For the eyes. For the heart. For the ears. For the feet. For the soul.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An identity crisis

I have often said that working in business has changed so much over the past decade.
Sometimes, I write on sole feelings alone but often, thoughts start to formulate after speaking with others and finding a common thread. I guess this is why I majored in Sociology which focuses on cultural and historical trends and patterns.

The working culture has definitely changed dramatically since I first entered the industry.
For starters, computers and technology have revolutionized the way we work today. Your typical 9-5 job is becoming rarer and rarer, to the point of non-existence. Smart phones, laptops, and remote access to the office seem to offer an image of a more manageable work flow however it seems that we as humans are becoming robot-like and trying to multi-task everything at once, all day, every day. There is less time for creativity or thought expansion as demands for "need it right now, if not yesterday" increase. On top of your commute to and from work, you have your daily grind.

Long gone are the days of a single job title and specific duties. With the reduction of middle management roles and a competitive industry market, you must learn to be a "Jill of all trades." Generalists have long taken over Specialist roles. I've seen job postings which boast more than 20 bullet points per role, of duties including H.R, Accounting, Reception, I.T., Customer Service, Executive Assistant, Event Planning and Marketing. This does not include the many hours of duties encompassed in your role that are not accounted for such as expected social attendance, training and weekend and overnight team building retreats.

Am I forgetting to include the many hours spent wasted during already banked holidays worrying about the work that awaits when you take your tremendously earned and deserved vacation?

Companies like to hire people with an entrepreneurial spirit and these people tend to be younger in demographics, and generally end up leaving to explore their own business, without the stress of office politics, unrealistic workloads, working conditions and undesirable scenarios.

I've sat on both sides of the Corporate fence. I've been in Boardroom meetings with Executives who preach work/life balance yet behind closed doors, feverishly discuss the bottom line and ways to increase profits. Systems and processes are designed and streamlined to increase productivity and are presented to employees in a very clever way. I've learned that in order to obtain staff's buy-in, you must communicate to them from a position of what's in it for them.

I used to work for a small firm who underwent a major company merger with a mid-sized accounting firm. Systems and tools were implemented to make our lives "easier and more manageable." We were to track and log our time and tasks on a daily basis. This was available for everyone to see and I soon realized that an assistant, hired to help me, was trying to underhandedly and non-discreetly steal my job. I've never been faced with this before so I wasn't quite aware, initially, of what was going on.

I trained her, showed her everything I knew and tried to be helpful. In meetings I would soon start to realize that this person was trying to throw me under the bus. Like a wild animal, when cornered with my back up against the wall, I fought back for the job I had worked so hard at for the past two years. This took practice, patience and skill as I was clearly a rookie in the retaliation department. Staff were able to see what others were working on and how many extra hours of overtime were put in. When once I was happy to leave at 5pm, now I was staying until 7pm so that my duties were not being stolen, scurried away and burrowed. I started arriving earlier in the office and noticed the assistant had already arrived before me, and taken away my work for that day. Then, of course, she would log all her daily duties and tasks and this forced me to become very creative in my own daily descriptions.

I have weekly discussions with my girlfriends about happiness and balance. The ones who are not working feel they are missing something in their lives. With a job comes a contribution, personal success, self-worth and of course, a pay check for all these lovely things and lifestyles we all strive for. The ones who have children feel like they are burning the candle at both ends. They are racing here, there and everywhere to get it all done and make it all happen.

The women aren't the only ones who are suffering. Historically, if a male was offered a transfer
to a different country for his career, the woman would just pick up and go with him. With the need for two paychecks in the household these days, that decision isn't so cut and dry. Men also want to be more involved in their children's lives and world, and are being more expressive about fitting in their family life as opposed to sneaking out of meetings to go see a soccer game.

Some days, surrounded by paperwork and madness, everything inside me screams to get me out of the proverbial "here", and I don't mean my job, marriage or life specifically. It just seems that the madness of life is overwhelming these days and work/life balance is never level since the work part rarely gets reduced.

I ask you some questions that perhaps you can shed some light on:

* Is the world different for 20 year olds who were born into technology and adapt to change quicker and easier?

* Have computers made our lives easier or more complicated?

* Are you more stressed now than you were 15 years ago?

* Have you ever, or do you know someone who takes anti depressants or sees a shrink to discuss their problems?

* Do you notice that traffic and road rage seem to have increased dramatically over the years?

* Doesn't it seem like people are leaving jobs, only to go somewhere else and vice versa when all we are really doing is switching roles, over and over to try and find the right fit or balance?

* Do you know someone who is resentful of how much their spouse is away from their home life and is always at work?

* Do you wonder where the workforce is going in the next ten years and how we will manage?

An older gentleman mused to me the other day that the world has definitely changed and he wondered if things would ever come full circle and receed back to simpler times. I noted that we're in a different generation in a very competitive market, and if you don't keep up, you'll get left behind and it's hard to imagine, albeit wonderful to dream of, life in simpler times.

Furthermore, are we programmed to be addicted to this complicated world? Could we survive with a deck of cards, a campfire and a good old fashioned meal, served on time, freshly prepared, with all family members present and conversing positively about our day? Often, I retreat to thoughts of a sunrise at a cottage, a garden with fresh herbs and a good old fashioned pen and paper to journal my thoughts but I'm soon distracted with buzzing phones, email, computers, tasks and clutter in my mind.

Our true identity is slowly getting blurred. And I don't have a clue how to change it.


1 comment:

Rosemary said...

Life is always changing and as we get older we start to you remember when..there were no cell phones, no computers,long term employees, happiness in your job... that is long gone and your comments are very very true!