Buddhism and work - struggling!

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Buddhism and work - struggling!

Post by Jane26 » Wed Oct 17, 2012 6:46 pm


I'm having quite the struggle with my own mind lately, with a situation at work.

I'd really welcome your input, from a Buddhist belief stand point.

To cut a long long story short, for the last few months I have been covering a more senior role at work as well as doing my own job. So I have been doing two jobs.

I had in the past been unfairly treated by this manager who had discounted me from being promoted into the job in the first place. However when asked to help I felt she'd seen her error, so practiced some patience and forgiveness and went to her aid when she really, really needed me.

I was happy to help for an agreed set of time, it has saved my company considerable money and time and it has saved other colleagues some stress.

It has of course been hard work for me. I have coped ok though, I just do my best each day with a smile on my face. I was promised that they may give me a bonus at the beginning of this process too, so some recognition.

I have not been given the bonus. they have asked me to continue this cover until January though, but they expect this for nothing and have no promise of any knd of extra pay for me or promotion e.t.c.

I am not driven by money, but this upsets me.

I am upset that I have been given no respect, that my efforts aren't reciprocated. We are a team. My company is very, very profitable and paying a bonus or just offering some simple flowers to me is no problem.

I calmly let them know that it was not acceptable team work - for me to do as we agreed, but for them not to reciprocate as agreed too.

They in turn offered me a very low payment which was still not a firm promise and I felt was begrudgingly offered.

I have done an excellent job, without complaint until now.

My other colleagues are also now deeply upset at my treatment. This touches me, I feel very loved by them! :)

They advise me to stop doing this secondment, as it is optional, because management are not grateful.

I agree on a selfish level. But I feel as though I'm somehow being 'big headed', like I should show more Patience and less ego.

On the other hand, I feel that my kindness and understanding should not be abused. That I should remove myself from the negative situation and concetrate on fulfilling my contracted job.

I could do with some impartial advice on how to handle this.

I welcome your input very much. Thank you for reading.


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Re: Buddhism and work - struggling!

Post by Ben » Wed Oct 17, 2012 7:19 pm

Greetings Jane,

It sounds like a very difficult situation. Do you have a human resources (HR) manager in your company? If so, it might be worthwhile speaking with him or her.
If not, then I would be making another appointment to meet with your manager and let them know that the offered pay is not enough. I would also be looking for alternative employment.
kind regards,

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Sam Vara
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Re: Buddhism and work - struggling!

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Oct 17, 2012 7:51 pm

Hi Jane,

I'm sorry things aren't going well. Many organisations rely on the unpaid and unacknowledged goodwill of staff. And to work in an organisation in exchange for money is often, sadly, inseparable from some degree of exploitation.

As well as echoing Ben's sound advice, I would reflect on what you would be likely to gain from any course of action. Are the extra responsibilities good for you? In practical career terms, do they give you the opportunity to learn new skills and to build your CV? Do they give you a better sense of yourself as someone who can cope with the pressure? And in terms of the practice, do they give you the opportunity to realise the path more effectively?

When I have been in similar situations, the touchstone has been my meditation practice. If my fatigue or sense of grievance or other negative feeling prevents me from meditating as per usual, then that settles it.

Listen to your feelings for a bit, and then decide for yourself. In such situations I don't think we ever really know whether things will turn out for better or for worse. But sitting with your feelings will at least mean that you can decide and then not bother yourself with recriminations. You did the most rational and caring thing with the material at your disposal.

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Monkey Mind
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Re: Buddhism and work - struggling!

Post by Monkey Mind » Wed Oct 17, 2012 8:48 pm

Sounds like a job I quit back in May. I initially agreed to do more and more, wanting to help out. But soon my efforts became expected, without any promise of compensation. This situation got worse. When I was finally assertive, they accused me of being self-ish and "not a team player." In the end I left, not just because of that but I realized the behavior they displayed towards me was actually a business model that they applied to all of their dealings. In their view, the employee was disposable. Glad I left.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

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Re: Buddhism and work - struggling!

Post by Dan74 » Wed Oct 17, 2012 10:05 pm

This seems to be a story I hear quite often these days, unfortunately.

People who are at your level see and appreciate the work you doing, but those higher up, don't. I suspect it is more to do with them being engrossed in their own responsibilities and inability to see and appreciate what those "below" are doing even when it's helping them a lot, rather than completely to do with you.

In the end we should be honest with ourselves, but also out things in perspective and it sounds to me like you are able to do both and arrive at the right decision.

Good luck!

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Re: Buddhism and work - struggling!

Post by befriend » Wed Oct 17, 2012 10:32 pm

this in my opinion is unfair exploitation of your skills. i dont think the problem is them being rude, the problem its effecting the quality of your life in a negative way.
what you could do is teach one of the higher ups what you are doing, so you dont have to do it. being buddhist is not about being pushed around. look after yourself so you can look after others better.
nothing can destroy a man who has lived a pure life

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Re: Buddhism and work - struggling!

Post by santa100 » Wed Oct 17, 2012 11:16 pm

You should perform your work in a way to make sure that they(your employer) needs you just as much as you need them. In a tough economy, workers are afraid of getting laid off and tend to "over-perform" (like take fewer vacation days, work longer hours, take on more responsibilities, etc.) to keep their job. The moment the employer smells that you need them more than they need you, they'll take advantage of you. That's why it's extremely important to always improve and update your skillsets. Show them that you're such a valuable, competent, AND "in demand" employee and your current employer will be more likely to change the way they treat you. And if they still don't, then you should seriously look for a better place to work..

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Re: Buddhism and work - struggling!

Post by ground » Mon Oct 22, 2012 6:19 am

Jane26 wrote: ... from a Buddhist belief stand point.
Maybe not "belief" but knowledge ... anyway ... here is the requested input (which of course may be ignored or rejected):

Relax. If relaxation entails working less then just work less. Drop any expectations for respect and/or bonus. If you quit it is driven by self, feeling "poor me" is driven by self, expectations are driven by self ... actually it is an awfully perfect situation the felt "I" is trapped in. :sage:

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