Drive by some buildings at 5 p.m. and you'll see people streaming out the doors like the floodgates have burst open and every employee has finally been set free.
It always makes me wonder: What must it be like to work for companies like those? What must it feel like to so badly want to get away from a job that hordes of employees are compelled to make sure they get out the door within seconds of their official quitting time?
I've had that kind of job when I was younger, so I know how terrible it feels.
And that's why you should never leave work on time.
Not because you owe the company more hours and effort... but because you owe yourself to work in a job, and for a company, where you feel engaged, fulfilled, appreciated, and eager to do work you love.
Don't get me wrong. I love working at HubSpot; it's the job best job I've ever had. (This is not an accident, my co-founder and I designed it to be the best job we've ever had.) But I do have "off" days where I don't spend all my time doing things I absolutely love. That's the reality of work.
But there's another reality to consider as well. Roughly speaking we will all work well over 10,000 days during our careers. That's a lot of days to feel disengaged, unfulfilled, and unappreciated. That's a lot of days to spend watching and waiting for quitting time. That's a lot of days to spend the last thirty minutes before 5 o'clock (or whenever your "shift" ends) wondering if the hands on the clock will ever, ever move.
"Life is too short to spend days willing the clock to move faster towards quitting time."
And that is why you must make a change. Your goal should be to work in a job where you sometimes leave on time but you also often stay a little longer -- not because you have to, but because you want to -- to help others, to finish what you started, to get one more thing done, to start a new initiative or a side project, to tie up a loose end, to talk to people you didn't get a chance to see... because your job is part of your life, and you enjoy both. And, you should work in a place where sometimes you leave early, because it's your daughter's first dance recital, or you're heading out for the weekend for your best friend's wedding.
Remember, not all hours are created equal. Some hours matter way more than others. Optimize for overall effectiveness and happiness. Both you and your company will be better off.
But, of course, this is easier said than done though, right?
Go back to seeing people as people. It's easy to get bogged down in daily tasks and lose sight of the fact that internal and external customers are people -- people with needs. When you meet the needs of people, you feel better about yourself and about the work you do. No matter what you do or what you're job you're in -- you're helping people somehow. It's important to remember that.
Plus you build solid relationships; relationships form the true backbone of job satisfaction.
Go back to seeing your manager as a person you work with. It's also easy to start seeing your manager as a person you work for -- and in time that relationship can feel adversarial rather than collaborative.
Take a step back and think about your her targets and goals. How can you help her perform better? How can you help her achieve more? Working as a team rather than as two individuals helps break down hierarchical barriers -- and improves the level of trust and respect you both display.
And don't say it's your boss's job to create that kind of professional relationship. While in a perfect world it is, your world probably isn't perfect, and neither is hers. Fair or unfair, be the one to take the first steps or steps.
Otherwise nothing will change.
Go back to viewing success in terms of fulfillment and gratification.
When you started your job you were excited about the work -- about the chance to learn, to develop, to make a difference, to make things happen... and then somewhere along the way your focus shifted to promotions and pay raises.
And when those didn't come along as often as you hoped (because they never do) then you started to disengage.
Flip it back around. Focus more on making a difference and making things happen. Focus more on helping other people succeed. Focus more on enjoying the satisfaction of a job well done than on the monetary reward you receive.
When you do, two things happen. You'll feel much more satisfied with what you do every day, and in time your performance will result in the promotions and pay raises you not only deserve but truly earned.
Then you get to be happy twice.
Go back to charting your own course.
When you started your job you were also excited by the possibilities. You had ideas. You had plans. You eagerly dived into new projects. You even created a few of your own.
Then time had its way with you. Now you do what you're expected to do -- and that sense of excitement and empowerment is gone.
Stop waiting to be given something exciting to do; it may never happen. Take advantage of the fact that now you truly know the company: the players, the agendas, the barriers and turf wars. Then take a step back and think about how your company truly creates value. What do your customers really care about? What are their pain points? What can differentiate your service?
Pick something important, learn more than anyone else in the company, and become "that" guy or gal.
"Owning" a subject or skill is not just rewarding -- it's fun. It feels great to be "that" guy.
Plus not only are you respected, you also get to share your knowledge and skills with others -- and enjoy the gratification that comes from seeing other people reach their potential.
But What If You're Still Unhappy?
Unfortunately, your current employer may simply not be the right fit. Another sad reality about work is that all companies are not created equal. No matter how hard you try, your job and your employer may not be right for you.
If that's the case, you owe it to yourself to make a change.
One option is to find a company you'll love working for. Another is to start your own business, whether full-time or on the side.
But what is not an option is to stay in a job where your sole focus is on escaping at quitting time.
I'm not saying you need to consistently work longer and later hours. I'm not advocating a terrible work-life balance. (Although I'd argue there's no such thing: work and life are both aspects of life.)
I am saying life is too short to work in a job where you always leave on time -- because that means you're missing out the gratification, fulfillment, relationships, and sense of self that comes from working in a job you love.
You owe that to yourself. Work hard to find it -- and keep it.
And, if you're looking for more inspiration on work and how it's changing and how it should be, I humbly submit the slide deck below. It captures much of my thinking on the topic and is used internally by all 800+ of our employees.
Dharmesh Shah is co-founder and CTO of HubSpot. He is a contributing blogger on LinkedIn, where it first appeared
Follow Dharmesh Shah on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dharmesh