Movers and Stayers
I have just gotten home after a work function. It was quite unlike any I have been to before. You see, it was an invitation from the University Senior Vice-Principal for general staff who have worked at the University for 20 years and over. Yep - believe it or not at the ripe old age of 40 I have clocked up almost 23 years working for the same institution. I began working on campus at 17. I had just finished high school and wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do. All I knew was that I needed a job and to put money in the bank.
Since that time, I have worked in 5 different jobs, and the last of which has had enormous changes over the 15 years I've worked there. I have watched things change, and change back. I have watched people come and go. I have seen the consequences of bad decisions and felt the love and support of wonderful colleagues. Friendships have been borne through my work, and they are very dear to me. However, lately I have wondered where I fit in.
You see, things are changing again. We have survived a constant state of restructure that we have found ourselves in for the last 10 years. But the new changes forecast, I am having trouble agreeing with. And what's worse, is there's a ridiculously short time frame and no room for real consultation, input or discussion. Our roles are changing and noone seems to care...except us. The filter feeders. I have been feeling quite despondent, distressed and disillusioned. I have wondered if it was because I have been exhausted by the events of the last couple of years. But in reality, there are so many of my colleagues who feel the same. In fact, seeing me close to tears today, just sitting at my computer, they were worried. I have become the section canary in the coal mine, and I'm dropping off my perch.
As I've mentioned, I have undertaken university study for my 'career' over the last 2 years. There are still many more subjects to come. But ultimately what this study has done is make me see my job differently. I feel more professionally focused and aware, which is also why I think I feel so disappointed by what I see happening around me. My study and many years work experience seem to count for nothing. So I have begun to wonder what my place is. Is it time to look elsewhere?
Tonight I rocked up to the function with a colleague. As we arrived we saw so many familiar faces. There were so many people there we knew. The Senior V-P gave a speech. He said this function was like one giant 'outing' of ourselves. We now all knew who'd been around for over 20 years. He also said that another big player at the University had once stated that there are two kinds of people 'movers and stayers'. And we should be celebrated for being stayers. Not because we were disillusioned, but because we all care about the job we did. I smiled with heartfelt recognition. I do care about what I do. I want to help people. I actually think on occasion that I can be quite good at it.
The Chancellor then spoke. He called us the back bone of the university and said we should be celebrated. Budgets are dwindling, student numbers are skyrocketing and staff numbers are plummeting. He said we were a group of survivors. We had outlasted numerous Vice-Chancellors, Chancellors and Senior executives. We were what kept this place running, because we were committed to our jobs. You know, it's funny. I had joked with many people after receiving the invitation, that perhaps they were getting us all in a room to gas us, poison our drinks and yell 'why the hell won't you people leave?!?!' But it was something else.
After feeling so down about the state of the working world, it was a small gesture of recognition, understanding and appreciation. A glass or three of something bubbly, a canape or six and a chance to talk to people and smile. It was a reminder for me about why I have rocked up to work every day for 22 + years. It was also a reminder about humanity. Small gestures can mean so much. A workforce is made up of people. Individuals. And it was nice to be thanked.