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by Arthur Paul Patterson

WE HAVE BROUGHT our children and pets to work and regularly dress down on Fridays to improve relations and productivity. Now it is time to do something really revolutionary – bring ourselves to work! It is odd to consider something taken for granted so much as lugging our personality and life into the office day by day; yet, my experience has been that most employees bring only a fragment of themselves to work. Call it the "work self" or the "company automaton"; whatever it is called, it is far from a full-blown person. We are not getting enough out of work and work is not getting enough out of us when we leave our passion for life at home, waiting for the weekends.

We are not getting enough out of work and work is not getting enough out of us when we leave our passion for life at home, waiting for the weekends.

Linda did just that. She would go to the office believing that work was a financially necessary but fundamentally unrewarding setting, impervious to change. She did her job as a computer analyst adequately but felt the stress of deadlines, unreal expectations, and 12 years of working for someone else, had finally demoralized her. She said she was half-alive. She recorded her frustration in her journal:

In April, I was having a tough time at work. There was a project with creeping scope, and a crisis-driven manager who lacked confidence in me. I was insecure and driven. The project had a planning meeting. Even though I kept telling my manager I had too much on my plate and that our deadlines were unrealistic, she didn't listen, and the directives remained unchanged. In desperation, I called Art because I was at my wit's end. I had tried everything. I felt burned out with no resources left to meet the challenge ahead of me.

It sounded to me as if a "bring yourself to work" approach might be the right one for Linda. It took several weeks for us to spin out the metaphor.

Her first objection was that in bringing herself to the job, the job would suffer. It would become merely a context for doing whatever she wanted. Our personal hopes and the way we spend eight hours a day are supposed to be at odds with each other! You’d take the work out of work if you tried this.

Do you actually think that if you brought yourself to work all you would do is surf the Internet and phone friends on company time? (She admitted that sometimes she would like to. I said that that was only an expression of frustration.) Linda, you don’t do that when you bring yourself into a friendship. You don’t just exploit other people and get them to meet all your needs. I’ve seen you in action. You actually extend yourself for your friends. You try to pick up on their needs and meet them within reason. Why not try this at work?

At work you are on a team with a supervisor and other workers. You recognize the goals they have in your work context. You’re in it together. I know you love getting things accomplished with other people, not impossible things but possible things. How about sitting down with your super and asking what has to be done from the company point of view and then figure out what could be done if everybody on your team pulled together. Of course, if you are a team you want to make sure no one gets side-tracked through stress. So being realistic about the goal is important.

How many hours of overtime will each of you offer this project? How will you hold each other accountable for your weekly goals? Is this an exceptional time from your employers’ point of view or does there always seem to be an emergency? What kind of incentives can you think of that will keep everyone going?