About Salary Transparency in Britain

I`m from Germany, so for the first 26 years of my life, I`ve been living in a country where one`s salary is one`s best kept secret only to be disclosed to one`s bank and spouse (no, probably not even fiancee).

I used to negotiate my pay every time I started a new job (and then again when I felt I deserved a rise) and remember finding out by pure chance that I was earning significantly less, and then more (same woman, few years later – I got rises, because I asked, but she obviously hadn`t) than a colleague who almost did the same job.

It felt weird coming to Britain and seeing the salary already stated in the advert. My Scottish husband advised me not to question it – if it was written in the advert, it was non negotiable.

I fiercely disliked it, and I had loads of questions. So, did this mean that anybody could look up anybody`s earnings, and will this not inevitably lead to jealousy, comparison, stigma and “assessments” in work and in personal life, e.g. when looking for a prospective husband? Indeed I`m still finding the question “What do you do?” (for a living), and then “What does your husband do?” (I hate this question!! People ask this before they even ask his name or how long I`ve been with him), is posed far too quickly when meeting new people, and it is obvious what this is aiming at.

The longer I live here, though, the more I grew to like this transparency, for several reasons:

  • I don`t need to waste my or anyone else`s time applying for jobs who won`t pay as much as I want to earn.
  • Where adverts are brief, the salary gives a good indication on what level of skills they are looking for.
  • I`m reassured that my salary will not depend on my negotiation skills or gender, and that the male colleague doing the same work as me will earn exactly the same as me.
  • If a mistake is made with people`s pay, the member of staff will become aware of this, because colleagues openly speak about their wage slips, and can then be rectified.
  • Pressure on employers to pay a good, or at least not extremely low, wage, if they want to attract good people (and press)
  • People are more accountable, particularly those with a higher salary, because others know what they earn and expect them to really “earn”** this.

** Note: in German language, the word for “to deserve” and “to earn” is the same – could this be why we are more private about the matter, because there`s more emotional meaning just to the word?

  • The issue of women who only want to marry rich men seems a bit tricky. Instinctively, I dislike like the thought of sussing out each other`s finances at dating stage, but what if this is really important to someone (and I know people to whom it is)? It seems rude to reject someone based on their finances, but if this was me, and you would substitute “lack of wealth” with “strong desire for children”, I would like to know early and say that I may not be the one, rather than splitting over it later on. Or am I wrong here?

Redundancy: One Year After

One year ago today, I wrote this blog here: After some 2 months of pondering and then waiting, I was formally offered voluntary redundancy.

The decision of putting myself forward in the first place was a very intense process, but once I had made up my mind, I could not wait to go and was, in fact, terrified of being refused.

After 11 years` service, I was granted voluntary redundancy on 3 December 2015, and I left on the 9th – clutching the last belongings I hadn`t taken home yet, I walked into the unknown, partly sad, but above all, I remember feeling an incredible sense of relief. I felt like a beautiful butterfly who had finally managed to crack its caterpillar skin and was now spreading its wings to fly into freedom.

A year later, I`m gratefully looking back on all the beautiful things which came with something that so many would be terrified of:

I left on a Wednesday. I got offered a new job the Monday after, and it was part time. While not being out of work, I slept in every day with my newly retired husband, watched our kittens growing up, spent more time with friends, got long overdue home projects done, fully enjoyed the very brief Scottish summer…

… and started to study towards a Degree in Business Management. Absolutely love it!! It`s interesting, I learn a lot and passed my first module with distinction. I`m currently studying statistics and accounts, which will both be adding to my CV. I also formed a lovely friendship with a fellow student.

I learnt lessons about work friendships – a few surprises about who did and who did not keep in touch. One particular person was a beautiful surprise, and another an especially bitter disappointment, but also an eye opener about what our relationship was really all about.

I re-thought the meaning and spending of money. I never bought so few clothes in a single year, and I don`t miss them at all.

There was a lot of emphasis on how you look and what you wore in my old work. Now, with most of my colleagues wearing shrubs, superficialities like that don`t matter.

I could reinvent myself in other ways, too. For example, I no longer befriend current work colleagues on Facebook and no longer have certain problems which others keep offloading about.

I love working in a care home. Among other things, it makes me even more appreciating of and grateful for my husband`s and family`s excellent state of health.

It however quickly became clear that this job was not especially fulfilling. Here, I started properly looking for a job and was overwhelmed by all the things that were available to me. I was with my last employer for 11 years, and at times thinking I wasn`t capable of anything else. Just looking proved otherwise.

In September, I took the fantastic job I’m in now. It`s exactly what I was wanting from the start. I love the environment (another care home :-)), the challenges and achievements, I have good managers and supportive colleagues… Can`t help thinking why I haven`t left my old job sooner, but aware I was just too comfy and needed pushed.

Every now and then, I hear stories of my old work. It`s becoming increasingly intolerable, and many more people left, even though they stopped paying the package.

While between jobs, I went to Israel. Yes, really. I`ve been wanting to go there since such a long time, but I`m confident I still wouldn`t have gone otherwise. It was as incredible as I imagined, and I have, of course, been blogging about this fantastic experience separately.

My priorities shifted. I no longer give work so much headspace and importance. I don’t think I`ll ever hesitate again to leave a job I dislike, and I got to know myself better – I had, for example, planned to go to the gym more while working less, but I didn`t, and I finally concluded that I don`t really like exercising, and lack of time was just an excuse.

I feel I grew up a lot (at least on the outside).

More headspace for other, mainly creative, things.

I remember wondering last year where would I be in a year`s time. Just by leaving my work, I have moved on so much in many, many areas of my life, and I`m aware that that`s a privilege of (relative) financial freedom. If I hadn`t been there for so long, I would have had a much lesser package. And would I have gone?

Today is “in a year`s time”, and I`m grateful for everything, almost including the things which made me consider leaving in the first place.

 THANK YOU 🙂

Multilevel/Network Marketing

Over the moon about finally landing a permanent job, she saw it all ending after only two days, when it turned out that the rather swish sounding job title “marketing advisor” was a clever marketing ploy itself for a 100% commission sales position within a multilvel marketing position.

Her induction wasn`t yet training her on how to achieve the sales but focused entirely on the development of her own earnings (you move up for selling lots of product, and then start mentoring others, taking part of their commission in return. No recruitment with this particular organisation, but this, of course, takes you all the longer to move up), making new recruits hungry to line other people`s pockets in the pursuit of incredible, but for most unattainable, wealth for themselves.

When I was in my early twenties, I had a quick and rather unsuccessful dab into this kind of marketing myself, and though I didn`t earn a cent (I made a few sales and recruited one rep, but I also spent a dysproportionate amount of time and money attending seminars, meetings and mentoring my recruit. I was also tied to using the, still overpriced, product myself for much longer as I would have as a “normal” customer), I, too, gained a rather interesting insight about how those organisations work and motivate you.

My friend described that “they supercharge you and pump you up to the max” Every seminar I attended for “my” organsation ended with Tina Turner`s “Simply the Best”, plaid at just beneath unbearable volume, which we all sang and danced to while viewing the face of the organisation`s founder as always the same last slide of the big screen presentation, and I freely admit that all this did something to me – whenever I left a seminar, it was on a superpositive note – I was highly motivated, ready to conquer the world and so, so disappointed that it was 9pm at night and couldn`t happen until tomorrow morning. We often had parties at my mentor` s home, there was music playing, and all over sudden, there she was – always, but always kind of unexpected – Tina Turner, and we all jumped off our seats to scream and dance with her, and it all seemed to come so naturally to all of us. I felt part of something big and crazy, something that was special and wanted to be shared with my nearest and dearest. The product didn`t matter any more as we regularly collapsed laughing and hugging after “our song” ended.

My friend`s organisation takes this “buzz” one fine bit further still: every morning, their staff attend an (unpaid) 1hr pep talk in their office, which they cannot skip, as that`s where they`re also learning where they are going to be deployed to today, who with, and how they are going to travel. The pep talks involve singing, clapping, dancing, cheering to your boss, and plenty buzz words which colleagues (who work in pairs but actually compete against each other for the attention of passers by) will reiterate to each other throughout the day to keep the memento going. For that hour in the morning is all about positivity, oneself and one` s imminent wealth (“greed”, she said), but your 9 hour shift “on location” is all about rejection, as you approach passer by after passer by, trying to get them to at least listen to you. I`ve seen them. I bet you have, too. I didn`t know how they can still be as enthusiastic and upbeat at 4pm.

When I first encountered this scheme, I was really enthusiastic – I believed in the system, I believed in the product (in that order), and I believed in my own ability to succeed. By that time my manager in my full time job had already said to me “At the moment, you`re not a salesperson, but this does not mean that you cannot become one!” I wanted to show and impress him.

Never mind my own lack of success, I changed my mind ages ago, and my feelings about this system is perfectly summarised in this (sorry – long and a bit difficult to read) article.

If everyone is encouraged to both sell and recruit, the market quickly becomes oversaturated, and if you haven`t gotten in there really early, it is impossible for you to make money as an increasing amount of people are already using or selling the product. You don`t however know how imminent this point is, so you`will keep working hard, just in case, selling a dream which you don`t even believe in yourself. And you`re actively encouraged (pressurised, in my case) to pester family and friends.

Until you get promoted (sales based, which makes you work all the harder) you cannot make a living out of this work, for you are too busy lining the pockets of your own mentor, who, of course, has a personal interest in keeping you going. You`ll do the same if you want to succeed, and with this company, you need to, for the work is 6 days a week and does not give you time for a second job or look for another one.

It`s quite clever, actually. But so deeply immoral.And I cheer on my friend, whose chair will remain empty today – on day three and forever after.

 

 

Coworkers and Facebook – Befriend or don`t Befriend?

Because we are chatting on WhatsApp, a co-worker is now being suggested as a friend on facebook.

Hrmpf. When I changed jobs I vowed not to befriend new colleagues on facebook. In my last office, this repeatedly led to mutual surveillance, peer pressure and jealousy. Several people were disciplined, and one was sacked for what she posted. I never felt less close to colleagues who were not on facebook (or didn`t connect to co-workers), but my relationship with those who were was, to varying degrees, more complicated.

Now, I`m already considering what I can and cannot write with my colleague reading. Moreover, she could be linked to others, who then get suggested to me and vice versa, and within no time at all, I`d be back to square one. I like my colleagues, but with most of them, I`m not interested in their personal lives. Once you connected on facebook, though, you`re expected to.

My relationship with this particular woman is nice as it is now. I can`t see facebook adding much. But if she sees and requests me, I couldn`t ignore her or worse, put her in her place by saying I won`t befriend co-workers. Actually, I think I could say to her that I don`t want to recreate the problems in my old office by feeling pressurised to befriend others as well, and then we could talk about it, and she could let me know what things are like, if she is at all part of it…

Once again, I find myself suffering facebook anxiety… 😦

 

 

Work

An unexpected visitor at work, bearing a letter… This week, I was officially offered redundancy, and I accepted it. It was a very happy day, and people said congratulations. Today and yesterday (very contrasting) showed me very much what I need at work: warmth, recognition and feeling valued both as a worker and human being. Basically, to feel good about myself. As soon as I separated it from the notion of financial security (okay – the package helped), I concluded that my job has nothing to offer to me.

And today, I registered with the Open University! I`m going to do a BSc in Business Management! The other one I had in mind was Social Psychology, but I went with what`ll be most useful for my career – even while I`m still studying.

Life looks good! 🌹🌹🌹

Application Frustration

I`m frustrated about one of my applications. I applied for another job with this company in late summer (no redundancy on the horizon yet, but I really, really wanted to work for them) and despite me following up with an email and two phone calls, they never replied.

When they advertised a similar job recently, they said in the advert that they would only contact you if they were interested, and if you didn`t hear from them within a week, you should assume that you were unsuccessful. I applied again, once again haven`t heard, but six weeks on, the advert was still on their website.

So I emailed again, said I was still interested and would really find it helpful to know why I was not shortlisted. Today, I received a two liner: “Thank you for the time you took to apply for this position. We will not be taking your application any further.” The wording and lack of reason almost makes me think that there was something really, really wrong with my letter or CV, and if there was, I find it even more annoying that they won`t tell me what it was.

Anyway, I won`t apply again with them. Shame. I simply love what they do, and I`m a good customer. But if they treat applicants like this, they probably are not nice to work for.

Redundancy – Part III

For a while, I was wondering whether all I really needed was a break. Two weeks` leave, a 6-month Sabbatical or, after a particularly stressful day, just going off sick. I`d have as much time looking for another job, but I wouldn`t need to give up the security of the one I`ve got. But the thought of having to return filled me with dread. I wanted to get properly away, and the more I worked through all my questions and queries, the more certain I was of this matter.

I never felt I really had the time to explore other options though while still working; only letting go of my job altogether would make me actually do something about my desire for change – not least because I then have to. While still in my comfort zone, it`s just too easy not to. The more I thought about it, the more I came to see VERA (Voluntary Early Release Agreement) as a gift, a gift of time out and starting afresh without having to worry about money.

When the compensation was increased, there was no more question about what I would do. In fact, I was scared of not receiving an offer and having this door closed. Which made me think about money. Of course, I could still resign, I just wouldn`t get a package. So is it all about money, then? After some soul searching, I concluded that it is for me, and that`s fine. I`ve always been an extremely security conscious person.

Deep inside, I really want a break before getting myself another job. I have so many plans about what I would do with a break. I also thought about the importance of work in general. Where would I stand in society if I didn`t have a job? But many of my friends have been unemployed at some point, neither for very long, and neither was thought less of.

There was a scare earlier this week that I wouldn`t get redundancy, and this very fact told it all – the fact I was scared of not getting the offer. Once I had worked through all the the issues, I got quite excited about leaving. We also had more information about what the future (at work) will hold, and I was glad that I wouldn`t be part of it. Regardless of whether or not I`d get a package, I need a change, and the time is now. I may have needed pushed and enticed, but once I made up my min, not only did I feel free to go, I`m also feeling an increasing urge to.

Redundancy – Part II

… I was interested enough to look up on our Intranet the conditions for voluntary redundancy and who was at risk of compulsory redundancy. The former weren`t interesting at first, and the latter wasn`t scary, and I found myself strangely disappointed about both.

When I learnt that the redundancy payment was not taxed and likely to be increased, I sought confirmation that I wasn`t  committing to anything by noting an interest, and then I did exactly that. I didn`t want to miss the boat. I wanted to keep my options open while I was finding out more and weighing up the pros and cons, buy myself time.

Meanwhile, I started to look for jobs, found that there were plenty of things, and I applied for a couple. Neither materialised, but I discovered that I did indeed have other options than this average paying dead end job that takes me 3 hours a day to travel back and forward, and that`s increasingly annoying me. I`ve never been looking for years.

While the deadline expired and other people made further decisions, I had plenty time to think. Everything was pointing in just one direction:

  • My current job has not added to my CV in three years or so, and I don`t expect it to do so in the near future. I`ve been doing it for almost 5 years now, and its only challenges remain annoying people and politics.
  • The sheer fact that I didn`t have a clue until recently what I wanted to do instead should feel scary – I`m becoming institutionalised and eventually unemployable by anyone else.
  • I`m 40 years old. Still young enough now to start elsewhere – but not for much longer. After speaking to an increasing range of people, I`ve now changed my mind in the age thing. It`s the perfect age to start afresh. It`s only half time nowadays, and it` not unusual nowadays for people to have two careers. Man women return to work at 40 after raising their children. Prospective employers no longer fear that we are going to fall pregnant now, and neither do we suffer from the health problems associated with older age. I`m a grown woman who knows what she wants and not a young girl who`ll quit a job after a few months because she decides that she wants something else. I`ve got a lot to offer, and any good HR person will realise that.
  • If I`m not moving now, I probably never will and still be here on the day I retire. At least, only now will I get paid to leave. Is this a sign?
  • I expect working conditions to become less pleasant, and this has started already.
  • There are still people here that I`m attached to, although many have left already. The others will not stay just because I like working with them. Those who are really important will stay in my life.
  • Not so long ago I said if I didn`t work, I wouldn`t know what to do instead. Weirdly, the list is growing by the day now. Some of those things excite me so much that I want to quit work immediately so I can start right now.

(to be continued)

Redundancy – Part I

I`m highly likely going to be made redundant as per 31/12/15, and I have volunteered. This was a process rather than a decision, and I want to share it.

My parents have both instilled in me a big work ethic. Education, success and financial rewards were less important (although they would have been pleased), but you have to work, even when you`re ill, and when you`re on annual leave, you`ll have to work something else at home. Unemployment was unthinkeable for respectable people, unless you were a woman and chose to have a family instead.

I consider myself successful in my first job, and although I didn`t come to my current employer with promotion already in mind, I developed an, at times strong, hunger when people told me I could. I then fell out of favour, applied unsuccessfully six times, so I stopped applying and enjoyed having nice colleagues and easy work instead. Although I tried for a carefully selected few other jobs, I was never disappointed when those did not materialise – I had grown into a rather cosy comfort zone.

Every so often it occurred to me that I`d have to move eventually if I didn`t want to do the same thing until retirement, and it also occurred (and happened) that others moved on away from me, people who had held me back, because I was so attached to them. My work has always been dynamic and interesting in terms of the environment, and all those things distracted from the fact that it hasn`t added anything to my CV since 3 years or so.

We`ve known for a while that our employer needs to save a lot of money, and they`ve always been open about the fact that this would affect staffing and the way we work. For a while, I was wondering whether this was going to open up opportunities, but it then became clearer that the opposite will be the case.

I first started to think about the importance of work in general when a very beloved colleague resigned without a new job to go to. At the same time, my husband started to become serious about planning his retirement, and our financial advisor confirmed that we would be comfortable. Removing the need, the pressure, to earn a certain amount of money certainly opened up my mind before we were invited to apply for voluntary redundancy…

(to be continued)

Retired!

My husband retired on Thursday. He says it hasn`t hit him until he left work at lunch time to pick me up and then drove back to work for one last time. And then it hit him a bit more on Friday morning when he wasn`t just having another long weekend, but he hasn`t got a job any more.

He was never the kind of man who dreaded his retirement. He`s got a very rich life and loads of plans. Since legislation in the UK changed a few years ago, you no longer automatically retire at age 65 – you have to resign, which caused some people to delay retirement. They are scared of proactively letting go of a job they may like and that makes them good money. This bit was never in question for J (retiring on his 65. birthday was always a goal), but when he told a friend (who turned 65 a few months before and had not stopped working) this friend felt an intense pinch of jealousy, and he subsequently handed in his notice as well.

Anyway – Thursday. It was very, very special. We went into his office, which is a glass house in the middle of a production factory, and eventually, we could see everyone stopping their machines and walk away into the same direction, to where the presentations (double retirement, and my husband did the speech for the other guy, as he was his supervisor) were going to be held. This was a bit eery.

My husband managed to pass my camera to someone else, and then I was asked to stand at the front with him. Didn`t expect that, but knowing that he was nervous, I was grateful to be allowed at his side. The speeches were lovely, and since we met though work, they all had me and our relationship in them. I found this bit very humorous and loving and not embarrassing at all. We were still standing there talking to a decreasing group of people when it started to get noisy around us, as people resumed their work at the machines. There was something quite touching about that bit which I can`t quite point my finger to. Life and diary making goes on, but he`s got nothing else to do with it.

I wonder whether he`ll miss it after all, just sometimes, a wee bit.