I remember once walking through the halls of my workplace on a Friday morning. I was in a good mood. I was happy to be there. I was looking forward to working with my teammates. I was looking forward to serving my customers. It was going to be a good day.
Then, as I was passing a coworker in the hall, I greeted him with, “Hey, how’s it going?”
And he said, “Oh, you know, glad it’s Friday.” Now, nothing special happens in our workplace on Friday. He wasn’t talking about finishing a project or about anything at all related to work. He was sharing with me the common workplace sentiment, TGIF. Thank God it’s Friday.
It seems such an innocent statement. It’s a celebration even. It’s a short prayer of gratitude.
And it took the wind right out of my sails.
TGIF and sentiments like it really have no place in a professional’s vernacular. The problem with TGIF is not in thanking God. The problem is not in expressing gratitude. The problem is not in loving Fridays. It’s not even in looking forward to the weekend. The problem is in the subtext.
Let me illustrate.
Recently, as I was making a purchase in a local store I frequent, the clerk engaged me in a brief but lively conversation. When she asked me what I do, I told her that I help folks Make Work Good. After asking me to elaborate, she asked for my phone number saying, “I’d like to talk with you about how to convince my supervisor that I’m ready to take on a full time job here.”
I gave her my card, told her I’d be happy to talk, and said, “Let me leave you with this…” And I recalled to her the very beginning of our conversation when I’d asked, “How are you?” Her response was, “I’ll be better in about half an hour.” This is a common knee-jerk response we’ve all heard countless times. It’s the verbalization of a culturally accepted expectation that work-life is inferior to life outside work. And it presumes that all of us feel that way.
When this sentiment is spoken to a colleague, as it often is, it corrodes the well-being of the team. It affirms the normalcy and inevitability of the desire not to be working. For anyone already feeling that way, it reinforces and deepens the feeling. For those who are glad to be at work, it can lead them to feel disdain for their coworkers if they are confident. And if they are not confident, the frequent sharing of this anti-work sentiment can lead people to second guess their own happiness in working. Either way, it diminishes everyone’s pleasure and performance at work.
When that sentiment is spoken to a client, as it often is, the subtext is, “I’ll be better when I’m no longer here serving you.”
Very often, this anti-work message is not intended (as with the clerk who served me). It’s about creating or strengthening relationships. It’s intended to create an affinity between the two because, “Haven’t we all been there.” But it’s an unhealthy affinity. And it most certainly doesn’t serve the company writing the paychecks.
Because she’d enlisted my support in earning a promotion, I told the clerk, “You’ve been so warm and friendly. You’ve given me great service. You seem to genuinely enjoy serving me. But when you said, ‘I’ll be better in half an hour,’ you basically told me you’d be happier not having to serve me.”
“I love my job,” she said. “That’s just something I said.”
“I get it,” I told her. “It’s a thing people say.” I told her that what people don’t understand, though, is that we’re listening to ourselves when we talk. We’re affected by the things we say. We start to believe the things we say. And our mindset shifts to reflect our beliefs. And others—customers, coworkers and supervisors—pick up on our mindset. Our mindset speaks unconsciously but loudly through tone, body language, and subtle nuances of speech and word-choice.
“Call me anytime,” I told the clerk. “Meanwhile, you can convince your supervisor that you’re ready to be full-time by wanting to be here. People who add value to their organizations get promoted. Tell yourself you want to be here. I can see that you enjoy your customers. Allow yourself to dive into that experience. Take on more responsibility because you enjoy the challenge. You’ll have a full-time job in no time.”
TGIF is a contagion. It’s a disease run rampant in our society. It spreads from person to person. “TGIF. Thank God we don’t have to be here tomorrow. I wish I didn’t have to be here now.” So, I encourage managers and executives to try to gently but firmly remove TGIF and its kin—another day, another dollar, watching the clock, etc—from their corporate culture. Don’t wait to hear it. Hold a meeting with those you supervise, and simply tell them how you feel about it. Tell them you want them to love their work. Tell them you want everyone to feel free to express their love for work. Tell them that you want that sentiment to become contagious in your organization. And when you hear TGIF expressed, calmly explain the cost to the person expressing it. “When you say, ‘TGIF,’ it sends the message to everyone who hears you, and more importantly to yourself, that this is a place you don’t like. I love my work. When others hear you say that, it’s harder for them to love theirs.”
The title of this piece is, “TGIF Destroys Lives.” That’s a bold statement, I know. The thing is, most of us spend five days a week on the job. If you’re working for the weekend, that means that you value only two days out of seven. TGIF folks live the life they want only 29% of the time. More than two-thirds of their week is a grind—“the daily grind.” That’s no way to live.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with looking forward to the weekend. It’s natural and healthy to look forward with anticipation to exciting plans for play, or to a well-earned rest after working hard all week. The best performers in the workplace, however, are the ones who, on the weekends, look forward to Monday even as they are enjoying a little R & R. They look forward to getting back to work. They like work. They like to be there. They like their teammates. They like what they do.
And they deliberately cultivate that enjoyment. When someone asks them, “How are you doing?” They don’t say, “TGIF,” implying that they’re working for the weekend. They don’t say, “Another day, another dollar,” implying that they’re working for a paycheck. They say, “Never better.” And it’s true. They’ve been getting steadily better at their jobs since day one. They’re passionate about work. They’re passionate about their growth. They’re working for love: love of their team, love of their work, love of their company, and love of those whom they serve. They’re working for love of life.