Work rant

Over the last 2 years, I have had the thought of quitting work more often than ever. And I have also wondered why I feel the way I do. Is it the work itself? Is it the folks at work? Is it the stress? Is it the fact that it eats into my time with Zo? Is it the people around me making sad, sorry faces when I tell them I work?

I don’t have an answer. I guess it is way too many things together that give this feeling. Yes, so I have started feeling this way a lot more since Zo came, and definitely more since she grew up a bit. But it’s not the only reason. It is the general attitude of people towards work.

I have spent 12 years in a relatively ‘less stressful industry’, as they like to call themselves. But I cannot think of one month, or day when I was completely off work, mentally. It doesn’t work that way for me as an individual. But unfortunately, those are things only I am aware of.

The great Indian working scenario, I believe is still sarkaari at heart. I also find the analogy extremely offensive because the folks who define sarkaari as a bunch of seat warmers who will leave when the clock strikes 5, are pretty much doing the same thing today; albeit in larger MNCs with better air conditioning. Maybe not as much 9 to 5, as 11 to 8, or 12 to 9 – only now this is the timing of choice because who can get up and rush to work so early anyway? Also, the plethora of entertainment options at work – ranging from online shopping to social media to Youtube videos means that they can hang around for even longer hours -10,12,14, and do exactly what they would have done back home, only there will be no one nagging in the background to lend a hand in the kitchen.

Slowly being at the workplace becomes the definition of hard work, rather than getting work done. And God forbid you fall in the latter category, because then, you are destined to be deemed as average.

I have a life beyond work, I always have. I was quite proud of it, still am. But as I grow up the ladder, this seems like an odd thing to accept. Doesn’t matter if I am dot on time to work, have lunch at my desk, skip tea and have my calendar blocked continuously through the 9 hours; just so that I am done on time. Doesn’t matter if I do all that I am expected to and even more, just because I know that I will be one of the few folks who will leave when it strikes 7 to go home.

Go home for those little things that matter just as much, if not more than work. Like checking Zo’s homework, or reading with her, or reading for myself, watching a TV show with the Dude. But no, it seems to amaze people that I want to do these things, and not hang around chatting a bit more because you know, networking? Apparently, how can you expect to grow if you are not giving it your everything?

Thing is, I cannot give work my ‘everything’ because it is not my ‘everything’. It will never be. I refuse to make work the most important thing in my life, at most give it a sort of low position in the top 5, but nothing more. And the more vocal I get about it, the more hurt I get in the process. This is where the Indian-ness of the people comes across, because I have worked with folks in the west, and there everyone – men and women, seem to think the priority is to get your work done and head to your family. Here, eh, not so much. Here, having an hour long tea break takes precedence over wanting to help your kid with homework, because your wife will do that.

And whatever I do to make up for it is not enough. Doesn’t matter if I am taking calls every day after Zo goes to sleep, because well you left office on time right? Doesn’t matter if I take up more projects than any other damn person because, well, you won’t come for the sports event on Saturday right? Doesn’t matter if I come in early so I can leave on time, because well the others work from 2 to 11, so they can’t be expected to stretch right? Eventually it’s about how you have taken a call to not grow beyond a point by being restrictive in the time you spend sitting at your work desk.

I try not to think of it but it is true. Companies on paper these days are much more flexible, but what goes on in the heads of those you work with is best known to them only, and no policy, no ‘best place to work’ ranking , no mention in the ‘list of most women friendly organization’ fixes this. Once they have made up their mind that the person will always do less than the others because she needs to go home, there is no looking back.

Like I said, it sucks, and it makes me very unhappy. It makes all versions of me sad for being made to feel not good enough – the professional, the mother, the wife, the individual. And I have absolutely no idea how I can get out of this rut, except for maybe wish for a miracle.

Employment status

Over the last year at my new work place, I have concluded upon one thing. Working as a concept has changed, a lot.

And it sucks.

Here’s a list of pre-defined conditions that seem to govern the work ethic of way too many folks who have just started working.

A normal day at work will and must include

  • An hour for lunch
  • A half hour for tea
  • An half hour to generally loiter around ‘networking’
  • An hour on social media

I cannot come in the earlier shift (earlier meaning anytime before 12 PM) even if the business needs it because –

  • I cannot wake up so early!
  • I live so far away
  • We get water in our apartment at this time and I need to fill bottles

I am late to work every day because –

  • There is just too much traffic on the roads
  • My clothes were not ironed
  • I overslept and didn’t hear the alarm

I am really stressed because –

  • I stretched for an extra hour for 3 days in a row.
  • I did not even take a tea break, just lunch.
  • My wife has a terrible headache

I thought I was doing my best and I’m unable to see why you are not happy. All that went wrong were a few numbers on the P&L. It can happen to anybody.

I logged in late into the call/meeting because

  • I was having tea
  • I did not see the pop up
  • You mentioned it was around 3:30, so I thought it was 3:30, and did not check my calendar to see that it was actually at 3

I can’t believe you guys had to work 14 hours during month close when you started! It must be because

  • You had different priorities
  • Maybe you weren’t as efficient back then

Yes, I am looking at leaving early because

  • There’s no work
  • We all need downtime
  • Oh by the way, please sign off my overtime for that extra half hour I worked this month on that day.

So these are only some of the very real statements that I have experienced in the recent past. And all of it makes me wonder what just happened? Is it just that we had it all wrong when we started working? Or did we hire wrong? Or were people different back then?

My only explanation to myself, is that when we started, we ended up spending more time with folks who were more like us (which in the words of the guys might as well be inefficient, with wrong priorities and unnecessarily high benchmarks for ourselves), so we never encountered this species. And now that we handle large teams, it is obvious that there will be a big mix of people, and hence this situation.

Oh, and to wrap up the rant, and also specify what brought it out. Now that it is Appraisal season, each and every of these individuals has rated themselves ‘Exceeded expectations’ on every damn parameter on the self-evaluation sheet.

This brings me to my questions –

  • Whose expectations have they exceeded?
  • Where can I find this person and gun him down?

Leaving on a jet plane (for work)

Quite contrary to my usual interest in travel and my heartfelt announcements about how I would do anything to go see new places, one of the things I dislike the most is travelling for work. While it works in my favor (or so you would think) that I have always travelled on business outside of the country only, it is actually quite a bit of a pain. One, because I am a clingy old woman, who somehow refuses to let go of the routine life that she otherwise complains about. Also, traveling for work means being away from The Dude, and Zo, and nothing sucks as much as that. Again, with a disclaimer that I usually crave for ‘me time’, turns out that at the end of all that ‘me time’, I need to see those two faces before I fall asleep because Oh My God how old and clingy am I?

The other thing that I hate more than travelling for work is traveling for work to the same God forsaken place over and over again. I am not even saying that it’s the place per se, it’s the fact that I have been there before that kills it for me. Yes, the place might be a decider to some extent. For example, I’m thinking, I’m only thinking not claiming, that may be going to London more than one time might not hurt as much, because London, well, I have a special affinity to that place. It was the first place outside of India I visited, and that too for work. It was a long month, but there were friends, and then there were colleagues who became friends and it didn’t hurt as much, though I was dying to get back for my wedding in 2 months time, and by the way, The Dude was visiting the US at the same time. So I managed somehow, and returned a pretty happy and much fatter person who wouldn’t fit into her wedding lehenga because of all the cheese that was consumed.

The place I visited most for work was Switzerland. Not the dreamy, snowy, DDLJ-eqsue Switzerland they show you in the movies, but an industrial town on the banks of Rhine which did not have the slightest glimpse of the Alps or snow or anything remotely Switzerland. In fact it had summers which hit 35 degrees (yes, Celsius) and tiny table fans that folks kept at their work desks because the air conditioning wasn’t as effective. This place, I went to over and over again. And since we travelled on actuals, there wasn’t much tourism that I ever indulged in because somehow, I always travelled alone. And when I do, there isn’t much I want to see except for my work floor and the hotel room. Also, the Swiss believe in shutting down all signs of life on the streets as soon as the weekend arrived and from India where you do not have a spot with no people to Basel where you would not spot people, it was always a depressing transition.

Fortunately, there was a nice trip to Spain, which The Dude joined for an extended vacation because who would miss out on Barcelona yes? And then there was New Jersey, where I had a weekend to spare and Manhattan a bus ride away. Also, there was some company for some part of it, and that made life more bearable.

And now there’s this trip. Dubai was never on my must visit places, but we’re here, and I usually don’t complain as much for short 4 day trips. I mean, I do complain, just not as much. So despite much more advanced technology which lets me see my guy and my girl as if they were right there in front of me (including the Dude talking to me distractedly while watching TV because some things don’t really change right), I still dislike being away. This time, I have company, so there’s some basic walking around, and hopefully a visit to the Burj Khalifa (today, fingers crossed). And there’s also a highly anticipated evening to be a spent with a very good friend just before I leave, which makes all of this much easier to accept and survive.

But then, being away is being away, and change is change. And I am not too fond of both, however short. So I have decided to be agreeable and tag this visit as acceptable. Not nice, just acceptable. And I’ll keep my fingers crossed hoping that fate doesn’t decide to take that as a positive sign, and think it can do it to me more often.

Day 17 – What the hell am I doing here, I don’t belong here

There is nothing that comes around faster than Sunday evening. And along with it comes the dread of Monday morning. So in order to make it hurt a wee bit lesser, let’s talk about the good part of the week starting again.

  • Monday means you can start resolving to workout, eat healthy, drink enough water again. While the world waits for a New Year to strike to be able to make resolutions, I adjust with the new week most of the time. And that gives me enough opportunity to break resolutions every week too
  • Monday means I can wear the clothes I bought over the weekend. As I told in the last post, I love hoarding clothes, mostly formal since the most I step out is during the week. So only when work starts am I able to use up the spoils of my weekend.
  • Monday means that there’s enough time to finish pending work items that threaten the weekend. I work in an environment where the most convenient way of handling work pressure seems to be saying ‘there’s the weekend for that right?’ While the truth is that no the weekend is not ‘there’, the weekend is mine and I refuse to share it with anyone. But Monday means no one gets to say that, because  at this time, the week is ‘there’ and that is when you are supposed to finish your work somehow
  • Monday means I can plan better. Much as I hate it, I am turning into a chronic planner, the kind who makes to-do lists, assigns the work, follows up, and cannot rest until each item is ticked off. On Mondays, I pick a fresh page, get the pending items forward, and add the new items to the page. And that gives me a sort of an organized start to the week.
  • Monday means Sunday evening is over, and quite honestly, that’s most depressing time of the week. I have said this before and it is true that impending doom feels much worse than the actual doom. So once you step into the week that you have been reading, it seizes to hurt as much as it did when you were waiting for it.
  • Finally, Monday means we have embarked on our journey to the next weekend. It means that the worse is over and it is all uphill from here, tiring, but towards the top of the world, which you will reach in 5 days. So Monday is a promise for the better things to come, which you need to work for and towards.

And to think that all you need to do to reach this wonderful, hopeful day is go to sleep; that’s frankly is as positive as you can be at the start of a work week.

It’s a wonderful life, kinda

I recently tweeted that I spend 3/4th of my life doing stuff that ensures that I am able to do the remaining 1/4th , by which I meant my weekends and vacations. I stood by that statement, quite strongly; till I read this.

 “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” @SethGodinBlog

 Usually, inspirational, motivational quotes put me off completely, so I’m judging those making the quotes, those circulating them, and those who follow them. Especially the people who apparently realize that these generic statements resonate with their life and then try to conclude that whatever fucked up shit is happening with them is meant to be and happens to everyone, and will sort itself out someday, and I’m like SHUT UP AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, IT’S NOT GOING AWAY.

 Anyway, vent out apart, my point is, I think stuff like that is flaff. However, this quote did what those motivational quotes seem to do to the rest of the world, it resonated with me. And in the same “Oh, he is talking about me” sort of way, only it did not make me feel better about my situation. Instead it said, “Not cool. Nuh-huh. You think you have your life and priorities laid out? Really? Take this.” And I felt very very sorry about myself.

 Which brings me back to the fact that I do need to set up my life in general. Considering the audience of the blog I do not think that I need to worry about responses like “What do you want to set up! Everything is so exactly how it should be for you!” I think that at every point in life, I tend to let the most prominent thing takeover beyond how much it should be taking over. And then I lazily amble back into this zone, which is not comfortable, not really nice, but has this big cloud encasing it, labelled “This is my excuse for not doing what I enjoy”. This time, that thing is work.

 Work and its issues seem to have taken over my life in such an aggressive manner that I flounder to spot life beyond it. My other love, Twitter, which used to annoy the Dude quite a bit, with my constant scrolling down the timeline, suddenly became a relief for him. As in, ‘Oh you’re checking Twitter, I was worried it was the Blackberry again’. Even little Zo is ok with Mumma checking the white phone, but not the black phone. The blinking red LED has become what it is meant to be, a danger sign.

That being said, I have to admit that I like what I do now. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of pride, and actually makes me realize that I am good at this stuff. However monotonous, however routine, this is stuff that I can manage, pretty well. The downside is I make the stress my cocoon, and refuse to get outside of it and, like it says above, live.

 I have stopped working out. So much that I danced around with Zo some days ago for like 10 minutes and all my bones ache at the moment. So much for the 20 minutes of running I did 2 years ago (without stopping, it was a big deal). I have stopped listening to music, which is so strange. Because before phones were allowed on the floor my worry was how I would keep up with my music. And now, I don’t even bother to know what the latest music releases are. I don’t even check out my favorite MTunes HD, though there I assume part of the issue is the love of my television-life MasterChef Australia. And then ofcourse, the blog. I just cannot seem to write. At all. Anything sensible, even remotely. Which also explains why I have been missing all this while.

 Then, we went on a vacation last week. A 9 day road trip from Pune to Delhi and back, via Chittorgarh, Jaipur, Udaipur and Baroda, a total of 3600 kilometers. Yes, with Zo. *Pause for applause* It was lovely, like vacations are, by default. There was a lot of time spent on the road (ofcourse), and the times I was not sleeping, or entertaining Zo, there were these phases of solitude, however brief, where I actually stared out of the window with nothing to distract me.

 And I spent some of this time contemplating how I could get some order about. I know I can’t change myself when it comes to work, it’s an ingrained thing. I am a chronic worrier. So the next best thing is to keep myself so busy, so busy, that I forget that should be fretting about the number of unread items in my inbox. Atleast when I am not at work. That way, I will be doing stuff I should be doing instead of feeling sorry for myself. And that way, I wouldn’t have to go on a vacation every time to make sense of things.

 It is easier said than done, I know. But I think giving it a shot is necessary. And better now than later, when I would still be doing the same thing, perhaps after another road-trip which again gives me time to think. And whenever I find myself deviating from this optimistic plan of making the most of everything, I will close my eyes and refer back to my happy place – with the long winding roads, the sound of the wheels on the tar, the sunset at a distance, music in the background, and the breeze in my hair.

Like a shot straight out of Instagram. #nofilters

One for the heck of it, almost

Yeah yeah. I know what you are thinking. Look at this one, back to her infrequent posting, now that she doesn’t have a Blogathon egging her to go on. You are not? Well, it is certainly what I am thinking.

Not that it matters. But a few things in life deserve to be noted down however blah you feel, or however annoying work’s been, or however much you would rather read others yapping because they are so much more fun.

So thing one is a biggie. I am not sure I ever mentioned on my blog, I sure did on Twitter, but my new place of work, which I joined roughly 8 months ago? Well, that had a no cell-phone on the floor policy.

*Pause*

Take it in. Let it sink in. Breathe, breathe, BREATHE Damn it! Better? Yes. So yes. It is possible. It is true. And yes I, as a part of this organization, have been diligently locking away my beloved phone(s) (yeah, ironically, for a place which doesn’t allow you a phone, they give you one anyway so that you can be reached anytime, only you don’t get to keep this phone with you as well. Well, like I said, “ironic” is right) in a tiny locker right outside the floor where my precious cabin is.  Every day.

The first 2 weeks, I would step out every 2 hours, check for missed calls, messages and respond. Send late LOLs (I don’t do LOLs, I do Haha actually) to jokes shared on Whassap groups, check Facebook to see if anyone acknowledged how absolutely gorgeous I look in my current profile pic (ok, I do that for Zo’s pics, she gets all the likes. Hmph.), and then morosely lock it back and return to my den.

People said I would get used to it. And I did, Kind of. As in, after the first 2 weeks, I would go check my phone just once a day, at most twice. But the last couple of months, I am proud to admit that I never checked my phone even once. Through the day. It was like it didn’t exist. But I did miss it because, well, I think it is because I miss and want everything I am not ‘allowed’ pretty much. Just like Zo.

But last week, after 8 years, the policy was changed. Suddenly. Suddenly for me ofcourse, but Oh My God bottom line is I now get to use my phone at my desk like all normal people in the world! And I know it seems petty to those who have always had it, but trust me Dude, you have NO clue how it feels after an 8 month break. AWESOME. I could have cried when I was told of it. No wait, I think I did cry.

So that was one. Two was, there is this book. See, I am one of those awesome people who won’t buy new books until I finish all that I have bought, or atleast decide there is no way I am finishing them because I honestly cant. So there was this one book I bought when I was expecting Zo. I know right, 3 frigging years ago. It was a lovely book. Very well written, very interesting. But I never finished it. I stopped. Not once, not twice, 3 times. I would just stop it. The book, and reading in general. I wouldn’t buy a new book, because there was this perfectly good book I had and I was just not reading it. So it was kind of a jinxed book.

And last week, I finished it. So Phew. Big thing right? Right. I also went ahead and ordered myself some more books. I do have one unread book, but I tried starting it, not very keen to go on. Weirdly, I devoured the first two parts of that trilogy 3 years ago, and loved them. But I can’t get myself to read the third. I think I have forgotten everything in the first two, and that is enough reason to not want to read the third.

What else really? Oh yes, we did another trip to Goa (yes, again!) last weekend and it was fun except I was approving travel requests for someone from my team sitting on the beach and we all know that’s not cool. Also, I was returning to my room between drinks and fun conversations to respond to mails from work which “just couldn’t wait” on Friday night and that was not cool either. That apart, it was as fun as Goa can be and we all know that’s a LOT. Goa, is the only place where I get to holiday without doing anything at all because we just don’t have anything left to go see. And I love it. Plus there’s beaches. And Seafood. And beers. All of it anytime you want it. Basically, a whole lot of awesomeness. I know you get the gist so I will stop.

That’s enough you say? Yeah, I think so too. Now I can go back to doing all things useless, and not feel like I am cheating on my blog.

Yep, that’ll be good.

Glass Walls

There is a guy measuring the breadth of the glass wall on the left of my cabin. Which means that they would actually keep their promise and add the ‘translucent/opaque markings’ that I had asked for. However, they did not say it in the extreme ghaati manner I did. They said the ‘glass partition’ (not wall) will be covered with ‘frosted film’ (not markings, I know, I said markings, I just did not know what to call those line things) this weekend.’ Now what remains to be seen is whether they cover the whole thing, or the middle portion only. Either way, I will be a happier person.

When I told The Dude about the inconvenience that was the glass wall of my cabin, he just said ‘Atleast you have a cabin!’ with a tone of disbelief of sorts, because how could I have a cabin, when he has to sit with the rest of the crowd on the floor, right? Wrong. Because you can’t have it all. This is my compensation for the fancy-schmancy title he has, versus mine, which has been the same for the last 6 years and 3 organizations. It is such a part of my life, that I am actually contemplating getting it mentioned on my tombstone.

Anyway, this was about how the ‘Atleast you have a cabin!’ is not justified. A cabin, as I have come to realize, is not all coolness and glory.  For starters, it is eerily quiet, the sound of my typing being almost cacophonous. The only sound that breaks this silence (when I am not typing) is the very strange sound of flowing water, like there are pipes above my head, which I am assuming there are. Through the AC ducts? That is a thing right? I told The Dude and he was like ‘Oh God! Don’t tell me you have pipe music! This might be one of those relaxing, soothing sounds of nature or something to de-stress!’ I actually believed him for a moment and gave it a listen again, but I think the theory is flawed because the sound of a leaking flush can be all but a stress buster.

Point number two, the cabin has two, yes two, glass walls. Plain, clean, Saint-Gobain-advertisement-worthy glass. The one in front is fine, I have an amazing view (not) of the floor. But it is helpful because I know who is knocking, I can raise my head and check if the Boss is at her desk before I walk all the way there, and I can also check if the team is around. But the one to the left, it makes no sense. It has a narrow walkway, connecting two floors, and then another conference room, with equally spotless glass walls. So whenever there is a meeting there, I have to be extremely careful about not making any sudden movements lest I startle the folks who are on the verge of falling asleep anyway. Plus, I have to really hide all the chocolate/almonds/fruits I eat because I do not want the world to think of me as the girl-who-eats-the-whole-day. And I have to keep my desk drawers closed at all times because I realized that the passers-by could actually read off the printouts while casually passing by and I don’t want them to know my very confidential movie plans.

Also, I miss out on the fun. It is not all that quiet inside, but I can just about make out people’s laughter, and that too when they are in this gregarious loud mood. And by the time I am out to see what it is about, it’s all over. Or perhaps it is over because I am out but I hate to think of it that way.

Which brings me to the next point. A cabin is a lonely place. And not only literally. It is a serious place, and it means business. People call you ma’am. People attend to your requests faster. People mind how they talk to you. People think twice before calling you for a break, because you would have to be busy. You think twice before going on breaks with people because you feel like you might be a  kabab-me-haddi.

But it would be wrong to say that it never feels good. Because it feels nice to have a set of keys to your ‘room’ at work. It feels awesome to see your name plate on the door of that room. To have your privacy, and quiet time, when work needs to be done. To have conversations on the phone without worrying about who is hearing you. To be able to set the temperature of the room to your comfort .To get things done faster because when you tell your seat number. To feel that you have actually moved ahead professionally, because ‘Come on! You have a cabin!’  So I suck it up, and sit in my cosy little, temperature controlled space, which will hopefully have a ‘Frosted film on the Glass Partition’ when I return next week, and enjoy what I have for now.

Afterall, you really can’t have it all.