The Sad Clown’s Trip to Human Resources
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The Sad Clown’s Trip to Human Resources

Making flippant career decisions is certainly not a great idea, but neither is ignoring the signs of toxicity

By Neil Houtman

I can only imagine that to be a clown you need to like people, have a positive disposition, and enjoy making kids laugh. You probably also need to enjoy being a clown.

Yet the “sad clown” is an iconic example of irony. It makes us ask questions like, why is the clown sad, or what does it take to make a clown cry? A swift kick in the shin from a scared child? Or is it more serious than that?

Is it that the clown is beaten down by all the sad faces needing cheering up? What makes the clown lose the vision?

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about quiet quitting and a massive exodus from the workforce: people burnt out looking for a fresh start, people tired of their work environment, people seeing a labour shortage and thinking it is a great time to take a risk and move to a new field altogether.

There is certainly potential in some industries to rethink how things are being done, such as improving policies and procedures cooperatively to form a better work environment.

I have heard of many positive changes on small scales for workers negotiating in these times. But of course, desperate times can lead to an outbreak of desperation.

I recently talked to a friend I have not seen in a while. He told me he had quit his job of many years and decided to move on.

The last time I had seen him I was worried for him. He complained about the stress of his job, the changing corporate culture of the company he worked for, the industry he worked in going down hill, and the effects this was all having on his life.

It had been a hard decision, but the moment he finally made it, he knew it was right. Within two months of quitting, his blood pressure was lower. His blood sugar levels had improved. He was losing weight. His entire outlook on life had improved.

We all have bad days at work. As time goes on, those days may become bad weeks, or years. Or they may just become more frequent.

For a variety of reasons, we may decide to stick it out, hoping that the reasons we loved our job will return, and the greatness we once saw we may see again. I know there are people getting tired of fighting to make the positive change in many sectors of society.

But with all that is going on this is a great time to fight for that positive change. Making flippant career decisions is certainly not a great idea, but neither is ignoring the signs of toxicity.

If the thought of going to work brings tears to your eyes, it may be time for a trip to HR.

Neil Houtman is a journeyman carpenter, Local 52 member, steward, and bargaining committee member employed by Maple Reinders Constructors Ltd. He is also a member of the union’s National Board.

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