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…
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.
– 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?