Part 1 How to Survive Work

Work out if your job just not that into you?


There is no question that workplaces have taken a perverse turn, and I mean that in its brutal Freudian sense. We live in a society where receiving chemotherapy means you’re fit for work and business school luminaries still use the word ‘leadership’ with a straight face


Woke up thinking I have a job. I get up, get dressed, commute, enter office, switch on computer. Semblance of a job but actually I’ve entered the Workplace Matrix. Things are not as they seem. I appear to be a teacher, I have bad shoes, my hair is frizzy and by the end of the day it will smell of young person hormones and gym shoes. Teacher: tick.


I get a salary and yet this morning I had to pull up a bit of carpet to find the 2 pound coin that fell there in a drunken jacket throwing situation, just so I could get the bus in. I’m not joking.


Low wages are a global economic problem heralded by the growth of temping, contractors and unwaged work. Although nobody ever dreams of working for Atos, over 1 million people work for ten agencies and over 50% of us work in part-time-fixed-term-outsourced-training-and-promotion-free jobs.   As a result, over 5 million people in the UK earn less than the living wage (ref) and two thirds of kids living in poverty have one adult in their family working for a living.


This is really bad news.

Economic Crisis

= precarious work + low wages

= working poor

= can’t afford to buy much

= drop in demand

= deeper economic crisis

= a vicious circle silly


The emotional consequences of low wages and crap jobs are sobering and real. We’ve got depression and anxiety, increased domestic violence and breakdown of relationships with many of us numbing the pain through drugs n booze.


Technically we’ve been in an abusive relationship with work. Did things we shouldnt have, said yes when we meant no and sleepless nights wondering is it me or is it you? I feel like I’ve been dumped by my own job.


Nothing to do with work?


It’s a bit weird to deny  that mental health is an occupational issue and that professionals like MPs and Judges are not vulnerable to mental health problems. Personally, I have always assumed that both professions have a higher prevalence of wearing adult nappies and collecting body hair in jars. Prejudiced maybe but consider the impact of a job that expects you to know you are right, show leadership with near-absolute conviction, lie publicly, remain loyal to late-capitalist institutions while spending most of your time working late and eating bar snacks alone.


That’s a checklist for a Jesus complex right there for you.


To deny professional vulnerability is an attempt to put a split between those that have mental health problems and those that don’t. Psychic apartheid. You don’t have to work in mental health to sense that when someone says they have never had any problems with mental health it could be a sign of being either highly defended or a bit of a thickie.


So how to get out of an abusive relationship with work?


In these recessionary precarious times, the first step out of an abusive work relationship is to drop the delusion and accept that my employer is just not that into me. Rather than continuing in a defenceless state like a young gazelle staring all Bambi eyed at the oncoming motorway traffic the first step to building your resilience is to work out what is actually going on and whether your job still has a pulse.


A failure to mourn the loss of the living wage and an economic system with a pulse means we’ve become zombies, career un-deads trying to hide from the sun light of economic realities. Denial is tempting. Fear – tick. Greed – tick. Bit o bullying – tick. Lies damned lies – tick.  Business. As. Usual.  But is it a tickedy tick tick of the pumping heart variety? Meetings are happening, emails are sent and stuff gets done but is that the sign of a living organisation or something just going through the motions?


Facing up to reality means mourning those things that have gone and there’s no way of softening the blow that mourning the loss of a good job hurts. It means letting go of the ideas and ideals that have propelled us into the office at 7am of a weekend.


Surviving work requires knowing the difference between what’s alive and what’s not, between what can be saved and what can’t. Having your fingers on the pulse of society doesn’t do much for the UK’s happiness agenda but gives you time to call a doctor before the big cardiac arrest of working life takes place.


Before you swallow your own tongue, this stuff works when denial doesn’t.


Admit it, you only come here for the laughs.


Surviving Work offers free and confidential resources for people who want to become more resilient either in or out of work. We have just set up the Surviving Work Library, a free resource by the real experts, people like yourself who are actually surviving work. There are podcasts, stories and mercifully short guides on how to survive work. All totally and utterly free and anonymous. We are not purveyors of magic solutions. Nor do we promise to make you thinner or richer. But we will help you survive work.

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