I fall asleep at work

I keep screwing up because I hate sitting at a desk!

Topics: Since You Asked, workplace,

I fall asleep at work (Credit: Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Hi Cary,

Longtime reader, first time writer. Next week I start a new job. It’s nothing short of a dream job, one that I’ve been hoping for for years. I went through a lengthy interview process to get it, and it has real potential to be a career game-changer for me, an opportunity to make a name for myself in the field.

Like many who are on the verge of beginning a challenging new job, I’m anxious and nervous. But another thing is dominating my mind: I really don’t want to screw this up, like I’ve screwed up every other job I’ve ever had. I keep sabotaging myself, and this may be my last chance to turn it around.

Past jobs I’ve had I’ve simply not succeeded at, even if I enjoyed what I was doing. I’ve wasted too much time on Facebook or other distractions. I would come in late and be too eager to get out the door at 6 p.m. on the dot. I’d frequently have a few too many drinks on weeknights and come in a little hung over. I would use up my sick days to smoke weed with friends who are unemployed. I also have a tendency to fall asleep at my desk even after getting a full night’s sleep. I’d find an easy way out and keep doing it until I could no longer get away with it. More than anything else, I just wanted to be anywhere other than at a desk in an office. And while I would get my work done and it would generally be very high-quality (even warranting good references), I just haven’t been an employee worth keeping around.

I feel like a lazy, shiftless bum, but I know that’s not who I really am. I don’t want to repeat these same mistakes in my new job, because I really want to keep this one. They’ve put their faith in me and I can’t let them down. I’m just afraid that these habits and my “anywhere but here” mind-set will spring up again and prevent me from living up to what I know is my full potential. Any words of advice would be very appreciated.


Dear Sleepy,

It sounds like you have agreed to sit in a chair and perform tasks in an office for several hours each day in return for money and prestige. But you don’t want to sit in the chair. You want the money and the prestige but you don’t want to sit in the chair.

Perhaps there is something wrong with the chair? You could talk to your new boss and he could get you a new chair.

Or perhaps the problem is that when sitting in that chair you feel your life is an unbearable wasteland of tedium and despair and the piercing meaninglessness of your position in the universe becomes abundantly clear and you feel a great tiredness come over you and you fall asleep. It’s something about those chairs, and those buildings, I know. But it’s more than that. It is the sum of all the dreams you had for yourself seeming to vanish. It’s enough to make you want to jump out a window.

But I’m confused about something. You’ve been screwing up over and over again, falling asleep, and suddenly as a consequence of all that  screwing up you get your dream job? That doesn’t make sense. Or am I missing something? Do you have a sleep disorder? Do you have an attention deficit problem? Perhaps you are a very creative person who works in bursts of energy?

If you are a very creative person who works in bursts of energy, then you should tell these people who hired you, so when they see you sleeping in the chair they will be able to say to each other, “That’s OK, he works in brilliant bursts.”

It’s not like you’re supposed to enjoy working at a desk. It’s just, there’s a personal integrity issue here. To live a life of integrity, so you don’t hate yourself, just be honest with these folks, OK? You are free. You can walk away from a job if you like. If you choose to stay at a job, if you agree to sit in the chair, then it is a matter of honor.

If drinking on weeknights is a problem then stop drinking on weeknights. If you can’t stop drinking on weeknights then maybe you have a drinking problem. You could go to AA just on weeknights. That might work.

As it is, you have a real contradiction. You want the money. You’ve taken the job. Until further notice, you have to sit in the chair.

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