Musings, Rhymes, and More #5
One of my goals for 2016 is to write something (anything!) on a daily basis. I plan to then pick my favorite of these and share it/them here on a weekly basis. These will vary in length, format, and theme.
“Never cry at work.” “Leave your personal problems at the door.” “Be professional.”
It’s all advice that you’ve undoubtedly heard before, and it has a logical, reasonable purpose. Obviously, a professional world where all of the employees are constantly breaking down or only focused on their personal lives would not be productive. However, all of us who exist in the professional world still also fall under the classification of human. We are fallible, emotional beings, and our lives often suffer sorrow and setbacks. Why is it, then, that we are expected to somehow turn off the emotions when our lives may be falling apart? Why do we judge the people who have reached their breaking point and that just happens to occur in the place where they work?
Our culture seems to consistently advocate for the separation of life and work, but is that really feasible? No matter how hard we may try to create a line at some point the lines begin to blur. Some may argue that workplaces offer leave or perhaps vacation time for their employees to deal with personal issues. However, there are many situations that do not qualify for leave or the employee cannot afford to take leave or the leave isn’t offered or the leave isn’t enough. Most jobs allow time off for loss, but this is often restricted to immediate family. There is no consideration for the relationships which may be more significant than blood. Also, the idea that we are meant to mourn and move on within a minuscule amount of time is unfathomable.
In addition, there are so many situations that have a profound effect on us, but we are meant to keep working even as we fall apart. There are times when a relationship, whether it be with a lover, a friend, or a family member, disintegrates and our whole world feels changed. There is often mockery of this in the media, especially in regards to romantic break-ups, but instances such as these can have such an impact on our own identities and equilibrium. Likewise, the loss of an opportunity or a beloved pet or something else that may seem minor to the masses can create in one person a deep emotional reaction. For those with mental illness, there are days when just the act of getting out of bed and making it to work takes every ounce of strength they have. When they are fighting against their own mind to keep breathing, it can feel impossible to focus on work tasks.
Now I’m not arguing that employers should offer time off or should seek to make impossible accommodations for people struggling in their personal lives. Obviously, there is no way to implement strategies that would not be abused or used in excess or financially feasible. So no, that is not what I am seeking to say. I simply want us, as a culture, to stop expecting people to flip their emotions off like a switch the moment they clock in to work. Instead of seeing judgment and ridicule for someone who simply cannot take it anymore and breaks down in tears while they’re on the clock, I’d love to see sympathy.
For some people, I’m sure that work is an escape from the problems of their lives which is valid as well. There have certainly been times where work has allowed me to find a way out of the pain in my mind. There are also other days when no matter how hard I try, I cannot care about the job I’m doing, and when the pain overwhelms me to feeling as if I’m choking as I try not to breakdown. It is the fear of being seen as something less, as weak, or unprofessional that forces me to swallow the tears before I walk in the door. But I wonder if our world would be better if we allowed ourselves to feel and if empathy was as important as getting ahead.