Well, I don’t know about you, but I find the holiday season incredibly stressful and a wee bit overrated. I don’t subscribe to any particular religion, although I was brought up attending a Methodist church in north-west London. Consequently, I have always felt like a hypocrite when participating in Christmas festivities, particularly carol concerts which are an annual and very satisfying chance to flex my vocal chords!
However, as we whip at lightning speed through December and hurtle past the last posting date for cards and gifts to arrive in the UK from Australia before Christmas Eve, I find the scourge of parking a trek away from my local shopping centre and standing in good-humoured but lengthy queues at cash registers all a little pointless, to be frank.
Which brings me to my Christmas wish…
Last week, the company I work for published the results of its annual Employee Opinion Survey, designed to be a barometer for how the staff is feeling about working there. This year’s results revealed – between the lines – that good leadership is hard to find. These people feel neglected, mistreated, undervalued… (I could go on, quoting from the 15 pages of comments appended to the circulated analysis).
I was not in the least surprised about this, since leading teams successfully is one of the few things I will openly admit to being good at, and I lay the “blame” squarely at the feet of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Though it pains me to admit it, being a victim of domestic violence and other emotional abuse has turned me into a much better person.
Our survey showed that only a small number of this year’s critical opinions were related to remuneration, office facilities or even job content. The vast majority cited impacts on employees’ mental health in some way or other to be the most serious impediment to their job satisfaction.
What a terrible shame! And how cheap and easy this would be to fix!! Why don’t we all just try being nicer to each other?
Two weeks ago, Phil Hughes, an Australian test cricketer approaching his 26th birthday, passed away after being struck by a ball bowled perfectly legally during a Sheffield Shield match. A freak accident, the force of the ball hitting the side of his neck severed an artery, and he lost consciousness, never to wake. Our sport-loving nation was paralysed by this tragedy, and we witnessed an outpouring of grief for the family, coupled with unswerving support for the poor bowler from whose hand the fated leather missile had spun.
In the aftermath of this awful loss in the lead-up to Christmas and at the beginning of the cricket season down-under, everybody appeared to become unfailingly nice to each other. People suddenly began to treat their fellow human with compassion; with the respect we all deserve and how they would choose to be treated should roles be reversed.
But why must it take a tragedy to bring out the best in us?
With over 350 million people in the developed world suffering from some form of depressive illness at any one time (according to World Health Organisation statistics), the burden of mental illness would be significantly lighter for all of us if we were simply to treat each other more kindly. If we all were to speak up in defence of our co-workers, family or friends when faced with discrimination, bullying or other abuses of power, we might be able to prevent a whole slew of mental health damage from developing into insidious, debilitating, life-long scars.
This is why I became a writer. Pure and simple. I would love to look back on my life and think that my books may have helped bring about a happier and more harmonious world. In the “A Life Singular” serial, my protagonist makes this exact goal his mission.
Can we, I wonder? Father Christmas, are you listening?