If you were asked to identify or name three examples of beauty in your workplace, what would you say?
This would be my response:
I have an almost beautiful view from my office window. I used to look out over the smoking area. Then the campus went smoke-free. Now I can see a large tree, a garden and a wooded area especially colorful in the fall.
There is also a spectacularly beautiful mural in our cafeteria; huge photographic images of flowers and seashells dominate an entire wall. The wall opposite the mural is glass, looking out to woods.
And in our conference center, a room called the parlor occupies the center of the building. It has beautiful paneling and lovely furniture (including antiques). Over the marble fireplace sits a painting on loan from the art museum. It is a quiet room, filled with beautiful things. And it’s only meant for sitting; no meetings can be scheduled there.
Note my answers: the view; the physical beauty of works of art; the way a room is furnished.
Note what’s missing: anything to do with work.
So I ask again, in a different way. Name three examples of beauty in your workplace, and confine your answers to the work itself.
Can work have beauty?
The reality is that few of us associate our work with beauty, unless we work in an art museum or a national park. It’s one of the reasons, perhaps the primary reason, we fail to see poetry at work. No beauty, no poetry.
So if I consider my re-asked question, and confine my answers to the work itself, I would say this.
I see the beauty in a well-researched, well-considered, and well-written article for the company blog.
I see the beauty in our new news portal, a daily (and sometimes hourly) collection of curated articles about the company and our industry.
I see the beauty in a well-argued email message.
In see the beauty in a regular, and regularly boring, meeting veering off into an unexpected group revelation.
I see the beauty in the CEO answering well, an employee’s question at a town hall.
I see the beauty in the miracle of the quarterly financial report being published on deadline.
I see the beauty in a new employee policy executed flawlessly—and the beauty when it’s not.
I see the beauty in the commitment of a video team to produce the very best video possible.
I see the beauty on the taking of risks, moving beyond conventional wisdom because the idea is right.
I see the beauty in the gracious response of the employee who’s just been told he’s being laid off.
There’s more. Much more.
I can cite these as examples because I’ve experienced every one of them. I didn’t think of them at the time as examples of beauty, but that’s what they were, what they are.
And each contains a poem, each one has a poetic flow, meter, cadence, and language. Each has an unexpected ending line. Each made me believe that there is great beauty in this life, beauty in my work, and beauty in the work of those around me.
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- Poets and Poems: Nancy Murphy and “The Space Carved by the Sharpness of Your Absence” - January 13, 2023