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.