Hustling, in and out of the office



This week I became curious about the “hustle culture” in the workplace after I felt I was being “hustled” by professionals who were contracted to supply services to me.

I was taken aback by the ease with which professionals are comfortably passing off substandard work, and at times work that was not theirs, as original.

Is this a new norm, I wondered, and if so, "How does it fit into the workplace?" was my next question.

I decided to consult Google to see what it could offer for my enlightenment.

I was quite amazed when I realised that what I thought was the “hustle culture,” based on my many years of experience, was now almost completely wrong. My initial thoughts, and what I always understood the slang term “hustle” to mean, is the drive and ability to make a quick turnover. It’s about making as much money as possible in the shortest possible time. The hustler therefore would not care about the quality of work being delivered, nor the product/service, or the need of the customer.

My reading told me that my assumptions were clearly outdated.

The “hustle” is now the showing-off of hard work that can become excessive in the age of digital media. It is a “fake it till you make it” mentality. It is more gloss, fluff and a superficial or nonexistent world being created by the connected on-liners. It’s a need and the actions that optimally portray the hustler as being wired for success.

What, therefore, are the standards ascribed to the attributes of the hustle vs the attributes of skilled, productive effort towards work?

There are certain deliverables of each job function for the wired hustler. This leads to the question of what percentage of time spent at work is given to their daily effort towards harmonising their parallel digital universe. Is the hustler able to give you his/her best and be present both physically and mentally?

The perceived value my company creates can be measured by my clients' willingness to pay for my services. This was strategically built on certain pillars of skill, specialisation, trustworthiness and a drive to deliver the best service to my clients from reception to representation.

In my view, I only had two options when I decided to offer my services to the public if I wanted to be considered competitively advantageous in my field. I must either provide my services at the lowest cost in the industry and consider low-cost inputs, or outperform my competitors by offering an outstanding service with guaranteed results which in turn would justify the requirements of premium inputs.

This would mean hiring the best staff, procuring and applying quality technology and creating a learning, flexible and client-focused work environment.

So where does the hustle fit into this equation, and is it sustainable?

The theory that it is cheaper to keep a customer than to find a new one is tried and tested. The “hustler” will always need to find a new gig, a new victim, if the hustle is devoid of a sustainable strategy for building and keeping clients and is singularly focused on earnings.

Does the hustler consider quality?

What percentage of the working population is adopting this lifestyle and work ethic where eight-to-four is just the time invested in one’s financial security so you can get access to a job letter for a loan or your start-up for the main hustle? Indeed, a major part of the workday will be spent not focusing on quality work, but on one’s hustle. These workers, like all others, clock in – but they are never mentally present.

The other concept of the hustle culture use work as a tool to meet and exceed peers’ and followers’ expectations. According to Coleman and Coleman (2016), the average person now checks their phone 46 times per day, spending nearly five hours per day on a mobile device.

That kind of approach to success leads to quick burnout and affects productivity, judgment, capabilities and commitment to the organisation. Some workplaces should be wary that if it creates a very competitive environment it can lead to a level of toxicity that can evolve into a destructive hustle culture.

Coming to think of it, there are basically two types of salesmen. The one who will do and say anything for a sale and gain the commission. The other will work with the client to ensure that the client is happy, and may even be prepared to lose a sale just to ensure that the customer is satisfied

It just struck me that it is possible that both concepts of the hustle can be accommodated in the workplace. The worker who is wired and driven by the desire to be a social-media influencer can serve in the new media division of the company, promoting its products and services. The one who focuses on the quick turnover, and only on cashing in, can be used to sell and clear unwanted or devalued products in the company’s warehouse etc. Just a thought, but a serious one nonetheless.

As with the evolution of issues in the workplace, HR managers are always challenged with finding creative methods and solutions. The key is to identify the behaviours and find if there is a better fit and utilisation of the hustler in the company before discounting, disciplining and terminating what can be seen as unusual, but in reality, could be the evolving of new workplace society norms.


"Hustling, in and out of the office"

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