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Sometimes, I hate my job

I originally meant to write up this post last week, but I was simply too exhausted to do anything productive.

I usually keep my work life and home/private life separate, and since I consider this blog a part of my private life, I’ve chosen not to talk about it much here. That’s partially because I don’t want my work life to seep much into my private life, but it’s also because I work with clients and potential clients I don’t wish to reveal the identities of (this is mainly major corporations that I don’t want to either sue me for revealing “secrets” behind the scenes, or that I don’t want to piss off in a way that might cause them to drop us as a supplier). But sometimes, I have to rant out in the open.

Because sometimes, I really hate my job. I bet you sometimes do, too. Not in general, though. It’s mainly those little moments where you’re doing something that goes largely unappreciated. Even those “invisible” tasks you do; tasks that you know in the back of your mind that you have to do, tasks you have trained yourself to do through experience over a long time in the same job. I say that these small tasks are “invisible” in the sense that even though you do them on a regular basis, nobody at work seem to notice that they are being done, or people think you’re not doing your job.

And with these “invisible” tasks, colleagues sometimes just “naturally” assume that you’re doing things that are not work-related. And when they do catch me in the small moments where I do something that is not work-related, they just assume that this is what I always do instead of working. Problem is, these small moments of not-work is what I squeeze into my work day to keep my sanity. If I hadn’t “disconnected” from work things during short moments of my work day, I imagine that I’d some day in the near future just stay in bed, crying in the fetal position, instead of coming to work. And I don’t want that.

Being a system administrator (and the only system administrator this company has), I generally live with the feeling of always being “on duty”, even when I’m on vacation.

Yes, I know I usually come in late for work, and don’t always stay at the office for a full workday. But the fact that I’m constantly in fear of being called up for assistance with work, even when I’m “off the clock”. Some mornings, I get called from the office, asking when I’ll be in, and these calls often come either while I’m in the bathroom or while I’m preparing to go catch the bus. First, I never take calls while I’m in the bathroom, unless it’s an emergency. Second, if I have to answer a call while I’m on my way to catch the bus, I run the risk of not catching that bus, which means I’ll have to wait for the next bus if I don’t catch it. In the residential area where I live, that means waiting another 40 minutes. Sometimes, the office calls me 3-5 times in a row (while I’m in the bathroom), just to ask whether or not (or when) I’ll be at the office, which triggers me to sometimes ignore it when the office only calls once (or there’s just one unanswered call when I return to my phone). And when I say that “the office” calls, I mean there’s only one of my colleagues who does this. That colleague is also berating me for not answering my phone, even though I’ve been giving off signals about not calling unless there’s a real emergency. I’ve tried telling my colleague to not call unless there’s an actual emergency, and rather send me a text message if he really wants something. In this, I’m implying the moral behind the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, but this doesn’t seem to get through, for some reason.

As mentioned, I usually come in late for work, but I also stay at the office later in the day, a few hours after the others have gone home. Not because I’m required to, but mainly because it’s necessary. When our two main software developer needs to release a web application to one of our test sites (for external testing), they seem assume that this takes only the process of uploading the update package to the test site server, and that’s it (which would only take a few minutes). But instead, I know with myself that this is not the case.

Releasing a web application takes more than just a few steps between receiving the software package from the developers, and the actual release. I have to make changes to the software package, including comparing and transferring configuration settings from the previously-released web application (ie. the one that needs to be replaced), while keeping newly introduced settings from their release package. I also have to ensure that I have a backup of the previous version (the one that was released previously), in case the new package causes too many errors, or doesn’t work as expected. That includes web data, and sometimes a database (or several) that I have to take a backup snapshot of. I also have to replace a few files that are newer, and a few that require a different version on the platform I’m releasing them to. All of this can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour to complete, including preparations. And the developers usually dump these into my lap as they head out the door for the day, and leaves me to roll this out on the web, and notify the sales persons or project managers about the update.

I’ve also been accused of not earning my pay on the same level that my colleagues do. Thing is, I don’t earn nearly as much as they do. I know, I’ve checked. I’ve glanced a look at the paycheck of one of my colleagues (he needed to print this out from my computer, and I noticed the amount). I earn 22,000 Norwegian kroner (NOK) per month before taxes, which after Norwegian taxes come to about 16,700 NOK after taxes (Norwegian taxes also include universal healthcare and a basic pension savings plan, if you think our taxes are high). I can be honest enough to reveal that my tax records from 2010 (publically available, although now only available behind a login page that all Norwegian citizens have access to) show that my annual net income (ie. minus taxes and deductions) was 153,779 NOK (that’s about 26,500 USD or 21,000 EUR with today’s exchange rate). The same tax records for the two of my colleagues I deal with on a daily basis show that their annual net income is from 222,000 NOK and above, ie. a net income that is 44% more than what I earn. If they had bothered, they would’ve seen this with their own eyes (using their own login). And yet, I’m berated for not earning my pay. Given the increased level of tasks and responsibilities, I rather feel that I’m not paid nearly enough. Granted, I don’t have the high education that these two guys have, but as I’ve been given more responsibilities and tasks that go beyond “system administration” only, the income gap should’ve been a lot smaller than it really is. And if they knew how low my income really was, they might not be as critical to how much I’m actually “earning my pay”. I’ve sometimes even paid for a taxi cab fare home, because I’ve had to leave so late that there are no more buses going to my residential area that late in the evening, and I’ve never been reimbursed. I finally made an attempt in the final quarter of last year, providing the receipts I had collected, and asking to be reimbursed for these, considering that I had to stay late at the office on all of those occasions, but I never got a response about this.

Yes, I’ve taken vacation trips to the U.S. of A. in 2009 and last year, which is kind of expensive, but I’m still paying off the loans I took out for both of those trips. Loan-wise, I really don’t have anything left to go on, so unless I start actually saving up money now, I might not get a trip to the U.S. next year. It might seem like I have money to spend, but living with my parents (rent-free) and not having to pay for electricity, broadband Internet or basic food items for myself does help in the big picture, and allows me to have money left over after the loan payments have been made. My mother and my stepfather have been really helpful in providing a home for me in their own home, and I’m forever grateful for the help they’ve given me over the years.

My sanity is also impacted by the fact that I’m actually never “off duty”. Let me give you a few examples: When I was in Copenhagen in October 2008, I got a call from the office asking for assistance. This happened while I was in the middle of walking through a museum exhibit. And while I was on vacation at Hafjell (near Hunderfossen and Lillehammer) with my family a few years back, I got a call from work to fix something and attend a web meeting late at night (using a tethered Internet connection between my private smartphone and my own laptop). And earlier this year (mid-July), while I was on a day trip on Hurtigruten to Geiranger, the office called me to upload a backup copy of a test website (as mentioned earlier) that had been messed up beyond repair.

I really can’t a time where I haven’t been asked to work in the middle of my vacation, and all of these little things are collectively taking hit points off my sanity.

Getting in late for work, and not having a “full workday” at times helps keeping my sanity in a fragile balance, and keeps me going until the next weekend.

Through all of this, I’ve come to a point where I’ve given up trying to get my colleagues to understand that the reason I’m behaving like this, is to keep me from losing my mind. I’ve tried blowing off steam to them, but I’ve been quickly shot down with condescending remarks, unnecessary questions (or rather, questions where I’ve tried to give an explanation, but have not been believed, which means that the questions become repeated to infinity), or simply that my steam-off-blowing is considered to be just an act. I’ve often been tempted to stop in the middle of my unpacking, turn around and just go home when being constantly asked why I haven’t answered my phone on my way in, or why I was late. I’ve tried explaining these things before, but not been believed, and this takes another few hit points off my sanity.

And yes, I’m writing this blog post while at work, and I’m considering this just another way of keeping my sanity at bay.