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Employment, The Illusion of Part Time and Toxic Work Places

by Twitchy on March 31, 2015

Yes, this is a rant post. One that’s brought me out of a blogging hiatus this year (not unironically, in my efforts to attain paid work).

I’ve always believed in a healthy work ethic and have much to give. I thrive in a productive environment, being part of a team, being able to make a difference, learn or advise, gain self-confidence and purpose and be paid for it.

I’m excited to return to formal employment. Still I struggle with the downsides and I do believe I’ve encountered quite a few…

310315 Employment

First, there’s the imbalance of what an employer is prepared to offer, in return for what it’s prepared to take. Just today I read an ad for a position classified as “Part-time”- listing “35-40 hours per week” as its definition. Um, right. This doesn’t sound very part-time to me.

Many post-maternity leavers or stay at home parents will be familiar with the vast disconnect of a position described as “part time” and the practical reality. Often it is either a very reduced-status role or the same full-time position disguised as part time. I understand it can be complicated to provide but many employers who could otherwise make it happen have no interest in accommodating any flexibility for staff. Some mat leave returners are told “full-time or nothing”.

Some of us return to or begin agreed arrangements that turn out to be pure spin. The pressure leads to unreasonably high personal cost and often the desired result for the employer, when that inconvenient employee leaves. It’s happened to me twice. I’ve been offered roles for my experience and versatility, told my availability was fine and been promised the world…only to be used up and burnt. Criticised when expected to be available outside of pre-agreed hours; had many near misses for childcare pick up; been paid minimum legal rate under a questionably-related award; had to plead to be paid. I can’t say it’s great for one’s confidence. Moreover it means many of us with so much to offer are overlooked or give up hope in attaining work at our expected level.

Like many of you, I have an interest and background in written (and visual) communications. I’ve met and befriended some of the finest, most socially aware, engaging and generous people I know- and love- via employment or social media. Then there are those at the other end.

I don’t know if there’s something in particular about Advertising, Media, PR and communications that brings out the greedy, the overbearing or extreme dickwad in people? Perhaps I’ve just been unlucky in my workplace cultures to date, to see things take place not only exasperating or infuriating but plainly rule-breaking. Corporate environments that should be professional and outcome focused instead devolving into the most despicable of human nature.

There’s been workplace bullying, threats, sexism, racism, homophobia, intra office email smear campaigns. I know of covered-up legal settlements paid for by the employer over sexual advances of superiors. Backbiting. Intimidation.

Some examples:
– I account managed in a marketing and promotions firm where I was outright sabotaged. One morning I arrived at my desk to find my main job bag files and notes missing. Nowhere to be found, likely binned or gleefully shredded. I knew what had happened, there had been other signs. A co-worker, jealous of my (contract, fill-in) role and wanting the promotion for herself, hid my active files- but nothing could be proven or done about it.

– I temped in another office where a personal assistant I sat alongside was being bullied by her female boss into going to the gym with her every morning before work!

– Worked on a top secret TV pitch and advised in a menacing tone, “If this is leaked, we’ll know it was you and you’re fired.” After years at the company.

– I took a role (directly, not via an agent/headhunter) in a small ad agency that finally paid me after I worked there for eight weeks. Eight weeks after a few repeated requests. Believe me, they made me feel like a pest about it too.

– I enjoyed the enthusiasm of both an Insurance MD and a licensing CEO who regularly shouted in the faces, or snuck up behind seated workers to explode like raging bulls, for no good reason. This licensing CEO would abuse his staff regularly at the top of his lungs, then lead clients on office tours and in a sweet voice, arms outstretched toward us, declared us his “family”.

There have been too many cultures inexplicably toxic or with pressure to take the Last to Leave Trophy and have no life outside  the office. Where only the pre-parental, full-time-plus-available need apply: breakfast meetings at 7.30am, events on weekends. We could barely see our partners in daylight, grocery shop, cook or do our own laundry without considerable difficulty. I’ve seen the majority of 35+ women disappear after starting families, never to return to their former industry because part time? What’s THAT? Bye bye.

Yes, I am job hunting again. I’d dearly love to jump back in with enthusiasm. I’d give my reasonable all back to the creative world. Can I please ask for a workplace that is work focused? Has no need to prove itself through foul means or vile political agendas? With no sociopaths or grossly un-PC heathens in management? Could I please have a pleasant (or at the very least neutral) culture with a balanced time-for-pay ethic? I hope so. I really, desperately hope so.

Working should be a professional undertaking; giving service, not giving more than you have. Do I ask too much?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

CookieCrumbsInc. May 27, 2015 at 5:06 pm

This is SO sad! How unfair! Just because we want families AND meaningful work.

I hope you find something/someone who appreciates the talent you have and the value adds you bring to the table.

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Twitchy May 28, 2015 at 9:12 pm

What a lovely thing to say. Thank you, I need my working mojo back!

Ingrid @ Fabulous and Fun Life May 27, 2015 at 2:57 pm

I sometimes grumble about my workplace but after reading your post above I realise my workplace is probably one of the better ones!

Good luck in your job seeking!

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Twitchy May 28, 2015 at 9:12 pm

Thank you Ingrid. This might take a while!

Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me April 6, 2015 at 5:08 pm

It kind of makes me glad that I don’t need to work in a typical office! I’m not sure I’d be so friendly after working from home for the past 6 months, my dress code of sloppy Joes might also not be appreciated. All the best finding a calming work enviro xxx

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EssentiallyJess April 5, 2015 at 5:41 pm

And now I’m glad I’ve never had a ‘real’ job. Which sounds shocking, but is just the way it is.
I hope you get something soon Twitchy. You’ve got lots to offer.

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Deborah Grinter April 1, 2015 at 7:50 am

Brilliant! I’m so glad you wrote about this. It’s an issue I’m sure affects so many women no matter the industry they seek to return to after having children.

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Twitchy April 1, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Thank you Deb. The part time thing appears to be true of most areas. Those in government positions may be better off. Anywhere with assessments and accountability means workers are better off.

Druime@SnippetsandSpirits April 1, 2015 at 12:12 am

Wow what a great post Sharon. Thank you for enlightening me ! There really is some horrible bosses out there my goodness. When I read your description of that boss shouting and then being nice as pie to other people I thought sociopath. Unfortunately they are too many of them in management positions ! Wishing you so much luck on your job hunt its a full time job in itself looking for work. x

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Twitchy April 2, 2015 at 12:17 am

Thanks for your good wishes. Yes, I’ve witnessed more than my share of complete tools in action. Sadly they are hard to forget. Unfortunately this was all before the days of camera phones and youtube…

Renee Wilson March 31, 2015 at 10:00 pm

You have had some shocking work experiences! I’ve been fairly lucky with only one really toxic workplace that was just so horrible I can’t even let my mind go there tonight. I have a permanent full-time position, but am working part-time at the moment. I feel like it’s time to move on and try something new, but I’m too scared to lose this job as there’s just not much out there at all part-time. I feel for you, Twitchy. Good jobs are hard to come by. Good luck with the search. #teamIBOT

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Twitchy April 1, 2015 at 12:28 pm

We can only try and try and keep looking, or do as many have done- try setting up some sort of self-employment. But that’s not for all of us either. Good luck to you too!

Janet aka Middle Aged Mama March 31, 2015 at 6:29 pm

My last workplace was incredibly toxic; turns out they did me a big favour making me redundant. (Oh and for those who say redundancy isn’t personal I say balderdash!)

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Twitchy April 1, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Probably the best outcome if the payout was good too! The price of working is sometimes far too personally great to justify any money earnt.

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