Opinion | My Job and I: Is This a Love Letter?

To the Editor:

Re “I’ll Never Let Myself Love a Job Again” (Sunday Review, April 11):

Like Emi Nietfeld, I felt deeply lost in my early 20s, and when I landed a job at a tech start-up, I thought that I’d been saved. This conviction kept me at the company long after I’d realized that the toxic culture was destroying my physical and mental health.

When I finally left, I swore that I would never love a job again. My vow backfired. After six months at my new job (chosen because I knew that I could never love it), I learned that I couldn’t stand spending 40 hours a week doing work that sparked no passion.

I left, this time for the robotics industry, where competition for talent is so fierce that companies must both inspire a certain degree of loyalty and prioritize work-life balance to retain qualified engineers.

I learned that it is possible to love your job without losing yourself if your employer’s long-term strategy doesn’t rely on burnout. Instead of telling workers to set boundaries, maybe we should devote more of our public discourse to how companies can inspire employees without exploiting them.

Anna Lincoln-Barnes
New Haven, Conn.

To the Editor:

I, too, worked for Google. For 12 years. I led one of Google’s largest global partnerships but left in January 2019 as a single mom with two children (and no financial support) to start my own business in a different field. I loved every second of my time there and consider it my alma mater.

My observation both at Google and now, working with high achievers at elite companies, is that one of our highest barriers to greater possibility, creativity and impact with our lives is asking ourselves, “Who am I to …?” It certainly almost stopped me from changing my life.

Emi Nietfeld implied it when she mentioned her guilt and doubt as she shared her experience with “outsiders” who couldn’t fathom why she’d complain. Countless others stop themselves from dreaming bigger, serving more or trusting themselves out of fear they look selfish, greedy or desperate.

Thankfully, Ms. Nietfeld did not let that fear prevent her from making change, but so many others do. And we all suffer when that happens because it narrows our range and limits our influence.

When we stop asking ourselves “who am I to …?” and start believing in and trusting ourselves that we are here to make a difference and create change, we can expand our range, our joy and our impact.

Erika Gerdes
Naperville, Ill.
The writer is a leadership adviser.

To the Editor:

The sexual harassment aspect of this story is horrible and disheartening, but the disillusionment with the corporate environment that Emi Nietfeld describes is inevitable. Although she is justifiably disappointed and saddened by the outcome, it is also clear that this passage has left her healthier.

Corporate jobs work as long as the company’s bottom line and your needs can coexist in a way that broadly supports both aims. But once it even appears that they could be in conflict, it’s over. The true nature of the relationship becomes clear and it is time to move on.

Ms. Nietfeld, enjoy your new job and, more important, your new perspective.

Greg Porretta
Westport, Conn.

To the Editor:

After reading Emi Nietfeld’s article, I’m grateful that I was fired from my first job at 26. That painful experience taught me that salaried work is a transaction, not a place to find meaning or true connection.

The fact that Google — a wildly profitable company staffed by some of the brightest people in the world — continues to enjoy an advantage from its employees’ naïveté in this matter is a great illustration of the difference between intelligence and wisdom.

Chris Tibbs

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