toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

June 05, 2012

just another sardine in the can!

Wanting the privacy and importance of an office of one's own is a common need of return to work moms who formerly worked in high profile positions, but Sandra discovered in her new job that her education and former high status count for nothing. She is just another sardine in the can!

"I was quite happy as a stay-at-home-mom until my husband lost his job in the tech bust," explains Sandra, "and when I volunteered to return to work and become the family’s breadwinner I expected to be treated with as much respect as I formerly enjoyed. Boy, was I brought down down!"

"It's a problem other women returning to work have too, " explains Sandra. "After being one's own boss at home during the day for several years, it's very difficult to cope with too many people around you."

"In my case, because of my background, it wasn't just difficult it was demeaning," says Sandra. "I once commanded a suite of offices, so to be seated with others rather than given an office of my own was terrifying."

"I tried to find a position commensurate with my extensive education and experience," says Sandra, "but all I could find was a supervisory position and because I was so tired of looking for a job I just took it".

"The pay isn’t good and the position is very much lower than the one I formerly commanded," says Sandra, "but under the circumstances it is better than nothing."

Sandra's main concern is that on top of the other indignities she has to put up with she is also expected to sit with the girls she supervises.

Sandra expected that the least her new company could offer her, in return for her extensive education and experience, was the privacy of an office of her own.

For some women, dismay at working with the plebs may have nothing to do with wanting the power and glory of their own office. Some women, like Sandra, have real trouble working too closely to other people.

She doesn’t break out in hives or some other dreadful malaise - if so then she would need to find a job out of town where space is plentiful - but she does feel incredibly uncomfortable when her personal space is violated and she doesn’t have any privacy.

She understands that city office space is premium real estate. Even top management people sometimes have to work in lobbies or cupboards along with half a dozen other souls.

"I learned the hard way that there’s nothing special about me," laughs Sandra, "and that cost cutting is the top priority in business these days.".

"Offices are getting smaller and smaller and even if they do have floor-to-ceiling walls they are not sound-proofed," says Sandra, "and someone who is easily distracted by noise is also going to find it very difficult to concentrate in this sort of environment."

"Some workplaces dispense with offices altogether and adopt the open-floor plan. If you are lucky you will get a cubicle, but it is quite common to have a desk and be within elbow's reach of adjacent co-workers."

"Being a ‘people’ person thus has an entirely new meaning these days." laughs Sandra. "You really must have the attributes of a sardine to be able to work harmoniously in today's offices."

"Your entire sensory system is going to be bombarded with the sounds, smells, sights and touch of others!"

Sandra heard things she would rather not hear, such as a personal telephone conversation between some guy and his girlfriend about what they did last night.

She smelled things she would rather not smell, such as the stench of BO or bad breath.

She saw things she would rather not see, such as someone picking his nose.

And she touched things she would rather not touch, such as the leg of the person sitting next to her.

"I'm a people manager, and I like people," explains Sandra, "but I don't want them in my face and I am really not happy in this job."

"It didn't occur to me to ask whether I'd get an office of my own." adds Sandra. "I know the job is a dead-end supervisory role and I have no prospects here, but supervisors deserve to be treated better than the workers!"

Wanting an office of one's own is really a basic and perfectly understandable desire, and having one was once a mark of respect for someone like Sandra, but in these days of over-supply of educated staff and under-supply of management jobs Sandra is no better than anyone else.

She is learning tolerance - for the sake of her husband and children - and appreciates that there are far worse things to put up with in a job than not having her own office.

"I'm just hoping and praying that my husband finds a fantastic new job soon," says Sandra. "I can put up with this job until he gets his act together, but I'm definitely going back to being a housewife."
"If this job is the best I can get for my age, qualifications and experience," sighs Sandra, "then I need to look at my options for the future."

"It's demeaning and demoralizing to discover that the divide between management and workers has widened to such an extent these days that if you're not a top executive, you're little better than a worker," says Sandra.

"This is not how it was when I last worked, and if middle management jobs are no longer available then I will have to start my own business, or try something new, when the children grow up and I need an outside interest."

"I can understand now why so many women refuse to give up good jobs when they start a family," adds Sandra. "It means starting at the bottom when you resume work, without the opportunities for advancement that you had when you were young."

"However, I don't regret giving up my previous position in order to start a family," says Sandra. "Being a mom and a housewife required all of my management skills!"

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