A wise woman once taught me this before; on advising others during their tough times. She said, more often than not, it is better to advice others to keep on plodding and continue with the hard work, instead of giving up and move on. I think there are certain truth & logic behind this reason.

A friend/wife/son/loved ones came up to you and complain about his/her work difficulty and how much suffering it is at those long work hours etc. What do you do? The general rule is this. If he/she does not have much responsibilities or commitments, you can probably advise him/her to start looking for better opportunities. But if he/she has huge commitments/family responsibility/etc, and will have not much option but to continue doing the job, you should always advise him/her to hang tough and continue to work hard. No matter how bad the situation is. Your advice should always be depending on their personal condition rather than the job condition. Below is the logic for this theory:-

–          The definitions of tough times vary from individual to individual. A Chinese worker can work 10 hours non-stop but someone from US would say that is inhumane. In Southeast Asia, many companies still practice working on Saturday (full or half-day), yet in the developed countries, there are rules in place to allow employees work 4 days a week.

–          Your life experience varies significantly from the person you are advising. You could be well-off and your parents are still providing for you (or giving you allowance) even though you are already working. His situation could be vastly different whereby he earns just enough to pay for bills and has to provide for 4 kids. Stop work essentially means no food/school for his kids.

–          Willpower & determination. You advising him/her to stop working are not helping him/her to develop his determination. We will all have to understand that nothing comes easy in life. In times, if he/she was advised too many times on quitting, he will become weak willed.

There is nothing worse than having hear from friends how bad your work condition is comparatively & nothing you can do about it. Imagine that you are talking to someone with no specialty in work and do not have any certifications. Telling him to quit his job, just because he told you that his work environment is tough, is indeed a big risk. The risk is that he might not find another job, or one that pays equivalent to this. You should obviously advise him to diligently keep a lookout or actively search the internet for better opportunities (since he dislike his job), but you must advise him to continue working hard. And you must do so in a matter-of-fact manner (this means you cannot show any pity & just assume that this is normal work, not tough at all). Anytime you show any compassionate, he will assumed you agreed that he is being ill-treated, while he can’t do anything about it. In terms of psychology, this puts him in a passive situation. The only active thing he can do, is to be lazy and un-motivated for his current job. When that happens, he is truly slogging along.

I worked on the oil rig once. For slightly more than 2 years, in fact. I can tell you that the work life is tough and the situation is inhumane. I have a 3 months schedule to work and only 1 month off. During those 3 months, I have to travel from rig to rig, whenever there are jobs to be done. Every time I set my foot on a rig, the job has to be done, regardless of the hours I have worked. Working for 24 hours straight is a normal thing and I have worked even up to 40 hours without sleep. On top of that, my work is very physical, involving carrying bulky & heavy equipments (2 persons carrying) and climbing up the rig (on steps) of up to 7 stories building high. One time, due to insufficient sleep, I am not standing stable and had an impression that I could almost fell over the railings into the deep sea. During that 2 years long period, there was never a week gone by where I did not think seriously think about quitting my job. Yet, I am no quitter by character. I want to learn as much as I can since I opted to take up this job. Whenever I go home during the one month holiday, I would talk to the wise woman about this. My mum (yes, she is the wise woman) would listen attentively to my side of the story, gets concern about my safety but would encourage me to continue. She would discuss with me on how certain dangerous situation can be avoided. You see, the company would not want me to get into dangerous situation as well, but bad management has caused some to arise from time to time. Mostly, this is due to insufficient staffing, so I have to work many many extra hours. My mum never once suggested I should quit immediately. She did tell me that I should carefully plan and if I want to quit, I can do that because I do not have any commitment.

Because of my mum’s appropriate responses, I would always go back and take on the ‘hardship’. I persisted on and did indeed learn many things & gain the experience for my next better career. During those times, I never felt that I was short-changed or bullied by my company because my mum never encourages me to think that way. In fact, she said it out matter-of-factly that I should try to adjust my expectations and to the schedule & work-life of an oil rig worker. In the end, after a year & a half of adjusting & getting used to the oil rig worker work life, I managed to secure myself a good job in Singapore. I slowly made plans for my exit and completed my 2 years stint as an oil rig worker. That felt good. Thinking back, I would not have done it another way. Yes, it was tough but I survived. And with that, I can survive even worse things to come (although I am not hoping for it to come). Or, on an optimistic tone, since I have survived the worse, only better things will come into my life 🙂

I asked my mum nowadays, why didn’t you pity me or encourage me to quit when I was going through those tough times? My mum told me that by pitying me, it will soften my heart & will. By encouraging me to quit, that will deprive me of my pre-destined suffering/experience and took away my ability to make my own decision. She did however, made sure that I am aware that I can quit anytime since I do not have any commitment & she is not entirely dependent on my salary to live. My mum admitted to me that as a mother, she was really worried inside and emotionally would want me to quit & come back to her side immediately. But she refrain herself from doing that because that would not help me grow. I appreciate her wisdom on this.

Now what would you do if your son comes to you and complains that his schooling hours are too long and he cannot cope with his studies? Your husband comes to complain that he cannot continue his job & his colleagues are bullying him? Your gf comes to you telling you that her work hours are too long & she is over-worked?