© 2010 Karen Van Fossan
I just decided to apply a little grade school math to my adult life. The math problem:
If 15 million Americans are unemployed, and the unemployment rate is approximately 10%, how many Americans are currently satisfied with their work?
Maybe that's not a fair question. Second try:
If 15 million Americans are unemployed, and the unemployment rate is approximately 10%, how many Americans are currently wondering what the meaning of life could possibly be?
Not fair, either. Last try:
If 15 million Americans are unemployed, and the unemployment rate is approximately 10%, how many Americans currently have employment?
That one, I can answer. Approximately 135 million Americans have jobs.
I don't know, though, how many of them like these jobs or contemplate the meaning of life on a regular basis. What I know is this:
Since joining Facebook, I've noticed that a good number of my Friends (quite justly) grumble about their daily work situations.
Coworkers are getting on their last nerve.
The work is boring.
The work takes them away from their cute, little kids.
So, while approximately 10% of us are unemployed, many of the rest of us are unhappily employed. Does this seem like the American Dream to you?
Having worked in many settings, in many cities, I've realized that the workplace can be one of the most difficult places to put our dreams into action – or, as Mohandas Gandhi once said, to “be the change we wish to see in the world.”
The workplace seems conspiratorially designed to put your morals to the test – like an undercover cop trying to sell you drugs. But in this case, it's an undercover cop annoying you, boring you, and keeping you from your children.
Unfortunately, I don't have any solutions, not really. “Follow your bliss” is great, but it's too self-absorbed for me. I vote for something more like, “Let's support each other to follow our blisses.” (If blisses is a word.)
All I have to offer is this:
A translation. The translation of our ideals into workplace realities. The translation of what we hold dear into what we face at work.
Ideal Number One:
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
“If you want something done right, you got to do it yourself.”
Ideal Number Two:
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“Two can play at that game.”
Ideal Number Three:
“The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
“I live for weekends.”
Ideal Number Four:
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.”
In Workplace Translation:
“You break it, you bought it.”
If you have more translations, please feel free to share them.
Until then, let's keep dreamin'.