From Where We Sit

Work out your love

Anton Ng Anton Ng

On this day 30 years ago, Punongbayan & Araullo was born, and I have since been with the company for almost half of those years. It was only fitting that “the firm with a big heart” was established on Valentine’s Day.

This is my 15th year in “The Little Firm That Could.” New employees would normally assume that I love my job, for how could I, according to them, continue doing the work that I have been doing and attain success unless I love it? It is a reasonable assessment.

“Choose a job that you love, and you will never have to work in your life.” Love your work. We have heard this so many times in graduation speeches and have seen it in memes as well. Even people whom I truly respect and admire are preaching this message. Even now, however, I still find it difficult to accept the advice as truth.

When people ask me if I love my job, my answer has always been: “I would be lying to you if I said, ‘Yes, I love my job’.” They would then ask how I had been able to stay in this job for this long without loving what I do. Touché, I would think.

 

What is love, anyway? The dictionary defines love as “an intense feeling of deep affection.” It is a definition that only a few people would use to describe how they felt toward work. Another definition, which is closer to how one might feel about work, is “a great interest and pleasure in something.” Can this feeling of great interest and pleasure, though, be applicable to all types of work? Can you tell somebody who cleans a septic tank to love his work? Can all kinds of work be loved? If that is not case, that statement is difficult to accept. It will not be true for everyone, at least.

There lies my biggest apprehension over subscribing to the “love your work” mantra. It is not true for everyone. It may not even be true for most people.

So what then?

Instead of preaching, “love your work,” why not influence people to “work your love? (or work out your love).” The former focuses on the self. “Love your work” puts emphasis on oneself as being more important than others, because the self needs to find great interest and pleasure in what it does in order for one to do the work well.

“Work your love,” on the other hand, emphasizes the idea that those around the one working will feel the love toward the work being performed. It is then a contrast between “find something that you love to do,” and “in whatever you do, do it with love.”

I subscribe to the latter.

You may not be able to tell the septic tank cleaner convincingly to love what he does, but you can always commend him for doing something that shows he cares about his customers and his family. Imagine enduring such work in order to serve others as part of his job, and his family. It is not about the worker finding something that he loves to do, but more about him doing something with love.

Some people may not love their work, but surely they are working out their love.

Working out your love simply means to exercise love. Love for me is not merely a fleeting emotion. It is a permanent commitment. It is not easy and it will never be. That is why one has to work on it in order for it to develop. Same as when we work our core. We do core strength exercises to develop and strengthen our core muscles.

The same is true with love. We have to exercise it for us to develop and strengthen it. But how should one do it within the context of work?

Exercising love in the work that we do should be reflected in our output. Consistent excellence in our work reflects how we value the people who are supposed to be using our output. This means that our production of excellent output will not only enrich ourselves but should also enrich others. Consistent excellence in our work also reflects how we value those who have contributed to the work that we have been doing. If you are a team leader, you are exercising love if you make sure that the output of your team will do justice to all the hard work that your team members have poured into it. A leader should not only think about how the excellence of his team’s output would be attributed to his leadership but rather, how the output would be attributed to the entire team. Working out love is, thus, extending our focus apart from ourselves, but to others as well.

The Bible defines love as patient, kind, not self-seeking and not easily angered, among others. These values are normally expressed in our interaction with the people around us. Extend utmost patience in dealing with those we are working with. Avoid being rude, regardless of how others are treating you. In making decisions, let us not only look after our own interest, but after the interest of others. Give second chances and avoid making snap judgments when angry. These are some of the few ways we can work out our love.

Why was I able to stay at P&A Grant Thornton for this long? It is because this job allows me to work out my love for the people I interact with every single day. This is where I was placed by God to exercise my love. Am I perfect with regard to this matter? Certainly not. I am still a work in progress.

Anton Ng is a partner, Audit & Assurance of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 21 partners and more than 850 staff members.

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As published in The Manila Times, dated 14 February 2018