I was asked yesterday, in an email, if I was happy at work. I am enjoying my work, all of it. I offer pastoral care, preaching and administrative leadership in my full time work here at Bethany, Sunday night Bible study leadership and worship leadership at Brunswick Street United Church and employment navigation early morning at local foodbanks in Dartmouth. It’s a busy life and a fulfilling one. Each day I have several goals in mind for my work, some are task oriented, some are long-term, and some are matters that need attention this week. Much of the work I do involves people and relationships and making sure everyone feels affirmed. And there are outcomes that cannot be forgotten along the way that come with deadlines and expectations. And the joy or happiness for me comes through all of this, working at understanding people, the dynamics of groups and the long-term goals of organizations.
Just in case anyone thinks I am being a Pollyanna, looking at the world only in rose coloured glasses I always mention the part of my work I dislike, meetings. I don’t mind the brain-storming kind of meetings that gather good ideas and find common ground between participants for a cogent plan to move forward. But I am inpatient with going “backward”, returning to matters on the agenda already dealt with and going down “rabbit holes”, diverting to matters that are not on the agenda but happen to be issues specific individuals in the group just like to rant about from time to time. I happily indulge and participate myself in such practices one-on-one or at a coffee shop or a pastoral visit but not at a meeting. At meetings I am all business and easily annoyed by those who stray off topic. I do NOT enjoy that aspect of my work.
I think what helps me so much in my job satisfaction is being clear about what I count as success at the end of every day. I know what makes me tick, what makes me happy, what I need to take away from work to experience some kind of meaning. And that satisfaction is knowing I have made a difference. Difference can be measured in many ways; doing something for someone is the easy one, helping someone imagine a new reality is another, working toward a good cause is important, and building momentum toward a more just and compassionate world is never to be underestimated.
It helps so much to be self-aware, to see yourself as others see you. I am keenly aware of the things that frustrate me. I don’t like long meetings and have taken steps to 1) be more patient with the pace of a meeting and 2) step up and be honest about my lack of focus after the meeting has gone on for more than 90 minutes. I am less passive aggressive when I am honest about my limits, and frankly after 90 minutes I am by no means the only person in the room getting frustrated. I find when I speak up I hear from many in the room later that they were feeling the same way but could not say it. I am much, much happier now that I am being more patient in the first 90 minutes and speaking my mind in the “overtime” period. I am also affected by drama and while all churches have drama I am better about leaving the drama alone when there is nothing to do done as it unfolds. Where I used to take on the responsibility to “fix the drama” I now acknowledge that unless the drama becomes a huge distraction or starts affecting the health of the church I can leave it be.
In the end what I need from my workplace is a sense of community, of making a difference and a sense of proportion, that we are not taking ourselves too seriously yet also engaging others with a sense of purpose.