By Fareeha Qayoom
ome jobs are boring. I have had my share over the years…each time, I have been in a boring job, I would think to myself, “never again – I have got to escape as soon as possible”; which I would to land back in the same place yet again at another place. Contrary to popular opinion, most people work for job satisfaction as well as money. High salary is no compensation for a boring job.
Most jobs get boring after you master the skills required to perform them. Some are boring to begin with for example, I have stuffed envelopes and counted stacks of shares and bonds (my first job as an internee at a multinational bank!), filed paper, cut out fabrics, reviewed lab dips, made packages for mailroom, reviewed submits for sampling and production approval, measured garments, did data entry for tracking reports and purchase orders (as an assistant merchandiser); or listened to a couple of ex-bosses pontificate for hours at an end (as middle and senior manager) and washed dishes, ironed clothes and cut vegetables (at home). They never get better whatever your skill level. There is no mental challenge to begin with.
I think there are a couple of reasons for this phenomenon.
One, most workplaces are run by men and they actually do not respect women deep down where it matters – they think women are airheads, dumb blondes and deserve (and can only cope with) tedious, repetitive and monotonous types of no-brainer jobs – their only function is to look decorative and earn a little bit of pocket money while they fill in a little time before they can get married. If they are already married, those same men think, oh, the little woman probably has loads of time on her hands or her hubby keeps her short of cash and she wants to earn a little extra. They are never encouraged to contribute in things that really matter at work or climb the career corporate ladder, they are also paid less than a man would in the same job – the glass ceiling is very much alive and kicking. Women are frequently patronized, belittled and disrespected in Pakistan’s corporate world. The women who actually want to work opt to be doctors or teachers or assistants to the real power in the management or go in the business for themselves (by opening up a boutique or a dress shop or doing something equally frivolous or feminine sounding!). They can never be management. If they end up being management by some rare fluke, you would discover that they are either close relatives of management or moneyed in their own right and have bought a share in the business or they are actually the business owners. (No, I am not being negative!)
Two, most business owners have a fine contempt for their workforce; it doesn’t matter to them if their employees are men or women. (I am talking about local companies, not multi-nationals). There is no such thing as a human resource department at such places. Most HR officers are actually finance and admin people who are lumped with the HR label as well. There are no human resource management practices in play. Most workplaces actually put their human resources last in their list of priorities. Labor is cheap. You can get twenty people tomorrow to fill in a single vacancy so who needs staff who wants to be treated a little better? Pay scales don’t fit skill levels. You don’t get time off or leave encashment; some workplaces actually offer no benefits except your basic salary. There is no bonus, provident fund, medical or indeed gratuity at the end of a long stint. They also expect loyalty and two hundred percent output, twenty four seven, three sixty five days a year. Funnily enough, we have laws in place that are supposed to safeguard worker rights. The problem is enforcement of such laws. Blowing a whistle doesn’t help either. Whistle blowers become un-employable.
In Pakistan, you are supposed to be grateful that you have a job and endure all else for a paycheck at the end of each month. Wanting something better is the height of ungratefulness. So what if you have to sit on a broken chair, or work in a cluttered, shabby or downright grubby workspace, or endure sharing your workspace with at least twenty people in a confined and congested, noisy, poor ventilated high traffic work area, or share a dirty restroom with at least twenty members of staff, no lunch breaks (or staff recreation room where you can actually take a break!), an obsolete computer system that frequently breaks down, or allowed only two cups of tea a day or work in a place that allows flies and mosquitoes and live mice have a run of the place including staff kitchen and what not. Staff at such places is frequently dissatisfied, sullen and unhappy. Mediocrity and maintaining the status quo is the only priority. Creativity, innovation and new ideas are discouraged. The atmosphere is tense and unhappy. No, I am not exaggerating. In fact, I am understating if anything. I have seen worse.
For the first twelve years of my working life, I worked at a few multinationals so I actually never discovered the difference until much later but believe me I learnt. It’s like comparing a cosmopolitan city with an insular village.
Multinationals at least sweeten the bitter pill. They are a bit better. There is ventilation and light, nice office space and environment in a central exclusive location, high speed internet, new technology and system tools when and if required, clean rest rooms, reasonable vacation time, leave encashment, bonuses, gratuity and provident fund, petrol allowance and best of all, your salary gets paid on time. The pay scales fit the skill levels. You get annual increments and bonuses and there are other perks of the job as well. You also get annual appraisals and get promoted too even if you are woman. And yes, there are rules, even if the boss considers the place his personal fiefdom, he is answerable to somebody higher up so merit is still allowed to play a role in the larger scheme of things and political maneuvering is not the only way to the top. No wonder, most people prefer working at the multi-nationals if they can possibly help it.
Some jobs are poorly designed and do not offer variety, a degree of autonomy or indeed a challenge no matter your position. However, most jobs do require a degree of professionalism and commitment, basic management skills and common sense. If you are stagnating and there is no opportunity to move up or sideways, look for another job. If you can’t change jobs, use the tools of the trade productively in your favor.
I usually read – there are eBooks and news websites not to mention countless websites on hundreds of topics that might interest you. However, most workplaces frown on doing anything productive with your downtime. (They probably want you to be miserable!) Your co-workers might also get jealous if they see you engaged in anything productive not related to work. They might report you to management. So do be careful and don’t advertize your down-time activities. Also most workplaces can track your computer activities, so make sure you are not spending time at Facebook or YouTube or Gaming sites at work.
At all costs, protect your brain from atrophying or getting stuck in a rut. By the way, boring jobs sap your creativity and mentally fatigue you. You become depressed without knowing it and nothing seems interesting anymore. You stop taking interest in your hobbies, your family and friends or even in normal every day activities…at the end of the day, everything becomes a major effort. When you get home, you just want to flop down somewhere and not move if you can help it. You might also become irritable, pick fights with little or no provocation and usually snap at family and friends and are generally lethargic at weekends. Bottom line, boring job is detrimental to your mental health. Change it as soon as possible. ■