Journey of Life

the place formerly known as control your destiny

Tag Archives: people

Work-Life Balance

Pretty much every organisation in the UK seems to promote a healthy work-life balance for their employees. At least on the surface! My experience of the past 4 years doesn’t exactly reflect this though. I have worked for two large organisations within the financial/banking sector both of which claim to support and encourage work/life balance with the HR policies to back up these claims. I am not trying to suggest that this is not the case. Both did have policies and procedures in place (at least on paper) to support this. However, once you get down to the level at which a large proportion of people are employed, the reality is somewhat different. At this level the balance is very much tipped in favour of work at the expense of life!

Trying to tip the balance in the other direction will be frowned upon by middle management and will earn you a reputation of not being a team player, being inflexible, not willing to go the extra mile! How many miles do I have to fucking go before someone is satisfied!!!

I am entitled to an hours lunch break which I rarely take. I get in early every morning and don’t always leave on time and yet on the few occasions I decide to take some time back by leaving early or starting late I am met with a look of disapproval! However, it doesn’t stop there. I still have clients who seem to think that I should be available 24/7 to deal with their every problem. If I don’t switch my work mobile/cell phone off I can guarantee that it will ring even late at night.

I have come to the conclusion that working in this kind of environment is no longer for me. I have sacrificed enough of my time and life. It has had a very negative impact on my home life to the extent that I now find it extremely difficult to switch off. I am constantly thinking about what kind of problems I am going to have to deal with tomorrow, whether or not I have forgotten to complete any of the pointless tasks imposed on me by line managers to ensure they can justify their own existence.

It is getting to the point where I am beginning to doubt my abilities to even do my job. When I do take a step back and list down all the things that are expected of me by line managers, colleagues, clients and the company as a whole, I start to realise that, unless I acquire some kind of super power that will enable me to work 24 hours a day, I will never fulfil their expectations nor would I want to! Secondly, I am beginning to feel that the reward (salary) I get for doing this job does not reflect what I am expected to do and once I include the responsibility and risk that’s placed on my shoulders it looks even less appealing.

I know that I accepted the job knowing what the reward would be, but the responsibilities and tasks seems to have now grown out of all proportion.

I know that the obvious thing to do would be to find another job, which I am actively doing. But years of pressure, consequence/micro management and what I can best describe as corporate bullying has resulted in a fairly large dose of self doubt when it comes to job hunting. I have looked through countless job ads only to find that I start telling myself that I would be no good at it or that I wouldn’t be qualified to do it, even when I know I am. This is then followed by a degree of desperation, which I suspect is because I start to fear that I will be trapped in this kind of corporate prison for the rest of my life, which can lead to nothing other than severe depression and despair.

From there I move on to thinking that perhaps I am the problem or the one causing the problem(s)!  That perhaps I am too weak and that I don’t possess the strength it takes to do this kind of job. Whether or not this is the case is really irrelevant because either way I don’t want to be part of this kind of environment anymore. There has to be a better way. There has to be a an environment in which I am allowed to work without the never ending demands that I am currently bombarded with from all angles. I have also come to the conclusion that I will never again want to work in an advisory capacity when it comes to people and their money. It doesn’t matter how much you have done for them or how hard you have worked for them, the slightest setback gets thrown back in your face as bad advice and countless other threats. I have experienced people behaving as if they had lost everything over loss of interest to the value of a few pounds/dollars despite the fact that they have more money than most people could even hope to earn in a lifetime!

Most of the time it is not directed personally at me but there’s a limit to how much of this I am prepared to take and I have reached it.

I have never sold anyone anything for the sake of personal gain and have always focused my attention on what my clients wanted. This, of course, also means that I have always been seen as a mediocre sales person in the eyes of middle management whose job it is to squeeze as much out of me as possible by constantly pushing me to do better and more. Even more frustrating is the fact that I actually like my direct boss who when on a one to one basis is caring and encouraging, but she in turn is pushed by her boss to put more pressure on us. When will they wake up and understand that a happy work force is a productive work force?

As I see it, I have two options; stay and continue to fight a system that clearly does not work or run away again in the hope that a place exists where I am allowed and trusted to do the job while being treated with respect and dignity. A place where I can start tipping the scales further towards real work/life balance.


People Watching

One of my favourite hobbies of all times is people watching. Ok! I have a minor full on addiction to people watching. There’s just something incredibly fascinating about it. In fact, if someone came to me and offered me a regular income (I am not asking for much!!) for doing nothing other than watching people and creating little stories about them, I think I would have just landed my dream job!

The best part of this particular hobby is that it doesn’t cost anything, unless of course you decide to travel to a specific location to do your people watching. I guess that is what train spotters do!! Or do they just gather at the same station every time??

One of my favourite places to watch people are places like airports, train stations (I am NOT a train spotter!!) or anywhere associated with travel as it brings big crowds together in one place. People from all walks of life and from all kinds of different cultures.

Also, travelling often seems to bring out the best and the worst in people. Some are excited at the prospect of going off to some exotic location or to be with a friend or relative while some are stressed and apprehensive or perhaps even frightened to a certain extent, but everyone has their own story to tell and the interesting thing is that most of the time they wouldn’t even have to say a word to tell their story. Simply observing their body language and their facial expressions is enough to build or create a story in my mind. If I was a writer I would spend the majority of my writing time in places like these because the inspiration seems endless.

It also makes me wonder how I would be perceived by someone performing the art of people watching. What kind of story do I inspire by my behaviour and body language? Am I the excited one or am I the stressed out fearful traveler? I am pretty confident that I have portrayed both types of behaviour as well as some in between. If it is a journey I am familiar with I am usually very relaxed about the whole affair despite often traveling by myself. If, however, it is unknown territory then I will often display rather selfish behaviour especially if I am in a rush to be in a certain place at a certain time.

When I headed back to Denmark for Christmas last december it became one of those journeys where things didn’t quite go to plan!

It was the 18th December and I had an early flight to catch. I left my house at 5 in the morning, headed in to town to catch the coach to Heathrow. It had started to snow at this point, which is never a good sign if you live in the UK. It usually takes no more than a few snow flakes to put the country into a state of chaos! However, the coach arrived only a few minutes late and we set off. I remember feeling pleased with my ingenious decision to get the early coach. This only lasted until about 15 minutes later when I had a text message from the airline informing me that my flight had been cancelled due to severe weather conditions at Heathrow! At this point I had no option but to continue so I decided that once I got there, I’d go to the check in desk for further information and to establish if I’d be able to get on a later flight. I was in good spirit and it had never crossed my mind that other people would be traveling that day too! That is until I got to the airport!!

As I arrived at the terminal and found the check in desk for my airline, I was greeted by a queue of people the length of which (at least in my mind) was at least three miles (I have a tendency to exaggerate things like this). The queue could help explain the difficulty I had in locating the check in desk! I also experienced some difficulty in finding the end of the queue as it was all over the place! For the next 90 minutes I was stuck in this queue, but the really frustrating part was the fact that I wasn’t entirely sure if I was in fact in the right queue and yet I felt reluctant to give up my place in it to investigate further in fear of having to go further back in the queue, so I stayed put (call me a sheep if you like).

During my time in the queue I was next to a girl but I was convinced that I was at least in front of her but I got the feeling she thought she was in front of me which then led to the weirdest battle in history! We both kept trying to maintain our space in the queue while at the same time trying to get one step ahead of one another. This bizarre battle went on for a while until she asked a couple behind us in the queue if they’d look after her luggage for a few minutes. I guess she didn’t ask me because she feared I might just leave her luggage behind just to increase my lead in the race to the check in!! A few minutes later she came back, collected her luggage and off she went. I was too busy gloating in my glory of firmly being one step ahead to wonder where she’d gone despite the fact that we’d been scheduled on the same flight!

I finally got to the point where the check in desk was in sight and within reach but much to my despair I discovered that another queue had formed for the ticket desk! I managed to catch the attention of someone who looked like he worked there hoping that he could shed some light on which queue I was meant to be in. He seemed to think I ought to be in the ticket queue but he didn’t exactly fill me with confidence and at the same time I felt even more reluctant to switch queues, as this would mean that I would now have to admit to  myself that, due to my sheepish behaviour, I had wasted 90 minutes in the wrong queue.

In the end I was told that I had to join the ticket queue, which luckily seemed a lot shorter but the problem was the fact that it didn’t seem to move at all. To add insult to injury, I was now stuck two places behind the exact same girl I had battled with in the first queue. In truth, I was feeling rather embarrassed at the selfish behaviour I had displayed earlier. Luckily she didn’t seem to hold a grudge and I soon got talking to her as well as another couple.

Another 90 minutes went by, during which time I had only moved a few feet and was beginning to lose all hope of getting back to Denmark before Christmas.

I went into observation mode again and began noticing how little groups of people were forming in the queue just like the four of us. I have always been intrigued by how easily strangers seem to bond in situations like these, I am including myself in this bonding affair! I find it fascinating that complete strangers can so easily find common ground to the extent that during the time in the queue the four of us got to know each other pretty well and also managed to help keep each other calm. We had known each other for only a short amount of time at this point and yet, as I am writing this, I can picture their faces clearly!
They finally announced that the plane had been reinstated and that we’d be taking off within the hour, which meant not having time to do anything other than racing through security and straight to the gate and with that, the bonding session was now firmly over! It was now back to every man and woman for themselves, with one exception; the swedish girl, who was now a bit ahead of me in the security queue (how did she get there so fast?) did very kindly ask if I wanted to join her in the queue. I declined on the basis that everyone had been through their fair share of queueing. I was also slightly concerned that had I accepted, I might have been lynched!!

When we finally got airborne the captain informed us that the reason for the cancellation and the chaos wasn’t the alleged severe weather, but the fact that I had foolishly chosen to fly to Copenhagen on the same day as Barack Obama was joining the climate conference in Copenhagen!!!

Free travel tip from J: Never travel on the same day as a government official, especially if it is the President of the United States!

I made it back though and it was such a wonderful break. I was also treated to a good look at Air Force One as we taxied to the gate…

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