Work is not work: You are more than just an employee

As you reflect on your life and its characters, it wasn’t a teacher that you remembered; it was the teacher who really cared about your future.

It wasn’t a doctor that you remembered; it was the doctor who gave you a sweet and said everything would be ok. It wasn’t a boss that you remembered; it was the boss who made you want to turn up to work every single day.

It wasn’t a colleague you remembered; it was the colleague who supported you in accomplishing a task. It wasn’t a singer that you remembered; it was the singer who looked at you and sang straight to your heart.

Do not be deceived about the classic interpretation of the concept of work. Work does not have to be about something you need to do because everyone else does it. It does not have to be about the paycheck. It does not have to be the status that it will bring you and your family. It does not have to be about a chore or a duty or a responsibility.

In fact, this is exactly what it does not have to be, but it has, unfortunately, become interpreted as such. Although we have evolved with each generation, everyone continues to fall into this deceptive trap of what work stands for.

Work is a platform, a stage, an avenue. It is where you get to bring all that you want to be, all that you want to feel and all that you choose to do. It is where life meaning is derived, where happiness is experienced, where creativity is birthed, and where deep relationships are fostered.

It is where your heart and soul gains worth and where you inspire others. It is where you remain humble, yet show off “what your momma gave you”. It is where experience is gained, and later gets passed on as wisdom to your children and theirs.

Don’t be deceived – your job isn’t just a job and the workplace is not just a workplace. It has the potential to be just the right platform where all of life’s magic can take place.

Here are two conventional ideas we have about the workplace which we need to begin to think about differently:

You are not an employee, you are more than that.

My little niece, Kareena, once told me as she was about to go off to school, “It’s my time to shine!” Coming from such a small, little girl’s mouth, I laughed so hard.

I never did explore what she meant by that, but here is a girl who decided that school was her place to shine, school was her moment, school was where she had power.

We are not employees, slaves or tools. Instead, we really are magicians, artists and performers. Look at what you do at work today, isn’t it a pure miracle that you get all that you have done despite all the challenges?

Turn it all around now – stop walking into work then walking out saying “Gosh, I can’t believe how I ever did it!” Instead, walk into work saying “Here I come, bringing in all my magic.”

Dr Martin Luther King spoke so well about bringing artistry into work. He said “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michaelangelo painted, or as Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

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It is not about you, it is about more than that.

It’s not about you, or your temporary happiness nor is it about the salary per se. It is about something so much bigger than that.

Steve Jobs said “It’s about leaving a dent in the universe.”

Remember that you don’t want to be “a”, you want to be “the” – you are not a person, a colleague, a subordinate, or a leader. You are the person, the colleague, the subordinate, the leader who made all the positive difference. Because of your actions, the world tasted sweeter, challenges were exciting and difficulties included humour.

I’ve felt the biggest joy in my life as a trainer and coach. However, one session stands out the most in my memory.

I was asked to conduct a training session on Emotional Intelligence to a group of executives who spoke Bahasa Malaysia. Although I had informed the client that I wasn’t proficient enough in the language and therefore would not be the best person for the job, they insisted.

During the weeks leading to the training, I practiced, translated, and practiced some more.

At the start of the training, I explained to the participants my background and requested for their understanding and support. As the training went by, we laughed at my Bahasa yet connected immensely for the same reason.

I stood for someone who was trying hard, open to being laughed at and who was not in it for me but in it for them. It was not me, “the trainer”, but what these actions stood for, that got them to put in the effort to speak in English and open up immensely during the session.

It was really the best session I had ever had with the hardest laughs, greatest engagement and most powerful learning lessons.

To conclude, work isn’t work. It is your life. It is where all the gifts you are given could have the opportunity to make the world a better place. And, now as Kareena puts it, “It’s your time to shine!”

Hetal Doshi – Suhana Daswani is a professionally qualified organisational psychologist, certified professional coach, and the founder of O Psych Sdn Bhd, with an expertise in work performance, team dynamics and emotional intelligence. To get in touch with her, drop an email to editor@mystarjob.com.


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