Symbolism and Recognition: What do you celebrate and why?

I am writing this post on the last day of “work” for a while as my wife and I get ready to take a trip to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.  I consider myself extremely blessed to have been married to such a wonderful woman for over 30 years and I can say that she is  a great wife, a wonderful mother and also my best friend.  It is important to take the time to celebrate and recognize what is important in your life.  You may or may not realize it, but those things you recognize and celebrate says a lot about what and who you value in your life.  More to come about that.  The picture below comes from our wedding day.  Neither of us has changed one bit (at least she hasn’t).

wedding photo

What we recognize and celebrate in the workplace says a lot about what we value both in our work and in those we work with.  I am teaching a class called “Understanding Organizations” at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College.  In this class we are using the book “Reframing Organizations” by Bolman and Deal and this text looks at business in four distinct frames or lenses:

  • Human Resources
  • Structural
  • Symbolic
  • Political

It is interesting to read this book now with this group of college students and to contrast what I read with what I first thought when I used the original version of the book almost 19 years ago as a graduate student at Vanderbilt.  There  have been many days and many situations where I have seen the items in the book play out in real life in many workplaces and organizations I have come into contact with.

Here are a few things to think about when you make decisions both in your daily personal and professional life:

  • Do I know my work colleagues better than I know my spouse or my children?
  • When I have to choose between spending time with my family and my work, what factors do I consider in making my decisions?
  • What do I do when someone from work calls when I am away from work on a day off or in the evening?
  • Do I leave my phone on when I am away from work or do I constantly check messages and take calls on family or personal time?

I could go further with this line of questioning, but I think you see the point.

Work is just a portion of our life.  Too many times we let our work crowd out the rest of our lives because we fear that we are not indispensible or replaceable.   We need to operate in an environment of confidence when it comes to drawing boundaries around our own personal lives.  Even in a down economy we need to minimize, if not eliminate, items that invade our personal life.

Take the time to “unplug” from your work life.  Focus on your spouse, children and friends instead of always focusing on your work or things you can acquire through your income.

We are all heading toward death, and some of us know where we are going after that death.  The amount of stuff we can take along is limited if not nil.

Remember that.