Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Overcoming Cruelty in the World of Work

There are so many ways in which work in America cuts us no slack, from uncaring and sometimes downright cruel employers, to ambitious cutthroat coworkers, to a very inadequate social safety net when we are unemployed or unable to work. Americans have always prided ourselves on our hard-driving work ethic and strong desire for individual achievement. The flip side of that coin is a kind of cruelty and uncaring intolerance for people who are not built for such a system or who have burned out trying survive in it while facing overwhelming obstacles. In America, sometimes it feels like we kick people when they are down instead of helping them get back up.

To be honest, I was never built for this kind of culture and have spent a lifetime looking for scant comfort to help me live in a society that feels foreign to my nature. Oh, I have professional talents and have done OK in my career, but I believe I could have done much better and contributed much more in more supportive environments than the ones I've found in American private industry. Competition and clawing to get ahead never came naturally to me. I don't think I'm unique. I suspect nearly all of us have faced jobs that we have found meaningless and alienating, or where we have screwed up, or even worse, where we have been abused by unscrupulous coworkers or vicious bosses.

Unemployment can be a time of healing from those experiences. It's a time when we can take a breather, look back at what has happened, and look for a new and different path forward. It's also a time when we can find new sources of comfort and healing, whether it's through counseling or deeper faith practices, a closer connection with friends and loved ones, opportunities to get away into nature, or pursuing education to strengthen personal or professional abilities. Whatever your situation has been, it's good to take the time while unemployed to introspect, to look back at where you have suffered at work, justly or unjustly, and then make a plan to find a better, happier, more positive you.

So here's a big question: Where have you suffered in your career, and what are you doing during this time to make it better for yourself in your next job and in your life? What are you doing to be kind to yourself?

Chuck Petch (chuckpetch.com)

1 comment:

  1. I'll answer my own question and hope that others will contribute also. For me, faith in God and spiritual growth have been lifelong pursuits. In the two years since I left my last job, I've been focusing on two things: growing closer to God through prayer and meditation, and developing an attitude of encouragement and kindness toward others. This is not an easy discipline, as I have to remind myself constantly that my desire is to be kind like Jesus even and especially when the temptation is to do the opposite. The really neat thing about this attitude is that it feels so good to do it. There is nothing more uplifting than saying something kind or encouraging to someone and seeing the immediate lift in their attitude and spirit. I figure if the God of the universe is love, as the Bible says, then I can learn from God how to be love myself. Of course being human, I don't always succeed. Sometimes I utterly fail, but every day is a new day, and I start over at this practice of being kind to others. Interestingly, it not only benefits others but also helps me feel a lot better about myself.