Problem: How much is too much work? What does work balance really mean? I was struck by what Jack Ma, the billionaire CEO behind Alibaba, had to say to Chinese workers about the merits of working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week (996). He essentially told them it was their good fortune and that they should be grateful. That has sparked quite a conversation because Alibaba’s work culture is considered by some outside observers as lousy, perhaps even abusive.
Story: Almost simultaneously, the following video by Mark Berg, a frustrated, millennial, Minnesota family dairy farmer, went viral on Facebook. It’s almost six minutes long, and very much worth a watch. Mark tearfully expresses how his parents have less now than when they started farming 40 years ago. The only reason their dairy farm hasn’t gone under is because the life savings of this frugal family have supplemented their mounting farm debt. The irony is that a dairy farmer’s work life is 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. This makes Alibaba workers look like slackers. When Mark’s mom, now in her 60’s, recently talked to the CEO of a milk producer about the Berg’s financial struggles, the suggestion was that perhaps Mrs. Berg get a part-time job to help makes ends meet. Hmm. There is something very wrong with this picture.
What We Can Do About It:
- We may need to open ourselves to other business and economic models that offer more equal wealth distribution.
- I’d encourage you to read the following article by Nobel laureate in economics, Joseph E. Stiglitz.
- The saving grace in Berg’s situation is that they “love their frickin cows.” Having a deep purpose helps soften the relentless work. However, deep purpose alone will not overcome the dysfunction of fear related to not having enough to look after our basic human needs. Sharing more of the wealth will make us all richer.
Think Big, Start Small, Act Now.
One Millennial View: What a complicated issue. It’s tough to see such hard working people not seeing an ROI, despite their enormous efforts. I wonder if viral videos like the one above will raise awareness to bring some more profit to local farmers.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis