toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

October 06, 2007

facing the facts

Naomi is 58, a fine arts graduate who can't get a job in her field of expertise and has had to take a menial job with a corporate giant where she’s the oldest person on the payroll -- subordinate to people young enough to be her grandchildren -- but she survives in the job by facing the facts, and sketching them!

She’s a very friendly lady, very easy to talk to - a typical people pleaser - and she’s very philosophical about young people taking over the workplace at a time in her life when she would have been enjoying seniority and a good income under the old system.

"Yes," says Naomi, "when I started work at 15 the pecking order was by age. It still is, but the age of seniority is now reversed!"

"Some of the young managers at my workplace are often brash and brusque with me," says Naomi, "but I forgive them all. I remember what youth was like and these young things are going to be horribly burnt out by the time they're my age. It's wrong, I think, to put heavy responsibilities on young shoulders, but who am I to argue with the new world order!"

"I must admit, though, that the youth of today is remarkable," says Naomi, "they have so much drive and ambition and confidence, and they come from all over the world."

"Actually," admits Naomi, "if it were not for all the new people I get to rub shoulders with at work I would have retired long ago and learned to live happily with my husband in retired poverty."

"You see, I survive in the job by reading faces and sketching them from memory," smiles Naomi. "Yes, reading faces!"

"I suppose it's may way of asserting who I am and venting my frustration," says Naomi. "Just by observing people I get a clear picture of who they are inside and some of my sketches are really cute pictures but others, of course, are nasty as befitting the person I've sketched."

Her workplace, like most places run by young people, is extremely stressful.

"Everyone wants everything right now," says Naomi, "and nobody takes any notice of normal work hours."

"There's always a constant stream of new faces at work," says Naomi, "and that's the one bright light in a job that is otherwise hellish. All of the people are very young, mostly ordinary but some have extraordinary faces. Some may be staff members from head office or branch offices doing training, or temporary workers from overseas or out of town, or tradesmen or technicians coming to fix things that the good thump I gave them won't fix."

"Every new face becomes the subject of one of my cute pencil sketches," says Naomi, "and just about everyone here has a sketch of mine pinned up on the walls where they work."

"No," says Naomi, "I would not say that I am a ‘people’ person in the traditional sense of the word, but I am definitely more interested in the human side of work than anything else."

"And, no," says Naomi, "I don’t deliberately go out of my way to talk to the new faces at work. Some I must necessarily brief on what to do and where to go, but generally I prefer to observe them from a distance."

"And, yes," says Naomi, "I am the stereotypical sketcher who carries around a small sketchpad, but frankly I do most of my sketches from memory."

"I am blessed with an incredible memory for faces," says Naomi. "I can sketch from memory the people I saw at a training session at work last month - with 30 people seated exactly where they were around the room - and I can do the same for a similar scene that happened ten years ago."

It is sad -- and shows an incredible lack of staff talent spotting by her global giant employer -- that her remarkable memory for faces, and her considerable artistic talent, have been completely overlooked and not put to good use."

Naomi admits that very few people notice her. She tries to pretend that it does not bother her that few of the people she works with will remember her, but deep down it must hurt her.

"At 58 I'm considered to be an old woman who should be retired in a rocking chair," laughs Naomi. "And, with so many beautiful young things for others to notice in the workplace, why would anyone remember me? I am philosophical about being part of the furniture around here."

For all her apparent invisibility, someone up high must notice the bright smile on Naomi's face and the pleasant way she interacts with people because, let's face it, there's no way someone her age could have survived in such a youth orientated workplace without being noticed by someone who counts.

Naomi's story first appeared as surviving as the oldest employee and is reprinted with permission.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Copyright 2006-2014 all rights reserved Toxic Jobs



Index A-Z Toxic Jobs and Workplace Woes

Previous 10 Stories