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Thursday, June 28, 2012

When Was the Last Time You Treated Yourself Well?

Do you talk to yourself the way that you would talk to your most treasured friend? Do you allow others to say things to you which are hurtful without defending yourself? Do you automatically accept reprimands or punishments without even checking to see if the person doing the punishing was in the right? Are you aware of all of your rights as a worker, as a citizen of your nation & as a voter? Do you use your voice, your keyboard & your pen to speak up for what you believe in, or are you coerced by fear into silence or smoothing over wounds with superficialities? Each time that we step out & speak out for what is right, but do so in a professional and thoughtful manner, we gain a bit more ground in life. But every time that we cower in the shadows, take blame when it's not warranted, stay quiet when we know that we should say something (but are afraid of the personal cost), we lose ground. No great leader, in either religion, politics or any other arena, got to be where they ended up by vacillilating. People who lead face hard facts. They refuse to be stepped on, especially over issues where they've studied & know the answers they have to be correct. They may choose to be peaceful warriors, but they know that they are in a battle nonetheless. They're opinionated, but balance that with the thoughtful reading of others' thought. We can choose put our beliefs out there with love first in our hearts- and people still may choose not to take the advice, but at least you're not putting it out there with the spirit of condemnation. We can pray that the way we phrase things will come out kindly, but will reach the reader & listener firmly. Every day, we decide whether or not we shall live a life borne of lasting great purpose, or waste it on the trivial matters of existence. We can sit for a spell & think clearly on what the best way is to approach a problem, then go forward humbly but boldly with the solution.

A young man at work came to me for help because he was not being allowed to take time off to be there for the birth of his first child. People at work knew that I was well-read & that I studied employee-employer law backwards & forwards, when it came to disability leave & time off. He discussed the issue with our supervisor first (who sadly did not live up to her title as a "manager") but she told him he had no choice in the matter but to accept their denial. He had been with the company for less than a year, and therefore was not eligible for FMLA. However, I quickly looked online for him & found out he was eligible for First-Year Leave, and his job would be protected for up to six weeks while he took this time off. It was unpaid time, but he was okay with that. I was not a manager- but I knew my rights as an employee, because I did my homework. I knew what the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 said, I knew what the Family Medical Leave Act said & I also knew company policy as clearly displayed on it's Intranet. I did not accept the answers that the supervisors gave as the gospel truth, not ever- I always did my research. If it meant going over their head, so be it. No job was worth failing myself. Now, as a supervisor she should've known about First-Year Leave, especially considering that she'd been with the company for over ten years. So she either didn't know the guidelines- though a five-minute check on the Intranet would've yielded her the same answer I got- or she deliberately lied to him. If it was the latter, I wouldn't be at all surprised, because having a warm body in the seat taking calls was more important to her than someone being there for the birth of their first child. My great pleasure didn't come from proving her wrong though, but in helping this young man stand up for himself & get the time off that he was entitled to take. He was grateful for the help, and realized that he could no longer trust this supervisor to look out for him in the least. This supervisor only undermined her own authority, and made herself look both foolish & devious, not to mention lazy. These people are usually easy to recognize- they love to criticize others, but can't take any criticism themselves. They are happy enough with you as long as you act like a meek little sheep & never challenge any rule put out. They're great at playing favorites, and aren't above nepotism. They frequently talk over others, not allowing them to finish a sentence. In their own minds, they themselves can do no wrong. Leaders like this abound in every industry & branch of government throughout the world, and this lack of ethics is the chief reason behind the societal failures we see today. I do not know if you can ever teach the unethical to become ethical, but I've never seen the change occur in my own life. Either people choose the right consistently or they don't. The lack of a moral compass may be due to some part of the brain being either turned off or skewed in some respect, so I'm not saying there's no physiological cause for it. But if we were to go back in time fifty or one hundred years, I do not think that we would have find the lack of work ethic & morals that abound today. Our general culture pushes making the quick buck over careful deliberation & concern for the greater good over time. 

Friends at work would come to me for help when they'd get written up for leaving early because their daughter would have an asthma attack or they themselves got a diabetic complication & started throwing up at their desk. I was rather well-known for standing up to various injustices against employees (you can imagine how popular this made me with management...), because my mother brought me up to be a vocal critic of anything wrong I saw being done. My mother's ethics at work were reknowned to the point where if she wasn't directly involved with handling an issue, people within the agency would immediately ask for her to get onboard, because they could trust my mom to handle things thoroughly & correctly. My mother made her own enemies for demanding high ethics & complete knowledge from all involved but boy, was she ever respected for it. (She was "old school" Federal Government, a woman who had to pass the Civil Service Test to get her job, and worked her way up the ranks through old-fashioned hard work, learning each job inside & out. Sadly, these people are a dying breed, as many have been forced out by age & retirement.) Anyway, I was astounded at how few people looked into whether management even had a right to do such a thing to them. Why weren't these employees signing up for FMLA & getting the paperwork filled out the second they hit their one-year anniversary with the company, when they knew that a loved one had a persistent medical condition? Again & again they answered, "Nobody told me I was eligible!" By this time, FMLA had been law for nearly twenty years. I couldn't believe, in the era of 24/7 Internet access in America, that so many didn't even know the most basic tenets of the laws that applied to their situation. But it was simple- no one ever taught them to take matters into their own hands. Their parents didn't encourage them to fight or think for themselves. Many were conditioned to go along with authority without question. Critical analysis is a skill most parents, teachers & employers try to kill from the moment that you're born. There are many sufferings to be gained by daring the establishment via the use of your own critical analysis skills, or at least that's what they'd like us to believe. Most of the workers I talked to were female or from an ethnic minority, many were from poor or lower-middle-class families, did not get much education about the inner workings of the Federal government, grew up in the bureaucratic American school system (which has plenty of it's own evils) & were taught not to make waves. I could not fathom how "turn the other cheek" was continually skewed into "never speak & stand up for yourself"- but it was. Employers know how explicitly to manipulate fear, superstition, anger & a sense of morals to their advantage. They should be infamous for expecting the utmost in ethics from those employees lowest on the totem pole while allowing literally illegal behavior daily from those at the highest segment of the pole. Yes, some people will actually realize this- but do they actually DO SOMETHING about it, beyond complaining? Typically, no. The costs are too high. Who wants to stick their neck out & be known as "difficult" (especially women)? Who wants to be known, in this day & age especially, for being pro-union?

Everyone has had a time in their life that they look back on & say, "I should have spoken up for so-and-so, or for that issue." When one person stays silent, the result is normally just that person forever having to live with the conviction that not speaking up was wrong. When many people choose not to speak up, horrific consequences can & do occur. Loss of worker's rights, genocide, mass torture, wars- all have come to fruition because not enough people spoke out & fought against what was wrong. Do not assume, "Someone else will speak up". It isn't only others who pay the price if you maintain silence. You will live with the guilt for the remainder of your life that you didn't follow your conscience, depending upon the severity of the circumstance. Whole nations live for generations with guilt over going along with wrong actions, regardless of whether they agreed with them at the time or not. Of course apologies can be made after the fact, and forgiveness can & often is granted. But it doesn't change the sin's occurrence, or it's lasting consequences. If you want to start simplifying your world, and the world at large, start today by saying what you mean & meaning what you say. Get back your critical analysis skills. Take back your power. And encourage others to do the same. Treat yourself as well as you would your most beloved friend or family family- with honest, good advice & a kind heart. Be a leader. The world may say you'll pay a cost, but it won't be the highest cost of all that you pay- the price of losing your righteousness. Lose that, and you lose everything, even if you gain the whole world.

Here's to being an outspoken organized minimalist,


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