The Flower And The Bugs
This document tries to describe what I’ve went through during six months of my stay in a telecommunications company in Vienna Austria.
I came to Vienna in the beginning of 2012 to search for a job after coming back from Watford England in December 2011. Two years ago I already lived and worked in this city so I knew it quite well and found it practical to search for work here rather than in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia which is only sixty kilometres away. The wage difference still exists and there are far more possibilities to get a day time job here.
After being invited to a few meetings I traveled to Vienna from Ziar, the city I grew up in in central Slovakia and where I was staying until I was employed again.
One of the interviews I had were with a man who fooled me greatly.
My first weeks at the Telecom company were quite nice and I actually liked my work. Soon I started having problems with the set up infrastructure that was provided to me. I didn’t get a Mac although I was doing iPhone development and this created large problems for me, since I needed to run a version of MacOS on my HP Windows machine. The second month being in the company I’ve sent a mail to my boss stating that “I believe that we won’t make it.” if I won’t get a computer that works, a Mac for developing the iOS app. Immediately he asked me to come with him to the meeting room and I experienced the first shock of my stay in the company. The guy who I thought was an intelligent experienced manager started telling me things I didn’t hear for a decade.
He said that he thinks the way I wrote the mail was rude and that we in the IT department are payed to work around obstacles and find new ways of dealing with problems. The problem with that was that we tried for two weeks to get my machine stable for the development. No use. I simply felt that I needed to speak out.
The meeting I was at turned out very strangely. My boss told me that “who is working for whom? you for me? or the opposite?” which I then later on figured out meant that I shouldn’t tell him my professional opinion, rather I should be silent.
During the course of my stay in the company I started getting to know the people around me. There were two guys in the tech department and a young lady responsible for marketing sitting right next to me. We actually sat all together at four tables put together, which was nice. I like to work with people. I guess the worst thing that happened to me was when I’ve gotten my own office in my first job. I felt very isolated.
As anyone new to the company I started asking questions and I tried to get to know the people around me better. The guy I needed to communicate with about the new technology I was building was a stressed infrastructure engineer, who also did tech support. In the first two weeks I tried to talk to him freely, ask him a question when I wasn’t sure and asked him about his professional opinion. The work thing was that he showed me in an extreme way, that he’s annoyed by me. I never ever have been shown by anyone that he’s annoyed by me more than him.
Whenever I asked him something or wanted help in the first weeks he put an acid face and smashed the mouse whenever he moved it, which got all of us in the office nervous and kind of sad.
You didn’t want to get him upset, you didn’t want to make his day bad. You actually wanted to be friends with him. But for him I was just a young boy from Slovakia. A fool. I never understood why.
At first I lived with it. I tried to be as polite as possible, tried to speak silently and asked him to let me know when he actually had time. Nothing changed. Then one day when he did his computer mouse smashing again I asked him if he doesn’t want to trow his mouse and keyboard out of the window to feel a relief and I told him that this is insane.
He did the same smashing with the phone whenever someone called. He hated to talk to people and was very upset when something didn’t work and took it personally.
I also gotten to know the lady from marketing with whom I always went out smoking. When also the other went we just chatted in general, but when we were alone she was telling me about her concerns, her feelings about the workspace, the company and her fears.
It’s interesting that I always feel that people like to talk to me. Many people like to tell me their story and like to open up to me more than they usually do to others. I like to listen to people genuinely, so I believe that they kind of sense my interest.
She quit about a month after I started in the company and stayed for another month. The main reason why she was quitting was officially because of her aunt having problems and her needing to take care of her. This was true, but there were also more reasons. I believe that you never quit a job only because of one reason. She told me that the other reason was our boss, who was very manipulative to her. I didn’t see that in the beginning, although I sensed something. After a few months I met her in a nice cafe and she told me how she’s very happy in her new job. How she likes her boss and the way how her life’s going. She divides things into tree areas. Her family, her boyfriend and work. Two of these things weren’t and she needed to fix them. I guess her boyfriend helped a lot.
At the time I met her I had already quit my job. I’ve sent my resignation and was simply waiting for the few weeks to end during which I still needed to come to work because of the law.
We were both quitters from the same company and I found out from her that there were a lot more before that. Most of the people stayed for a few months. She stayed for over a year, which she considered was actually impressive in the company. Only the tech guys are staying there for years now.
Overall we both agreed that the our boss was a pathological narcissist, lied to us on many occasions just to get his way and whenever possible tried to have us be insecure about one another.
There was for example an instance when he tells one of his employees that some complained. Basically he tells people “someone complained about you and it’s not, xyz.” and he always tries to push you in believing that your best friend was the person.
The thing we all realised after a wile is that non of this is true. We were quite open in our collective and were friends who chatted openly to one another. These attempts of manipulation were always clear to us.
But there was a problem in our collective. In general we didn’t trust one of the tech guys. The one smashing the mouse. We knew that the boss was always getting insider information, information about our arrival times from him and overall whatever was going on. This was indeed an environment of receipt, mistrust and overall very toxic. We were insecure about what to tell to whom. We were insecure about speaking out and even though we tried to come close to the one who was collecting information on us, it didn’t work. The marketing lady warned me about him in the first weeks of my stay. She said I should watch out.
We all tried to live our days with dignity. Being innovative. Communicate. Trying to do what we like. But we were simply hindered. It’s strange how the essence of what makes a company successful is the thing you are supposed not to do.
- end part one -