toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

January 13, 2007

brazening out a bad fit

Vivienne is 43, a millionaire's wife working for pocket change, and she was selected from 165 applicants for a basic team position in a large, high profile organization. Co-workers whose friends had been rejected for the job are, understandably, hostile to her and make it plain that she's a bad fit for the position.

"Most of the applicants were single mothers desperate for a decent job," explains Vivienne, "and when it became known that I was a millionaire's wife with grown-up children, and only wanted the job for fun and a bit of pocket change, the mood in my team was black."

"I work with very poor women," explains Vivienne, "and I guess they just don't like working with a lady who looks like a million dollars - and can afford to look that way. They call me a rich bitch."

"I believe I was selected because I would be a great asset to the company image-wise," says Vivienne, "but everyone tells me that it was unfair to select me because I wasn't the most qualified or experienced applicant."

The advertisement for the position emphasized qualifications and experience and mentioned absolutely nothing about appearance, so everyone wanted to know why Vivienne was given preference over single mothers who had worked hard to gain qualifications and experience and desperately needed a better paying job in order to improve themselves and the lot of their children.

"It's true that the income I receive from this job will be spent wholly on beauty parlors, clothes and shoes," confesses Vivienne, "but I see no reason to feel guilty about spending my money on looking good."

"My spending habits are keeping beauticians, hair-dressers, garment and footwear manufacturers and retailers in business," explains Vivienne, "so I see no injustice in giving me the job even though I was not only one of the least qualified and experienced of the applicants but also the least needy of them all."

"There's talk that I got the job because of a bit of string-pulling at the top," laughs Vivienne, "but I didn't. My husband doesn't play golf with one of the directors and my luncheon companion is not one of the wives of one of the directors."

"I am well aware that thousands of single working mothers, through divorce or unexpected pregnancy, are often left with the sole responsibility of raising and financially supporting their children," says Vivienne.

"I am also well aware that these women are desperate for a decent job and yet are often forced by their vulnerable circumstances into accepting menial low-paying jobs, totally incongruous with their education and experience."

"It is far too facile to say that women like me are taking jobs away from the women who need them," says Vivienne.

"It was a management decision to give me the job. I did not pull strings to get it and if my co-workers want to vent their spleens they should do so to management, not me."

"I have grown up children living independently," explains Vivienne, "and it's quite likely that the company simply saw me as a good employment risk."

"Everyone knows how working mothers, especially single mothers take time off at the drop of a hat when their kids are sick or something is happening at their schools," says Vivienne. " I don’t pose that sort of risk."

Vivienne is also very stable emotionally. Nothing fazes her - she believes that stress is very aging and avoids it like the plague - and in that respect she is a good balance for a team of younger and poorer working mothers who are easily stressed and prone to sickness.

And, of course, Vivienne is well presented.

The women on her team chuck together whatever clothing is clean and relatively uncrumpled in the mornings. Vivienne, on the other hand, looks like she has a maid lay out everything for her. No creases, no crumples, no color clashes. Everything is perfect.

And while the rest of the women can only find time to smear a bit of lipstick on breakfast egg-stained lips, Vivienne has time for a total make-up routine.

And hair?

"Well, one of the women on my team was seriously thinking of affecting the look of a Moslem woman so that she can wear that wonderful scarf that hides everything," laughs Vivienne

"Yes," says Vivienne, "I suppose I put the women on my team to shame in many ways. My hair is glorious. Even when the wind blows it, it looks perfect. But I look at it this way - I am a role model they can aspire to. I am not a threat."

"I am a fun lady and I do my fair share of work - and the other women do like me, albeit begrudgingly," says Vivienne, "and I take with a pinch of salt their remarks about my being exceptionally vain and shallow."

"They tell me that I should stop play-acting as ‘Barbie the Working Girl’ and go back home to Ken so that my job can be given to a woman who really needs it," laughs Vivienne, "but I just tell them 'tough'!"

"Until employers are made responsible for social problems by being forced to give preference to the needy," says Vivienne, "I feel that I have every right to the job."

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