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Working 9:00 to 5:00

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
June 2014
Working 9:00 to 5:00

with PostModern Gandhiji (PMG)

An advice column offering the Mahatma’s perspective on modern dilemmas


Dear PMG,

Who do you think makes more per hour? A PhD candidate working in a top university’s nanotechnology research group or a highschool dropout flipping burgers at a fast-food joint?

Right now, my lab director insists that I work from 9:00 to midnight, including most weekends. Sometimes I fall asleep on the drive home. But because she is the chair of my dissertation committee, I have to pretty much do what she says. Sure the university pays me a stipend, but the hours are horrific.

Once I get my doctorate, I really think I shouldn’t work any longer than the standard 40-hour workweek. What would your tireless worker for India’s independence say about work-life balance?

Dear Friend,

“To see Gokhale at work was as much a joy as an education. He never wasted a minute. … Various people sought to interest him in different things. But he gave every one of them the same reply: ‘… freedom for my country… is enough to engage all my time and energy.’ ” (M. K. Gandhi)

Your first question does raise the important question about the value of work in a society that often measures value of a person by how much s/he earns.

Please allow me to answer your “simple” rhetorical question with follow-up questions: Who do you think made/makes more per hour? Gandhiji over his lifetime or a PhD student during his few years of student apprenticeship? A mother who raises children over several decades or the same PhD student?

Certainly, you as a PhD student merit a stipend to keep you fed and housed during your years of study. But the knowledge you earn during these years is worth a million times more than than that stipend.

Your second question is more important in that it demands introspection on your part. Again a couple of questions for your consideration: What type of life do you want? Will your work be in service of your bank account, your family, or your society? If bank account, you are operating from self interest, and you should look for ways to optimize the number of hours you work with the amount you earn; if family, you are operating from enlightened self-interest, and you should look for ways to balance the hours you work with the amount of time you dedicate to your family; if society, you are operating from selflessness, and you will have to self-manage your commitments, because as Gandhiji suggests, the world’s ills require all the time that you can offer.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a large bank account. Nor should we begrudge a person for time spent with family. And being of service to society has its own rewards. Be true to yourself, and make the most of your time and the most of your earnings from each day of honest work.

[Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at raj.oza@sbcglobal.net.]


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