About 20 years ago, I was a ski patroller. One afternoon I found myself halfway up a mountain attending to Dave, a man in his forties with an injured knee. As I positioned Dave in the sled that I would ski down to the clinic, he hurled obscenities. It wasn’t because of his pain: My offense was being a woman.
I whispered to the male patroller who was assisting me. “Tom, since Dave is uncomfortable having a woman ski the sled down, should you do it instead?” Tom responded in a voice loud enough for Dave to hear. “On the contrary. Dave’s objections are baseless. Your competent sled running might help him develop proper respect for women.”
The events of 2020 deepened our awareness that people are routinely victims of prejudice, violence, lack of healthcare access, and other forms of injustice because of their gender, race, country of origin, religion, sexual orientation, age, mental illness, physical limitations, and countless other factors. Many of us feel the pull to promote social justice and other societal causes, but we still have to dedicate most of our waking hours to our day jobs. But what if we seek ways to bring activism into our daily interactions at work? This tactic, which I call “job purposing,” involves adjusting how we work so that we engage in social purpose, or a meaningful contribution to a societal cause, during the work week. With his response to Dave’s sexist comments, Tom deliberately brought activism into a work interaction. He job purposed.