Somewhere along the line, a couple years ago, I volunteered or was elected, I’m not sure which, to be the office morale officer when I began sending out “Weekly Affirmations,” quotations, sticky sweet Chicken Soup type stories, and so on in an attempt to boost morale. I don’t know if it has worked, but I’ve always had the support of management.
In response to this week’s strife regarding the mandatory job rotations that no one wants to do, I sent out this:
"Happy Friday! Wow, been some week, eh? Had quite a shake-up here in the Salem office, anyway. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of confusion, concern, and upset here right now. I wish I had some magic words that would heal the hurt feelings and set all the wrongs to right again, but I don’t. It’s not my responsibility to, anyway.
"Viktor Frankl is a name we’ve invoked quite a bit in the past. A little background for those not in the know: Mr. Frankl was a psychiatrist in Austria. He was also Jewish. During World War II, he and his family were put in Nazi concentration camps. He was the only person in his family to make it back out alive. But while he was there, Mr. Frankl used his training as a psychiatrist to observe the people around him. He noticed that some people gave up and died soon after being imprisoned, sometimes despite being otherwise healthy, while others continued to struggle to survive. He came to the realization that you can survive any ‘how’ as long as you have a ‘why.’ He himself had a book on psychiatry that he wanted to write, so he decided he wasn’t going to let the Nazis kill him before he had a chance to do it. He set up a goal in life, a reason to live, and clung to it.
"Mr. Frankl also came to a second realization: just because he was in a concentration camp, he didn’t have to feel bad. He didn’t have to surrender to the Nazis the power to control his emotions. He could smile with the satisfaction that the Nazis couldn’t make him stop. He was responsible for his reactions and the Nazis couldn’t take that away from him. The Nazis were outside his circle of influence, but his emotions were within it.
"That’s pretty heady stuff. After all, no one wants to hear that they’re responsible for feeling bad. But no one can make you feel bad against your will; not even your boss. We’re all here to do a job. It would be nice we could just do it and not have it toyed with. But while our bosses’ whims are outside of our circle of influence, our reactions are within it. We each just need a goal to work towards. My goal was working until April – I’ll celebrate my 5 year anniversary in April and finally be vested. Then I’ll have to think of a new goal. Maybe my goal will be to make it through this job rotation thing so I can get back to my desk again. Then I’ll have to think of another goal. But that’s what we each need: something to work towards, a reason to keep coming in. And we each have a choice of whether we’re going to do it positively or not. I’m going to try.
"Of course, there is another situation Mr. Frankl addresses. Sometimes a person really can’t be happy in the situation they’re in. In that case, the person needs to find what does make them happy and do it; an option he didn’t have in the concentration camp but that we all have in our daily lives.
“If this has peaked your interest and you’d like to read more about Viktor Frankl’s life and philosophy, you should read his book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” I have a copy I can bring in if anyone would like to borrow it; just let me know. And remember, it’s up to you to have a great week.”
Viktor Frankl quotes:
“What is to give light must endure burning.”
“Everything can be taken from a man but the last of human freedoms, the right to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances–the right to choose one’s own way.”
“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.”
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.’”
Now, I actually expected a negative response from my co-workers. Quite a few have threatened in the last week to quit or transfer as a result of this disruption. We had a meeting with the Board Chair who told us, “This is the way it’s going to be and you can’t change my mind.” This resulted in much anger and the chair’s response was, “You choose to feel this way.” So I thought my co-workers wouldn’t want me to tell them the same way, that they choose to be upset. But I did it anyway. Viktor Frankl’s name is invoked alot around here since management sent us to several seminars modeled after his philosophy. I thought my coworkers would accuse me of being a traitor siding with management.
Imagine my surprise when the chair came to my cubicle and told me my affirmation didn’t make her “feel affirmed.” Hmm? But wasn’t I parroting your attitude from the meeting?
Maybe she didn’t like being compared to Nazi Germany. Maybe she didn’t like the words “toyed” and “whim.” I figured she wouldn’t. This is as subversive as I get. But I thought the over all “it’s up to you to be positive” message would be right up her alley.
I dunno. Can’t please all of the people all of the time.
“I hope life isn’t a big joke, because I don’t get it,” Jack Handy
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