Hustle culture is a dominating force and a bad habit that formed within the startup community. Most new startups have heard this story – people telling them that the recipe for success involves having no time for sleep, family, or fun- just work work work, grind, grind, grind.
We want to be clear: Hustle culture is a toxic mindset that has been adopted by a subset of people and sold to startup business owners, who are made to believe that without 24/7 hustling, they can’t succeed.
The truth is, hustle culture has no future.
Workers and entrepreneurs alike are drained and the pandemic has caused chronic adverse symptoms of mild PTSD in people – there are many reasons for this, such as losing loved ones or being retrenched.
People don’t want to work more than 8 hours anymore. In fact, people don’t even want to work 5 days a week anymore, and this is completely fair and rational.
How can we say hustle culture has no future?
First of all, we relate hustling to the idea of a sales pitch. The truth is, most people don’t want to be pitched to all the time, meaning there’s a social pushback at the get-go..
The perfect pitch is all about the timing. As our Founding Board Member, Jeannine van der Linden, likes to say: “timing is the only difference between a lovely warm dinner and a stinking, rotting mass fit only for the compost heap”. Timing is everything. Don’t pitch to people who don’t want to be pitched to, and choose wisely when starting your pitch.
The idea that “working 24/7 will bring in more business” is not a healthy one. If half the energy that is spent on pitching to everyone was rather spent on researching the right opportunities, startup entrepreneurs could potentially be more successful in how they obtain new business.
Secondly, entrepreneurs are expecting way too much of themselves. They are overworking and burning out. Hustle culture, like we used to say about speed, kills. It is a lifestyle that is not sustainable.
The sad reality is that this toxic behaviour can become part of the way in which people lead. For example, when a business is doing well and the entrepreneur starts hiring employees or freelancers, we see that many entrepreneurs expect their employees or freelancers to have the same “dedication” and investment that they have to the business.
This expectation can lead to a toxic work environment, in turn creating high staff turnover. Because of course, they don’t have the same investment. They don’t have the same control, the same history, the same power.
The opposite is also true. The entrepreneur or business owner might just convince the employees or freelancers that hustling is the best way to do business. This creates a ripple effect that affects others down the line.
Constant Hustling is a surefire way to burn out and turn your employees, staff, or support people against you.
How to recognise that you have fallen into “the trap”?
We know that running a business is challenging. But doing it with a hustle mindset will not help you. We have identified some ways for you to tell if you are a “victim” of hustle culture.
You feel guilty when you take a break
This is the first telltale sign that you partake in hustle culture. Feeling guilty for taking a break is unhealthy. We know you don’t want to hear it, but you are only human and you will need to take breaks. Humans work like lions, not like cows as they say.
Actively take breaks. Go on vacation, or for a walk at midday; read your favourite book at night. Your business won’t fall apart if you take 30 minutes for yourself.
You work hard. You deserve to relax a bit. And stop texting your support people at night. They also need a break.
You feel like you need to work all the time
This ties in with the one above. Try to compartmentalise to allow for breaks during the day. There is no need for you to wake up and immediately check your emails, or spend your lunch doing the same. Give yourself time to catch your breath.
At night, you should be spending time with your loved ones, or yourself. Don’t go to bed before winding down a bit. It’s important for a good night’s sleep! Lack of sleep is more damaging to a young business than is an occasional rest.
You constantly pitch that people should have “a business mindset”
As a startup owner, it is important to constantly look for new opportunities and ways to bring in more business. But, that does not mean your support people need to have the same mindset. If they did, they would probably be running their own businesses.
Don’t expect your support people to have a “business mindset”. This can come across in many ways, none of which are positive. Train them to have your mindset and communicate your values instead.
You email/text your support people any time of day
This is a big red flag! Firstly because you are working at crazy times during the day or night. But mainly because it shows that you don’t respect people’s free time. Even if you don’t expect an immediate response, try to stay away from sending extremely late or early mails.
Even though you are not expecting a response immediately, it can come across in a negative light. Some employees might feel that they are expected to be working at those hours. Your employees are diligent, hardworking people who take their signals from you. BE mindful of what signals you are sending.
Rather make a note and send the message during working hours. You can also schedule the email or text to be sent during working hours. We have the technology!
You are constantly working towards growth in your business
Lastly, and probably most importantly, constant growth won’t happen to your business. The most negative idea that comes from hustle culture is that you need to constantly work towards growing your business.
The truth is that a business goes through stages. When your business enters a growth stage, it is important to ride it out and help it along as much as you can. But, when your business isn’t in a growth stage, you can look at improving other aspects of your business – like your diversity programme.
Please remember that unchecked growth is the “worldview” of cancer and it is how cancer kills people. This is not a great model to work from.
Being part of hustle culture can be hard to spot. You might not even know that you have been conditioned to think in such a way. That is why it is important to realise it yourself and take steps towards breaking the mindset.
After all, hustling is not just toxic towards you, but those around you.
Hustle culture is on its way out. It’s impossible to be working 24/7. So, if you are a hustler, go on a vacation, you deserve it!