Part 118

Hello and welcome back to Mortgage Advisor on FIRE.  This week I report several examples of bad workplace management from my readers.  Also, I discuss the recent story from the US involving the r/antiwork subreddit.  Finally, the usual financial updates.

Quote of the Week

“People don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses.”

For those who use Reddit, you will have found it difficult to miss the recent news regarding the Antiwork subreddit.  If you have managed to miss the news I’ll briefly explain; r/antiwork is a sub where people talk about giving up work, or who want to vent about work-related stress, poor management, capitalist exploitation, and so on.  A few days ago one of the moderators for the group was interviewed on Fox News.  It… did not go well.  The group had something of a meltdown and the sub went private for a short period.  Many Redditors think that the interview has done their cause a lot of harm, but as a friend of mine said, “it’s Fox News, what did they expect?”

There seems to be an increasing number of young people who are exiting the rat race in favour of something better, something more wholesome and fulfilling.  It’s a huge part of my desire to achieve FIRE as soon as possible.  Work-related stress is rife amongst the UK workforce, and it doesn’t seem to be improving.  For some people, the pandemic has been a chance to work from home, and recharge their social batteries.  I’m amongst that group.  For many others though, the lack of interaction and the feeling that work is invading their home is a major concern.

There is no reason that the standard work-week should be Monday to Friday, 9-5.  It’s simply a case of that’s what we’ve always done, or at least since Ford Motor Company introduced it as their standard working day in the 1920s.  It was suggested some time ago that the introduction of computers and robots into the workplace would mean we could all work fewer hours.  That has not happened.  There have been several studies (just Google; how many hours do you actually work?) and those who work in offices report they work for approximately two hours from an eight-hour day.

Some jobs require long periods of focus and hard work.  Some don’t.  It seems that the western world has just agreed to pretend that everyone is productive for most of their working day, when in fact many office workers are working for just a fraction of their contracted time.  It’s like we are all pretending to be working, instead of working, and that’s just a little bit sad.  Surely there has to be more to life than just spending most of your quality time pretending to be busy.  

I can’t think of any justifiable reason why most full-time jobs still require a 35-40 hour working week.  

Many of those who report stress at work are not necessarily stressed with the job itself but rather the demands placed on them by bad managers.  I reached out to my followers to ask about poor examples of management they’ve experienced, in particular relating to mental health.  Some of the examples I’ve been sent are shocking, and things that you would not think still happen in the 21st century.

One of my readers, a woman living in the south of England, sent me the following (edited for clarity):

“I come from a different country where people are generally more direct.  I think people might be threatened by my language/tone etc.  Also, as I’m in a minority I experience discrimination on a daily basis.  Companies bang on about diversity and inclusion but it’s all just for show.  All companies want is compliance.  The support offered is not support.  It’s not about the individual; it’s about ticking a box and following a process, almost as though it’s for the benefit of the business and not the employee. 

I worked at a major UK bank for several years, working in mortgages (which is how I found your blog!)  It was a valuable experience in that it showed me that big business can’t be trusted.  They say one thing and do another.  People are nice to your face and talk about you behind your back.  It’s all one big charade, a game.  People put on a show and it’s all fake.  I thought it was just this company that was hypocritical, but I would sadly find it is common in many companies.

I left the job after a prolonged period of decline.  I had a succession of managers who were more bothered about progressing than actually managing.  I was bullied out of the job after the business failed to live up to several promises, which I pointed out.  

After some freelance work I found another home-based job working with immigration.  It was a great job and I was doing well.  I loved it.  My manager was nice, it seemed, but she soon left for another job.  That’s when everything started going wrong.  When my new manager came in, she started saying I had attitude problems and performance issues.  I asked where this had come from, and it turns out my previous manager had not been saying anything as she no longer cared as she was getting a new job.  So, she didn’t rock the boat.  I worked hard to put things right but it all came crashing down in the space of two days.  Towards the end of a shift, I noticed an error with a case I was working on.  I flagged it via Teams and a manager said they would deal with it.  The next morning I was called into a virtual meeting and told I was in trouble for not identifying an issue on a case the day before.  It was only spotted via a manager (the one I’d told about it).  The chat log had been deleted, so it was my word against theirs.  However, I’d taken a screenshot of the chat as I thought something like this might happen.  Then, they refused to look at the image claiming I’d edited it.  I just said, “fuck it” and quit there and then. 

It feels wrong saying it, but all the bad managers I’ve had have been women, and all the good managers have been men.  I’m not a feminist or sexist, but that’s just my experience.  I don’t get it.  My boyfriend has had some great female managers, so is it that people work better with the opposite sex?  Do women not get on with each other when there’s a hierarchy involved? I don’t know.  Do women in professional settings feel the need to secure their own status by putting other women down?

Employers need to live their values instead of just having them on their intranet homepage.  Stop squeezing workers for every last drop of productivity.”

Another reader sent me two examples of bizarre behaviour from their employer, a large UK supermarket chain.

“When I was at the supermarket, I had a long history of taking time off with depression.  This spread over many years. Towards the end of my time there, after one absence, HR recommended a third party mental health service they’d signed up to, which offered counselling, or talking therapy.  I got in touch with the service, more to show willing with my employer than anything.  The service offered something like three short telephone sessions with an agent. That’s it. Boom, finished.  I had DECADES of experience of depression, and my employer thought this service would help.  It’s a fucking tick in a box.”

And another example this person;

“They provided a mental health awareness day for management from all across the region. There were various presentations, including one from a former NHS psychologist.  He told the wowed audience that stress is not an illness, but a natural part of life. On one level he was right, but when people refer to stress as an illness, they are talking about negative effects of unbearably high levels of stress – but that’s a mouthful, so we just say “stress”.  The guy at the presentation didn’t explain this, and various managers and HR partners took away the message that stress is not an illness.  You can guarantee this had a terrible effect in return-to-work meetings for employees who were suffering from stress.”

One of the most shocking examples I was sent involved an autistic man who confided in his employer;

“Well, I had a manager that I trusted so I opened up to him about my autism (naively) & how it affected my job. This was about 6 months ago, but it was mostly about how I don’t gel well with authority figures & I get burnt out a lot, so my work can be inconsistent (I make up for it when I’m not burnt out). 

Fast-forward 6 months to this month, he put all that into my performance review as “things to improve” & gave me a pay reduction. In the past I’ve just hidden those things from my managers & been fine. After the performance review I took a mental health day & cancelled my 1:1s with him so I could start brainstorming other ways of communication because the current form was clearly resulting in miscommunication, but when I got back he had reported me to HR & then they wanted to either have me quit, have me interview for other jobs and THEN quit, or do a performance plan.

The thing that was shocking about him reporting me was that, because I had trusted him, I had always probably communicated too much with him. So I was pretty shocked that he didn’t reach out & ask me why I cancelled them.”

Something needs to change in our approach to work, and our work/life balance.

Weekly Update

I’ve had a rubbish week, made worse by my Crohn’s/IBS flaring up.  It’s impacted the whole week for me and resulted in several cancelled plans.  I think I need to go back to see a different gastroenterologist for a second opinion.  The consultant I’ve been under the care of has been good, but his investigations have ended with no theories about my situation.

I still can’t seem to maintain good sleeping habits.  I have no problem falling asleep, but staying asleep is difficult.  I will wake up several times through the night and not drift back to sleep for several minutes.  I can’t remember the last time I had a good, restful, night of sleep.  

Something interesting, at least to me, happened this week.  I was trying to read through some information packs but I couldn’t focus.  The pages were huge walls of text, with no clear format.  There were paragraphs all over the page, with some being relevant to only certain people.  It was like a feeling of sensory overload.  Many times in the past I’ve experienced this and have just about managed to work through it, but with a headache that lasts for days after.  I used to put this down to tiredness, but it now seems more likely that it’s a symptom of my autistic brain.  One way I’ve described this to people in the past is that it’s like my vision slides over a page of text, but never locks in on a part of the page and then reads in a focused way (I know humans don’t read in a smooth way, but instead jump around the page; this is not what I’m describing).  My eyes seem to not know where to look, and I don’t take anything in.  I get stressed out and end up just ignoring the page completely.  It’s mentally exhausting.  I’m probably not describing this very well, and if someone out there can explain it with greater eloquence I would be interested to read their thoughts.

On a more positive note, I was featured in the online financial publication, The Money Edit.  I first spoke with Katie Binns a few months ago and the story was published earlier this week.  It’s a nice, short piece on my FIRE ambitions.  The picture used shows me in Norway and is one of the few photos of me where I have no beanie on my head.  It’s practically a collector’s item photo.

A Brief Interlude

I’ll never hide this blog behind a paywall, but it does cost money to run the site.  I spend a minimum of six hours each week writing the blog, and maintaining the other parts of davidscothern.com.  It is a labour of love.  However, many of you have asked how you can show your appreciation.  I set up a Buy Me A Coffee page but the main feedback was that you couldn’t pay by card.  Well, now you can!  My page now supports card payments and Apple Pay.  So, if you want to show your support and appreciation for the content I create, please buy me a coffee.   

2022 Goals – to be achieved by 31/12/2022

1 – Reduce weight to 90kg.  (Current weight 125.6kg).

2 – Complete 10 “classic” books.

  1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
  2. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)
  3. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
  4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
  5. The Iliad by Homer (8th century BC)
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
  7. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1867)
  8. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)
  9. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)
  10. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605)

3 – Read 10 authors I’ve not read before.

What Am I Doing?

What I’m reading: Firefall by Peter Watts

What I’m listening to: Cannibal: Chess Team Book 7 by Jeremy Robinson and Sean Ellis

What I’m watching: Invisible City

I’m still working through Firefall but I’m finding I have little time where I have the mental energy to read, especially as my job involves me reading information for several hours a day.  I can’t stress enough how much I’m enjoying the Chess Team series.  Jeremy Robinson has the ability to create sprawling shared universes which are entertaining, action-packed, and also emotionally powerful.  Invisible City is a Brazilian show on Netflix that follows an investigation by an environmental police detective into his wife’s death.  It involves mythical creatures from Brazilian folklore and has a refreshing style.  People who don’t watch foreign TV and film are missing out.  Spanish, South American, Korean, and Japanese studios are putting out quality content.

Financial Update

Assets

Premium Bonds: £14,700.00 (no change from last update).

Stocks and Shares ISA: £45,640.85 (down £14.85 from last update).

Fuck It Fund: £3,500.00 (no change from last update). 

Crypto: £492.16 (up £31.66 from last update). 

Pensions: £50,475.94 (down £857.47 from last update).

Residential Property Value: £213,900.00 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Property Value: £138,030.00 (no change from last update).

Total Assets: £466,738.95 (down £840.66 from last update). 

Debts

Credit Card: £0.00 (no change from last update).

Residential Mortgage: £165,657.38 (no change from last update).

Buy-to-Let Mortgage: £92,958.17 (no change from last update). 

Total Debts: £258,615.55 (no change from last update).

Total Wealth: £208,123.40 (down £840.66 from last update).

Investment Income in 2022: £137.51 (target £6,000).

The stock market continues to fluctuate wildly.  Between Covid, and the possibility of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia escalating there are more than a few jitters out there.  I don’t think we will engage in a shooting war with Russia, and I think the west will instead fight this battle via economic measures.  There is likely to be a lot of instability going forward.  No doubt some people will start selling off in a panic, but when prices are dropping is the best time to buy, not sell.  

Work has not yet started on our BTL refurb.  This should start soon.  The question is whether this property will be a money pit going forward, or whether we will start to turn a profit on the property.  We’ve crunched the numbers and will likely make a small profit if we sell for market value, and that includes the cost of the refurb.  However, selling means no rental income from that property and a potentially lengthy period of time until we acquire another BTL. We haven’t given up on the plan to build a portfolio of houses, and there are a lot of lessons we can learn from this example.  We didn’t get everything wrong and some of what happened to us was completely out of our control, but there are a few lessons we’ve had to take on the chin.  You can be sure we will not make those mistakes again.

Biolink

You can now find all my social media pages by checking out my Biolink at bio.link/davidscothern.

Please show your support

I spend several hours each week writing this blog and make it freely available to all readers.  I do not hide my content behind a paywall.  However, maintaining a website incurs costs.  If you can afford a small donation, it would be gratefully accepted.  Click on the Buy Me A Coffee image to be taken to my supporter page.  You can either make a one off donation, or sign up to a monthly subscription.  If you can’t make a donation, please share my blog on your social media.

You can still see Sweep’s Instagram @sweep_the_kelham_island_cat.  

Finally, have a look at Darren Scothern’s fantastic blog at darrenscothern.com. 

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