Don’t pay the price of earning a decent salary at a job that costs you your health.
It was an inauspicious beginning to my new editorship position with my former employer.
“I’m not saying you can’t take your kids for lunch on Saturdays,” my former employer said prior to me accepting the offer.
If you can believe it, the editor was making a concession. The intentions were loud and clear: no weekends, and no holidays came with the contract. It was not a 9 to 5 job.
The reasoning: the agreement was not an employment contract. It was a service contract. Essentially, I was a company rendering services and not an employee.
Regardless of that definition, the employer did not want me to have weekends and holidays off, and daily work schedules.
I was in between jobs and it paid well, a mistake- don’t be fooled by money- the excitement dissipates pretty quickly, only to be replaced by despair.
I assumed that my former employer can’t be serious and that I would change their mind later, and I did. But it came at the expense of my health and eventually my job. Well, my service contract.
To test my willingness to sacrifice my life I had to work voluntarily 3 weekends prior, without pay. It was a way to introduce me to the work culture. “Hey, can you get on Zoom to discuss ….,” that Zoom call went on for hours on end on weekends prior to signing off.
At first, I believed in the product and the future of it. I believed in my employer as well. How couldn’t I? Every person I knew, they knew. Every place I ever visited, they had beat me to it. Every sport I did, they had done it. You get the idea. Been there… done that.
Day one at work, I was so busy I forgot to eat lunch. Day two, I remembered but I didn’t have time. From there on, I canceled lunches. My dinner was usually interrupted by a long WhatsApp where I had to communicate about business plans.
So, early on, I started hating dinners, until I also started hating breakfasts, when my mobile was chirping with text and voice messages as early as 5 a.m. of something urgent that needed to be done. Most of the time, the urgency turned out to have hardly any impact on anything or anyone.
How anxiety crippled in?
I am an early riser. I like my quiet mornings with my Nescafe and cats sitting by my side. But not with receiving long nervous and tense voice message after the other. Even my kitties began to notice. They cherished their quiet mornings too. They began to look at me like I am a stranger. They then gave up, chose another corner of the house where it was quieter. I never blamed them for that.
Many more voice WhatsApps arrived during the day, but that’s normal. Only it wasn’t normal. I could tell there was growing tension in the air. The voice carried with it hints of anger and disappointment about every comma, period, title, email communication to PR, freelancers, companies, everyone, images used, sources for stories, stories written, style of writing, everything, you name it.
It did not matter that I brought over 20 years editorial and digital expertise. The daily barrage of discontent, undermining my character and know-how, stretched over to the weekends, and holidays, over almost a 2-year period.
My employer suffered from ‘Trust and Anger’ issues and the first ignited the second, most of the time.
There were always ulterior motives to what I did: “Why are you promoting this company?”. “Why did you interview this company? I can get you a job there, if that’s what you want?” I was merely interviewing top companies to increase visibility.
I had by now, discussed with the employer how no one within their right mindset would work 24/7 and that holidays and vacations are unavoidable to build a team.
They agreed by not objecting. But that didn’t stop after hour or holiday requests. “Can we post this, please?” My answer to that was not going to be “It’s the weekend, it’s New Year, sorry”. That would have brought more calamities and I would never hear the end of it.
Then came accusations.
My experience was tough. I learnt never work with perfectionists, especially when the team is miniscule and the job entailed multi-tasking and doing the job of at least five other people, on your own.
My job title was managing editor, while in fact I was translator, editor, writer, subeditor, researcher, technical error repairman, trainer, recruiter, publisher, and even psychologist, the latter function dictated by the need to listen to endless monologues and assuaging people’s ambitions and anxieties.
I can go on. There is so much more.
However, I did pay the price of working with the company: I saw my health degrade over time. I now take more medication than before, for blood pressure, sugar levels, and depression, though I am now weaning myself of those.
Finally, I implore everyone to examine the personality(ies) you are working with. Stay away from people with massive egos, who like to talk about themselves with little regard to you. They are trouble.
Money is not everything, after all. It’s a trap!
Editor’s Note: Views expressed in this piece belongs to the author. Names of the company and characters involved has been hidden for privacy reasons.
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