Activering in beweging

“Hoe krijgen we dat potentieel onder de niet-werkenden aangezwengeld?”

Laten we even naar ‘de bigger picture’ kijken; enerzijds naar wat eraan voorafging aan het “niet actief zijn” en anderzijds hoe onze tewerkstelling er vaak uitziet.

Uit de ‘actieve werkenden’ groep vallen gebeurt doorgaans niet zonder slag of stoot; ontslag heeft nog steeds een bijzonder grote impact op mensen. Uiteraard heeft tewerkstelling een belangrijke functie voor een mens (identiteit, structuur, inkomsten, …), maar de impact van ontslag is zo groot dat het mensen vloert. Werkgevers zien het doorgaans nog steeds als het geven van een moeilijke boodschap wanneer we overgaan tot ontslag en werknemers zijn nog steeds behoudsgezind en vinden springen (of geduwd worden) in het onbekende beangstigend.

Gedwongen ontslag versus vrijwillig ontslag heeft nog steeds heel andere gevolgen naar uitkeringen toe, één van de redenen waardoor velen het financieel niet aandurven zelf te springen of te veranderen. Wanneer het dan door de werkgever beslist wordt, weten vele werkgevers zich geen houding aan te meten en gaan ze met ‘slechte’ tips aan de slag. “Doe het zo snel mogelijk”, “geen poespas”, “duidelijke (harde) en snelle boodschap”. Nergens aandacht voor de acceptatie van de boodschap, weinig aandacht voor de verwachting van een medewerker (en de aanleiding of opbouw naar de beslissing toe), ook weinig aandacht voor het gevoel van rechtvaardigheid van de beslissing. Zovelen krijgen ontslag ondanks positieve beoordelingen, goede feedback en steeds hun werk te volbrengen. Begrijpelijk dat werknemers dan uit de lucht vallen en zich gevloerd voelen wanneer hun contract beeindigd wordt, toch?

Hoe verwachten we dan dat werknemers hiermee omgaan? Meteen terug op hun voetjes staan en weer verder gaan? Tijdens nieuwe sollicitaties weer sterk staan?

Loopbaanbegeleiding kan veel, maar wat gebeurd is voorafgaand aan de opstart van loopbaanbegeleiding ligt helaas buiten hun handen om te kunnen veranderen of het kwaad dat zal geschieden te voorkomen.

En dan… hoe zetten we mensen aan het werk? Hoe ontwerpen we werk? Hier is superveel rond geanalyseerd, praktische tips over het tegemoetkomen aan de behoefte voor autonomie, verbondenheid, gevoel van competentie. De zelfdeterminatietheorie indachtig. Aandacht voor leiderschap en aansturing, ontwikkeling en training, maar de bigger picture of onze kijk op tewerkstelling wordt niet in vraag gesteld. De werkgever heeft het aanbod van werk, de werknemer kan van dat aanbod gebruik maken en levert prestaties in return. Aandacht voor het psychologisch contract, de werknemer ‘soigneren’ of beschermen door goede arbeidsvoorwaarden, ruimte laten om het werk te laten veranderen of wijzigen zodat het ietwat naar de hand van de werknemer wordt gezet, met wel wat beperkingen, want de werkgever moet zijn werk toch gedaan krijgen?

En wat als we die dynamiek toch echt eens volledig omdraaien? Vertrekken vanuit het individu, met bijhorende wensen, competenties/kennen, kunnen, en willen, potentieel, beperkingen, … en dan op zoek gaan naar wat deze persoon kan betekenen in een organisatie? Wat als we de werknemer aan de deur verplicht moeten aanwerven en als werkgever op zoek moeten gaan naar taken om deze werknemer tot ontplooiing te laten komen?

Dat is wel heel erg idealistisch. Wel, het activeren van ‘inactieven’, is dat ook. Het is niet 1 sleuteltje waar we kunnen aan draaien. Het laten dalen van werkloosheidsuitkeringen zal niet plots iedereen in beweging zetten, iedereen in loopbaanbegeleiding stoppen zal helaas ook geen wonderen verrichten.

Concrete acties om ze in beweging te zetten? Misschien vooral gewoon stoppen met te focussen om ‘die groep’ in beweging te zetten. Stoppen met hen impliciet te beschuldigen van immobiel te zijn en zich niet kunnen aanpassen, ongemotiveerd te zijn, enzovoort. Dit blijkt immers totnogtoe niet of onvoldoende te werken. Onder financiele stress zetten door uitkeringen te laten dalen, ook niet. Een ander (financieel) gevolg voor diegenen die zelf weggaan versus diegenen die ontslagen worden, ook niet erg functioneel.

We moeten op zoek naar een andere boeg, even helemaal anders, en het roer omgooien…

Werkgevers op hun verantwoordelijkheid durven aanspreken? ‘De goede huisvader’ terug bewust maken van het potentieel dat deze in handen heeft en door het roer om te gooien niks verliest? Of net veel zal winnen? De voordelen en winst van maatschappelijk verantwoord ondernemen terug in de kijker zetten?

you may say i’m a dreamer but i hope i am not the only one

“This would be only possible in the ideal world,” she said. I agree, but that does not keep me from trying.

The past couple of weeks, I heard the remark given by several people. “But this would only be possible…” urgh. Let me dream, and maybe we could incorporate some bits of that dream. The part of the dream of inclusiveness for all neurodiversity. The part of the dream of equity for all and everyone. The part of the dream of transparant and fair rules.

I know the world will never be perfect; and it should not be, mistakes are needed and actually perfect; they enable learning and growth. But does this keep us from pursuing a better world?!

“It has been this messy for years”… “It’s a habit that we all use as a guideline”… “we do this all the time”… uhu… so I should just accept inconsistencies, injustice, and unfairness as ‘part of the deal’?

A colleague told me: “apologies about being absent last week, my family received some very bad news.’ And I replied: ‘Well, that is part of life.” And I sat on my own remark for a week. I meant: “spill it out, we are colleagues, but our private life still affects us at work, work and life are strongly intertwined, so very common and we are all humans, so please do share because I know and feel how life can feel in shitty times.”

“We should think about diversity in terms of skin colo(u)r” – should we? My spontaneous reaction was: “I strongly believe that diversity is in each ‘tone’; all shapes, ways, or forms. “Yes, but that is in the ideal world, history urges us to set quota in place, and do positive discrimination, because we are way behind.” That day, I scheduled a ‘chill’ day and I watched Green Book… Not at all chill. It made me very angry at myself. How ignorant of me to think that we are ready for real equity and inclusion.

But still; you may say I am a dreamer, but I do hope I am not the only one.

I picked my children early at school that day. Still weepy because I am ‘fortunate’ because of my skin colo(u)r, but feel left out and excluded from society and feel unfortunate because of communication difficulties or potential social disability. At the same time, I was still angry with myself; I do not have many people in my network from a different ‘race’; how can I state that I am an advocate of equity and inclusion?! I tracked my professional network and found very few people with different skin colo(u)rs. And I started thinking; I live in a very diverse and colorful region of the city of Ghent (Belgium). As a big city, we have so many different people with so many different backgrounds. I live in an area which is seen as a little bit of the ‘ghetto-side’ of our city. But I have not seen many ‘black’ people or people from a different race at the higher institute of our city… Why is that? This was increasingly confrontational…

I decided to pass by my childrens’ old kindergarten (schools in our city have different ending hours of school because otherwise traffic would get trapped). When we had to select a kindergarten for our children, we looked for a school that represented our region; colorfull and diverse. The school had 1 teacher of color. On the way, I asked my children: “What was the difference between teacher A, B, and C?”. My oldest (8yo) said: “C winks a lot with her eyes” and my youngest: “B always took me on her lap” and back to my daughter (my children complement each other well 😉 ) “and A is very good and sports and played a lot of games with us.” – “Okay”, i said, “and do they look different?” – “erm? what do you mean? no? They are all tall, all have brown hair, and all have curly hair… maybe one has less tight curls, and the others have less tight curls… but not really different.”

That evening, I asked my oldest about skin color and the differences between the teachers. She said: “skin color is not a real difference, it is not black and white like the printer we use, it has different shades. I am very pale, and our neighbours (‘white’) are less pale, and somebody else can be a little bit darker, but when I mend or mix paint, I use the same building blocks.”

Yes, I have a little piece of my ideal world at home, and I love it. I just keep dreaming. Will keep dreaming.

(Potentially/Probably, there may/will be times that I struggle with the harsh reality, please give me some credit then 😉 and handle me (and everybody else) with care and velvet gloves – Many thanks!)

/this text is unpolished and may be rough around the edges, feedback is welcomed\

Trouble me, please trouble me

If today is the ‘Bluest Monday’ of the year, this is not so bad… But I probably should not jinx it… A couple of weeks ago, I had a pretty blue Monday. I was struggling with everyday tasks and happenings and a dear friend (thank you, @Hanne!) sent me a message: “If there is anything I can do, you can think of anything; like looking something up or doing mini research for products or services of which you want to know more of, please let me know, I am willing to help and take some weight off your shoulders.”

I thought about that approach. And asked her to look for the price of a product and how something else is called and where I could find it. She asked me to give her some time, and she sent me messages with the results and answers during the day.

Lír:
You were dreaming, my Lady.

Amalthea:
But I am always dreaming, even when I am awake!
It is never finished. I will not trouble you, my Lord Prince.

Lír:
Trouble me, please, trouble me!
I would court you with more grace,
if I knew how. I only wish you wanted something of me..

Amalthea:
Drown out my dreams!
Keep me from remembering,
whatever wants me to remember it!

(By Peter S. Beagle)

When something happens, I have mainly two mechanisms installed. Either I turn to silence (sorry, @Alina) or become a rattling and chattery waterfall that never ends or stops. But neither are they really useful nor helpful for me (and others). Regardless of my ‘coping’ mechanisms, I was struck by Hanne’s question or task to trouble her.

It turned out to be very superficial, the task I asked her; to look for the price of an enamel jar… But it put my feet (and thoughts) so speedy back on the ground, it was groundbreaking for me.

Meanwhile, I looked for scientific evidence of a Blue Monday. It would be the most depressing day of the year because it is dark in many countries, festivities have passed, and everything is back up and running, and the system of urgh Mondays reoccurred. Some evidence shows that Monday is indeed somewhat less joyful compared to Friday. And when we look back on our week at the end of it, we label Monday as the least favorable day. However, other evidence shows there is minor or no difference during the day itself. So maybe I should wait till the end of this week to check whether this was indeed a Blue Monday.

This discussion aside, I know I have some escape routes, and I can also serve as an escape route for others. I once started my education in psychology because I wanted to help other people. That’s why this ‘please trouble me’ quote often comes to mind. And now I know, these troubles can and are allowed to have different shapes and forms.

Careers, self-esteem awareness, and Kintsugi

Like most of us, I often put everything or lets say ‘life’ on a balance scale. I weigh the ‘musts’ and ‘loves’ on a scale and check whether I am standing where I want to be. The past year(s), there were a lot of self-esteem struggles that changed the weight of ‘loves’. Although I love to write, I am still in doubt whether I am ‘good enough’, whether other people would love to read what I write and so I often ended up with not showing what I wrote and no longer enjoying what I love.

Now I feel that I am growing in the sense that I am sharing my writings and use feedback in adapting my writings. But more importantly, I start to dare to share.

That is where the kintsugi comes into play. A couple of years (about 3-ish) ago, one of my ceramic flowerpots broke. I noticed how “perfectly” it broke. The shard was easily repairable and became a nice kintsugi project… on my agenda. I still felt unsure about whether I could fix it, whether I would be able to make the right mix to get the gold nice and shiny.

I stayed unsure about whether I am able to fix it the way I perceive it to be fixed in my head.

This week I read an article from Wolfgang Mayrhofer about careers and kintsugi (thank you, @Marijke for sharing!). And I started to realize that my career or employment trajectory swings according my self-esteem. When I feel I am good at teaching, I reflect it and project it towards the students. They feel my ‘teachers’ high’ (cfr runners’ high) and get absorbed together with me.

I recall one of my students (well, ‘my’; I do not own them) asking me a critical question about the syllabus. There was an inconsistency and he noticed it. It made me think aloud. Not about questioning myself, but about the issue at hand (it was about the recruitment of employees and how a specific tool could be applied and used). The discussion that arose, shook the schedule and planning of my course. Students also thought aloud and joined the discussion: “I interprete it like this…”

When I moderated outplacement groups, my mentor (very grateful for this, @Isabelle!) made me aware of how groups can feel how I am feeling while ‘teaching’ or presenting. And suggested to me to shake things up when I feel the pie is falling down or ‘in’. “Use your creativity to shake things up, I know you can.” It boosted my confidence and applying this in next sessions increasingly boosted my confidence. Participants noticed it and affected them positively.

But now, I feel like I am again standing at that point where I need to take one step, give color to it, and use it to rebuild my pot.

So, this week, I bought the glue and golden coloring particles/pigment. This week I will repair my pot and it resembles the self-esteem awareness that I gained.

This struggle is probably likely to reoccur or get setback; wake-up calls or unexpected events can shake people up and make them more aware of their self-esteem. But then, a new pot will be ready to make the best out of it. And for that instance, I have my golden glue ready.

When n = 1

A couple of months ago, I received a call from the hospital: “You visited us a couple of weeks ago and wrote some remarks on the evaluation form. I am in doubt whether we should see this as an individual complaint or should classify this as suggestions for improvement.” This ended up being a long conversation about n = 1 and “generalizability” to label it statistically…

The ‘incident’ or ‘event’ she was referring to, my daughter and I visited the emergency center. A disturbed pain awareness (or pain stimuli and the process thereof), pain association, and the mere experience of pain brought us there. At the intake, we mentioned the ‘disability’ of our daughter, difficulties with communication precisely. A history of severe pneumonia caused our home doctor to direct us to the hospital. The questions by the emergency doctor at the time were: “Are you in pain? How high do you rate your pain? Is it in your stomach?…”

When she had pneumonia, the same questions were posed, and they almost scheduled her for appendicitis surgery. The doctors were confident that this was the issue since she said yes when they asked her whether she had pain when pushing on her tummy (apologies for oversimplification, it was, of course, much more complicated than this). When the ultrasound did not prove this case, we were sent home with a daughter with febrile seizures or convulsions that could not be traced down to physical or medical issues. We saw three different doctors the following days, and one said that her lungs sounded strange. Since this is hard to hear, we were sent back to the hospital, again checked, and while the scans came through, I noticed that the doctor became pale. He looked at my daughter and asked, “how do you feel?!”. She responded to be fine and fainted afterward.

The alarming image of the lungs appeared to be associated with an individual who would be sick to death, according to the doctor. He could not believe she still stayed ‘strong’ and that she answered questions.

That day in 2021, we noticed the same symptoms, and I asked the emergency doctor to check her lungs. She responded: “I am talking to your daughter; I often notice that parents are too overprotective, so I care more about the patient itself.” I know my daughter very well and tried to signal her difficulties with pain interpretation, body awareness, and communication. But there was no attention given to that. This is what I signaled to the “customer satisfaction” contact that I talked to. No response was given to my signals as a mother or caregiver; my daughter is not able to respond to this type of (suggestive) question. She will respond to questions or inquiries in a socially desirable way and scans the faces of others to see ‘what she should answer.’ I suggested a drawing of a body so that people can indicate where it hurts or feels strange. I also asked them to pose open questions and listen to the parents’ input. They said all was good advice and that they would do something about it. I stressed my main message: “although I noticed this only with my daughter, it ís also essential for other people; I strongly believe in these improvements, for example, with the use of visualizations, many people are better able to communicate.”

Last December, we were back again at the emergency center, so a couple of months after the encounter with ‘customer satisfaction’. My daughter experienced great pain and was no longer able to walk. Her regular doctor had already put her disabilities and signal pain awareness issues in her personal file/record, so I was comfortable or expected to receive appropriate care. However, one of the first questions was: “Can you jump?” … my daughter responded, “yes, of course,” looked at me and said to me – when the doctor left: “what a strange question, I am able to jump from when I was 2, I guess.” Hmm yeah, she can jump, but not at the moment, and that was not tested nor asked. “She is totally fine, mommy; you should not be so worried.”…

That evening, my husband went to the emergency center with her because the pain was extremely high, while she usually does not report experiencing pain… When my husband went, he just appointed them to perform an ultrasound. And they noticed an issue with the appendix indeed.

This raises many issues, not only about gender, maybe also about impression management, issues about communication, and the scanning and analysis of a patient and looking for the issue. To me, it especially makes me think of the n = 1 issue. And in so many ways, also encompassing gender and other diversity issues. We should be aware of all types of diversity, and this means giving more attention to the level where n =1. We can learn a lot from it, not only how to treat this one person, but probably also how to treat and interact with others. The awareness of the differences between mothers, fathers, different children, but just any individual enables us to see that we are all different and that these fine-grained differences should be treated equally.

Fast yet slow, high yet low, we will get there, sweet daughter of mine

Driving on the highway, my daughter and I pass by a sign for the next exit. At the same time, my GPS speaks out loud and indicates, “take the next exit ‘Nevele’ in 800m”, precisely the same as what the sign said. My daughter noticed: “I can become that.” What? “Well, the person who reads that out loud, I can do that.”

Last week, I was ironing while listening to the article by Ludmila about autism at work. I used an online tool to read the text aloud to hear it. In the middle of my artificial podcast, my 8-year-old daughter storms into the room. She runs into my bed and puts her head in my pillow. “How can I deal with this world? Or should it deal with me?!”… After venting her frustrations briefly, she notices the female voice reading the text about autism at work. “What are you listening to? I already heard you talking about autism; what is it, and do I have it?”. This struck me; I was not expecting this conversation yet. Our psychiatrist told us to wait with psycho-education until she was somewhere between 8 and 12 years old. The decision tree in my head whether or not to tell her about it while she was upset was running fast and ended up with: “Tell her.”

And so I told her, and realized how difficult to describe autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but also how quickly she calmed down. “Am I the only one who has it? Do you have it?…” and “… Will I be able to work like everybody else?”. Her questions waved fluently, yet not upset or angry, more at ease and in peace with what I was telling her. “You are gifted with the ability to learn very quickly, this does not mean that things will not be difficult or hard or take lots of energy, but you already show to be able to cope with some challenges that are tied to your ASD-‘limitations’. She also has ASD opportunities, by the way.

She took my computer and looked for autism and disadvantages on youtube. She found a video clip of a young woman talking about the disadvantages of ASD; fortunately, the following video was about advantages. Although her brain was working slow and was attentive at the time, I noticed that it triggered so much. But mainly: she started to understand herself. That evening, she came down – leaving her bed – to talk about it some more. By coincidence, there was an interview/documentary on television about adults with ASD. A woman told about how lonely she felt. And my daughter echoed that. It broke my heart, but at the same time, these initiatives warm my heart; awareness about ASD is growing, not only for children but also for grown-ups. We are thankful for that.

https://hbr.org/2021/12/autism-doesnt-hold-people-back-at-work-discrimination-does

Wie durft het aan?

“De prachtig uitgedrukte onzin
Van iemand die fantastisch liegen kan
Met kou van binnen en ogen staan op onmin
Hij doet z’n ding en ziet het als een grap
Om iedereen een poot uit te gaan draaien”

Mijn dochter vraagt me waarover het liedje gaat, het zit vol van beeldspraak en uitdrukkingen en die moet ik nog vaak vertalen of uitleggen… Dat is echter niet zo’n ‘easy’ klus. Velen hebben een eigen invulling en er zijn telkens zoveel zijdes aan een verhaal…

“Je lokt de baas niet uit de tent
Dus zeg me, wie is een echte vent
En wie loopt weg, wie durft het aan
Om voor een ander op te staan”

Toen ik opkwam voor een collega, werd er vreemd opgekeken. Toen ik vocht voor rechtvaardigheid en verantwoord leiderschap, werd ik afgestraft. Maar zeg me… wie is een echte vent?

De feministe in mij legde ook uit dat je “vent” hier ook als “vrouw” kan zien. Niet perse als ‘sterke’ vrouw. Gewoon als een echte mens. Als er onrecht aan een ander wordt gedaan, dan raakt me dat en moet ik er iets mee. Maar wat ben ik met dat ‘mens’-zijn?

Ik word helaas (mja) niet aanzien als ‘echte vent’. Zou het dan toch iets met geslacht te maken hebben? Dat dit gedrag van een vent wordt verwacht? En niet van een vrouw? En dat het daarom vreemd gevonden wordt?

Ik hoop stiekem dat we al verder staan als maatschappij. En dus zoek ik een andere verklaring. Zou populariteit meespelen? Ik zoek even naar literatuur over populariteit bij volwassenen of op het werk. Ik vind belachelijk weinig wetenschappelijke studies over dit thema. Nochtans blijkt populariteit samen te hangen met je persoonlijkheid; watvoor iemand je bent en dat blijft vrij stabiel over je hele leven heen. Dus persoonlijkheid speelt vast sterk mee.

Onlangs kreeg ik bij een sollicitatie te horen dat ik eerder introvert zou scoren op de vragenlijst. Laat dat nu ook toevallig de karaktertrek zijn die negatief samenhangt met populariteit. Hoe introverter, hoe minder populair…

Wat heb ik er trouwens zelf aan, aan dat ‘vent’-zijn? Aan dat opkomen voor een ander? Of opkomen tegen onrecht? Rijk word ik er niet van, nee, zeker niet. En ik heb me al meer dan eens afgevraagd of anderen ook eens voor me durven op te staan. Dus voor tegenoverdracht zal ik het ook niet doen.

Dus zeg me… waarom gedraag ik me nog steeds als een ‘echte vent’?

(Te ontleden liedje was: De Echte Vent – Racoon)

Wolf with Goosebumps…

Practice what you preach is one of my main life goals. Although not always easy, I became very aware of it last week when I was present at an online meeting while not feeling well. A frolleague (well, also researcher, and also friend, we are – unfortunately – not working at the same university) called me after I informed her I was not on top of my game because I was not feeling well. She said this was not okay that I was present; I should have canceled. True that. Totally.

This weekend, I went to the movies with my children. I preach we should enjoy our free time with our children and so we went to see Wolfwalkers… A story with so many layers. And, of course, my oldest (autistic) daughter asked what I meant with ‘different layers.’

“Go row the boat
to safer grounds
But don’t you know
we’re stronger now
My heart still beats
and my skin still feels
My lungs still breathe,
my mind still fears”

I told her that to me it means that sometimes we need to go back to our passion and to who we really are and what we stand for, it can make us stronger. She replied: “well then, not getting that job last week might not be an issue; you can still be you and still write and research things you find important.” Yes, but it can still feel scary, I thought to myself. Being myself and pursuing my own goals might feel scary, but I can also feel empowered, especially with my family and friends who are still rooting for me. The past couple of weeks, I really felt how strong my family of wolves actually is. Not only my own family but also close friends and (former) colleagues. I am so happy about that. But I still wish to live up to their expectations…

“My ears can hear
and my mouth can speak
My spirit talks,
I know my soul believes”

The song of the movie speaks so loud. While my daughter comprehends English, she asks me to tell her what I think the lyrics are about. While we carefully listen to the song, in full sun and blistering heat (pun intended; reference to Noodle commercial which my son (my sun 😊 ) often relives), the goosebumps arise. I may start to think my soul might be strong enough…

Three years ago, on this same date of today, we lost our nephew, who just turned 10yo, in a tragic accident. I promised myself I would strive for similar life values and that I would really live them like he did. He lived his life aware of many ordinary and daily struggles but still enjoying life to its fullest, appreciating everyone for one’s own strengths, and disregard flaws. It was the light at every party but also every funeral; he was the one who adjusted himself to my brother-in-law with disabilities from the other part of the family, making a connection without noticing any disabilities. Two days ago, it would have been his 13th birthday; I ‘regret’ not celebrating his wonderful life and who he was. “Regret is not something you should wait with till you die; you should celebrate it now,” my daughter said.

So, back to what I stand for, I will try to enjoy every moment. There will be challenging and sad moments, but I will also celebrate every ‘small’ win. And although academia is hard and writing often does not make rich, it is where my heart is… A researcher to whom I really look up replied to a study proposal that it was “brilliant.” I am proud of that, and I do believe I can do this. In my way. While enjoying it. And fighting for my own values, because I do enjoy that too, you know.

My youngest son really wanted to have a Belgian flag at our house; neighbours do that to cheer for the European competition. My son says that people with this flag ‘vote’ for a certain country. While I find it somewhat cheesy and it also reminds me of losing my nephew, especially with him being also a big football fan, losing him during a similar competition, same flags all around during that horrible period of the accident, it hurts at the same time, but I can see the cheerfulness in this flag. I just hung one (which my son asked with a charming face to the cashier and got it for free). And also, the togetherness of football and Eurovision Song contest, I no longer say that I find it cheesy. I am actually happy that it brings people together and closer to each other. And also, how I perceive this grieve over my nephew after these three years… I miss you, sweet Mees, but it makes me happy saying your name and sharing with others how special you were. I will still try to live up to your example and warm heart, but silence is no longer my thing. To me, your personality stays around. With lots of love ❤

Song text: Aurora – Running with the wolves

How my daughter looked like after our conversation and singing the song (picture taken and shared with her approval):

Good for nothing nothing forgood

She looked at me and said: “You were already second! That is sooo good!”

I have the feeling I am letting myself, but especially others down. I came close for a job opportunity that I really wanted. I got through to the final rounds, and although my daughter sees it as a success, I have the feeling I am letting her down.

I asked her whether she thought I would find something else; she replied “off course, but being a scientist really rocks”.

And again, my head is all over the place; I didn’t get it because of a limited publication list. Is this really the environment in which I want to work? Am I willing to give up on quality just to get some quantity? Do I want to work in an environment where there are so few financial resources and so high competition which sickens every chance?

My husband says there are many opportunities in the practical field, I would even be able to obtain a job near home and help one or more companies towards socially responsible management… But I want to be in front of students and work with companies at the same time on a free basis, while being paid.

I remember an older big guy when I provided him outplacement consultancy. I asked him what he wanted to do and he said: “I want to lay train rails, during tbe day”. He described his previous job with the only difference that he was no longer willing to work during the night. I asked him whether trainrails are build during the day. “Nope”. He made it impossible for me to help him find a different job. It was my first job and first client on my own. I also had group sessions with over ten manual workers in which I always had to prove myself and show them that their preconceptions about a young girl fresh from school weren’t always (almost never actually) right. During the one-on-one I asked him to narrow it down for me; tell me exactly what he liked about that job. He was a tough cookie and kept refering to the trainrails and daywork. He went home and I felt completely useless. The next week, I saw him again and I used the guideline again to get to his dreams, purpose, goals, … And again. Trainrails during the day. I became annoyed and explained to him that I really was not born yesterday. I know quite a lot about welding and all the different types there exist. I told him I had to work my butt off to get where I was and I did not always like it, but it did give me purpose. So I asked him to think about what he enjoys. He explained me how he liked to make small fixes but with a great outcome. A couple of weeks later, he called me and told me he found a job as a janitor and he was sooo happy with it.

And now I am trying to figure it out myself; what if I cannot build trainrails during the day, what if I am not made to write 20 papers a year and that is the only way to stay in academia?

My husband “gave” me an “academic ultimatum.” If I cannot obtain a job in academia by september 2021, I should go for something completely else. I like the closure aspect, but I know how much I enjoy teaching and doing research… He really does not understand why I am not looking into other markets.

When my husband changes something about his professional profile; he literally gets 80 phone calls a day. He is an engineer in biochemistry. But he wants to do very few jobs. He left several companies for various reasons and still hasn’t found the ideal employer for him. How is this sustainable employment so hard to find in all kinds of different sectors?

While I am writing this, I am lying on my bed and my cat ‘Hobby’ curls up against my feet. He only does that when I am a little bit stressed out or feeling down. He probably smells it when I can’t weep. I know this sounds heavy, but I need this moment to be able to recover from it. My husband asks me “which phase is this actually, did you have denial and anger yet?”. I study this type of phenomena as part of my research, so he knows he is standing on my ‘practice what you preach’ shoes.

Hobby left my feet already. Just as I cannot order him to stay, apparantly I cannot order myself to feel bad just a little longer so that I can enjoy his presence just a little longer.

Sure, I will find a job and nope, lowering my compensation of the government won’t increase my slow speed in finding the right job for me. ‘Activation’, they call it, lowering the compensation till you cannot live from it any longer. Activation toward mobilization while all it seems to do is freezing and immobilizing people. But that story is for next time. Hobby wants to go outside, the rain stopped. See you.

Have you ever?

Sure. I have made many mistakes. And I still do. Probably daily. This weekend, I forgot to wear sunscreen and, of course, got sunburned. Last week, I accidentally bought the wrong food for my cats, and one of them vomited during a virtual meeting in the background of my screen. I got angry with my husband because he put the washing machine at the wrong degree; I realized I did this myself only afterward. I also drove against the grocery store, with my four weeks old car. And I also said to my mom I hated her when I was a child.

I make many. And although I probably should make less, I also really believe in the lessons learned.

At work, I forgot to reply to a student. I once switched two students’ grades. I mentioned a colleague’s mistake during a meeting with our supervisor, which was not so diplomatic, and I forgot to change dates in a roster. I noticed plagiarism of a student only at the last moment during the thesis defense. I missed a page of feedback of a paper review I received and resubmitted without this being integrated. My first publication contains a wrong number in one of the tables, and one page of my PhD booklet was taken out, and a new one is glued in because it contained the wrong table.

Humz. This makes me turn red and stressed out. I do make many mistakes, I realize… But I am only human.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a car with a flat tire in my street across from my home door. I noticed that the driver and his passenger were a little bit stressed out. The passenger appeared to be pretty pregnant, and when I approached them, I realized that the driver was a former schoolmate of mine. They had an appointment at the ob-gyn and could not make it with the flat tire without a spare one. I offered them my car, with the dent of the grocery store, I mentioned that I am not really attached to the car, and that they could borrow it. The driver told me how he remembers me; when I was about ten years old, I threw a stone against his eye. Accidentally; playing in the garden part of the playground, and I tried to clean this part of the garden out. It hurt like hell; since I cannot control my throwing skills, it landed hard, and he got a blue eye. He still remembers. And it is how he remembers me, which I found even more disturbing.

How could this one event direct individuals’ perceptions of others? Of course, I can think of cognitive mechanisms which cause this. And this makes my next question: how can I change these perceptions? But at the same time, others are allowed to see my mistakes; he now knows that I am really bad at throwing and ball sports, and – more importantly – that I really am human, I believe others can also learn from my learning curve, and may begin to feel safe enough to share their mistakes, from which I can learn too.

Mentally, I started “scanning” my memories of people from my school, at my first job, during my phd, and from the last organization where I worked. When my PhD supervisor asked me to perform analyses, I came with a new idea for a different paper. I wonder whether she knows that I learned from my ‘mistakes’ or flaws.

It also makes me reanalyze how difficult it must be to hire and supervise or manage employees; since everyone makes mistakes, but (minor) mistakes are rarely ever questioned or discussed (sure, this is a sensitive topic). Weaknesses and flaws are asked, and as interviewees, we learn how to transform these into strengths and to not go into detail on our weaknesses during interviews. Who should be chosen? Should we avoid individuals who did mention mistakes? Could we learn from their experiences? Also, when individuals are hired, how can we deal with mistakes? How can we discuss ‘mistakes’? I know it makes us vulnerable, but it also provides us insight in order to grow.

I really believe in studying potential and what made it unravel and what hampered the unravelment. Not to point fingers but to futureproof and turn constructive. Also to share struggles and experiences. Yet, I realize how vulnerable it is to discuss mistakes and how insecure it makes me personally feel. It also triggers feelings of “if I can remember this, others will do too, and how can I show that I’ve learned from them”. But that is probably driven by my tendency for confirmation seeking in others. Learning from mistakes but not lingering on them remains a crucial balance, just like self-doubt and confidence…