“I hope you’re able to find a passion in your new work that you haven’t found here. I think that your lack of passion affected your work. You seemed like you were always distracted.”

This statement may possibly be allowable if it comes from a close friend during an intimate conversation when you had made it clear you were receptive to feedback, but that’s not how it happened. This is what a manager said to a 20-something friend of mine on his last day of underemployment.

“Well, she’s probably right; I’m sure your lack of passion did affect your work. And you were distracted – distracted trying to find another job. But I can’t believe she said it. What purpose did that serve?” I commented over dinner. “It’s done now. You’re moving on. You were never going to build a career there anyway.”

I’ve written posts about why it’s important to do a good job for no other reason than for your own self-esteem, because you never know who will know someone else, and because you never quite know the value in what you think has none. These are all valid points. Sometimes hard work really will lead you out of underemployment. My friend was working hard – just not at what he was paid to do. When it became clear the only way up was to get out, acceptable but not great became good enough.

Seldom can we be excellent at everything. Sometimes choosing what’s best for ourselves won’t be the obvious choice for those we work with.