Perhaps you saw “Jaws.” If not, (I didn’t) here’s the story line.
Martin Brody is the police chief of Amity, an island resort town somewhere in New England. One summer morning, Brody is called to the beach, where the mangled body of a summer vacationer has washed ashore. The medical examiner tells the chief it could have been a shark that killed the swimmer.
The Mayor, who is desperate to keep the revenue from July 4th tourists wants Brody to say the young woman’s death was caused by a motorboat propeller instead of a shark…because the thought of a shark would drive tourists away from Amity.
Shark expert Matt Hooper believes the female swimmer was killed by a shark. Hooper is proven right a few days later, when another person is killed.
Quint, the shark hunter offers to find the shark and kill it, but Police Chief Vaughn thinks his $10,000 professional service fee is too high. Meanwhile, Mayor Vaughn leaves the beaches open; he still wants the summer revenue. Sound familiar?
After another crazy experience, the mayor agrees to hire Quint to find the shark.
Now, take a look at how Quint responds to the mayor’s challenge:
Quint: Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin’ bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, an’ down you go.
And we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin’ basis. But it’s not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten.
Did You Read the Sign?
As a people developer, I feel the heartfelt duty to post this warning: “Business Eats People!”
Business (your work) will take whatever you are willing to give it and still want more. It’s the nature of business to consume and produce . . . consume and produce . . . consume and produce. This is how business functions. It’s not good or bad, right or wrong — it’s just how it works.
Knowing this to be true, I hope you work at a business that values people.
The business of business is people. And, when a business takes care of the people, the people will take care of the business.
When this is not the case, the business (your job) will “…swallow you whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, an’ down you go.” Did someone scream, “Shark!”?
Who is responsible?
“Okay, Steve, but what about OSHA?”
Well, let’s take a look. OSHA, of course, is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States. According to Wikipedia, OSHA:
“…was created by Congress under the Occupational Safety and Health Act signed by President Richard M. Nixon, on December 29, 1970. Its mission is to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses, and occupational fatality by issuing and enforcing standards for workplace safety and health.”
As well intentioned and valuable as the mission of this agency may be, OSHA is not there to protect your “work-life balance” or life harmony. It will not encourage you to live out your values or make sure you are engaged in meaningful work or that you are doing work that you enjoy or that allows you to use your strengths.
No one can do this except you.
The setting of boundaries, the negotiation of expectations, and making choices that lead to living life with purpose and passion while serving others is our personal responsibility. “The company” or “the boss” will not do it — not even when the business leader says “our most important asset is our people.”
Remember: the nature of business is to eat people. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just how it works. Whatever you are willing to sacrifice, it will take … and still want more.
Business is good
This is not an attack on big business or business in general or capitalism. No profit, no business, no provision. No jobs. It is about being aware of the sign on the beach.
It is about embracing personal responsibility for your Story and journey, which includes life harmony.
Perhaps you’ve experienced the effects of downsizing recently. Or you’ve noticed the pressure to do more with less. And with more pressure and greater demands, your work will “…swallow you whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, an’ down you go.”
There’s a man-eating creature out there. How are you protecting your personal well-being?
Creating Space for Reflection
- Pay attention to your story. What’s the message around hours worked, stress, your health, strain on your relationships? How well are you living out your values?
- Be intentional. Where can you make an adjustment? What’s one thing you can do to “take back your life”?
- Solicit support. Everyone needs an objective person to ask real questions and encourage the hard choices. Who will you call on for support?
Here’s to your life harmony,
PS: Do you work in the Tulsa Area? Check-out our First Thursday Next Level Leadership Lunch the monthly lunch for people committed to leadership development and heeding the signs on the beach.
This blog is adapted from Chapter 19 “Shark!” in my book, The People Project.
Image credit: Daniel Weiresq via flickr