Kink in exile

Notes from a kinky nomad

Care & feeding: will not work for money, will not work for free

I recently had occasion to think about what I look for in the work I do, and relatedly, in my work relationships. I learned something surprising: I will not work for free. I suppose this isn’t surprising for most people, what with jobs usually involving a paycheck as at least one of the perks, but given my history of quitting jobs due to “bad cultural fit” it’s already established that I also won’t work for money (at least not just money).

Frankly, this entire post can be summed up as “I am a millennial.” And then linking you to the many articles about working with millennials. But because I was thinking about it, perhaps I should add that I’m thinking here specifically about volunteer-based group work, and that while volunteering is often framed as free labor it turns out it’s not.

I actually won’t continually pour energy into someone else’s creative vision (I will into my own with intrinsic reward, but that’s different). To work on someone else’s vision a couple of other things need to exist:

I have to feel like my core competencies are being used, this is why despite understanding that someone has to stuff envelopes for a non-profit charity drive I won’t stay up late stuffing envelopes or infact stuff envelopes for more than a couple of hours without the promise of pizza and socialization. I will however sink hours and hours into data analysis of all sorts, into teaching others about my process, into cross checking someone else’s work or having someone explain interesting points of analysis or UX magic to me, etc.

I have to feel emotionally supported (and dare I say it, celebrated). There is no denying it, I am a millennial, we are the most cooperative generation, and probably the most needy in this regard. I don’t just want to work with you, I want to feel good with you, I want to feel like you care and like you actively want to work with me. This is why interpersonal fuss bleeds into work, why I leave jobs and projects with adversarial relationships. I will not work for free, but I will work for pats on the head, relationship cohesion, and interesting problems.

Oh yeah, you should have an interesting problem.

Somewhere along the line I’ve also absorbed a sense of deference toward other people’s contributions. Oddly this expresses differently in paid and unpaid work – I am much more likely to be shy about my own contribution in a volunteer environment than I am in a corporate environment. I don’t understand it except that perhaps in paid work everyone has agreed that I am a subject matter expert and they want me there (hence paying me) where as in volunteer work it is often unclear what others know of my background or expect of my work. Because my work usually results in other people having to do more stuff (design suggestions, for example, have to be implemented by engineers), I am also scared of imposing on fellow volunteers’ time.

I will work for shared meaning, and/or socializing. Remember the condition under which I will stuff envelops? Pizza and socialization. This is the barn raising of the non-profit sector, we’ll do this work and then we’ll party. And also, we share a vision of the world and its future, we will work together toward this vision and we will own the result together. This isn’t your project, or this groups project, it’s our project and by extension my project (see above for intrinsic reward).

So yeah, tl:dr: will work for interesting problems, strong relationships, personal fulfillment, and emotional validation. And while these don’t have to cost you money, I still won’t work for free.

Written by kinkinexile

June 24, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Posted in care&feeding, work

One Response

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  1. I think it’s great that you Volunteer your time. You might have some criterias to your non-payment, and in all honesty I believe you should. I really don’t see anything wrong with your point of veiw. Thanks for sharing.


    July 16, 2013 at 2:06 pm

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