With a little surprise, I observe that it’s been nearly a month since my latest post. (Well, in fact, it’s been only a few minutes since my latest post, a little froth that I whipped up based on Yet Another Strange Internet Observation this morning. I mean it’s been several weeks since my last post before, er, my latest post.)
I shouldn’t be surprised, though. About five weeks ago I started a new job several months after being downsized from my previous employment of nearly a decade (“Gainful Employment”, September 10, 2010), and it’s been pretty hectic with learning new responsibilities, new personalities, new routines, a new corporate culture, and so on.
While this is going on in my little corner of the world, I have a couple of friends whose employment situations are less shiny. One probably won’t be in that situation much longer, thanks to various external forces; the other shouldn’t be, since the situation is completely untenable and intolerable, to the point of creating some pretty alarming health issues.
Pondering my friends’ cases and contrasting it with my own recent good fortune, I reflected again on the value of being valued in one’s employment—a feeling I had all but forgotten in the waning days of my previous employment. “You’re a real asset to the office, that’s why we’re throwing you under the wheels” strikes one as something of a discrepancy, and does little to foster a sense of worth or value to the undertaking. Add to that the fact that a sizable percentage of what I had dedicated myself to for the better part of a decade simply went away when I left, and one comes away with the nagging feeling that he’s wasted a considerable amount of time and energy for no lasting good. Having now come into a workplace where it seemed from the get-go, and still seems, that my contribution is welcomed and appreciated, I see how much I had missed that before. And how important it is to one’s well-being and self-esteem.
I’ve reflected too on how much employment is like a personal relationship. You have to put yourself out there, expose yourself, make yourself vulnerable, at least to an extent. Maybe you’ll be accepted, maybe you’ll be rejected. It’s a little like asking for a date. Then there’s that whole getting-o-know-you phase, during which time you start to see the cracks a little. And you don’t know—and probably won’t for awhile, and maybe not ever—how long it will last, how real it will be, how compatible you’ll prove to be, how much you or they will or will not change.
Just like real life.
As in a personal relationship, our relationship to our work, and our workplace, can be a source of affirmation, contentment, even joy. Or it can be a living hell. Or, I suppose, all of the above.
So far so good, for me. I like what I’m doing, I like the people I’m working with, I like the conditions and the culture. (Office gets a little hot in the afternoon, but I’ve decided to wait and see how it is in the dead of winter before I start to whine about it.) But I have to say that I feel bad for my aforementioned friends, and a couple of others, who aren’t experiencing that sort of contentment or affirmation in their work or work environment. It’s a real shame. It’s a real shame for everybody in that position. We spend so much time and invest so much of ourselves in our work; it should be worth more than just a paycheck. (Even though a paycheck is indeed what brought me to my current engagement. I’m not against paychecks, mind!) Certainly it should not be soul- and psyche-crushing.
I think of that every time I hear some deep thinker profess that “any job is a good job.” Naturally, they’re always talking about someone else when they say things like that.
And they’re wrong.
For must of us, employment is necessary. But it shouldn’t be a necessary evil.