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Over-Concentration on Work

It seems clear that the streamlining of the city woman's existence to render her efficient on the job has reached the point of diminishing returns. While club living, restaurant eating, and other phases of the business and professional woman's streamlined life in the city relieves her of some of the impediments of life, it relieves her of some of its values, too, and some of its balance. It may allow her to concentrate all of her energy on her job but this concentration of all of life's energy on the work phase of living is seldom a good, for in the generality of people it results neither in good work nor in good and wholesome living. For a woman who concentrates all of her energy on her work seldom sees it in a perspective which enables her to function efficiently. Matters of small magnitude become for her matters of large importance; the little shortcomings of others are magnified. She becomes "difficult"; others fear her; and her ability to function efficiently is lowered. A genius or a great creative artist can give his energies entirely to his work at the full tide but he, too, must rest, and the freedom with which he seeks his diversion is a measure of his need of it. Work plays a large part in the life of the single woman but it cannot be all of life, and if she tries to make it so she defeats her own purposes.

One case was encountered of a woman who had apparently lost her position because of over-concentration on her work. She was in charge of the development of an auxiliary service in a Western hospital and during the organizational period of her work she rendered service which was highly rated. Once this phase of her work was passed, however, her difficulties began to grow. Instead of allowing her department to assume that relation to the other services of the hospital unit for which it had been organized she showed a tendency to over develop it. She expanded services beyond any real need for them and to the point where they began to impede the essential work of the unit. Remonstrances from the hospital head would produce temporary results until over-expansion of her work in another direction began to be evident. After three years of attempting to work out a peaceful adjustment this woman was released from her work and the position given to a woman of less training and of less native ability but one who was considered "better balanced." It was pointed out that the woman who had organized the department was an individual of unusual energy and ability who devoted her entire life to her work. She lived in a near-by hotel and took all of her meals in the hotel restaurant. She worked long hours at her desk and members of her staff were habitually detained for overtime work. Staff members and other professional associates were frequently invited to dinner and the discussion of work problems was prolonged until late in the evening. This woman had few interests or contacts outside her work and for three years in succession she took no vacation. During the organizational phase of her work her concentration on it was beneficial but in the succeeding period she was giving more time and energy to her job than it required and in so doing she was impeding her own usefulness.

The hospital head said quite frankly that if this individual had been a man and not a woman she would have been promoted to a position where her vast energies and powers of concentration would have been useful to her organization. But since she was a woman there was no such occupational outlet for her and her own interests required that she divert some of her energy and attention to other channels. But since she had never allowed other interests to develop she had no other outlet but her work. As it happened it was three years before she procured another position—an expensive and trying period of leisure for her.

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