Free for all

My current work environment is a “free for all.” Employees are free to create their own job, free to use their colleagues as they like (given they assent), free to set their hours and to choose how to use them, free to take a break when they need to. Dress code is casual, and yoga is offered. We even have a dog on staff (soon I’m going to add this cat).
No, it isn’t a top-ten innovative company filled with the best and the brightest; it’s an organization serving people with disabilities, and many of us employees have disabilities. The boss is simply laid back—caring, good at fundraising, and inclined to let us manage ourselves.
Now there are drawbacks as well as advantages to all this freedom: For one thing, I’ve had a hell of a time figuring out how to do my job and whether I like it. On the other hand, I’ve been able to do more of the things I like, such as writing a newsletter and creating a website, and I can minimize time spent on things I am not inclined to do, like casework or organizing social events. At one point I had to clarify my position with myself, the boss, and the staff: Since then I’ve felt more aligned and energized.
Given all this freedom, there is a temptation to take advantage. To slack, or to attempt to manipulate others, or to define their jobs for them. There could be a blaming of our own disabilities for falling short on a project or not doing something.
Yet, in all this wonderful chaos, there is regard for individuals, and there is laughter, and there is room for creating a support group or website or even a new conversation on health outside of the medical model. In that sense, it is a highly evolved work environment. In another sense, there is dysfunction that slides under the onus of disability rights. Everything and everyone has its dark side.
My point is: Out of chaos can come amazing things. I have learned to exercise new muscles in communication and in technology. I have gained much validation too, of my introverted nature and need to retreat and work on the website. I have learned how to serve in a way that suits me—not out of guilt and pushing myself, but in finding the tasks I can do well and helping willingly. By spending time listening to people’s stories instead of trying to fix problems, by standing up for myself when people ask too much, or ask for inappropriate things, or ask for things I cannot give without exhaustion and resentment. To give what I can and give it well.
The environment is wide open, the positions freely defined, and most importantly, the lessons really are free for all.

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1 Comment

  1. Mary McCullough

     /  January 2, 2012

    Hi Lynda, you are really amazing. I am awed and impressed by your thinking, thoughts, observations, and pursuit of meaning. Love you.

    Reply

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