Once there was a young woman who didn't like her job. Everyday when she came home from work, she told her husband how terrible her day had been, how tiring the work and how unreasonable her boss. "Leave that job," her husband told her.
"Oh I will" she said. "But not yet. I have too many friends there for me to leave just yet." And so she complained until the days became years and her family grew to five. "Leave that job," her children told her. "Oh I will" she said. "But not yet. I have seniority and four weeks vacation I can spend with you. I'm not ready to start over just yet.
And so she remained unhappy at work until the years became decades and her children had children. "Leave that job," her grandchildren told her. "Oh I will," she said. "But not yet. There's only seven more years until I reach thirty years of service and can retire. So I can't just yet."
I know this woman. And scores like her. People who settle for where they are, what they're doing, and how they're doing it. People who have planted their feet in status quo cement, lacking the courage to move from what is to what could be. People experiencing work like a four letter word and doing nothing to change it.
They remind me of the story about an old dog half-asleep on the porch of the general store, moaning and groaning in the sun. "Why is your dog acting that way?" a customer asked the store owner. "Oh," answered the man, "he's lying on a nail." "Well, why doesn't he move?" "Because it's not hurting him bad enough."
That's true for people, too. We convince ourselves the pain is not bad enough to leave the workplace we know. But we're wrong. Prolonged work pain is damaging.
Some damages our self-esteem, kills our passion or destroys our dreams. Some emerges when we compromise our values, quiet our voice or hide our talent. Some happens when we're seduced by power or believe our own myths of importance and significance. Some occurs when we look the other way, say yes when we mean no or forfeit the promises we made to ourselves.
Wilbur Wright, of the Wright brothers fame, once commented, "We could hardly wait to get up in the morning." I know that exhilarating feeling of being so passionate about something I was working on that I couldn't wait to get back to work. And people who are winning at working know that kind of passion, too.
They get excited about work. They thrive offering their unique gifts and talents. And when things change as they sometimes will, they refuse to let a soul-depleting boss or environment hijack their self-esteem, passion or dreams. When work becomes work, they stop lying on a nail and do something about it.
(c) 2011 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
Award winning author of Hitting Your Stride (Capital Books; 2008). Nationally syndicated radio host of "Work Matters with Nan Russell." Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. Sign up to receive Nan's "Winning at Working" tips and insights at http://www.nanrussell.com; follow on twitter @nan_russell