Throughout the year, members have many conversations with each other and their colleagues in the workplace. Often, some of those conversations make their way back to me. I’m grateful when they do because they keep me connected to the membership in a special way.
In the beginning of the recession, conversation themes featured workers caring about each other and worrying about families and loved ones who might be in need. Hard times tend to bring out the best in most people; the simple things become more appreciated and material things less so. Almost suddenly, things people once believed were a necessity are shuffled around, and over time, the difference becomes clear.
By 2011’s end, conversations had changed. Workers were more stressed by the new life they were living in worksites. The impact of having much larger workloads, and belt tightening that resulted from pension and budget related pay cuts, were beginning to take their toll. Folks were either hanging on by a thin financial thread or were counting the days until vacant jobs could be filled again and workloads eased. People seemed to understand that everyone was going through something, in some way, and whatever it was, they still needed to care about each other.
2013 will soon end and with Thanksgiving upon us, I find myself thankful for all of you. And, I am wishing for something for you that money can’t buy, something that isn’t available in a Black Friday sale, something that won’t fit under this year’s Charlie Brown tree (a story for another time). I am wishing for you a renewed sense of caring, mutual respect, and tolerance for each other in the workplace.
You see, the conversations have changed again, likely due to the continued stressors that folks are still enduring. Nerves are frayed, patience has worn thin and hope for the economic turnaround to be felt on the ground at work has been replaced with pessimism and sarcasm. It seems there is little time to appreciate the value of differences of opinions, or to remind ourselves about what we once liked about that cubicle buddy or fellow chapter member. It seems people only have time to focus on their differences.
Unfortunately, the really important things to remember – like that your colleagues are hardworking people who may see things differently than you, and that solidarity is a delicate blend of standing together while also being respected as an individual – are too often going by the wayside.
Democracy has even fallen victim. Whether in the workplace or at a chapter or committee meeting, people who are choosing to focus on disagreement long after voting ends are forgetting an important part of democracy … jointly living with the outcome afterwards and moving forward together.
Now, we all know that no Thanksgiving message from me (much as I might like it to) can change how you are all doing in your workplaces and chapters. But the reports I am hearing from members have me worried and compelled me to write this message to you. It is clear to me there is a difference out there. While there remains kindness and caring attitudes and respect for each other in many of our worksites, it is not the case for all. Because I am thankful for all of you and what you contribute each day to our community, I encourage you to collectively heal from the hardships we have experienced.
None of us know whether our old workplace life will ever return; the recession might have changed that forever. But there is no reason we cannot get some of our spirit back, and see a return of good will and mutual respect toward each other. We can agree to disagree; or forgive when someone lets us down; and we can have a little faith in each other.
Together, we have the power to overcome the hardships we’ve known. And I’m incredibly thankful for that! I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!