Sunday, 26 February 2017

Reasons to change a job

Upbeat tidings from the labour market, confirmed by figures published by the Stats office and palpable shortage of workforce in some industries naturally prompt thoughts on what motivates people to change their workplace. Recruitment agencies share results of their research on this; their outcomes and real-life observations put together form a list of factors employees take into account when they are considering a relocation.

1. Your boss. Some statistics prove shattered relationships with a direct manager most often (up to 80% of instances) prompt employees to look for a new job. Your boss may be a tyrant who never puts up with disagreement, a workaholic who coerces their team to work as long and as hard as they do, a tormentor who picks a victim in a team and bullies them. All characters above induce one to quit, but even if your boss is only lazy, incompetent and afraid you may want to take their place, the set-up is bad enough to waste your potential and forbid you to thrive. If you are ordered about by a despot or by an idiot, there is no point in waiting your superior gets sacked. Take matters in your hands before you hit the roof in a bout of frustration!

2. Colleagues. Just like a boss, the closest workmates with whom you spend several hours a day might become a pain the arse. If you simply do not fit in with the team (e.g. you are an extravert surrounded by introverts) the situation is bearable, but if your team lacks team spirit, people run rings around one another or hostility is felt in the air, time to make off!

3. The pay. You can hear voices work is all about the money, yet a decent pay will not compensate you for emotional ordeal that might destroy your psyche if you have to endure it for years. Before you jump to conclusions you are underpaid, do sound out the market to make sure competitors of your employer can offer you more. A huge pressure on salary increases is observed in low-paid professions, however the tide does not lift all boats. Professionals in industries where earnings are above-average and headcount is on decline, such as financial sector, should not reckon on easy pay rise. Moreover, HR departments bend over backwards while grappling with payrolls and their moves vary across the industry. Some companies lay off best-paid experts to find cheaper, yet less competent ones and this might seem economically rational. Many more employers, however, fail to retain (by giving a pay rise) good, yet slightly underpaid employees who quit, but then the same employers hire less experienced new staff and pay them more than their predecessors.

4. Appreciation, or rather lack of it. Hardly any worker will be satisfied with wages paid on time only. Apart from tangible, pecuniary or not, benefits, humans long for other forms of reward. Tapping somebody on their shoulder and saying “good job”, thanking, giving prizes will not replace bonuses but decent bonuses without non-material reward come out shoddy!

5. Prospects. If you feel or are genuinely told in a few years you will be doing the same thing for the same money, then even if your job is not repetitive and you actually like it, your motivation may plummet. Awareness of being stuck in a dead-end street is unappealing, unless you are in a pre-retirement age and wish to make it safely to the moment of pensioning off on your cushy stool.

6. Identity crisis. If you do not believe in a business model of your company, you cannot believe its well-being will translate into yours. The more serious type of the problem is when your employer engages in illegal (or morally dubious) practices you do not wish to take part in.

7. Opportunity. It usually emerges unbidden, for a short moment, so you are given little time to take it or leave it. I would hazard a guess the most successful transfers between jobs come about when an opportunity strikes out of the blue and one is not afraid taking a risk to seize it.

For the very end, a sad observation I need to share. After nearly seven years of being submerged into corporate world, I was under delusion quick advances on the career ladder in international corporations were just thanks to sheer hard graft, while jobs gotten via connections (not in a positive meaning of the word) were the domain of government-owned companies and some of private small businesses. Quite recently I have been disabused…

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The power of networking

A wise man said once you work to live, not the other way round, but you need to work to enjoy your life. In your adult life you spend around one-fifth of your life at work (assuming your work 225 days per year, eight hours per day) and nearly one-third of the time you are awake (assuming you sleep seven hours each night). No wonder then workplace is where you meet people and get involved in relationships with them (today not a single word on romantic ones).

One rarely can choose their workmates, so one can sometimes hate them, but also hit it off with some of them. Nevertheless you spend several hours a (working) day with colleagues not to become friends, but to pursue together a common goal which is making your company earn, which you hope will translate into your individual goal, i.e. to get paid!

It’s not a secret relationships built over your professional life, though frequently cannot be called friendships, are precious. In the corporate world, the more people you know, the more you can gain. Everybody knows what growing your network means, so nearly everyone, driven by their self-preservation instinct, plays that game, as having a network can benefit everybody. The only question is when you reap the benefits (if you do it at all), but since sowing the seeds of networking costs little, nearly everyone does it.

Those familiar with the nicknames I consistently use on the blog and keeping track of developments in the Polish financial secret, don’t need to be told the Employer, where I worked from 2010 to 2014 has actually fallen apart after a merger with another player in the industry. As it naturally happens when two companies are combined into one, several corporate functions are doubled and to streamline the organisation and pursue cost synergies overstaffing has to be coped with. The way making staff redundant is handled does not vary across corporations. The set-up I described in much detail over four years ago (hey it’s been over eight years since I posted on PES for the first time) remains up-to-date and the only positive thing about being left out in the cold are parachutes laid-off workers get that let them make ends meet for a few months.

Regardless of the financial aspect of being given the sack, on top comes the emotional one. Many people, though they have hobbies, families and lead private lives, find it hard to stay at home for a prolonged period and miss the part of their life which apart from earning them a livelihood, gave them a lot of satisfaction and self-fulfilment.

Those who I feel most sorry for are the ones who had spent more than a decade at the Employer, who last looked for a job before Poland joined EU, who will be outside their comfort zone when they finally are taken on by another company.

When I attended a funeral mass in early January, I met some long-unseen workmates and since then the frequency of interactions with former colleagues has intensified. I could hold a grudge against them for renewing our relationships when they are on the verge of falling off the cliff, but I won’t. Majority of people want to grab every opportunity to reduce uncertainty and increase their odds of soft landing when they are dropped of the corporate plane.

The number of invitations on LinkedIn, number of phone calls, lunches in town and meetings indicates the lookout for a foothold is under way. From a not entirely professional perspective, relationships with former workmates have grown multi-faceted. I have become a professional counsellor, a psycho-therapist, a shoulder to cry on, a labour market analyst and a potential assistant to recruiters at the New Factory. I need to show empathy in those roles, but I often struggle not to overdo with empathy at the expense of sincerity. Giving advice to someone or raise their spirits must not mean telling them they are eligible for every job or they would fit every organisations. My job requires above-average assertiveness, fluency in English, involves frequent public speeches, business trips, staying overtime and (OK, I’m now blowing my own trumpet) not everyone meets all the criteria.

Plus to be sincere, my workplace has turned recently into a mire (worse than in my first months there, though easier to survive today) into which I would not draw any of my workmates, though they know there are vacancies to be filled. On the other front, five months after first cracks appeared, I went to labour market and sent out three applications last weekend (no response so far). It has been my first sounding out of the labour market since early 2014 and the main change I see is that sending a CV and a letter of application to an e-mail address has given way to filling in application forms and attaching a CV (letter of application is gone?). Interestingly, all three potential employers were asking about salary expectations in the application forms; wondering whether this a tool to disqualify over-priced candidates right away?

With such nasty course of affairs, I may only hope the good I am sending to people will return to me if I am left out in the cold, which is unfortunately not inconceivable.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Sztuka Kochania. Historia Michaliny Wislockiej - film review

As I saw the trailer of the moving-picture biography of Michalina Wisłocka and learnt the film was shot and produced by the same crew who were behind absolutely magnificent Bogowie, I knew I had to watch the film portrait of a woman who in the 1970s became for Poles the same who Alfred Kinsey became for Americans over 20 years earlier.

The life story of Mrs Wisłocka which emerges from the film is somewhat heart-wrenching and somewhat sordid. The person who taught Poles to discover their sexuality in her twenties lived in a self-arranged threesome, the as she, her husband and their (female) friend / lover broke up, in her mid-thirties fell in love and had an affair with a married man to finally end up as a single mature woman. I do not mean such life experience could disqualify hrt as an sex therapist, yet depicts how complicated life is and how important it is to separate one’s own painful tribulations from an objective look on relationships between women and men. If Mrs Wisłocka was denied the right to teach people how to love, why priests, who by definition should live in celibacy and abstain from sexual activity, would be allowed to instruct people how to raise families and shape love life?

In terms of being a work of art, I found the movie gripping, yet not as splendid as Bogowie. For part of the audience some moments might be found disgusting, since scenes of copulation are exposed naturalistically and probably the short length and hiding sexual organs are the only reasons why they do not fall under the definition of pornography.

As I understand it, the intent of the film is twofold – to bring closer to audience the profile of Mrs Wisłocka and, predominantly, to break the still-existent taboo of speaking openly of sex life. Mrs Wisłocka deserves credit for raising awareness of sexuality, extending access to education on the topic and fighting prudishness, avidly nurtured by both the catholic church and the communist party.

Sexual needs are, as Mrs Wisłocka pointed out over her whole life, one of basic (closer to the bottom than in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) needs of a human and need to be met. This assertion does not imply one should strive to make unfettered indulgence in all desires, but to combine love and making love, the emotional and the physical realms of love, which only brought together bring true self-fulfilment. If the classic sentence: I am human, and nothing of that which is human is alien to me, holds true, why should we be ashamed of what is human?

If the shame creeps in, this is just because inhibitions have been instilled in us in the process of upbringing, which should definitely be balanced – neither promoting dissipation (we are human therefore we should not copulate like animals) nor confining sexuality a tool of reproduction only married people are allowed to use.

Wisdom Mrs Wisłocka wanted to pass on to ordinary people has not evolved much over decades, as some concepts are everlasting:
- making love should not be associated with fear nor pain (leave out S&M now),
- there is no evil in drawing pleasure from sex, but equally important is to strive for your partner’s (especially woman’s) pleasure, give them respect and know limits they have set,
- sex life involves responsibility for your partner and yourself and realising consequences it may have,
- sexuality is an embodiment of love as an emotion and ought not to be boiled down to coarse lusts; only embedding in emotionality can guarantee fulfilment in sex life.

And at the end of the day, youngsters starting the sex life should bear in mind one universal sentence: Whatever you do, do prudently and mind the outcome.

The next step, which actually I should have taken before watching the film, is coming by the book by Mrs Wisłocka and reading it from cover to cover. Shame on me, I will be catching up with some overdue education and thus remind myself the value of lifelong learning in every realm of life.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Spanish break

The very moment I learnt I was assigned to travel to Spain in business I knew I had been given the opportunity to combine the business trip with some private sightseeing and cheaply overstay there (flight back paid by the New Factory anyway plus I was eligible for abroad travel allowances) for a few days and I seized it!

The last decade of January was maybe not a perfect period for tourism, but as the old saying goes, never look a horse gift in a mouth. Central part of Spain has warm continental climate, but in winter it means it seldom rains, sunshine is abundant, but temperature fluctuations are high. Mornings (sunrise after 8:00 a.m.) on many days were frosty or with temperature little above zero while in the afternoon (the warmest moment of the day around 3:00 p.m.) temperature could reach nearly +15C, so temperature could soar by fifteen degrees within five hours. Fortunately, over the week spent there, only one day was partly rainy.

Getting to Spain regardless of the season is generally easy and rather inexpensive. Choice of low-cost and regular flights is decent. Polish Airlines (PLL LOT) operate one return flight per day to Madrid, besides, Lufthansa offers several flights each day with transfers in Frankfurt or Munich whose duration is around an hour and a half higher than of LOT-operated direct flights. For business-related reasons I had to opt for Lufthansa connection via Frankfurt, the airline in terms of being class of its own, way superior to PLL LOT.

Accommodation in Madrid at this time of year is cheap, with prices of hotel rooms comparable to rates offered in Warsaw. A two-night stay with breakfasts included in a two-star hotel for the business part of my trip set the New Factory back EUR 125, while for overstaying I booked a room in one of well-located (less than ten metro stations from the city centre) Ibis Budget one-star hotels for less than EUR 45 per night & breakfast. Depending on the city, prices soar in March and decline in October (with Barcelona being the most dreadful example), but if you look out well, finding a double room with breakfasts in a cheap (yet clean) hotel for EUR 50 should not be out of reach.

In terms of transport, Spain can boast of very decent infrastructure, although it has to be noted the country fell into the trap of over-investments co-funded by the EU. The biggest flop were toll roads built under PPP scheme whose operators (who had underestimated traffic volumes) struggle to make ends meet and service loans taken out to finance those projects. The very Madrid has excellent system of underground trains (Metro) consisting of 12 lines which can take you to nearly any part of the city. To get about Madrid I purchased right away a Tourist Pass, a ticket valid for 7 days around Spain’s capital, including airport ticket zone for EUR 35.40. Not extremely cheap by Warsaw standards, yet giving a lot of comfort to a frequent traveller. To travel around Spain, I recommend ALSA buses – journey durations are longer than by ultra-expensive trains, but the price makes up for this (my return ticket from Madrid to Toledo cost me less than EUR 10).

For the record – inhabitants of Spanish cities are skilful drivers when it comes to parallel parking – they can fit their cars into gaps wider less than half a metre than length of their vehicle… The art I will probably never master (although I easily park a car between two other vehicles so that you can’t open door on any side).

I would find it hard to put up with and get accustomed to work style Spanish people have (but most of them do not enjoy it) – they tend to stay long hours in the office (many work from nine to nine) regardless of how much work they need to complete, take long afternoon breaks (also in the winter), but their working efficiency is low, also because they come up with manifold time-fillers, such as numerous meetings and calls. In Poland a reasonable boss in a corporation expects from their employees to get their done and if they are able to make it within eight hours, they can knock on at 9:00 a.m. and call it a day at 5:00 p.m. In Spain, it is unthinkable, even if you are at the loose end…

The language barrier was not a shock to me. I had known well Spanish people are positioned at the very bottoms of rankings of command of foreign languages. Nevertheless, the phenomenon is astonishing in a country which to a large extent lives off tourism. Over those days I had to harness Google Translator to take a crash course in basic Spanish and the upshot was that in many situations I talked in English while my interlocutors responded to me in Spanish. Generally, if you open your mouth and speak English, expect to behold dread on your interlocutor’s face. Chances of communicating (and nothing beyond it, since quality of English used in Spain is abhorrent) are the highest in tourist areas and with young people (the country’s authorities have recognised the problem and have put emphasis on linguistic education of youngsters). Even workers of international corporations have problems speaking decent English, make lots of mistakes, come up with words being a mixture of Spanish and English and often sincerely admit they need to omit part of they want to say since they do not know how to say it in English… In this respect I am proud of Poland!

It would be a gross understatement to say I am not a gourmet, yet I regardless of my indifference to what I eat and inability to take delight in tasting, I have not grown fond of Spanish cuisine. Some claim Spanish food is hearty. For me it is simply stodgy. Had no problems with my digestive system after any meal, yet I felt my stomach was chock full of stuff I had gorged on. Apart from shunning light meals (which is kind of strange given weather they have to endure in summer) they tend to eat small breakfasts (which was reflected in quantities and choice of food produces served for breakfasts in hotels), sizeable lunches and huge suppers. Exactly the other way round than how I prefer to eat (large breakfast, decent lunch, small last meal at least 3 hours before falling asleep).

Sights-wise, the biggest attraction was the trip to Toledo. The city is magnificently picturesque, yet strolling around it requires some fitness, since you constantly walk either uphill or downhill. The weather the day I visited it was perfect despite large temperature swing from frost to +14C.

To the right – the city’s most famous tourist attraction – the cathedral on a sunny midday.

And one more snap – a view to the other, southern bank of the river surrounding the city. Absolutely splendid.

If you want to visit (tick off) all sights in Madrid, two days might be fair enough, yet if you are fond of arts and history and want your trip to be more conscious, reserve two more days. During my stay I visited only the most renowned Prado Museum. If you want to see all painting exhibited there and contemplate them, a day-long visit is probably recommended. Me, not being an art connoisseur, dashed through the collections during the two-hour free admission open-doors period in the evening.

Because of understaffing in the office, the next holiday break is planned for… hell knows when, but sadly not before long… For the time being I’m down with some throat infection and fever, working from home next week.