People are striking because they want to do a better job.

It will not have escaped your attention we have an epidemic of strikes.  This last week has seen the largest scale industrial action for over 10 years.  in recent weeks we have seen teachers, train drivers, ambulance staff, NHS, and university staff, the list is long, and getting longer.  Much is being discussed, publicly, professionally, and politically.  We are debating the right to strike or not, the ability of the government to prevent them or not, and the scale of impact of strikes on other sectors.  We are curious about their timing, their aim and purpose, and their effects.  Many have asked ‘why people are taking action?’  I am not sure there is a convincing consensus.  We cannot seem to agree on a consistent conclusion.

What strikes me (pun intended) is that sometimes it is around pay, often terms and conditions, some is around the type of work people are doing, the status of it, its level of recognition, the scale of workload, and working conditions.  There isn’t a single narrative here.  Wage inflation has certainly grown out of step with general inflation, the way in which we work, and want to work, has shifted exponentially over the past generation, the workforce appears smaller in a post Brexit era, the pandemic has rebooted people’s needs and demands, how we work has changed (most likely forever), and the rising costs of living and energy have all created a perfect storm.  

Every day I work with people affected by change.  They are always somewhere on Kubler Ross’ (1969) change curve.  Most frequently stuck in shock, denial, frustration, or depression.  It is my job to help them experiment, make decisions, and integrate change into their personal or professional lives.  To make that happen it is vital we together explore their relationship with change, their response(s) to it, and their ability to work through it alone or with support alongside them. 

The fact remains that all sectors, all professions, have been profoundly affected by change in recent years.  The past three pandemic years haven’t had a monopoly on change, it was certainly omnipresent before then.  But it has ramped things up considerably, if you would please forgive the understatement. 

This is the thing.  Everything has changed, sometimes not enough, sometimes too much, or too slowly or too quickly.  When change happens, we all need to change in response.  Some of it is easier.  We have individual or micro-environmental control of it.  We can change because we have the power, the resources, the choice, and skills to do so.  And we can see the need to change – and we want to do it.  Some, in contrast, is challenging and difficult.  We don’t always have the tools to make it happen.  We may also be resistant to change.  Such resistance can lead to a freeze, to inaction, industrial action in fact, whether that be for a day, a series of days or for extended periods.

The common cause here, seems to me, to be about everyone wanting to do a better job.  To be able to deliver and discharge their roles in meaningful ways, to deliver a quality service that makes a real difference to communities.  And in doing so they want and need recompense and recognition, to not only survive, but to thrive.  That isn’t something that should be ignored or swept under the carpet until later.  It is something that should and could bind us together.  We can have shared ambition and journey through necessary change, if we are prepared to do it together and be equipped to experiment, make decisions, and integrate change for now and the future.


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