reflections and ideas on open and distance learning - by irwin devries

Being better thems

Source: Giphy

What are some things that make for a good workplace? Reminiscing about some of the jobs I’ve had over the years, ranging from delivering pizzas to operating a drill press to developing and teaching university courses, I started making a list. It was a pretty good list.

Then I took step back and re-read the list and realized how much of it was about “them”; i.e., what everyone else needs to do better to make this a great place for ME to work. Sometimes I think I have spent too much time living in the shadow of an all-encompassing THEM. Of course, there are many things “out there” that could be better. But also, I am part of someone else’s THEM. So…that makes me a THEM. So, how can I be a better THEM to them? I started a new list.
• Comfortably Numb. Own up to the fact that I have social, cultural and other biases that I am blind to, and yet that may be visible to or felt by others and contribute to their feeling of exclusion. I need to keep looking inward as well as listening to others.
• Lazy. Be willing to take responsibility for work that I haven’t given enough attention to, or rushed, or did sloppily. That’s my fault. I need to acknowledge this and do better.
• Communication Breakdown. Talk more. Sometimes I can rush ahead and do stuff without talking to the people who need to know, or who might have great insights to add, or who will have to pick up the pieces downstream. Bad.
• Heard It through the Grapevine. Put on the brakes. It’s so easy to get caught up in the chatter. In the absence of information, and in the swirl of change in the work setting, it’s a natural thing to speculate and ride the rumour mill. It doesn’t help anything or anyone. Stop it.
• Paranoid. Close to the previous thought – sometimes it’s too easy to assume the worst. Reasons for others’ decisions, announced changes, comings and goings, new initiatives – all of these can so easily invite negative assumptions. Give things a chance; a little time to breathe and learn more. Try a different perspective.
• You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Give and take. There are endless needs in work settings, as well as many different perspectives on what to do as well as the best way to get there. My own way naturally is the best. So: Get over myself.
• Shake It Off. Stuff is always going to happen and you can’t let it get to you. Players gonna play play play play. Haters gonna hate hate hate hate. So baby I’m just gonna shake shake shake it off.

Anyhow, it’s time to go. I could keep going all night long. But I’m starting to ramble on.


  1. Scott Leslie

    Great list and good exercise, one I now plan to do. We can all be better “thems.”

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