Dave Conrad: Gratitude shapes our attitude
Dear Dave: I am fortunate to have a job, even though it certainly is not my dream job. I work hard, and I have a great sense of pride and I believe that what I am doing helps the company succeed.
My problem is, many of my co-workers are never happy, and they belittle our manager and the company every chance they get. My manager is not a saint, but she tries hard to help us be good at what we do. Also, my company is not amazing, but it is good place to work.
I think my co-workers should be happy they have what they have, because being unemployed is not pleasant. Your thoughts? — B
Dear B: It’s funny. I was just thinking this morning how fortunate I am to have my teaching job and to be able to write this newspaper column. Trust me, I was down-sized (a great word for being fired) three times during my work-life. But I maintained a positive and constructive attitude while I did my job and when I was looking for work — often at the same time.
It sometimes seems like the more we get the more we want. There are very few companies that make their employees want to strike up the band and parade around telling everybody they have it made. However, there are many leaders out there in the work world that do their best to train, motivate and reward their staff. They themselves realize how important it is to think you are working at a good place and that you are thankful for the work you have. These leaders may have lost jobs in their past and truly appreciate what “displaced” (another kind word for being fired) workers are going through.
We all grumble about this or that at work and how people aren’t doing what they should do, how the pay is not sufficient and that we are absolutely overworked. We tell ourselves and we tell others that leadership just does not understand us and what we are going through, how some or most of the employees do little work and yada yada yada! I think we should remind ourselves about how much worse it can be and be thankful we have what we have.
I also think that those who have work should actively and constantly reach out and help those who are without work. To be clear, I would never recommend or support someone in their quest to be employed if they were lousy workers, ungrateful team members and generally hard to work with SOBs. However, those workers who are performers must get our support and the connections that we have. I believe they would be very grateful for the help.
Walk in their shoes
If we want to be a bit more humble and a lot more grateful, we should put yourself in the shoes of those who are severely under-employed (not being able to use their skills) and those who are just hitting dead ends in their job hunt. It won’t take us long to realize how good we have it and show our gratitude. I had a boss who hired me during a very frustrating time of my life, when I was always the runner-up for jobs I really wanted. I was out of work, and this period was extremely difficult for me. I made it a point to thank him often for hiring me. I think he might have gotten tired of me saying thanks, but it was something I just had to do.
When I managed, I did not rub it in the faces of my employees that they should be spectacularly grateful they had jobs. I would, however, help them understand that they must think about and prepare themselves if things went badly for the company. Accordingly, I was a stickler for training them and developing their talent, so they could be more effective in their positions and be in better shape to land new work if needed.
I showed deep humility to my employees and I also told them stories about my own termination from jobs, and how I felt when it happened. I also told them that not a one of us should be so arrogant that we believe we will never be let go — because we are so important, irreplaceable and absolutely necessary. The fact is, there are a lot of skilled and educated folks out there who struggle to find work. They no longer believe they are irreplaceable for a company. I have great empathy for these people, and I know what they are going through. We all must help them where and how we can. They will find work, but that belief doesn’t help when they are feeling down.
In conclusion, I believe we should all step back, take stock in what we have — especially during this joyous time of year — and be grateful for our work as well as our family and friends. We might not have the most glamorous jobs in the world, but try not having one, and you will be humbled in a hurry.