I previously worked at a large tech company, and like many others, they offered all the stereotypical “perks”: free and fresh meals 3 times a day, high quality coffee, “unlimited” vacation, and yes, even ping pong.
There is a common expression used throughout Silicon Valley and large companies emulating that model: recruiter and managers will say “we want missionaries, not mercenaries.”
And these companies have been very good at manufacturing environments that turn employees into the “mission-driven”, “values-aligned” missionaries.
But I do think there are still plenty of employees who value the work, value the learning, and see their experience as part of a longer term path for their career, while adopting a mercenary mindset in regards to the perks and proselytizing.
If your gonna offer me three meals a day, I’ll take it. Flexible work? I’m flexin! Ping pong? I’m game! (I don’t even like ping pong much but I played a few rounds back in my tech company days).
I found it useful to always remind myself of the nature of the relationship to my employer. I got a lot of value out of my job… experience, learning, built up my savings, and plenty of good food and coffee. But the company always got more value out of the workforce than the workforce got out of enjoying the perks and privileges.
Over time, I started to take on more responsibility, a “leadership” role. And that’s where the mercenary mindset is hard to maintain. It surprised me how bought in other leaders were, or at least that was the way they presented themselves. I found it all so cheesy.
All this said, this approach has its limits. I’ve seen and been in a few situations where my psychological detachment was confronted with real injustice or abuse. And those are the moments where you gotta get out or dig in. Can’t say I always spoke out or dug in as much as I wish I had in retrospect, but I’m happy that I’ve been able to keep some emotional distance and help other get what they deserve out of a job when it wasn’t being fairly given.