First published September 11th 2015
Today’s entry is on an entirely different subject, although I hope readers of the previous entries have given some thought to moving their money.
I had to do a lot of temporary contract work throughout university and afterwards, not only because I was older than everyone else, having had a previous career, but also because my pesky mother point blank refused to go to the doctor to deal with her heart problem and my father already had dementia by that point. I was a late baby.
I could not help noticing that every office that I worked in seemed to contain a den of bitches, male and female, who seemed to regard me as bit of an alien. Being a loner, this did not upset me as much as it might, however I came to believe after a few different offices that there was something seriously wrong with me, which made me retreat into my shell somewhat after having worked extremely hard to scratch my way to the top of my previous male-dominated career.
Employment agencies presented a range of similar problems. The women who decided whether to put you forward for jobs were completely different animals from me, and could not seem to wrap their heads around the idea that someone who had run their own successful businesses had retrained.
This meant that the education that I had spent time and money on was pretty much meaningless in terms of gaining suitable employment from these people, and so I was scuppered on both counts. Nevertheless, I managed in my obsessive, compulsive way to keep myself in work by spending 7am to 11pm looking for jobs whether I needed them or not. This went on for about 6 years.
My last job was as a banking consultant, a job which paid unusually well but involved working 3pm to midnight, six days a week. Not satisfied with the idea that this was a result, I took on another two jobs, one as a government research interviewer, one as a corporate researcher. I viewed this, after the years of gypsy wandering, as the prudent way to go, so at one point I was making calls over breakfast, visiting people in their homes at lunchtime, feeding my father in the hospice, and then racing across the city to the bank to work until midnight.
Since I had always had quite a lot of control over my lot prior to gaining my additional education, it did not occur to me that there were rules associated with working in banks which had not been in place elsewhere. I had had a couple of problems with large companies previously, when I had taken it upon myself to suggest changes which would save the company money and waste. You are not supposed to do this. You are supposed to be so petrified of losing your job that you say nothing even as several hundred, or in one case thousands of pounds per hour are being squandered right in front of you. It was at one of these companies I was jokingly referred to as ‘the economist who hates money.’ I could explain why, but that would be another lengthy story. I would rather be referred to as ‘the geek that hates waste,’ to be honest.
Anyway, back to the bank. I was in a room alongside probably two hundred people, all earning a fairly vast amount of money, ranging from 1000 to 3000GBP per week and doing fairly basic clerical work. As the deadlines were quite tight, I can confirm that it was fairly hard work, however I have worked as hard for minimum wage, if not harder. The problem arose when one of the printers broke down, and the entire room was left to cope with a vast amount of paperwork and only one functional printer. As you can imagine, the queue for this printer became hot and very unpleasant extremely quickly, and so I took it upon myself to go to the project manager and request another printer.
A few minutes after I had done this, the well dressed and obviously well heeled team that I was working in expressed shock that I had done this. Hadn’t I gone to the supervisor? I was not supposed to talk to the manager. I was also comparatively scruffy and regarded as something of an exotic flower in this team, since I did things other than banking for a living. They were impressively shocked.
I don’t mean to sound quite such a grumpy old lady, but since I have been making this same point since I was quite young, it is not strictly an age issue. What on earth has happened to the world? The 1950s working generation were the most economically successful generation in world history. Nobody is ever going to match the achievements in their lifetime. People like my parents had choices, of where to work and how to work, and got respect for what they did that would be scoffed at now, and yet we are less efficient than ever. We pretend that technology has made all things possible, and everything more efficient, and yet in productive terms, and in progressive terms, we have actually declined in efficiency.
The ‘blame’ and ‘yes sir’ culture is what caused the Bernie Maidoff situation in banking. Guys in suits shaking hands with other guys in suits and not actually examining what they were doing. And why oh why has nobody joined the dots about the banking crisis which immediately followed? They talk about the problems with sub-prime lending but nobody dares mention that this happened at exactly the same time as the Maidoff scandal. Far be it from me to point out that the bankers were following orders, and have been made scapegoats to the alleged crisis, but to me the real issue was the cultural issue, of stupid employing stupid and doing business with crooked.
If, like me, you stick out from the crowd. If, like me, you don’t like waste and you don’t believe that your level of oiliness should determine success above your level of actual talent, then do not be ashamed of it. You may never be rich in today’s cultural climate, but perhaps you are made for better things.