IT Employment optimize

10 things I don't miss about traditional employment

Giving up a regular job in favor of self-employment can be quite satisfying -- especially when you look back at all the things you no longer have to deal with.

A good job can be hard to find. Even innovative companies with good wages and policies can turn your life upside down without notice. I've learned, through my own mistakes and sometimes through the actions of others, that traditional employment isn't for me. I'm not against it. I've worked for some wonderful companies and learned some great lessons from a few inspiring individuals. Just the same, I said goodbye to the traditional rat race 15 years ago. Here are a few of the things I definitely do not miss.

1: The daily grind

Sundays can be the worst day of the week, falling under the pall of I have to go back to that place tomorrow. Once things get this bad, regardless of who's at fault, there's no remedy. When this happened to me, I did what most people do: I went job hunting.

2: The commute

I shouldn't drive first thing in the morning. I'm just not alert enough to fend off the chick who's applying makeup while trying to cut me off, the guy behind me who's on his cellphone and riding my as... bumper, and the old lady in front who's afraid to turn left. Oh crap! I just spilt my Starbucks all over myself! The only thing worse than morning rush hour is afternoon traffic. You get it coming and going.

3: The water cooler

Even good companies with generous employee benefits and innovative personnel policies have a gossip mill. If you're seen conversing with known gossips, you get a reputation as a troublemaker, even if you don't deserve it. What's worse is being overheard trying to convince the real gossips that they're mistaken. Generally, the eavesdropper runs off to tattle before hearing your counterattack.

4: The surprises

Good news folks! We're moving the company! The climate and standard of living won't change a bit! Liars. Or how about We're transferring you to the downtown office; they really need your expertise right now. That's code for, the boss's girlfri... assistant hates your guts because you improved the work order system that appeared to keep her busy for hours (so she didn't have to do anything else). My favorite was We need you to take on this project. No one else can handle it. That's Carnegie BS for everyone with seniority has already said no.

Lest you accuse me of not being a team player, that's not true. I'm just not keen on turning my life upside down without sound business reasons. Catering to the whims of others was never in any of my job descriptions.

5: The politics

Working hard and doing a good job isn't always enough to get ahead. In some companies, you have to play the game. If you can't maneuver well in the office political arena -- you can't or won't play basketball with the big boys -- you might not get ahead. Office politics aren't always bad, but if you're not skilled, it's best to stay out of the game.

I'm not implying that a failed political strategy is always the culprit. Just because you do a great job doesn't mean you should be the boss. Some life lessons hurt; ask me how I know.

6: The drama

There's at least one drama queen in every company. They're unable to do their jobs due to circumstances beyond their control, but they're quick to point out your mistakes -- even when there aren't any. Their boss mistreats them, but they sure love your boss! Everyone knows they have more work to do than anyone else does, because they tell you so. In short, they make a lot of noise and create unnecessary distractions. They're a drain on morale and production. How they keep their jobs is a mystery (see #5).

7: The overtime

Overtime can be great, unless you're a salaried employee. Then, you belong to your employer. Your life outside the office takes second place to the company's needs. Some salaried employees make a lot of money, but when you figure in their time, the hourly wage shrinks considerably.

8: The sexual tension

In most any group, a romantic couple will emerge. Trying to hide the obvious makes everyone uncomfortable. Is it safe to go into the copy room? When one or both is cheating on a spouse, it's worse. If the relationship is between a superior and a subordinate who doesn't want the attention, it's downright ghastly. (I'm not against office romance, just the seedier side of things.)

9: The committees

Committees where members work toward a common goal for the company are a good thing. Committees that protect individuals from having to use good judgment aren't. Employee-led committees with authority delegated by a weak boss aren't much better. Change for business reasons is necessary; change to suit individual personalities is usually bad for morale.

10: The lack of control

Some positions come with limited opportunities. It's not the company or the employee, it's the nature of the position. Job satisfaction can be fleeting, if not downright impossible in such a position. If you're lucky, you can propose changes that are beneficial to both you and the company. Often, the company just wants you to twist widgets, so you try to be the best widget-twister the company's ever seen while you look for a better job, just in case nobody notices.

What else?

Have you left traditional employment behind? What factors led to that decision -- and what aspects of that environment are you happy you don't have to deal with anymore?

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

26 comments
jschnei
jschnei

Another thing I do not miss is the non-productive time spent in " all staff" meetings, various office staff celebrations and, oh, earthquake and fire drills, mandatory trainings etc. I understand that office culture and team-building may need those sort of social events but really, I just want to get the work done and for that reason, when I'm working at my home office and billing a customer for my time, they are getting ALL my time, and I think that's good for both of us.

Gabby22
Gabby22

... or that's what they were called when I worked in Government, but I know from discussions that big organisation have something similar, and smaller businesses have other demands that are different but also suck time. These are situations where you are constantly asked to contribute to higher-ups trying to justify their position by wasting the time of those below them. Concentrating on your job is much more pleasant. Andrew

mwclarke1
mwclarke1

you must have been employed back then at the same Company I was, sounds too familiar. Unfortunately I am still.... The biggest issue is being exempt/Salaried, Companies expect anyone in IT to work all weekends, Holidays, after hours, and been back the next morning on time, Do it all for free, no comp, nothing, nada. Back before getting started in IT 30years ago, I made more being hourly getting overtime, took many, many years to get to the same level of compensation being Salaried which only pays off if in a top tier position or perusing a management career. I am not strongly looking into many other opportunities, even if have to cut back a good bit. Something either doing Consulting and/or other work besides IT/Corporate work.

DOSlover
DOSlover

Another for the list is people who do nothing but hang around in the office a lot get credited with their 'commitment', while those who are actually high performers and efficient and manage their time well and get out of the office to network get degraded in the mindset of those in upper management. The other one is people who spend their every waking moment on the phone being seen as hard working while those that actually go and assess issues with clients at thier sites with minimal phone usage again get seen as 'joy riders' never in the office. Performance and efficiency again being derided by attendance.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Forgot to mention the boss or the fact that you are getting paid but it's not yours to keep. On the other hand, advantages of working for a company includes steady work [i.e. not unemployed for weeks or months - try this if you have a family], being with coworkers/friends, benefits [yes some may be covered by some plan but not as cheap], etc.

tomatsalvair
tomatsalvair

Hi. Good article. I would add "Constant Interruptions," but your article tends to list some of them individually. Working at home, I get 200% more done than if I was in an office. When I do visit an office, I am keenly aware of all the interruptions; e.g. people bored with their jobs who stop by to chat with me to fill up a portion of their day, before they move on to the next victim, or folks who carry the water cooler with them so they can get digs in on others where ever they happen to be. Another might be the "Never-ending Committee Meetings," which usually follow a formula of: chatting for 5-10 meetings after the meeting start time, going over prior meeting minutes in which nothing was accomplished, talking about the goals of the committee, opening up to ideas on how to try to get something done, quickly dousing that with water to chat more, review this meeting's minutes, and schedule the next meeting.

SpiritualMadMan
SpiritualMadMan

This falls under the lack of control heading. As a civil service programmer dealing with ATE, I remain amazed at the amount of inertia on contracting and just generally getting things done. While tasked to maintain and support the vendor supplied product we can not specify which language they use, just the host OS, or what if any third party add-ins. So, after six months, they finally admit to using "x" add-in when we thought they were using "y"! After several months of learning "y" which is completely different than "x'. But, guess whose fault it is if the project is late? Talk about lack of control!

troubleshooter_ru
troubleshooter_ru

Traditional employment can provide a very good base of knowledge about internal business mechanisms, if your company, of course, will stick with you while you'are a roundest zero in the crowd.

uwishtoo
uwishtoo

For me it was more out of necessity then anything. When I got laid off in 2008 I tried to look for a job but I was overqualified for alot of places - but what they really meant was that I was too old for them. I was 51. With a BA in Accounting and Business Administration I just simply couldn't find a job in the Phx Metro area. I ended up losing everything, my house, my car and savings. Once I lost my car I was no longer able to go to professional interviews dressed properly so I rode my motorcycle and wore dress slacks and was able to fix my hair before I went in. But that was a disadvantage also since I wasn't dressed in heels and dresses (and please don't tell me I should have taken the bus or a cab - a cab ride from where I live to central Phx was a minimum of 60 dollars each way) When they did ask if I had reliable transportation and I said yes I have a motorcycle they told me I couldn't get to work in 120 degree weather or the rain. (REALLY? I rode year round for a year and a half in all weather) I finally got a temp job doing data entry for the Census 2010 project and I stayed til the end and got back on my feet a little then went back on unemployment. Again I tried to look for a job and nothing! So I basically took a break from the frustration of looking for a job for 6 months and enjoyed my time off with my lower expenses in a new place to live. I put an ad on Craigslist and some gal that owns an accounting business contacted me back in early 2011 and I met with her and started sub contracting for her, I still do her monthly clients that she passed onto me and I get more work every month. Then I finally got some clients of my own. I work when I want to and I don't when I don't want to. If I get a client of my own that is a pain I can tell them to buzz off in a heartbeat. Bottom line? I will never make 100 K like I used to but that's ok, I don't need it or the headaches, 70 hour work weeks and long commutes that come with it. Plus it's really nice to go to work in jeans and tank tops or shorts and none of my clients blink an eye. I don't plan on ever going back to full time traditional work.

PeterSS
PeterSS

1. Regular pay coming in. 2. Job security - depending on your role/business of course, but contractors more likely to get laid off before permanent staff. 3. Friendships - harder to build good friendships if only on short-term contracts. 4. Paid holiday, sick leave, compassionate leave etc. 5. Any additional benefits, such as contributory pension, gym membership, staff discounts etc. 6. The commute - can be an advantage as well - some contractors have to travel a lot further to find work.

crcgraphix
crcgraphix

people just don't like you, because of your IQ level. And, that my friend is and can only be described as The Law of Disambiguation / or / The Law of Diversity .. where either on the first account nothing is attained in the metal state, but on the second account all conjectures therein and to the first account, and anything opposing it there of .. also the unlikeness factor by Hegel, who was associated with Kantt and many others in Epistemological Theorem.

brf531
brf531

Regarding "8: The sexual tension", I always followed advice from one of my mentors in my very first full-time job: "Never shop for honey where you get your bread."

rfernan
rfernan

Nasty clients that call up irrespective of the hour of the day, time zone or situation. Corporations or companies are generally viewed as machines and the employees as insignificant cogs in wheel. So if you are in sales or 24x7 support, it is generally to be interpreted as 24x7 pain-in-the-neck for anyone who is or was someone to the customer... Process, process everywhere, nor any process to help- even the simplest of tasks are circumvented by an elaborate process which serves NOBODY and (take this) not even the cause of documentation. Prime example; "I need the air conditioning to be turned down please. It's giving everybody in my team a headache." "Please raise a helpline call, and the concerned engineer will get back to you shortly. The response time for this call is 5 days. In the meanwhile, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for any help with your issue. " Day 5- 10 fatalities to pneumonia

kwickset
kwickset

Working hard for a company is like peeing in your pants. It gives you a nice warm feeling and if your pants are black nobody will notice.

nyexpat
nyexpat

Just wondering how all of you pay for health insurance (if you have it). With two kids and a husband that's also self employed (beat me to the punch) I don't think it's feasible. (he has a "pre-existing" condition)

sissy sue
sissy sue

Thanks Susan! Great article! I entered the contracting world in 1988 and have never looked back. What a sense of fulfillment I've had by providing my own benefits and being paid only when I work! I've worked for many different organizations and many different industries. It's been an exciting career. I am a few years away from retirement now, and my current challenge is "Should I continue contracting for this company and go out with a whimper, or should I make a change and go out with a bang?"

ssharkins
ssharkins

Not for me -- I've had a number of jobs that I hated and a few that I truly enjoyed. I looked forward to going to work. The work was challenging and interesting, the people were professional, helpful, and in some cases, even inspiring. I've only had a couple of jobs that made me want to weep come Sunday afternoon... but I have had that experience and it's a miserable way to live.

donallsop
donallsop

"I have to go back to that place tomorrow." Aren't all jobs like that? I never experienced anything different...

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

The agreement when I was hired was that if they started working me more than 48 hours per week for more than 4 consecutive weeks, or more than half the year, I immediately go on hourly wage at a rate higher than I was getting salaried. I'm a professional I.S. person, not a wage slave.

ssharkins
ssharkins

Wow... that was all rather cruel, but I'm so glad you've bounced back! Working less and enjoying life more is a good way to live!

ssharkins
ssharkins

Nothing wrong with traditional employment. :)

sissy sue
sissy sue

what do you intend to do if your employer pulls the rug from under your feet by letting you go? This happens all the time in our current economic situation. Will it throw you for a loop? When those who are traditionally employed lose their jobs, they often act as if the worst thing in the world has happened to them. When you are a contractor, being "let go" is a common experience. You are not intimidated by it, but seek the next assignment with gusto and enthusiasm.

ssharkins
ssharkins

Providing health insurance for your family is a huge concern. I know many who pay more for insurance than their mortgage, and then, they have huge deductibles. I've known people who couldn't leave traditional employment because of a someone's existing health issue. I don't have any good answers.

ssharkins
ssharkins

Sounds like a good deal for you -- I'm glad you were able to negotiate that!

brf531
brf531

The answer is simple: Health insurance that is not connected to an employer. That is what is done (in one form or another) in all advanced democracies except the U.S..

sissy sue
sissy sue

There is health insurance out there for the independent. Those who are considering self-employment or contracting just need to do a little research. I've been with my current insurer since I started contracting in 1988. I think that it is outrageous that health insurance is usually tied to an employer in the US. Were the unions the ones who forced this "benefit" down the throats of US employees by negotiating for it? If so, they did their members no favor. Health insurance concerns force many people to stay in employment situations that are miserable for them. I have a friend who is almost 61. He was laid off from the retail job that he had held for 13 years and now he has no health insurance. Moreover, due to his age, he is not an attractive candidate for further full-time employment. If he had carried his own health insurance, this would not be a problem. Health insurance should not be tied to employment. An adult should never let anyone provide for him what he should be providing for himself.