| ˌkærəˈlaɪnə |
Here is the story of Carolina in the workplace.
Carolina was this girl desperately seeking her own financial independence since she was very young. An excellent student who worked and studied hard through her university years and got a fully-qualified permanent job at the early age of 23. Selected as No.1 candidate for the job she achieved a top position. However, being young and unexperienced Carolina was allocated to work in a not exactly highly desirable area where she couldn’t do other than keep working hard and trying her best while she waited for a better life. On a more positive note, the great variety of managerial positions she undertook for years in that position gave her the knowledge and skills she would need later on, as well as some interesting viewpoints and good perspective to matters related to work-life balance.
Eleven long years later, following official work-life balance schemes as she was pregnant, she was gracefully granted a temporary job in the city where she would expect to live for the rest of her life. The circumstances being at this position that she was offered new coming vacancies in management which she wasn’t too keen on undertaking any more. It was high time she focused on her family!.
She was strongly encouraged though to take this position in management despite very clearly stating she would not be possibly able to fully engage for two obvious reasons: one baby and one toddler at home. Then on second thought Carolina refused the offer no sooner had she accepted full responsibility for the new managerial tasks.
It was crystal clear in her mind that she definitely would not be able to compromise, given the pressure she felt put on her, when her own personal stability was going through vulnerable times (with small kids and a marriage that was starting to fall apart) during one of the hardest financial recessions ever known. And then, for unexpected external reasons never even contemplated that temporary position in her dream job was taken away.
Inspired by Taylor Swift’s song here is the story of a Carolina in the workplace.
A year later, Carolina was finally able to hold an official permanent full time position in this same workplace and she then became involved in management. She worked hard for seven long years of financial crisis, divorce, childcare responsibilities and life changes of various kinds.
As it was her usual practice she always did her very best but problems started to grow bigger and bigger at her workplace every time she requested time off work for childcare or family matters, like doctors, family lawyers, mediation meetings or sick leaves due to pure exhaustion. Hard as she tried to juggle her responsibilities it never seemed to be enough in the office.
It all ended in continuous problems with handling childcare in the workplace to the point of her being forced to take a day off work to have her ten-year-old child tested in hospital for food intolerance. She later found out from higher supervisors that not only was Carolina officially entitled to look after her child in hospital but legally accountable for her parenting responsibilities. Totally unaware of that she followed her boss’s orders to ask for unpaid permission resulting in having a full day’s salary withdrawn from her bank account in the least favourable circumstances.
A turning point in Carolina’s work life.
Other childcare intransigence in the workplace:
- acrimonious disposition when leaving scheduled meetings at agreed time before pick-up school time
- unavailability to attend parents’ meetings when school required
- disagreement over working remotely when attending feverish kids, even under official childcare time-off permissions
- permission denied for 15-min brunch breaks (unpaid)
- unacknowledged unpaid online work done during (sick) leaves
- extra working hours ignored – like in extreme illnesses taking up work from delayed colleagues
- animosity towards her leaving the office 15 minutes before the time when her sick child needed picking up this afternoon
- unpaid and unacknowledged double shifts to attend corporate meetings in remote places
- reluctancy to authorise institutional training periods
- waiving compatible shifts in favour of incompatible shifts, disregarded
- part time being registered as full time child-sick leaves
- not to mention the ruthless references thrown in her face every minute in connection with her postpartum depression leave which, to top it all off, had been prescribed by higher rank supervisors.
It was never enough
Being an only parent, Carolina had always been encouraged by her closest colleague to stay strong and chin up for her kids’ sake. And because she had been wrapped up in work or work+children all these years, only at some point did it suddenly dawn on Carolina that there were unpaid permissions officially available for her, which in her 20+ years in the office she hadn’t actually applied for. Therefore not feeling exactly valued for her true efforts she started to make use of those privileges and began to ask for unpaid permissions for work life balance reasons, mainly related to family matters, every time she felt it necessary to do so.
This kept her going for a while despite the difficulties in the workplace, until minutes before an official visit one morning she was asked to leave her desk by her boss. Why this secretiveness in her own office always remained beyond her understanding but what she did understand that day though, was that it was about time she called for an official appointment to terminate her contract in management due to work-life balance disagreements. This was going to be the final turning point in Carolina’s work life or so she thought.
As from that moment Carolina meant to very simply do her most genuine job away from managerial tasks so she applied for a part-time position and tried to live happily with her family for ever after. However, what was round the corner for her was a long list of extreme case scenarios, like getting regularly summoned to attend staff meetings during non-working hours (for part-time employees), where Carolina felt fooled, denied, disrespected, intimidated and persecuted to name only a few. She got eventually taken to court by her former colleagues-in-management on unclear accusations related to her part-time position.
As one can imagine, the atmosphere at work was rather suffocating so the day Carolina left for good felt like a huge relief. That day, after skillful manoeuvering she had been requested by her boss to attend a surprise meeting-for-four in her former management office itself with their supervisor.
This supervisor must have been presented the facts in somehow peculiar ways as during the meeting Carolina was strongly invited to leave her workplace. To her perplexed eyes, Carolina was doing nothing but following fully institutionalised practices, being creative, and innovative. Within set boundaries she was trying to implement interesting actions already ongoing in other workplaces with long experience in the field. Yet again one more turn of the screw in Carolina’s life in the workplace. She wondered if it will all ever end.
Carolina then decided to let things be for a while and make the most of a gap year to redirect her profession. Then, only a short while before what was going to be an unprecedented total lockdown she took back her position at her usual workplace. With the express purpose of continuing to peacefully do her job away from the hustle she applied for a less closely allocated area. Yet again, to her surprise, this application was categorically rejected on false basis by the same bosses! And it was not until the fact that she was fully entitled to own that position could be proven by herself that she was finally allowed to occupy the vacancy in this new area.
All in all, the ups and downs of Carolina’s professional experience in her workplace have been long-lasting and exhausting and it hasn’t all been said. The problem is year after year, colleagues directly or indirectly involved from different angles have been basically only hearing ONE side of the story. Today, the story has been told by Carolina for those who may feel open and curious as well as willing to have some good perspective and a little consideration before leaping up to conclusions.