I want to end the cult of pretending that overperforming at work is our path to happiness.

I don’t trust people who say they would still work if they won the lotto

I made the mistake of going on LinkedIn last week. I would rather lick the handrail on the Luas over having a LinkedIn profile if I had the choice, but the site is extremely useful for tracking people down and annoying them into talking to me for the newspaper.

It used to be a “networking” website where you went to scrounge for jobs, sliding into the DM’s of acquaintances who worked for the company you wanted to work for, with the hope they’d put in a good word for you and collect a shiny referral bonus for themselves. But over the last few years, it seems to have turned into the digital adult version of the primary school sticker chart. You know the one where the teacher would put glitter dinosaurs next to the names of kids who had met their key performance indicators (coloured in the lines, said “please” and sat quietly in class) and forbidding black marks for those students who had not (wouldn’t share pencils, ate the glue sticks and had rock fights at lunchtime).

But now, instead of showing mum how many happy smiley faces you’ve got this term for being the bestest boy in class, it’s about trying to impress employers with your willingness to ignore labour laws.

“Billed 60-plus hours this week during silly season. A lot of long nights in the office with no breaks but worth it to work for this team of superstars #consultantlife #riseandgrind #Imdeadinside” (they don’t write the last bit in words, just say it with their desperate eyes in the accompanying selfie.)


The site has become cluttered with truth-adjacent stories that have weird sucky-up undertones about how it just takes hard work and dedication to succeed. You can read all about how giving up a seat to an elderly lady who was actually Micheal D Higgins in disguise led to someone’s climb to the top to become the second-best doorbell sales executive in the midlands.

But the worst posts of all read something like: “Came into the office while everyone else was still on Christmas leave. Never miss a chance to get ahead while your competition is sleeping.”

I know these kinds of people. The “my job is my life” people who insist their career isn’t just a way to survive in a system that demands we exchange our time and labour for money. To these people, work is a “calling”.

I don’t know about you, but for me, dedicating your life to a religion or charity work is a calling. Middle management of a digital marketing agency is not.

Once a manager accused me of not being dedicated to my part-time retail job because I had sat my university exams instead of coming in early for my shift to unpack a delivery.

I want to end the cult of pretending that overperforming at work is our path to happiness

“You just work here for the money,” she said, as though it was my passion for selling overpriced jeans that kept me folding clothes all weekend in a shop and not my need to pay my rent.

After a decade in retail, I realised companies not only think they are buying your time, but your attitude too. “You should be wearing our brand on nights out, you should be posting on Instagram and you should always be selling – this is lifestyle,” they would tell us at yet another unpaid training day. Strangely, the company’s “lifestyle” did not pay employees more than minimum wage, and asking for owed overtime was classed as “having bad vibes”.

Now we’re doing the work for companies by constantly promoting our productivity online, showcasing our insatiable drive to smash targets, achieve wins and be rock star-ninja-gurus in our jobs.

I want to end the cult of pretending that overperforming at work is our path to happiness. It’s like when people say they would still go to work every day if they won the lottery. “Oh I would have to work, I’d go mad sitting around all day,” they insist.

To me, this is madness. If I had the money, I could do so much. I could do absolutely nothing. I’d fill my day reading and drawing moustaches on people I don’t like in the paper. I would write long lists of possessions I think should be taxed at extortionate rates, like SUVs in the city, three-piece suits for adult men, and laser pointers.

I’d lobby the council to finally paint lanes down the footpath so people keep to the left and stop bumping old ladies into the road. I’d pick up rubbish along the beach. I’d volunteer to write cranky letters for people overcharged by energy companies. I would give free walking tours to tourists in Dublin offering up dodgy information. “That’s the Centra where Michael Collins used to buy his cans of Club Orange from,” I would tell Americans proudly.

I’d be finally doing something useful with my life by not having to do anything at all.

When I die my tombstone will read, “She said she would write what she wanted to go on here, but sadly never got around to it”.