What Makes Us Uncomfortable Makes Us Stronger
/ Author: Gordon O'Coin
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What Makes Us Uncomfortable Makes Us Stronger

By Gord O’Coin, Sudbury Regional Director

Personal growth has always been important to me. We can intentionally seek to grow and develop by, for example, taking a course, reading a book, or trying new experiences.

But not all personal growth is intentional. Sometimes, it happens by accident—whether we’re ready for it or not. Sometimes, we find ourselves out of our comfort zone, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Being in uncomfortable circumstances can lead to personal growth—if we allow for it—but often we become too stressed out and worried about the situation we’re in to allow for personal growth. Our primary thought is how we can escape the uncomfortable situation, not how we can grow from it.

I have represented members employed by numerous companies that have provided me with lots of opportunity for personal growth—the hard way. Many workplace issues have haunted me when I was in the office, at home, on vacation, and even during my sleep. Some of these workplaces were in constant turmoil because of the poor quality of management.

In these situations, no matter how much energy I invested into them, nothing seemed to make the workplaces better. Every day, the problems increased with no end in sight. Management had little respect for the employees, and nothing I did changed this. I tried everything from increasing our labour-management meetings to filing numerous grievances.

Nothing helped. It didn’t seem like there was any hope for our members—or my sanity. I reassured myself that I had done everything possible, and nothing could make these situations better—short of new, supportive management teams suddenly happening along.

And then I realized that I’d been looking at them from the wrong perspective. Rather than looking for a way out from these uncomfortable situations, I started to look at them as an opportunity for personal growth. And by changing my perspective, my thought process also began to change.

For the first time in a long time, I began to feel a bit of excitement. I was excited for the unknown, but at the same time I felt a bit nervous. I like to know how to solve an issue, and in these particular cases, I had very little control.

I learned that I had to let that go. My experiences have made me realize that all these situations have been a leadership journey for me. I didn’t suddenly find magical solutions to the problems at hand—not that I didn’t wish I had!—but I had a new way of looking at things.

Who knows, maybe the situations will improve in these workplaces. Maybe management will come to their senses. Or maybe the struggles will continue. Regardless, as their union representative, I know the membership is looking to me to provide leadership. Together, despite the obstacles in front of us, we’ll find a way to make their workplace a better place.

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