Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Work Health

Unless you're wealthy, financially dependent on someone else, or one of the rare individuals who find ways to sustain a living independent of making an income, work is a requirement for most adults. And unfortunately most of us are unhappy about where we work, who we work for, our co-workers, the mistreatment, how much we get paid, etc. Being unsatisfied in the workplace is such a normality, and yet complaints are viewed as if they have no place in an environment where many people are miserable. Why is that? Listening to complaints can become intolerable, but for people to act like it's inappropriate confuses me. People complaining about complaint worthy topics is logical and a human reaction.

Yet because unpleasant work places are the normality, complaints can be shocking. People consider it to be too ordinary to complain about. Unless it's shocking or unbelievable in some way, complaints are seen as forms of ingratitude. While that's always a possibility, what I dislike is how dismissive many of us are to unfair and unhappy work environments. Obviously we can't just resign because there's something we don't like, but too much of us fail to realize what an impact work has on our emotional well-being. And that jeopardizes our health and that can effect us physically, too.

Keep in mind that most of us work 8 hour day shifts. That's 40 hours a week. Some people are too exhausted and go to sleep when they get home. Activities are limited to requirements such as eating and running errands. Some people spend their remaining time complaining about how horrible work was, so time is still being stolen even during after hours because of work. Of course if we choose to spend time complaining about it, that's on us. Whether we choose to occupy our time in that way or not doesn't change the fact that some people are tempted to do just that. For parents, work might be the only place where they get to be themselves. They talk to their co-workers, have lunch, and it's their world. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have jobs they absolutely love, but it certainly shouldn't be a source of stress so extreme that it harms your health.

I've been exposed to unbelievable work environments and experiences. I've been working since I was twelve. I worked as a maid for a crack motel. I was picking up stray needles, witnessing attacks on some days gave me insight on what time it was, and trashy and shady activities were expected. It was alarming when it wasn't going on. I worked at a Walgreens where I've had a gun pointed at my head, cops arrived after a fight broke out between a customer and me after she tipped the ladder I was on, I've been attacked and rescued by the pharmacist who also happened to be a bounty hunter. I was sixteen working for a foster care agency where a baby was thrown on my lap. I was so traumatized by that, even more so than the other experiences I've listed. I've dealt with emotionally-challenged individuals where part of my responsibilities included managing and maintaining a civil environment if I were to ever get my work done. When someone was unhappy about a five minute tardiness, the cops would be summoned. Food products contained ingredients that could be harmful for diabetics and were scheduled to be on the market at Whole Foods under false pretenses. Money was being mishandled. Employees were being exploited. Even mainstream businesses worked in harmful environments at call centers where emloyees were coughing so severely that broken ribs were taking place and yet not going to work or being late by as little as a minute three times led to termination. I've worked in the food business. I've done catering, bartending, and party promos. So being hit on, violent circumstances, and hostile customers occurred regularly enough that it was no longer shocking for me. All true stories.

Of course, I've never worked at sweat shops and been paid less than a dollar an hour. There are always worse circumstances. But my point is that I've had insanely intolerable experiences, and yet people found my complaints to be unfounded because others put up with it. How I handled these work conditions were dependent largely on my perception and emotional state.

I worked at a call center where I'd clock in later than I was scheduled for because my computer wouldn't boot up properly. I was advised to arrive to work 15-20 minutes before my assigned time. I was uncooperative and refused to make such a compromise. It's unfair to expect me to arrive to work early when I'm not being paid for it due to the company's fault. So instead I complained, complained, complained. I let the IT department know every morning that I couldn't get my computer up long before I even got to my desk. I vocalized this to several managers and senior accounts to make terminating my employment into a discouraging course of action despite their policy.

My main objection wasn't the arrival time but the principal behind it. I was difficult from the beginning and although my position warranted some validity, the extent I took to at that time wasn't. Over time, though, it became evident that this company did deserve some expression of disapproval. The ceiling above my desk was so dirty that people were coughing like crazy. One of my co-workers had a chronic cough so severe that he couldn't sleep lying down. Others had to have surgery for their carpal tunnel. The company had no ethics and we were employed to lie to customers about matters we knew wouldn't be resolved. So we essentially were getting paid to be mistreated on both sides and experienced injuries as a result of it. Our job security became compromised when someone declines to pay for a co-workers birthday when we've never even met the person if this co-worker was well liked by a supervisor.

Although these things aren't fair, it's also very common. So many people tolerate it. I believe in the power of manifestation, and I'm actually really good at it. I believe everything has energy and when I really want something, I get it. However the instant gratifications aren't nearly as rewarding as waiting for something more valuable based on a set of high standards.

I've been trying to manifest a job that suits my needs and desires better. I refer to it as employment with purpose. Over time each job I've held has less and less of the drama. I'm not be reprimanded for wearing an outfit considered to be too revealing (a long skirt with a slit slightly above my knee) by a supervisor who's dress was so low that when she was talking to me I could see the color of her nipples... I don't have a manager who squeezes in between me and my co-worker because we're talking with disruptions from her like she's my best friend in a baby voice only to be told that I need to return to work when she knows I just started my lunch break.

Sometimes I could sense that if I developed a relationship outside of a professional one with my supervisors that my job would be secure, but I find myself unable to fabricate such bonds. If anything it strengthens my professional personality. I believe that if I do my job well and I'm not disruptive, my job should be secure. When I'm able to connect with my co-workers and supervisors on a personal level it's because I can sense the fairness they possess.

This current assignment I'm on surrounds me with people who are professional and mature. They aren't monitoring my performance, so they can scrutinize it. They're focused on themselves and prioritize fairly. I don't have to worry that small talk with a co-worker will lead to a manager accusing me of being selfish for occupying someone's time when I was the one being approached. There's none of that bullshit.

It's a temp to hire position. I'm assigned here until April. If they're happy with my performance, I'll be asked to stay indefinitely. I do my job well, but I'm not spectacular at it. As a reception I do exactly what I'm asked and demonstrate intelligence and observation when necessary. But I'm certainly not being talked about because my phone voice is out of this world. I don't know if I'm being too critical or not, but maybe I won't be asked to stay beyond tax season. I do believe it's possible. I can do my job well and I don't cost an arm and leg to employ. However they don't seem to need anyone outside of the busy season. I guess time will reveal my place here.

Working in this environment has made me realize how conditioned I've become to a toxic mentality. If I staple papers too soon and all I need to do is remove it, I sense an involuntary panic that I'm getting fired. Dramatic much? I'm finally getting a taste of what it's like to be in a breathable work environment.

It's opening my eyes to how damaging my train of that is. I experiened a shooting pain down my spine when I panicked about the most asinine detail. That sort of thing was so common that I used to never give it atention. It no longer shocked my body. Now I feel like my body's screaming at me every time I unnecessarily stress it out. It's refreshing and an educational experience.

This job is easy to do, and it gives me a lot of free time. I feel like I need to take advantage of it. If I don't, the universe might sabotage my place here because when I get too comfortable and it becomes a liability, the universe tries to set me back on track. I love to write, so I have to create a system where I can write at work. I already have projects I started, so I need to send myself copies of them. That way I can continue them here.

For so long I've wanted to find work in an office that was slow paced enough to allow me to focus on my writing and other priorities. But now that I have that chance, I have no idea how to take advantage of the time I have since it's all new for me. So I better figure it out because if this job does turn out to be temporary, I want to make it count by making progress on some of my writing projects. This still remains true even if it becomes long-term.

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