I don’t want to talk politics on my blog but a large part of my freedom I enjoy and the life I have chosen stems from my career choice. I haven’t chosen the career that pays most, I haven’t chosen the most impressive.
I have chosen the one that gives me the most freedom from the demands of others.
The work place can be a mine-field. A few weeks ago it was Donald Sterling, now it’s Richard Scudamore. Two people at the top of the sporting profession who have made the mistake of talking freely in private conversation in the workplace. Well, when I say talking freely, I mean saying things that we all don’t like. You’d think at their position that they’d know they are not allowed to do this.
Just so we’re all on the same page, what did Richard Scudamore actually say. In company emails to a friend he reportedly:
Made innuendo involving women. About a game of golf his friend was having with a woman he made some reference to her ‘polishing his shaft’ or something.
Said women are irrational or some such.
Passed on a joke which included the words ‘big-titted broad’
It’s one of the reasons (office politics) I left my career to become a contractor. Since I did I’ve never looked back. As I type this, I am at my home in the UK, the sun is out, the breeze is flowing through my conservatory, I am sipping a fruity drink and later I have a friend calling round for Sundowners. We’ll talk, sing and play a little guitar.
The life of a contractor is thus: Work for a pre determined period of time, say 3-6 months, get paid an extraordinary amount (remember though, you have to support yourself and cover all bills while you are out of contract), take time off (could be weeks, could be months) to do what you want while you look for a new contract.
The benefits are:
1) More money.
2) Lots of time off.
3) Freedom from career pressures.
4) When you start paying top tax bracket (you end up working more days for the Government than for yourself) you just stop working.
So back to Scudamore and Sterling. I remember two years ago working for a big company in London. I had roughly the following conversation.
– Are you coming for work drinks this Friday, have you been given a pass?
Me – What’s a pass?
– Has your girlfriend said you’re allowed to come out?
Me – I’m a grown man. I decide what I am allowed to do.
– I think you’ll find your girlfriend is the boss.
Me – My girlfriend tends to defer to my judgement if anything. In our gang, I suppose I’m the leader.
– That’s really sexist. You should join Al Qaeda.
Me – I am 36 and a man, she is 23 and a girl. She sort of sees me as being the senior. It’s one of the reasons she likes me. She enjoys the guidance of a man.
I’d accidentally, in an unguarded moment, said something sexist. I hadn’t meant to be sexist. I’d let my guard down in the workplace. I didn’t even realize while I said it that it was sexist. While possibly not quite at the extremes of Donald Sterling (admittedly racism not sexism) and Richard Scudamore’s comments, I had made a similar mistake to them – I hadn’t watched carefully what I had said.
A few days later I was called into my manager’s office, I was told I’d been complained about for being sexist and that I’d have to watch it going forward. I was on a warning.
It’s hard to know what we’re allowed to say and what we are not and there are quite a lot of grey areas. I also hadn’t said anything that wasn’t true. That makes it even harder. There’s a virtual rule book which tells you what you’re allowed to say, but you have to know the rules and even if you know them, grey areas can trip you up. Even some truths you’re not allowed to say. Also, as we see with Scudamore and Sterling, you can be in trouble for what you say in private with a friend too.
In office politics you have to know the game and the rules of the game change all the time and often at a person’s whim. What is fine on Monday with person A is a serious crime on Tuesday with person B.
Well, no thanks. The simplest solution is just to opt out.
And that’s how I ended up here. As a contractor I can turn up to a new place of work and only being there for 3 months, I’m largely excluded from the bickering and back stabbing. I can keep quiet as much as possible and just get by. I now contribute only as much as I absolutely must, what my duties demand and no more. As soon as I have made my money, I am out of there.
The downside is that there are a lot of ideas and qualities I could contribute that may never see the light of day. It’s not all roses, but on the whole, it’s the best solution for ME.
I have never looked back. It’s been one of the best decisions I have ever made.