Work is love made visible.
Have you ever known people who really hate their job? And do you recall what they’re like to be around—grouchy, testy, frustrated, complaining, depressed? Being with them—at work or at home—is generally not pleasant.
As I was conducting one particular seminar and we began talking about work, I noticed discouraged looks on the faces of several employees from the same organization. I could tell there were issues we needed to address.
One woman was particularly negative. She seemed to be seething, boiling inside. She spat out her bitter words with venom and issued a defiant challenge: “So what if you work at a place where the harder you try, the worse it gets?” Her words and her body language communicated to everyone that she was convinced there was no answer to the problem.
Over the next couple of hours, as we talked about work problems and solutions, I saw the discouraged looks gradually change to hope and commitment as people began to see how they could improve their situation and make a difference—except for this woman. For some reason, she seemed unreachable.
During the lunch break, she came up to me. “I’ve been in this organization 25 years,” she said bitterly, “and this other woman who’s been here only a few years just got promoted five levels. Well, you know what she’s been doing!” She was angry and frustrated and seemed to want to keep on dumping.
As I listened to her, I found myself thinking two things. First—what a tragedy! I felt terribly sad that this woman perceived her situation to be so difficult, and that her bitterness blinded her to the possibility that things could be better.
And second—I am so glad I’m not married to this woman! I knew what she must have talked about at home, what she talked about on the weekends, and what she was going to talk about when she retired. If something didn’t change, she’d become one of those unhappy, bitter people who spend their retirement years complaining about how miserable their work years were, how people took advantage of them, and how they were trapped in their jobs but had to stay to collect retirement benefits.
This woman was obviously “hate your work” centered.
Now contrast this woman’s response to her “work” with the sentiment expressed in the Kahlil Gibran quote that began this chapter: “Work is love made visible.”
How can it be that to some people “work” communicates a sense of drudgery, a grindstone, a necessary evil, a tearing away from family and quality personal time, a highly charged and unfair political, sexist environment, a monotonous toil—while to others it represents career, fame, recognition, fortune, status symbols, and identity—and to still others it represents a life’s mission, a great contribution, a noble endeavor, or a beautiful gift of love crafted with excellence, personalized talent, and individual care?
Clearly, there’s a difference in the way people see their work. And that difference in seeing leads to a difference in doing . . . and, ultimately to the results they’re getting in their lives. It’s the “see-doget” cycle we discussed in Chapter 2.
When you hate your work, nobody wins—not you, your boss, your organization, your coworkers, customers, suppliers . . . not even your family. But when you truly love your work, everyone wins. In fact, being excellent, joyful, and inclusive in your life’s work can be one of your greatest contributions to your family.
In this chapter, we’ll ask you to explore:
How you see work
How you see your work
How you see yourself as a worker
Then we’ll look at aligned, high leverage ways you can optimize your ability to contribute on the job and navigate competently through issues of work and life balance.
At the end of this chapter, we’ll also suggest some ways to transform work into a bonding rather than a divisive family experience. Work doesn’t have to cause frustration and conflict; it can be a great source of family bonding—particularly when you focus on why and how you work. The goal is for you and your family to be able to say with joy and satisfaction: “Our work is our love made visible.”