WHEN WORK ISN’T WORKING

classroom and chalkboard

I have someone close to me (I’ll use the reference “CP” for close person) who is going through a rough time right now with an employer.   I don’t want to disclose details at this point because that would be inappropriate. Nevertheless, the situation is reminding me of some similar experiences I witnessed many times throughout my career and the bad taste still lingers.   Events likes these become part of that “baggage” many of us lug around all our lives. I’ve found it’s usually best to park it somewhere and walk away. But, as CP is learning, this is easier said than done. CP is making good effort to get through it, come out clean from it and move on. Ain’t easy. I applaud CP’s fortitude.

When the company you work for has done you wrong, the sequence that follows goes something like this: surprise (unless you knew it was coming), sense of abandonment, anger, resentment, sorrow, depression, healing maybe and, in rare cases…getting even!

Bad bosses and the bad companies they are allowed to represent seem to make up the majority of the businesses in this country. Yes, there are many good companies and good, even great bosses, but they just seem to be far less in number. I’ve worked for both so I well know the difference. And now with the advantage of hindsight, I have an idea of what might help eliminate some of the crap that CP and many others have had to deal with. Unfortunately, it’s not a short-term solution.

Like so many other opportunities lost, our educational system has not evolved with our society. I agree, it is necessary to still teach the basic three R’s, but there are new “basics” these days that wind up being self-taught, often poorly. Like they do at Disney World, every few years the old rides and exhibits are tossed and new ones replace them. The same should go for high school curriculum. For example: the most important subject, I think, that highschoolers should have added to their instruction is what I clump together as “Relationships.” I don’t have this all blocked out yet, but I can see a need to teach young people how to deal with such issues as adversity, diversity, conflict, empathy, sympathy, motivation, team orientation, leadership, subordination, etc. I am sure there are tons more of sub-topics that sit comfortably under the umbrella labeled “Relationships.”

Face it, there are too many of us who don’t know, or choose not to know, how to get along with people. It’s that very concept upon which we were judged in kindergarten: plays well with others. It was followed up by Rodney King’s “Can’t we all just get along.” It’s a simple concept…but a next-to-impossible process.

So, as I set up this mandatory course in Relationships, the focus will be on how best a person can both lead and follow. Why? Because these are the two roles that people will be expected to fulfill once they enter the challenging world of adulthood.

Both the home and working environment involve these roles. At home it’s parents vs. children–leaders and followers, although it’s sometimes difficult to discern which is which. At work, it’s bosses and workers. The dynamics are a bit different at work. One can be fired and told to leave…rightfully so, or not. Meanwhile, no matter how much they may want to, parents usually cannot fire their children.

CP’s problem is not an unusual one in the work environment. I am sure you, or someone you know, has trudged through the same swampland. The problem at work is that too many employers see the company/employee relationship as one-sided. The employee serves at the company’s will and in return receives compensation. The attitude is: I pay you, therefore you do as I want and I can treat you as I want. This is the telltale sign of inexperienced managers who think their role is to squawk a lot and boss people around just for the sake of bossing. What the employer usually fails to acknowledge, let alone understand, is that the employee has a stake in the relationship beyond compensation. If the boss learns how to nurture his workers, they will work harder, become more devoted and subsequently make the boss look good and the company succeed. The employee extends his or her skills and other abilities to the company and the more given over a period of time, the more valuable the employee becomes and the greater the investment he has made into the welfare of both the company and himself. It’s really a two-way relationship.

Sometimes, out of loyalty and work ethic, the employee may have overly devoted himself to the company and passed on other opportunities because of it. I have seen too often where employees who devoted a good portion of their lives—10 or more years—working hard and genuinely caring about the company, wind up being tossed out with no notice and treated as if they never counted nor made a contribution to the company’s success. Adding insult to injury, these people are sometimes even conspired against in the end. The company attempts to make them so uncomfortable that they eventually quit. That can saves the company considerable expense on things like severance pay. The tactic, too, can detour any wrongful discharge claims the employee may have wanted to initiate. These kinds of situations are just one of a gazillions that suggest fodder for a Relationships course in high school.

As they say, “it’s a jungle out there.” But when it comes to humans, the game should not be based on survival of the fittest, but rather on who best made the effort to benefit everyone in the relationship. Imagine how much better our world would be if we were given some tools early on that helped us to be better leaders and better followers. In my next life I think shall be a high school teacher and my students will learn about these things. If they rather have woodshop, they can go to Home Depot on the weekend and learn how to make a picnic table.

*****

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About Marc Kuhn

I am a retired radio exec. I've worked at major stations in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Miami. That was then. This is now: I've published seven books and this blog thingy. Need to know more? Really? Okay, I bare/bear all at http://marckuhn.com The other links are for the websites of each of the books I've written. I've been busy! Hope you'll stop by and check them out. Thanks for your interest!
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