Why Our Work Has to Change

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantA lot of what I’ve been doing lately has been centered around this concept of “a wild new work.” I think that term is appealing to folks because it sounds alive. And hopeful. Many people are hungry for work to be different – for it to be nourishing and adventurous instead of a source of depletion or fear.

For others, it’s easy to throw off this concept as frivolous, or optional – as if only privileged freelancers or white collar workers have the right to dream of something better.

From where I sit, this concept is not optional.

To work in a way that is life-giving is part of the next phase of our human evolution, if we choose to be brave and allow it to unfold. If you believe that the way we treat people in most organizations has no impact on how we treat the earth or the beings we share it with, then I’m sorry, but you are mistaken.

What does it do to a person to go to a stale office building every day to do meaningless work under the hum of fluorescent lights? How does monotony and micro-management change us over time?

According to psychologist Barry Schwartz, we are deeply shaped by the work that we do and the environments in which we do that work. (Check out his 10-minute TED Talk for more on this).

What does that mean for you? When you look around you at your work, does it strike you as an environment that you want to become?

For some of you, I think the immediate reaction would be “No!”

Some of the most troubling aspects of the way many of us work now are:

  • The systemic squashing of our own internal truth and integrity (e.g., our obsession with “experts,” “objectivity,” and productivity above all else)
  • The rampant disconnection: from the earth, from animals, from those we love, and, therefore, from our own humanity

photo-1461709444300-a6217cec3dffWhen we work in places where those things are true, we experience sickness, whether it’s physical, mental, or spiritual.

In these environments, we forget who we are, which makes it easy for us to become desensitized to things like the systematic harm done to people of color or the literal pillaging of the earth (#nodapl). We fill our bank accounts or get to tell others about our fancy job, but meanwhile, something is closing off inside of us. As Viktor Frankl wrote, “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.”

Because of what it does to us and our communities over time, the tightness and misalignment that’s felt in so many workplaces by so many people is a serious issue. The tightness and misalignment you feel is a serious issue.

Things have to change.

The work we dedicate so much of our lives to should make us – and the world around us – healthier. And there are people who are making that a reality today. Tami Simon, founder of a company called Sounds True, shares her vision of how business can be different:

We have this idea about business–everything we do has to help us make more money, be more productive or whatever. But that’s not my view of business. My view of business is that we are coming together as a community to fill a human need and actualize our lives.

I believe her vision is possible and have seen it happen for myself and others – including people working within organizations. There are always things you can do to nurture your spirit and your humanity, even in the midst of a mechanical workplace. If you feel interested in learning new ways to work and support yourself, I’ve got three ideas:

megan leatherman a wild new workYou can join our Facebook group, A Wild New Work, where we share resources and discuss issues coming up for working people.

You could register for the free webinar I’m offering tomorrow, September 14th at 10:00am. (If it’s after September 14th and you’re itching to view the recording, let me know).

If you’re a working woman in Portland, you could check out the four-week group I’m offering starting October 29th, where we will get very real about all of this and shake things up in our worklives.

If any of those ideas resonate with you, I hope you’ll take a step forward.

Your relationship to work, how you’re treated in your worklife, and how you treat yourself in your worklife are so important, and I hope that, no matter what, you at least give yourself permission to want what’s best for you and your gifts.

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