Three hidden fees your job extracts from you

How much are you paying to work at your job?

Paying to work for someone seems silly, right? Sure, we might say we love our jobs so much that we’d pay to work there, but we don’t really mean it.

Three hidden fees your job extracts from you

Every form of labor is an exchange, however. We give up something in exchange for a paycheck, a benefits package, and a meaningful role. The “something” we surrender is our part of the exchange–our payment. It includes the obvious: the time we spend working and the skills we bring to the job.

Those with “demanding” jobs know something about the obvious. They know about the sacrifices they make to get the job done. They give up meal times with family, vacations, even their health for the sake of the company. They are the company heroes and rising stars.

I had one of those jobs. Frequent travel, work on weekends and an endless stream of demands began to affect my health. Knowing I needed a break, my wife, Anna would ask when things might let up. “Two weeks,” I’d tell her. Those two words became a standard refrain. When two weeks passed, a new set of demands pushed the relief horizon out another two weeks.

Paying that kind of price is easy to spot, especially with the help of family members and friends that care about you. But what about other payments you might be making for your job? What about those hidden fees, we might not even be aware of?

Months after I left to start my own firm, with its own demands in “the exchange,” I discovered three hidden fees I’d been paying all along:

  1. The availability fee. Most jobs requires your presence during “normal business hours.” We’ve grown accustomed to this and manage other demands around it. To mitigate the availability fee, a number of companies have embraced the workplace flexibility movement and ROWE, in particular, by putting the focus on outcomes over physical presence. Recently Yahoo and several other notable companies made headlines by rescinding ROWE, including Best Buy where it was conceived. But the availability fee you may be paying may be more than just your presence in the office during business hours. Our always open, internet accessible, work cultures increasingly demand always available employees; those who respond to emails at all hours and are expected to do so. Healthy boundaries for rest from work becomes increasingly difficult to erect.
  2. The income fee. It seems oxymoronic to think of income as a fee, but ask yourself, “Am I free to leave my job anytime I want?” If the loss of income or the abandonment of stock options is your primary concern, you may be staying put for the money. If so, it’s like having negative equity in your home; moving seems impossible. To protect that income you may be more willing to pay higher availability fees too.
  3. The creativity fee. About six months after starting my own business I began experiencing a resurgence in creative energy. Others whom I have spoken with have reported a similar resurgence after leaving their prior jobs. This is natural and you don’t have to start a business to experience it. Any change of environment can help restore your creativity. That’s because we subconsciously start to limit our thinking to the constraints of our environment. It’s called group think. Why waste precious time on an idea that’s bound to get shot down? That’s why companies hire guys like me to come in and shake things up. While cultures might praise “out of the box” thinking, very few actively cultivate it. As a result, our creativity erodes without our knowing it. Talk about a hidden fee.

The question isn’t whether or not you’re paying hidden fees; it’s how much are you paying? Even the most satisfying of jobs extract hidden fees. Knowing what they are gives you the freedom to decide how you want to pay them.

What are some of the hidden fees you’ve paid to a job?

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