This short story is written for Day 2 of The Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018.
“If you work for someone who wont let you bring yourself to work, can you afford to spend another year dimming your flame?”— shot Preeti, at me the other day. She has a way of saying things in your face and being brutally honest about it. I had no choice but to agree to it. After all, it was the truth.
“Yes, it has been hard enough being stuck at the same place for years and now, with no incentives at work all I get is a paycheck, but honestly, I think I deserve much more than that.”
At work, a lot had started changing since the new CEO had joined, and many of the managers were showing signs of being afraid to let their employees bring their full, creative selves to work. They did their best to stamp out any hint of individuality from us. We were told in no uncertain terms how we’d have to get our work done exactly the same way everybody else does it. In fact, no scope for any change at all.
“Managing through fear is poor leadership, but that’s exactly what is happening at work”, I said to my friend. “Nobody seems to take note of the fact that employees are cynical and exhausted, when every survey says this is the case”.
“I wonder why they cannot see that fear-based leadership in corporations cannot thrive. Not only do you deserve smart and enthusiastic teammates but you also deserve to work for a leader who understands that you have a vision for your own life, too.”
It was true. There was a lot of lip-service given to culture and trust at work, not to mention those manufactured “fake” fun team building exercises that were conducted every few months. Yes, empowerment was just a fallacy and employee morale had fallen at an abysmal low.
“You’re right, you know. It is not that difficult to make work fun, is it? Give the person who performs the job more latitude over the work. I’d be happy to put my own stamp to the job I do, maybe even get involved in designing and implementing things.”
We got chatting so animatedly that it almost slipped our minds that we had to head back to work. As we stepped out of the cafe, Preeti gave me a gentle nudge and left me with a little food for thought— “You know what, I think you need to get some fun back into work again. Start looking elsewhere.”
I will not lie when I say that her words nudged me to think hard. Even within a short span of 20 minutes, she had assessed my situation with remarkable accuracy. In all these months of procrastination, I had never tried to work out how I could change the course of things even though I had been feeling increasingly uncomfortable and stressed out at work. It was now clear that I had my priorities in the wrong place and the sooner I got my act together the better it would be. I’d have to stop running away from my problems.
And thus, with this new-found resolve to sort things out, I walked up to the metro station, deeply introspecting about life and pondering on the many things that I felt were amiss. Parenting was tough but holding down a full-time job whilst balancing everything else, even more so.
The station was teeming with people, so I waited by a corner and pulled out my phone. As I began to scroll through my messages, I found a message from Preeti that said—
“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and—snap!—the job’s a game!”
Was this the validation I was seeking? Maybe, who knows. Maybe, she had sensed it earlier. I realised how burnt-out and tired I was, trying to juggle it all. I never saw it in that light. Yes, I needed a job that I was actually going to look forward to! But hang on, was it going to be that easy? Well, maybe not. But, perhaps I could try. She had got me thinking already and I think, she was right.
To be honest, I’d never felt more purposeful in life in a long time as I had felt that evening, as I walked back home, ready to close a few doors behind me forever.
With clarity comes a conviction and I was convinced, nothing in my life would change if I stayed in the same place forever.
©Esha Mookerjee Dutta. June 2018
Linking this post with The Write Tribe Festival of Words June 2018.
Prompt: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and—snap!—the job’s a game!” – Mary Poppins