The Wonder of Work: A Grumbling and Disenchanted Workforce Can Learn a Lot about Gratitude from Those Who Treasure Any Job They Can Get-Individuals with Mental Retardation and Other Severe Developmental Disabilities

By Arnold, Teri S. | USA TODAY, September 2007 | Go to article overview

The Wonder of Work: A Grumbling and Disenchanted Workforce Can Learn a Lot about Gratitude from Those Who Treasure Any Job They Can Get-Individuals with Mental Retardation and Other Severe Developmental Disabilities


Arnold, Teri S., USA TODAY


IS YOUR PLACE of business driving you crazy? Do your coworkers get on your nerves? There is no question that being on the job can test your patience by lifting you up, tearing you down, or sometimes completely ignoring your contributions. It can be a place of passion and drive or a place of frustrated and burnt out clock-watchers. Yet, there are many, many people with mental retardation and other severe disabilities who have a refreshingly honest point of view about work and how attitudes on the job can greatly affect happiness and job satisfaction. We all can learn a lot from how they choose to see the world.

Be grateful that you have a job to go to every morning. Some 20,300,000 people with severe developmental disabilities are unemployed in this country, and consequently often suffer mentally and physically, while digressing developmentally. Those who have a job, however, come into work with big smiles on their faces. They want to come to work on the weekends, holidays, and even during inclement weather because they know how it dramatically affects theft lives for the better. Regardless of who you are, having a job and a purpose in life is essential to self-esteem, independence, and overall well-being. It might be difficult to drag yourself out of bed on Monday morning, but without a job to go to, your quality of life would suffer immensely.

Each and every job--no matter how small it may appear--is important. Whether you have difficulty communicating, moving, hearing, seeing, or comprehending, every job for a person with a severe disability is important. To someone without a disability, putting a cable into a bag can seem monotonous and boring. It may appear to be just a very minute part of a larger contractual obligation with an outside company but, to the individuals performing the task, it is their one chance to be like everyone else. When they are on the job, they are not people with mental retardation; they are coworkers and an essential part of a team with goals and objectives. Status and titles have no meaning here because everyone is a vital cog in the company's success.

Greet your coworkers with a kind word or smile when you pass them in the hallway or when they enter your workspace. In a world that increasingly is cut off from people and emotions, simple gestures that display kindness and openness are harder and harder to find. Walking onto the work floor is an instant mood-lifter. Everyone who visits is welcomed with open arms and greeted in a positive manner, regardless of who they are or how much money they make. Everybody wants to know how your day is going, shake your hand, and tell you how excited they are to be on the job. Think of how differently your day would go if you treated your coworkers in that manner.

Look for ways to encourage your coworkers to perform better and everyone will reap the rewards. It is not uncommon to see people on the work floor assisting others with their daily tasks or giving an encouraging word. No one is viewed as competition or as somebody to fear, but rather as individuals who all are in the same boat, trying to make the best of some very challenging situations. When someone accomplishes a personal or professional goal, his or her achievements are championed by all. There is a deeper understanding that, when one person wins, everyone wins.

Take breaks and have fun, even if for just a few minutes. Understand the value of balance in your life. Due to physical, mental, and emotional limitations, breaks throughout the day are mandatory for our clients. Because of the unique circumstances, becoming stressed and overwhelmed not only affects one person, but quickly can permeate the entire workforce and wreak havoc for everyone concerned. Knowing when to stop, to give your mind and body a respite, is essential to maintaining a happy and healthy work environment for people with and without disabilities.

Take pride in what you do, regardless of the pay or recognition. …

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