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'Goodwill to All' Is Not So Easy

Marty Nemko

No one could argue with Christmas's call for peace and goodwill to all.

Alas, answering the call, even at Christmas, let alone 24/7/365 ain't easy, especially in these tough times and especially for today's workers.

In today's workplace, the watch word is often "Do more with less"... and do it in teams. When some team members refuse to pull their weight, it's tough to bestow goodwill to all. Rather, it's tempting to try to get them fired.

And it's hard to have goodwill to your employer when he'll hire you only part-time/temp, or instead of a raise, makes you contribute yet more to your healthcare coverage.

And the pressure is not just on worker bees. Many bosses are caught in the middle between their boss who's yelling, "How come your work group didn't make it's number," and their subordinates who are demanding so-called rights: "I know I take lots of Fridays and Mondays off but it's not to have three-day weekends. It's because I have to take care of my ailing aunt. FMLA gives me the right to take 12 whole weeks a year off with pay and still have my job waiting for me." Peace and goodwill to all? Hmmph.

Nor are the elite professions immune. For example, doctors, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare professionals must dig deep to feel goodwill to all when their first patient of the day is a no-show, the next one refuses to take life-saving medication but expects a same-day appointment, the third marches in with a sheaf of Internet printouts annoyed that the doctor didn't know the intricacies of mucopolysaccharidosis type VII. And at lunch, the doctor opens a letter from an insurance company bureaucrat denying payment for a colonoscopy.

Yet somehow, most people manage to offer peace and goodwill to most if not all, even long after the Christmas tree has been dragged out to the recycling.

Just think of how many kindnesses are bestowed in the workplace. For example:

--How many employees pick up the slack for a less capable or otherwise overwhelmed co-worker?

--How many workgroups organize to do volunteer work together? For example, to go to an "adopted" school each Friday afternoon and tutor kids.

--How many employers keep a terminally ill patient employed even when he or she can't really do the job?

--How many people work for nonprofits or government, for example, as a social worker, at low or no pay, under trying conditions, and remain kind to their clients?

--How many businesses donate millions in charity, yes for the PR, but not just for that?

--And how many people do random acts of workplace kindness, like write a handwritten thank-you note, offer to help an overworked worker, take a co-worker out to lunch, or even leave a flower on their desk?

Here's to those generous souls. May they have a merry whatever it is they choose to celebrate.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian called Dr. Nemko "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach" and he was Contributing Editor for Careers at U.S. News. His sixth and seventh books were published in 2012: How to Do Life: What They Didn't Teach You in School and What's the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America. More than 1,000 of his published writings are free on www.martynemko.com. He posts here every Monday.

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