I’ve been thinking about “hustle culture”—the belief that it takes inordinate amounts of courage, confidence, self-determination, and discipline to develop the habits and work ethic to grind it out until you find or create the opportunities you want in life*—a lot lately. I’ve been thinking about how much I hate it. And I was going to write some groundbreaking post about how it’s toxic and ruining our lives, but before I did, I decided to Google “hustle culture toxic” and “hustle culture sucks,” and what do you know? Some really smart folks have already done it for me! So I want to amplify their words here and add some thoughts of my own.
These three articles provided a lovely echochamber for my thoughts (and primal screams):
Gabrielle Moss’s thoughtful Bustle article dives into how hustle culture makes women feel inadequate if (when) they don’t have the endless energy to do it all and have it all.
I love that RamonCreates.com’s piece calls out ads that romanticize hustle culture like this one from Fiverr:
And finally, in this New York Times article, Erin Griffith coins the phrase, “performative workaholism,” adding that Peter Gibbons-esque “workplace indifference just doesn’t have a socially acceptable hashtag” and that in hustle culture, “work is not something you do to get what you want; the work itself is all.”
Please go read them all. Now for my thoughts:
I previously wrote about my experience at last year’s Durham Women Take No Bull Conference. I went again this year, and while I have mostly great things to say about it and a new collection of inspiring soundbites, there was one thing that really rubbed me the wrong way:
A local entrepreneur gave a talk about her success. She said that she wants to set an example for her young interns (especially the women) by being at the office and hard at work well before they show up each morning, and still working long after they leave for the day. While I’m sure a lot of her success was due in large part to her daily grind, I believe we have to set and acknowledge boundaries for the long-term success and sustainability of ourselves, our employees, and our workplaces. In other words: go the f#%! home.
The young entrepreneur’s talk reminded me of the time I went to a mandatory HR meeting about merit-based raises when I worked at UNC. The example they repeatedly gave for going above and beyond at work was coming in even when you’re sick.
Excusez-moi? If you go into work when you’re sick, you’re not only exposing your coworkers (and patients/clients/customers/vendors/etc.) to your nasty germs, you’re also probably not going to be very productive, and you’ll prolong your recovery, making you unproductive (and more expensive) to your company for even longer. Can we get work-related FOMO (fear of missing out)? I guess hustle culture is the antidote?
And another thing!
Have you listened to The Dream? It’s a podcast that “dives into the world of pyramid schemes, multi-level marketing (MLM), and all the other businesses that require their members to recruit their nearest and dearest in hopes of a commission.” Two of my key takeaways from listening to the series (and my own experiences with MLMs) are:
- They target women—especially low-income, immigrant women—by promising financial independence (and lots of income, to be sure); and
- They relentlessly convey that if you fail, it’s because you did not work hard enough.
Ah, hustle culture rears its ugly head yet again, and women are the most vulnerable yet again. MLMs have an almost cult-like laser-focus on positivity, even though the vast majority of investors? participants? entrepreneurs? lose a meaningful amount of money, drop out, or both. Maybe they should just sleep less and eat coffee for lunch or something.
And with that, I’m perfectly content the level of effort I put into this post. I’m off do something that isn’t hustling. Thanks for reading.
*Adapted from Urban Dictionary’s top definition of “hustle”