To say many of us don’t see the world as it truly is would be the understatement of the century. Many people, especially in the workplace, see life as merely something to get through or a means to an end, and if lucky, experience glimpses of joy while performing their routine duties. The most difficult part of that outlook is realizing it doesn’t have to or need to be that way. As an economically driven society, we’ve traveled off the path of natural progression and created a world of fierce competition. We use quotes like “survival of the fittest, kill or be killed, and only the strong survive” and apply them to the workplace to explain the attitudes and behaviors of individuals seeking to succeed and rise above the competition at all costs. Granted these expressions are true but do they really apply to the workplace or life as we know it today? I personally feel many of these expressions work better when explaining the workplace environment during Paleolithic Periods some 80,000 years ago, e.g. “Hunters and Gatherers.”
What if I told you that creating the ultimate workplace environment in which all could thrive is simpler than you think? In fact, anyone can do it. Even you!
Sometime in the early 20th century, The London Times sent out an inquiry to famous authors, asking the question, “What’s wrong with the world today?” One author, G.K. Chesterson responded simply,
Yours, G.K. Chesterson.”
Reflect on the honesty of this confession and look inwardly as I attempt to make the case for what is probably wrong with your workplace and how it can be changed. We have allowed ourselves to believe that humans are wired for competition over compassion, empathy, and love. In our numbers driven world, competition is our prime focus in ALL industries. Industries that were created for the people such as health care, social and human services, and those alike have lost their focus too. Everything is about numbers and the bottom line. Here are a couple questions to ponder: What if we got back to having a people centered consumer focus? Would the number of customers or sales decrease or increase? What if we got back to having an employee centered focus? Would productivity or work appreciation decrease or increase? I grin at the simplicity of these questions but the answers to them and those alike are all going to be increase. How could they not? At the end of the day, we are wired to respond positively to encouragement, consideration, and kindness.
Change the world, don’t let it change you.
If you find yourself in a harsh workplace, your first effort should be to find out what it is your talents permit you to do to promote change. In other words, find out how you can elicit a positive response out of someone or a group of people that will act as a catalyst in the creation of the positive environment you seek. Change starts with one act and as Desmond Tutu states, “The Sea is only many drops of water that have come together.” Be that change you wish to see and watch it grow.
“The basis of nature is cooperation and democracy.”-Thom Hartmann
A toxic workplace exists because it is allowed to. When entering into that workplace, people conform to the standardized behaviors of those before them. It’s this square piece, square hole notion that seems to be the ruination of our workplace culture (along with our economic obsessions) and it exists because we don’t do much to change it. At some point in our “progression” it became unscrupulous to be an individual, think outside the box, ask questions, or try new things. Cooperation can exist within a team of individuals operating under the same mission and vision. These principles are at the basis of proper workplace alignment and can be seen in many successful companies where individuality is championed.
“You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”- Howard Zinn
If you want change, create it. If the task seems too big for one person, enlist others willing to be happy. Life and work should be equally enjoyable and I am an example of this. I enjoy “being on the clock” as much as I do off of it. It’s not by coincidence; it’s by exercising my power to choose where and who I work for and with. It’s about leading with my values and enticing others to follow. I have been in plenty imperfect environments and thrived in them all. I have no super powers, magic spells, or tricks but I do have the ability to lead with the behavior that I would like reciprocated and the willingness to remain true to who I am. And, so do you! (Insert Uncle Sam Finger)