I’ve tried, really I have, to stay upbeat and positive about this whole job situation. It isn’t the end of the world. I understand just how lucky I am to be in a situation where (although we will be strapped) we will not lose our house when my job ends, so I’ve been upbeat and cool about it. It’s not losing the job or the insurance that even pisses me off. I can deal with that-I am resourceful. We will get through. What frustrates me most, is how UWEX and the people in charge are handling it. The disregard they are showing for the people it employs right now is, in my opinion, unacceptable. To be fair, I love UWEX. I’ve been proud to work here for the last 3.5 years. It’s an organization that encourages personal growth while developing it's employees professionally. That growth has changed my life in profound and amazing ways. I’ve learned to value myself and others, to use opportunities to contribute and to take risks. I’m a better parent, employee and community member because I work for UWEX. Which is part of what makes all this so disappointing.
The possibility of budget cuts and job losses has been whispered by leaders about for 2 years, yet now that I know for sure my time is limited...chirp, chirp...not a sound. I haven’t heard a word on what my next step is supposed to be or even a contact of who to touch base with for information. So I assumed when I saw “WNEP Budget Transitions” on the agenda for the Dean’s wisline yesterday, I needed to be there to hear about my next step. I brought my note pad and joined my colleagues, ready to finally get some information. Both the State Director and the Nutrition Program Coordinator addressed the issues. They described why our program was dealing with budget changes. They spoke specifically about some of the changes that took place and how they affected county programs. Lots of technical mumbo-jumbo. As they started to wind down, I realized they weren’t going to mention what is actually happening in some counties...people are losing there jobs, people are scared, people are confused...they were going to point out the silver lining, but not mention the thunderstorm headed our way. The last comments were my favorite. I didn’t write it down, because I was absolutely dumbfounded at the lack of sensitivity and balls these, highly trained and adequately paid, professionals have...so these aren’t exact quotes.
Although the budget is an adjustment, we are ok with the result. Very little needed to be done in the way of layoffs or FTE cuts. We are making it through.
I stared at my fellow Iowa County Extensionites in complete bewilderment! Like me, they listened earlier in the meeting as our Dean urged us “to commit our valuable time and thoughtful consideration” to a Climate Survey. Of course, by climate they don’t mean this god forsaking weather, they mean...“issues of inclusion. Inclusiveness is a foundation of Cooperative Extension's values and strategic directions. We strive to create an organization that values all colleagues for who they are and what they contribute. This survey is an opportunity for you to provide input about how you experience the environment you work in. Do you feel included and valued in your workplace? When do you feel that you are not being included or valued?”
So he wants my honest opinion whether or not I feel valued and included. Well, let’s see, the two ladies who “run” my part of this organization, just finished saying they are OK with the outcome of the budget. They say they are making it through, without a mention of the people who are allowing them to make it through. The outcome, although OK for some, is devastating for others! To completely ignore that reality is unbelievably disheartening.
Recently, I attended a leadership conference for work where Chris Clarke-Epstein, the keynote presenter, spoke beautifully about leadership. She mentioned “in times of change most leaders disappear.” I thought of this statement as I listened to my own leaders fade away. A good leader would face this challenge head on - just like I have to. A respected leader can deal with tough times and still provide guidance, support and acknowledgement to the little guy.
So Dean, to answer your other question: Do you feel included and valued in your workplace? Umm, not so much!
Blogging all of this may be a bad career move, and I’m willing to deal with those consequences. At the foundation of Julie Stephenson’s values and strategic direction is truth and justice. I strive to be an individual that values all people for who they are and what they contribute. I’m not going to disappear, I’m not going to shy away from things because they are uncomfortable, and I’m not going to stop taking risks. I am going to be a great leader through all of this.
I am going to be the leader UWEX taught me to be!