Tension In The Workplace


We can learn a great deal from each other. And so, I’ve decided to share with you the reader, some of what I’ve been thinking, mulling over and talking about with others as it is now official and the union to which I belong has called a strike; or work stoppage as they phrase it. Maybe there’s something you can take from this post.

To say the least, it’s frustrating when my personal choice is to continue to perform the work I love doing, and was hired to do by my employer. After all, it’s the employer whose issuing my income, my employer who I personally find to be the very best for whom I have ever worked, and my employer who originally hired me and continually provides me with opportunities for growth and development. So when the union I must belong to in order to work for this employer calls a work stoppage, it is stressful and upsetting.

This job I have isn’t a right; it’s a privilege and one that comes with responsibility. It requires compassion, empathy, knowledge and expertise to perform well. My personal belief is that I don’t work for my employer whatsoever, but work for the clients on social assistance with whom I come into contact with. I am employed by my employer to be sure, but I work under a model of what is referred to as Servant Leadership. I see my Supervisor as serving me, her Manager serving her etc. We all have to be given the opportunity to succeed in our roles, and that means being provided with the time to plan, the tools we require, and the space in which to work that will best help clients to reach their own financial independence.

I feel for the client who gets lost in work stoppages. They’re already under stress on a daily basis from things they can’t always control. Be it landlord problems, mental or physical health issues, addictions, unemployment barriers, they really don’t need a breakdown between a union and an employer to further add to their anxiety. These people come to our resource centre because they can get guidance, advice, help and many have no other social supports in place. We’ve got our regulars need computer access because they can’t even get a library card to use computers there, and if they do use them, they have to pay for anything they print. And if they need some job coaching to work through problems, they’d be out of luck.

What I find sad too is the divisiveness that these strikes cause. Like any issue, some people come down on one side and in this case want to walk out, and others fall on the other and want to accept an offer and keep working. While the right to feel one way or the other is generally accepted among most, the right to continue working through a strike is not accepted. It sure would weaken the bargaining power of those outside on a sidewalk if some of their colleagues were inside working and getting paid their regular wages for doing so. So it’s natural that it’s frowned upon. Cross a line (even it were allowed by the employer in which in many cases it is not) and you’ll be marked by many of your co-workers, called names, maybe have your property damaged, be shunned, and that has led some in other situations to take extended time off for mental health reasons or quit.

While our differences are what we often hold as being good in each other, it is those differences that also cause us to shake our heads and wonder why others don’t see things like we do. If we think an offer is good, why can’t everyone see it as being good? If we see an offer as being poor, why can’t everyone see it as being poor? Intimidating others, issuing threats, making disparaging remarks isn’t helpful, but people do it at times. When the stakes are high, people say and do things they’d generally not, usually out of desperation, anger, stress and fear. It’s not something I approve of, but I can understand the expression people make arising from emotions.

I made a decision today that as going into work normally is not an option, I have opted not to stand on a picket line looking like I support a position I don’t. Instead, I’m remaining at home, where I’ll be revising some resumes for other people without receiving or asking for compensation. It’s a sunny day, and I’ll complete them outside where I can actually enjoy the weather but do the work I enjoy doing on my own time.

Factoring in the price of gas, a distance of 105 kilometers to work, and being asked to stand on a line from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. to show solidarity and displeasure isn’t a choice I’m prepared to make this day. While many on the lines will be there in earnest, others will be there because they must have the strike pay that goes with it and are conflicted in their decision to walk the line.

Who wins in a work stoppage? That’s a discussion of great debate. No one I know however, likes the tension of an impending work stoppage. My advice? Stay out of the mud-slinging and pray the whole thing is short-lived and comes to a quick resolution. We all have to work together when it’s over.

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