The Job of Your Life with Karen Schaffer

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Archive for the ‘Careers and Work in the News’ Category

We Aren’t Taught About The Value of Space

Posted by Karen on June 5, 2009

Just as a follow up to the previous post, I just had to share something I saw in the free Metro paper handout yesterday.

So in the paper they have this Canada-wide “Word on the Street” poll, with a little on-the-street photo of about six people, their ages, their city and their on-the-spot quote (we assume) when asked a question. Yesterday’s question was “Should Canada have more legislated vacation days?”.

I’m going to pick on Richard Kevis here, age 19 from Calgary. Richard, caught on camera with slightly untidy long hair and a rocking sunglasses/black blazer/no tie with his collared shirt look, served up this gem of an answer:

“Probably not. Days off aren’t really practical. They’re not really used for anything. They’re not really necessary to the system”.

We can speculate as to whether Richard Kevis, age 19, Calgary was having us on, or if he truly believes that no one “uses” days off productively and therefore aren’t necessary to the Kafkaesque machine we like to call “work” but it’s interesting to hear what bubbles under most people’s thinking about time off so blatantly. We have not been taught that it is wise – nay essential – to have space from our work. We don’t get great or easily accessible models for spaciousness and how that might link to productivity, creativity or even the ability to rest and re-charge.

We had a model once, long ago, in the Christian world, that went something like “And on the seventh day God rested” but lately we have all started to act like God was a bit of a wuss, and that spaciousness is a sign that we’re getting soft or lazy. I meet so many people (myself included) who have a secret suspicion they’re lazy.

We’re not. We’re exhausted.

Some of the things I love to say when I teach yoga is “Enjoy the spaces between the postures” and “Enjoy the resting posture, the counter-posture to the active movements. Observe how this rest allows you to feel the energy you’ve created”. Often students come up to me after to tell me how much they liked that direction, in part because we tend to devalue the parts of the yoga class where it seems like we’re not “doing” anything. But we are. We are observing our energy releasing. We are enjoying the active part of our practice from the restful state. We are allowing the active postures into our being.

Holidays serve as that same spaciousness to our life. They allow us to sit back, appreciate who we are, where we’ve come from, what we’ve achieved and what we’d like to be doing. Often, it’s not that conscious a process. We don’t think at all (and perhaps this is Richard’s real protest). We happily “don’t think” about anything but jumping into the cottage lake, or enjoying our families, or visiting a new place, or sitting in the back yard reading the paper cover to cover and weeding the petunias. Little do we know it, but our “don’t think” period refreshes us at the deepest levels, allowing (wait for it) SPACE for new ideas to emerge. I bet you all have had the experience of moving away from something you’re working on, and coming back to it fresh with new ideas after a bit of a mental ‘holiday’.

So…thank you Richard for your opinion. You made me laugh and you also made me think about how to start better speaking the value of space.

Enjoy your summer vacations!


Posted in Career Exploration, Careers and Work in the News, Yoga and Career Exploration | 1 Comment »

Why We Leave

Posted by Karen on May 20, 2009

The Globe and Mail reports the results of a survey on why employees leave the job. What’s interesting is the discrepancy between why the employees leave versus why managers and HR people think they leave.

Below are the most common reasons, in order of importance, that workers give for voluntarily leaving an employer:

1. Lack of trust in senior leaders

2. Insufficient pay

3. Unhealthy/undesirable culture

4. Lack of honesty/integrity/ethics

5. Lack of opportunity for training and development.

By contrast, the following are the top reasons managers say they think their employees left:

1. Insufficient pay

2. Unexpected job/career opportunity

3. Decision to change careers

4. Lack of work-life balance

5. Lack of opportunity for training and development.

If you look closely at the catalyst for people leaving their jobs, it has a lot to do with values and respect for how the organization runs. The employers on the other hand, tend to attribute it to reasons beyond their control – a desire for change, a new opportunity, a budgeting issue. Sometimes intolerable work situations are so systemic that it’s impossible for the organization to see itself as the root of the problem.

It’s like a dysfunctional family – they rarely think they’re dysfunctional because “that’s just the way we are and how we do things”. It’s when we, the employee become the observer and realize that we are not interested in investing our energy into an unhealthy channel. We don’t want our identity mingled with something we don’t believe in or invest our self-worth somewhere that is clearly not valuing it.

And that’s a good thing.

It’s a sign that we’re healthy when we don’t wish to participate in something that isn’t, no matter what the cost to our security and pocketbook. Because those situations aren’t secure, they eat away at our most precious commodity – our sense of self. When someone leaves a toxic work situation, it often takes awhile before they can feel confident and relaxed again. Sometimes it takes even longer…I’ve worked with the emotional scars people carry years later from a bad experience with an organziation.

The only way to truly “heal” an organization – especially if we are not in a leadership position to do so from inside – is to leave it. Giving your energy in service of a toxic organization does not serve you, or the organization. It’s the equivalent of enabling a user and the user will take you down with it.

When an organization isn’t listening, it’s time to leave.

Posted in Careers and Work in the News | 1 Comment »