Paul Butler: A tale of two workers

Paul Butler

Have you noticed there are two types of people during these strange days of COVID-19? One type of person seems to focus their attention on how this pesky pandemic affects three very important people in their own life — me, myself and I. Conversely, the other type of person has a heart for others and is considering others much more than they think of themselves.

Travails and travesty seem to do that to the human heart — they unveil our true nature. Are we selfish or selfless? Do we think of ourselves over others? Are we grateful for what we have or grabbing for what we don’t?

Whether during virtual conversations over computer platforms or in-person dialogues at the required 6 feet of separation, I am observing the two characters at work. I can see so many parallels of how these two types of people respond during a pandemic and how the same two categories respond during the working day.

In conversation with someone just the other day, soon to retire with a government pension, she gloated about how the stock market doesn’t impact her defined benefit pension plan. She couldn’t care less that some had lost jobs and seen defined contribution plans plummet. She listed all the (in my opinion, petty) inconveniences this virus had infiltrated on her personal life without a thought for others.

Even in our “old normal” (pre-COVID) there are those at work who seem much more interested in themselves and how organizational decisions outside of their control impact them personally. Their first thought is not toward the customer — the person who ultimately pays their wages. Their first thought is neither toward their direct reports (if they’re a supervisor or manager) but rather how this decision impacts them and them only. Their first thought is not to endeavor to understand why the organization had to make such a directional adjustment, but rather to see the change as an unwelcome disruption to their daily duties.

Over the years I have observed how another category of people deals differently with disruption. Their peace seems to come from within, not from without. They don’t see lack or scarcity but rather they see abundance and opportunity. Their first thoughts when change comes are about adaptation, flexibility, support and having concern for others. Such men and women in the workplace are worth their weight in gold — they make great leaders; great colleagues and great influencers for the good of all.

This COVID-19 situation is serious, but ultimately, we can choose our response to it. We can choose to moan. We can choose to stress. We can choose to be anxious.

Alternatively, we can choose to be grateful for what we have. We can look on the bright side. We can remind ourselves this will come to an end.

People are people whether we’re talking about personal or professional lives. Why? Well, because we’re reflecting upon the human condition — what comes through people in times of economic uncertainty (good or bad) due to a pandemic is the same as what we see coming out of people (good or bad) in times of organizational change. People are people.

I am just grateful that light is much brighter than the darkest darkness and that one day — hopefully not too far off — we will return to our “old normal.” I am hoping we will all come out of this much more grateful for the freedoms we have and the beauty we have around us in nature and within our families, friendships and even complete strangers. I am hoping we will serve, collaborate and lead a little differently at our work, too.

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