Recharge Your Internal Batteries

by Archie, the gopher

Up front, I need to set a couple of things straight. I'm Archie. I live here in the boonies at the Brong place in rural central Washington. Jerry Brong is a contributor to Quality Progress' "Career Corner" column. But much of what gets done around here is my doing, with some help from Hector, an insightful coyote.

Brong didn't start his column until yesterday and, you got it, it was due yesterday. If it is late, the QP editors get grumpy, but it still wasn't done when he left for town a few minutes ago. So Hector and I decided we'd write it.

This morning, Brong was wandering around his office muttering about some report showing big increases in unhappiness among workers. If you know Brong, you know he's always making predictions like, "Get ready! Big problems are coming!" He deals with controversies, politics and other things with his quality twist. He told someone on the telephone, "Numbers of unhappy workers are increasing. It's getting serious. Our economy has lost thousands of jobs, and workers are discontented."

The report Brong references was released by the Conference Board (www.conference-board.org) in September. Data confirmed Americans are increasingly unhappy with their jobs. About 53% of workers in the 35 to 44 year age range reported unhappiness. In 1995, the number was 39%. About 55% of the 45 to 55 age range also reported unhappiness with jobs and terms and conditions of employment.

Sneak Attack

To do the column, we got into Brong's office through the sliding door he forgets to lock. Even today with the winter weather, the door was open about an inch. Though he helps people learn about defining and delivering quality, he can't close and lock a door on a winter day!

He calls the stuff on his desk "organized piles." In the upper right, Hector and I found scribbled notes about job satisfaction and a sticky note asking, "What are the demographics of quality folk? Are they happy in their jobs?" Other notes said, "Only 30% satisfied with education and training programs" and "only 20% satisfied with bonus programs."

Well, it seems to me there is a problem here. The number of jobs in the United States is decreasing. Workforce dropouts are increasing. Workers are concerned about the future. It seems there are issues beyond jobsatisfaction. But, what do I know? I'm only the resident gopher.

As Hector pawed through news articles, he said, "It says here the Conference Board surveyed 5,000 households in July 2003. Decline in job satisfaction was reported among workers of all ages, in all regions and in all income brackets."

"You know, Hector, we didn't come in here to just dig through stuff," I said. "We need to write that column. What should we write about? We don't want all that unhappiness stuff, do we? It's depressing. I keep hearing Brong say living life to its fullest is the number one priority. He says life is more than work."

"Let's write about that quality toolbox ASQ folks say is so useful," Hector exclaimed. "Let's tell about using tools to build satisfaction in life. Won't those tools work with a family, maintaining a home or even having fun? We have to tell folks to loosen up while doing better. They have to know doing quality isn't always investigating to find goofs."

Well, for me living life to the fullest means digging tunnels, leaving dirt mounds in lawns and eating garden plants and worms. So, I asked Hector what he thought it means for ASQ folks. Could it be going to concerts, flying model airplanes, going to ballgames, fishing and doing good work at their jobs?

Following a long pause, Hector said, "Careers require satisfaction in work. And being satisfied in work and life allows humans to deliver better results. Brong talks about looking for roots and causes. He wants to find them when things work right and when they don't. He always looks for both little and big successes.

"Have you seen Brong when he goes for the mail?" Hector asked. "He wanders around the yard, even in the wind and snow. He looks at the hills, plants, trees and even into that irrigation ditch. He breathes the fresh air and looks up at the clouds. I remember him saying he does better if his mind wanders once in a while. I always thought he was wasting time. But he says taking breaks and recharging internal batteries is time well spent. If we had roses, I bet he'd stop to smell them."

Hector looked at me. I turned to the keyboard. "I've got it! The insight we'll give will be simple. We'll tell readers how important it is to enjoy as much as you can whatever comes along. Going with the flow, doing the best you can, continuously improving, learning, and moving upward and onward are what we'll say is important. We'll tell folks there will be a tomorrow. And if today isn't good, take steps to make that tomorrow better."

As I took a deep breath, I started the "Career Corner" column. I keyboarded, "Your work is important; it can be challenging and your responsibilities are many. Do remember to take time to smell the roses. Enjoy your successes and the successes of others."

GERALD R. BRONG is self-employed as a teacher, speaker and curriculum developer. He has a doctorate in education from Washington State University, with specialization in applied educational technology, and is a former private pilot. Brong is currently newsletter editor of the Seattle Section, an adjunct professor at Central Washington University and on the faculty at Walden University. He designed and facilitates a course, Defining, Planning & Delivering Quality.

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