when work’s far from a pleasure
………..it’s time for a change
A series of interviews with inspiring people who said ‘this has got to stop’.
Different reasons, different answers, but they all knew that life and work could not go on as it was.
It is with great pleasure that I give you the creatively titled
First in the series
I’d like to remain anonymous
A Major Credit Card Company
What made work far from a pleasure for you, so much so, that you wanted to leave?
Well, it took breaking my knee, for me to stop long enough to notice.
I couldn’t do very much and so it gave me space to take stock and see what I was doing. And to realise how much I didn’t want to go back.
I could see a pattern running over 3 years where I’d get ill and need a few weeks off but then go headlong back in each time.
This time, when I broke my knee, things were at a critical point at work. Silly hours, struggling physically, stressed out.
This time, with the literal break and not being able to move around or do much, I saw the pattern. Without that I’d be so entrenched in work, dealing with each deadline, so consumed with the day to day and it probably would have taken me much longer to see, I would have wasted however many more months or years. I wouldn’t have asked where am I heading.
I knew I wasn’t happy but hadn’t taken the time to see what the way out could be.
There was a mismatch of values and I lost respect for them, at work.
The company didn’t value it’s customers and I believe without your customers you don’t have a business. They were operating for short term gain rather than a long term vision.
One marketing campaign was for a group of customers who we knew were already under pressure, getting them into as much debt as possible without tipping them over the edge.
I knew these things all along but just accepted it and went along with it – I didn’t know what to do.
It would have needed changing too much and I was already too stressed, I couldn’t have handled any more stress.
I was there for two years. If I’m really honest I knew after 2 weeks that things weren’t right but wouldn’t have admitted it to myself. I kept thinking I just need to get to know the business better.
I did 4 jobs. My first was to launch a loyalty programme. It was due to launch 8 weeks after I started.
It was in such a mess there was no way it would have launched seamlessly as I spotted an incorrect assumption in the business case. When I saw this and raised the issues, my boss wouldn’t share with senior managers that a mistake had been made because there was a blame culture and their necks would have been on the line.
It’s not healthy. They ended up pulling the plug on the whole thing 3 months later as the issues did come out.
They were too scared to admit mistakes. If I see an issue, I raise it straight away and put my hands up to mistakes.
There was no chance I would grow in the business, not because there weren’t opportunities but because I didn’t want to grow into what they were.
What would it have taken for you to stay?
If they would have said…
To move ahead in the banking business we need to break the mould and be innovative, just because we’ve always done it this way doesn’t mean it’s right.
And to genuinely want to understand what that would look like in the twenty-first century.
Some of those words were spoken but they didn’t really mean it.
There was innovation round the edges rather than really taking a step back.
You would have been talking huge cultural change and it would need to have been driven from the top and that wasn’t happening.
And it goes deeper.
Fundamentally, just valuing human beings, treating people in a fair way that’s transparent…that makes them want to do business with you and stay with you.
Profit was the only important thing. And prestige and ego.
If you had a night out, there’d be honest conversations and nobody wanted to be there. No one thought, I want to work for a credit card company. No one fundamentally agreed with the business. They all just ignored that, put it to one side and carried on. Not very inspiring.
There wasn’t one person there to aspire to.
I’d have liked more honesty in the management style. It was quite hierarchical and they seemed to think they needed to pretend that something was the right thing to do and to persuade you that it was, even when they didn’t believe it themselves. I lost respect when I thought they didn’t have the intelligence to see it wasn’t the right thing to do.
Later my boss said to me that he knew I was right. He was just cascading what he’d been told to.
There was no trust. It’s sad, that level of trust.
The business did seem to value me and my input but when you’re just one person in an organisation of thousands it seems like you’re on an impossible mission.
It’s very draining.
I’d ask myself ‘can I be bothered to argue the case on that or just let it go?’
I’d choose my battles but feel I’d let myself down if I let it go and it would come back as an issue in a couple of months anyway. I know that some of the silly hours were driven by me because I’d say ‘right I’m not letting that go’.
One good part was seeing my team start to get it. But now I’m gone it makes it much harder for them.
We were a little crowd of people in the middle of a war, in a bunker house, doing a great job.
We’d watch each others backs, you never knew which side something was going to come from.
You could lead the way in your area but everywhere else……….
One of my team took a career break and we’ll meet up in Australia. She has 22 years service though so she’ll probably go back. She’s had to park the thinking and try not to let it get to her and count the days to her year off.
To what extent do you think it’s possible, to get those things that would make you stay?
I don’t think it is possible.
There’s just too much not right.
If the CEO changed and changes started from there, then maybe.
But the culture is too strong and people have been there for too long. Unless there was a shake up from the top I don’t think it could happen.
There were small bits, once a month my team would go for a coffee shop lunch out of the office to get a spark back from each other.
I decided I wanted to live rather than exist.
I want a family and to settle down but wasn’t giving that any time.
There were no opportunities or space for it.
I wasn’t maintaining friendships either and they’re really important to me
I lived in a house which I really liked but it came with a big mortgage. So, if I didn’t want the big job I needed to lose the big mortgage so the first step was to sell the house so that I could give up the job. It was very liberating.
I knew that I wanted to settle down and that I wanted to travel, so I thought, best travel now.
See different cultures and learn from them. Get some space and work out what I want to do.
Worst case scenario, I still don’t know what I want to do, but have freedom.
How would you describe life now?
When something goes wrong now, I’ve rediscovered my ability to laugh about it and not want to cry.
A yoghurt pot splatters me and I can laugh, not stress about it.
I’m going travelling and am consumed with plans for that, but going away was a prompt for me to reconnect with people before I go.
It’s been so lovely for me to keep those connections but also to be able to help people while I’ve been there.
One friend who’s had a baby, I was able to help her with how facebook works so she could connect with old friends, I helped another friend with internet stuff, I helped my sister clear out the toy room and I’d not had that connection for so long. So good, gives me energy, it’s very uplifting.
I’ve got more self worth too, I’d lost some of that on the way. When friends are pleased to see you and are grateful you’ve made the time and I see that I mean something to them. I’ve also seen that I’ve got a lot of really good friends, that feels lovely. I do love facebook for that as well.
I’m pleased with my level of organisation, even if it is chaotic, and with what I’ve achieved in just a few months.
Four months ago I had the house valued and now it’s sold, I’ve left work, everything’s in storage, all travel plans are made and I leave next week for 8 months.
Also while I’ve been catching up with people they want to know what I’m doing and why and this has reinforced for me that I’m proud of myself for doing this.
Most people say they’d love to do it but haven’t got the guts and that they think it’s really brave.
It doesn’t feel brave, it just feels right for me.
What would you say to others in your position?
Make a choice.
It’s very easy when you’re in it, to stay in it.
It actually only took one small intervention for me. I put my house on the market to see what would happen.
It gave a chink of light at the end of the tunnel that I was very happy to run towards and it built its own momentum.
Is there anything else we’ve not touched on that feels important?
Yes. It does feel very daunting initially but I’ve been so pleasantly surprised how many different places help has come from.
Something that might seem so difficult, but then the people around you rally and it kind of takes care of itself.
Like the piano.
Someone said freecycle, then I thought I’d prefer it to go to someone I knew. Because they’d mentioned the internet I thought facebook and so put it there and someone I knew really did want a piano and I never would have known they were looking.
I needed to keep my i-phone charged and my sister suggested wind up or solar powered chargers and now I have a back up battery and have 2 full charges.
It’s strange, even though it’s been more involved and more complicated than I imagined it’s also been easier because of all the help people have given or that’s just turned up.
My flip flop broke on the way to the Mongolian Embassy. I wondered whether they’d give me a visa if I walked in with just one shoe or if I took both off and had no shoes, it was in a very posh part of Kensington. And there, right there, was a cobblers who did a temporary fix. Things just present themselves.
If I’d known how complicated it was going to be beforehand I would have been put off but then I wouldn’t have known about all the help that would just turn up to make it all so easy.
It’s been an experience just getting to the point of being ready to go and I’ve enjoyed every moment.
Join in…go on
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Tell us your story
If you have also said ‘this has got to stop’ and would like to share your story send me an e-mail, I’d love to hear from you. Clicking ‘contact’ on the menu bar is probably the easiest way.
This is but a fraction of what I have in mind
Would you like to see an end to people working themselves sick?
Would you like to know that there are companies who would like it to be a pleasure working for them and doing business with them?
Would you like to know about companies who said ‘yes we want to know the real reasons people want to leave us’?
That’s why I am undertaking a serious research project.
There is research. Happening right now. Well I sleep for 8 hours so maybe not now literally but you get my drift.
To gather the data, to make the case, to show the companies why making themselves pleasure companies will be very, very good for business. (And our health – no more working ourselves sick).
I spoke to serious academics. They said what I wanted to do could take a lifetime. Or at the very least 4 years.
I’ve started anyway.
It’s pointless to resist. It seems I can’t not do this, it’s grabbed me by the lapels and isn’t letting go so I’m doing it.
This is where you can help.
I’m doing the research anyway.
You can help it go faster, you can make it that someone else transcribes interviews while I carry out more
Or hire a research assistant so our research data is accumulated twice as fast and a LOT more.
Or if you know your company would like to express an early interest and donate, I’ll publish a list of interested and contributing companies from the start
Here’s your chance to speed the process of us getting closer to
– no more working ourselves sick
-companies that are a pleasure to work for and to buy from and do business with
ANY thing you’d like to donate will be a great great help, so please, thank you
*BIG smile of gratitude*