How many times did you think you were not in the right place in your personal or professional life? How many times did you feel like something was wrong, but you did not know what? But overall: do you know what is the right place for you?
Let me tell you a story...
Few months ago, when I moved to Florence and I launched my business, I applied for a part time job to support my activity.
In few weeks I was hired as HR recruiter and I couldn’t find a better way to start my new life.
During the interview the boss mentioned the possibility to do some extra hours from time to time. I thought it was ok, so I said “yes, no problem for me”.
Two days before the signature of the contract, I received a call from the administration:
“Hi Silvia, how are you?”
“I’m fine thanks, how are you?”
“I’m good. Look, we’re calling to ask you if we could extend your working hours in the contract from four to six hours per day”
I had a thought about it about it: 6 working hours plus 2 hours to commute would make it a full time job. It was not what I was looking for. I still asked a question:
“Just to make sure: would the salary increase in case we would agree for 6 hours per day?”
“Well, actually no because we can't afford it right now" the lady replied.
Sbam! I felt something was not ok: how can you ask an employee to work more without adapting the salary?
I hesitated, then I signed a contract for 4 hours per day. I mentioned my business and the fact that I could dedicate to this job only the time we agreed. They accepted. I was excited to expand my network in Florence and to work in a new exciting environment.
The first days were challenging, but I soon started to familiarise with the new tasks. I enjoyed the freedom I had as the only HR recruiter. I liked the informal environment.
After few days, the boss came to my office for a chat.
“So how is it going?” he asked.
“Good” I replied “Lot of names to learn, but I am liking it."
"Great! You will be extremely busy, we are constantly expanding"
"I guess I am in the right place then!" I said, "So remind me how the company was created" I asked with real curiosity.
“Do you remember the Sun King? He used to say ‘The state, it’s me’. Well, this company, it’s me. I created it from scratch together with another guy and now look at us! We even won a prize for the company welfare some years ago. Trust me: those who work with me, will have a successful career!” he stated.
Have you heard about gut skills? Well, my gut was alerting me.
There was something in this person, someone who compared himself to the Sun King, that did not convince me.
What was that stomach pain when I woke up in the morning?
One day he sent me a message on the business phone outside the working hours, in the evening. I didn't open it, as I never checked the business phone in the non working hours. So I opened the message the following day.
When I arrived at work, the boss called me in his office and he asked me why I did not reply to the message. I said that I was not checking the company phone in the non working hours.
" We gave you the business phone because you have to be available full time. I start my day at 6 AM and I send e-mails from that time on, so I expect my employees to do the same."
My gut called me. I could not accept to work for someone expecting full availibility and paying the least possible. This was against my work ethic.
I proposed him to use an online tool to make sure we could be constanlty updated on the "to DOs" even when I was not there and he seemed to accept. But the following day, a Friday, he called me again in his office.
"Silvia, we realised that we need a full time resource. It is not because of you, you are so good, but we need someone working full time" he said, "but let me talk to you from entrepreneur to entrepreneur: I can support you. You know, I have many CEOs among my friends..." and he winked before adding the cherry on the top "For today: I leave to your professionalism the decision to stay until the end of the day or not..."
My gut was clear: I felt disgusted. I have never felt so aligned with myself and I have never been happier to quit a job.
It took me few months to fully process what happened. I asked myself whether I could have done something differently, but the answer is no. The best way to break a system is not to accept it.
“It’s so Italian” someone told me when I shared the story. I don’t think it’s something that happens only in Italy. I think it is a matter of mindset. Some business owners, in Italy or abroad, value their employees because they consider them as resources. They know how much value their employees bring to the company and they water them to let them bloom. Some others use their employees as patches. I want to work for and with the first ones.
This is my dream job: to be aligned with myself.
Now let me ask you: are you aware of your gut skills? How aligned are you with your values?