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Stop The Presses

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by Dianne Elizabeth

The Industrial Revolution and the pressures that brought on the great labor movement throughout the United States and indeed the world seem far removed from our career lives here at the Springfield Business Journal.

Yet my ideas about what work means in my own life are rich with memory and emotion. I go so far as to generalize my concepts about what earning our daily bread should mean to the people I work with. Intellectually, I know I should not impose my values on others, but in some respects, I still believe that it's my privilege and responsibility as CEO to do so.

I believe that our work and how we conduct ourselves in our work is a way of expressing who we are as people. I have to find meaning in my work whatever it may be because I spend so much time at it. And I know you do, too.

For instance, if I didn't think it was important to play some part in putting out this paper, week after week, month after month, year after year, a feeling of futility would creep into the rest of my life.

Oh, sure, I enjoy hanging out on my back deck or rolling down one of our Ozarks rivers. I definitely find meaning in these activities. But the fact is, I spend more time at work. Those minutes add up, and they are the pieces of my life. I can't afford to not feel good about them and continue to live with myself.

Here at the Journal, we always advise the staff that they should look for other employment if they don't like their jobs. I've been around here long enough to see that the folks who are happy are also the ones who are the most productive.

We also insist to the staff here that if there is something in this office that is making them unhappy, then let's look at it, and see if it's something that can be changed. Of course, certain things, like checking our spelling and getting the paper to the printer by deadline, we won't change.

But there are lots of things about our attitudes, about our procedures, about our environment that we can change, if we just try. Often this means just saying what we don't like and enlisting the help of co-workers to rectify the situation.

Sometimes it's the hardest thing in the world to speak up, but I've found after many years of not doing so that it's definitely worth the effort!

Well, you say, what about the guy who picks up the garbage every week? Or the one who spreads gravel along the highway on hot days? How about the person who sits all day typing up some doctor's dictation? How can they find meaning in their work? How can they possibly like their jobs?

To these questions, I would respond with another: What if they didn't do their jobs, or what if they did them poorly? Many people would suffer greatly, and I don't mean just the workers themselves or their families.

Here is one prescription for the unhappy worker: Have a picture taken of yourself while you are eating. Look at the picture whenever you feel you hate your job. If you still hate your job after taking two aspirin and sleeping for a full eight hours, start working on your resume. You'll feel a lot worse if you don't.

I guess I've gotten to the stage where I feel like I need to do the best I can, always. After I know I've done all I can do, considering my limitations, then I can rest, then I can have satisfaction, then I feel good about myself.

We are so fortunate to have the privilege of celebrating Labor Day. Those of us employed in small business have the best of it all. If we don't like our work, we can change it. If we don't like our jobs, we can find others. If we're not happy in our careers, we can reinvent ourselves, helped by abundant community resources. What we cannot do is feel sorry for ourselves or complain because we don't like our work.

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