Work

love work

Can a person care too much about the place they work?

Sue Shellenbarger attempted to answer the question in her Wall Street Journal article, “When it Comes to Work, Can You Care Too Much?

She divided employees into “organization lovers” and “free agents.”

Frustrated at workLike any lover, the former can get hurt and become disillusioned. She describes the type in a sidebar as “caring, committed, attached and involved” as well as driven to contribute, to inspire others and play extremely well with team members. Simultaneously Shellenbarger’s summary also portrays them as potential malcontents, prone to get frustrated over things they can’t change and they react “emotionally to employer missteps.”

When BP blundered, wrote Shellenbarger, one of its employees, Christine Bader, quit. “‘The hurt ran much deeper when BP’s problems came to pass, because I was so in love with that company,’ says Ms. Bader, author of ‘The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist,’ a book about how people advocate inside companies for social and environmental causes. ‘My sense of identity was really shaken,’ says Ms. Bader.”

Shellenbarger continued: “Nearly 1 in 3 employees are strongly attached to their jobs and organizations, and their numbers are edging higher, based on a biannual Gallup survey that tracks attitudes common among organization-lovers. Some 30% of employees are ‘engaged,’ or involved, enthusiastic and committed to their jobs, up from 28% in 2010, the survey shows. Women have an edge, with 33% of them falling into this category, compared with 28% of men.”

wtf faceReading Shellenbarger’s description of free agents, I’m not so sure such passionate commitment is an edge. Free agents are, she writes, “detached, calm and self-directed. They leave problems at work, feel more in control and take missteps in stride.” She lists as “cons” that they also change jobs frequently and “can be seen as cynical.” Shellenbarger doesn’t share examples of such employees.

I know where I fit and in typical grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side-of-the-street mode I wish I were more like the other. And you?

 grass is greener

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8 Responses to “Service of Caring too Much”

  1. David Reich Said:

    Jeanne, you are one of the “carers,” for sure. That’s not a bad thing.

  2. Hank Goldman Said:

    As always, jeanne, great topic…

    As we go through our day, we see people going all out to help during their job time. And others who just want to get rid of their responsibilities…

    In this day and age, when young workers seem to pay more
    attention to their “smart” phones… It’s wonderful to catch even a glimpse of someone who really cares.

    Skipping any identifiable references: I just had a medical exam experience,
    where all parties really tried extra hard to make my day, and their day,far more efficient, and pleasurable. We may all have, the human race, better days ahead than I expected.!!

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    A large dollop of “whateverrrrrr……” wouldn’t hurt, but thanks.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Always LOVE hearing stories about CARING medical people. Good for them–no more appropriate place for it.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Enjoyment of job, which implies caring in varying degrees, is an asset. Learning to let go, be it because of a firing or termination of a project, is equally important given the often hostile atmosphere of todays job market. How much is too much is known only to the individual.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Moderation is the goal, but the question is how to achieve it. Last night I was at the preview of my client’s art fair. One of the exhibitors asked me if I worked for the fair director and then told me that his booth didn’t have a name ID yet. I rushed to get someone to install it. I didn’t give the exhibitor a speech about my role at the event–who wants to hear that when they need help and the event is about to start? Nothing irks more than “it’s not my job.” Some would suggest it wasn’t dignified of me to get involved at that level. Balance, schmalance–he was grateful when he saw his booth sign and that was the point.

  7. JPM Said:

    Business models change with the times. The fashion when I grew up was paternalism; now, it’s throw the meat up and let the scum fight for it. Everyone is in it for her or himself, and to Hell with the other gal, or guy and the company.

    I liked it the way it used to be. I had a difficult, complicated job, but it was fascinating and immensely rewarding, not in money, but in personal satisfaction. We all made mistakes. they were inevitable, but we all– bosses, subordinates and peers — covered for each other, and cared about having our employer succeed. And we did succeed.

    My job was a very big part of my life, perhaps too big and too rewarding, but I’m glad I don’t have to work in the environment Ms. Shellenbarger seems to idealize. I’d be miserable doing something I didn’t much care about.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    There are companies that are still run in the way you describe and loose alliances of professionals that work that way. Focus on profits this moment–because in future the company will be in someone else’s hands–has spoiled the collegial atmosphere that may have been the norm in the past. But before I put away my rose colored glasses, I must remember the reason we needed unions: To protect workers who were mistreated and underpaid. Not everything was peachy in the past.

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