toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

January 13, 2007

pressured to perform

Rita is 43 and has a husband earning a six-figure salary but claims that it does not make life any easier for her when she is under constant pressure to perform at work.

"We are working people with bills to pay, just like everyone else," says Rita. and I'm working because I have children to educate, not because I love my job."

Actually, Rita is beginning to hate her job.

She was recently given an ultimatum to meet a quota or lose her job.

"This ultimatum has put me under a great deal of pressure," says Rita. "but I appreciate that it's happening to more and more sales staff these days."

Rita says that to take this type of ultimatum personally -- as a reflection of our worth, or as an act of discrimination, rather than as an economic reality reflecting the current cut-throat competitive market -- only makes the situation worse.

"If we were no good, they would have fired us outright," explains Rita.

However, having the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads puts Rita and her sales crew in an emotionally charged situation that is likely to affect their ability to meet any sort of quota - and this could lead to their being unfairly discriminated against.

"It is additional pressure in an already highly pressured job," says Rita, "and with all the traumas involved in raising children and having a husband who really doesn't want me to work, my life has become very messy."

She appreciates that in order to remain in business companies have to sell sufficient numbers of a product or service to meet costs.

"Looking at the competitive global economy, management would have to be a bunch of nitwits in order to fail to understand that sales are down primarily because competition from China is tough," says Rita, "and not because the sales staff is performing badly."

Rita and the sales crew feel that because the product they’re selling is hard to sell at the best of times, their company would do better to start diversifying rather than holding out and making life tougher for everyone by adopting a fire and retain policy according to performance.

"Because Annie and Olivia have always performed under par, they were fired outright," says Rita. "Myself and Carrie were put on warning because we have always just met quotas. Joe and Bill have always exceeded quotas, and were retained."

By firing Annie and Olivia the company cut costs, but this put a lot of extra pressure on the remaining sales staff.

Rita and Carrie were put on warning with words to the effect that if sales don't improve, their jobs are next to go; and things were not looking much better for Joe and Bill either.

"In these circumstances," laughs Rita, "Annie and Olivia were the lucky ones!"

Rita appreciates that the company is not in business to provide jobs for her or anyone else. It is in business to sell a product and if nobody is buying then jobs have to be sacrificed.

"This sort of lay-off is not an underhanded way of boosting profits," says Rita, "and as hard as it was to farewell Annie and Olivia nobody blames the company for doing what it has to do."

"What does constitute unreasonableness in this situation," says Rita, "is an expectation by management that sales quotas remain unchanged. With strong competition from China even the top performers are not going to meet the old quotas. So, if the quota does not change to reflect the times then it would appear that management is slave driving us for no good reason."

Rather than working her guts out trying to meet an impossible quota and being fired unfairly down the line as an incompetent saleswoman, Rita might well decide to quit while she is ahead and take her chances elsewhere - or maybe just stay home and be a housewife for a while.

Obviously, if the product is hard to sell in good times then in tough times it is going to be even tougher to flog the stuff.

"Rather than maximizing profits, I feel that management should aim to break even by setting a minimum sales quota," says Rita. "It would be appropriate, too, for management to take a salary cut. If Annie and Olivia had to be fired then it does not look good if management hangs on to its fat cat status. In tough times everyone buckles up, and if management is sincere then it will make sacrifices, too, but it doesn't look like that's the case."

Rita is doing some serious thinking. Her job is on the line. All of the remaining sales crew are critically analyzing the product they are selling and asking themselves whether their heart and soul is in it.

Do they believe in the product? Would they buy it themselves? Would they recommend it to their mother? Is it something people need?

They are also critically analyzing the company they are working for. Is it a good company? Does it pay well? Does it look after its employees? Is it well managed? Has it been in business long? Is it able to diversify?

Then there's the new quota. Is it one that they can reasonably achieve in the current economic situation? If they tried just a little bit harder could they actually make the numbers? Is there a market they have not yet explored? Can they do it? Do they want to do it?

And finally they are critically examining the economic situation and world affairs - short-term and long-term - paying particular attention to what jobs are available and are likely to remain in demand. Do they have the skills to do them, or can they easily gain such skills?

Depending upon the analysis, Rita should have a very clear feeling about what she needs to do.

"If I need to move on," explains Rita, "then it's better to do it early before the stress and strain of meeting impossible expectations wears me down."

Women like Rita, who have a lot of pressure and responsibilities at home, just can’t cope with increasing pressure at work and they may very well resign their jobs on this account only.

Being told to meet a quota or lose your job is, in itself, a pressure that few people can tolerate.

The option to quit, of course, is a luxury that married women can exert more easily than a single woman - especially a single working mother.

"In that respect," laughs Rita, "I suppose I am very lucky."

Labels: , , , ,

Copyright 2006-2014 all rights reserved Toxic Jobs



Index A-Z Toxic Jobs and Workplace Woes

Previous 10 Stories