When a job is not a career

By now you know that one of my most enjoyable habits is listening to recorded books on tape in the car, on the plane, in my kitchen, working outside in the yard, and in bed. I call this a habit because my friends tell me I am addicted.

I just returned Barbara Taylor Bradford’s newest novel dealing with her “Emma Hart” saga to my local library. A human resource director, one of the novel’s characters, hit a nerve as I listened to the story unfold by reminding me of a couple of my past job experiences. It is painful to be subjected to the nebulous viewpoint of somebody who has no clue about your talent range and, moreover, starts on a sabotage campaign.

Although dignity and respect begin with a job candidate's own self esteem, a sick workplace can erode those feelings — big time.

In the novel, the HR’s initial assessment of a job candidate had little to do with the woman’s outstanding resumé. There was something about the candidate that “just didn’t feel right.” Years ago, a former editor advised me to find a new profession, as he didn’t “feel” I had the stuff of a hard-hitting reporter —this after receiving several journalism awards to my credit. What’s more I looked up to the guy. Life’s lessons are infinite, to be sure. This one taught me to never allow somebody else to define me or kill my dreams.

In one of her columns, Liz Ryan, founder of Chicago Women in Technology, confirms that workers sometimes end up in jobs from hell through no fault of their own. “There are certain job situations that are brutal, wretched, ghastly, vile, untenable, and torturous,” she writes. “Sad to say, after many years in human resources, I’ve had to face up to the fact that there are companies that are just bad top to bottom. Even inside companies that are not all bad, there are bad divisions, bad departments, and even evil little workgroups of three people — sort of a miniscule slice of hell on all sides of you. When business is rough, many companies tend to throw the people stuff out the window.”
A key failing, as Ryan sees it, is that HR staffing is way down, and there are fewer people around to spot organizational and interpersonal problems and then address them. We wondered how the meat and poultry companies — fraught with all kinds of workplace challenges — shape themselves as desirable job sites. Allison Bardic on our staff spent months looking for the answer. Her findings, showcasing 12 firms devoted to achieving employee satisfaction, are published in this edition. I was intrigued and encouraged by the number of times the words “dignity” and “respect” come up in respondents’ answers.
Although dignity and respect begin with a job candidate’s own self esteem, a sick workplace can erode those feelings — big time.
I’m interested in your comments after you read our special “workplace” report, and don’t hold back. Constructive criticism is a welcome tool.