Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
We learn at an early age all about trades. In our lunchrooms and playgrounds we eagerly trade away tuna for peanut butter and we willingly give up half a dozen second-string players for a long-coveted rookie card.
As we grow, the stakes involved in our trades get bigger. We trade our hard-earned fast food paycheque for a car that is held together with duct tape and prayer, we trade time with our friends for time with our textbooks, and more often than not, we trade our dignity and self-respect for the chance that the pretty girl in class might pay us some attention.
And in perhaps the biggest trade we ever make, we start careers and jobs that encourage us to trade our time and talents for a salary. And it is staring to seem that the bigger the salary, the more demanding the trade. The more we receive from our employers, the more they expect in return. And what I’m learning is that sometimes the trade is mutually beneficial to everyone involved – the company gets the best I have to offer in exchange for a semblance of financial security.
Over the last several months, I have been reevaluating the terms and conditions of the deal I made with my employer. I agreed to offer my best. I committed to work as hard, as creatively, and as innovatively as my skills and talents allowed. In exchange I agreed to a compensation rate, dental coverage, and a great pension plan.
But based on recent conversations with others in my small group of friends and colleagues, it seems like there is a quiet undercurrent of dissatisfaction starting to emerge between the demands of employers and those who work for them. More and more of my colleagues are reevaluating the details of their lives and deciding that they are no longer prepared to trade away their dreams and passions for cash. And as scary as it is to admit to myself, I think I am becoming one of them.
According to an article in the March 19, 2009 edition of Business Week, the number of employees who are disengaged in their workplaces rose by 45% over the previous year with a corresponding 53% decrease in the discretionary effort these employees are willing to offer their employers. Clearly the ‘effort-for-pay’ trade is no longer working for lots of other people as well.
I wonder if the crisis of dissatisfaction with work and the movement to rethink whether the amount of ourselves we give up in exchange for ‘job security’ is connected to an inadequate understanding of calling. I wonder what would happen if our business schools started including mandatory classes in self-reflection, self-awareness, and conducting an honest assessment of how our lives have shaped us into the people we are. And only after we have spent time in the wilderness of self-discovery would we be allowed to join the workforce…confident of who we are, what we can offer – and as Frederick Buechner describes – “where our deepest gladness meets the world’s deep need.”
I think there’s a good chance we would be happier, more engaged, and that the world would be more reflective of the One who created it – awash in mercy, grace and compassion rather than controlled by those who won the race to the top but lost themselves in the process.