domingo, 5 de noviembre de 2017

Cultural uniqueness or simply lack of manners

Left London behind 6 mouths ago and settled down for a quiet and smaller city up the north. Shortly after accepting the job offer, packed everything and took it in a storage. Fled as fast as I could. I remember my first day as arriving from a battle field, I could not believe I made in Birmingham alive. Rent a room near the airport, just in case.

As per usual practice, I know that at some point there going to be a war again. Even the slightest movement that differs out of my standards can be reason for me to enter into another war with the rest of the world.

It all started as described in one of my first post I did few months upon my arrival in UK. Just before you go any further please read that and lets discuss that in more details.

It is interesting for me to read the level of excitement that after years in unemployment I get so triled about finding a job as Barista in Starbucks. It is more interesting that after I left Starbucks, there are people (from my professional environment) that say I should be ashamed of that and don´t mentioned it.

Remember a conversation that I had with my Kenyan friend at the begging of this year, while still working in Starbucks. We were sitting at Nando´s having lunch. He acknowledged my desperation, and ask me to look at the staff working there. He ask me - how do you look at them? I told him that, of course, I am looking at them with a lot of respect. I understand the struggle they are going through, just as I did at the time in Starbucks. He than went on to ask whether I consider being rude to them. I answered of course not, I have never been rude to people anyway, and now even less.

I knew that this people alongside their work they are working on their "dream cometrue" plan, same as I did and my colleagues in Starbucks.

I knew he went into a lot of hardship himself.

When he arrived in the UK from Kenya, he had to sleep in his friends house, on the floor. He left his wife and children back in Kenya until he was able to afford to bring them to the UK. Also, would like to mention that he worked as a hotel staff making beds. He has finished his career and found a normal job. Not only that. He also sent money at home to help his brothers and sisters get an education.

And there we were at Nandos, talking about how hard my life is and celebrating the fact that we finished our MSc in Development Studies. He has this great job that makes him qualify as a rich person, with the added bonus that he is humble and never looks down at people.

And than there is my Spanish friend. He was so happy I got a job at Starbucks back in 2014. He admitted to have thought I was very arrogant person, and this job "would teach me to be humble". I knew, it was not exactly what he meant. He was back in Spain now, having an awesome job, but still he wanted somebody that could understand him what it took to get himself there.

His story is that, when he first arrived to UK was working in a coffee shop frying eggs for the breakfast they served to people. He had the job for a year. He would not feel any different about his job from what I felt about working in Starbucks or my Kenyan friend working as a hotel staff employee.

We all have one thing in common: would never look people down, just because they earn less than us; hold a lower position or come from a disadvantaged background. And we all want to be accepted and given a chance even if we had been involved in crapy jobs. They are all very successful, and have every "right" to be arrogant, except they would never do that. That is because of their past experience. We now that behind that apron there is a person before and after Starbucks.

This is sort of society where if you do not have certain level of economic endorsement your opinion is to be voided. Income is the only variable  that indicates the value of people. Maybe that is the "death of capitalism" that contemporary economist are looking at. I can definitely see that in our societies valuable elements of our culture have "died". Despite my conviction in social science, my capitalist views and convictions would be my main concern.

Answer this question yourselves - should I be ashamed on my work experience in Starbucks? I know I would proudly keep on my Linkedin profile.

What I have learned while going down the ladder was it can happen to anybody. Second, it is very embarrassing to see yourself at a level where you thought people that have less skills an abilities would end up. Now I see it can be anyone and for a variety of reasons.


The Problem

After giving you few examples of my own experience let dive into real organisations.

We are all very much aware that at our workplace we have very arrogant people that are very difficult to approach, because they think being on a higher position makes  you are more God than human.  "God" is too busy to give attention.
Video on Emphathy

Our organisations are infested with senior staff members that have a huge iron curtain pulled around their desk area.

It is to no surprise to me now why, at the begging of my Master courses (both in Foreign Trade Management and Development Studies) we were discussing about emphathy. I was thinking it is a waste of time as people are not as bad as to the point not to care or not being able to connect emotionally with other people. Coming from a very nosy society, and remembering the Spanish society been equally analytical, I was questioning the purpose of the talk.

Unfortunately, in our organisations we end up managed by senior position staff members that are too big for you to approach them and ask a question, while at the same time they are teaching us to be very approachable. Definitely, you don´t predicate with an example.

So, after months of careful observation, we can conclude the following "type of Gods":

- senior staff members that prefer to eat alone, and eating alone detached from the rest of the employees;
- senior staff members moaning like a 5 year old about why they were approached by an Assistant;
- unable to say "good morning" to anyone lower position than theirs;
- difficulties making eye contact and answering emails coming from a staff member at a lower rank;
- ego-inflated seniors, etc

We all come from culturally different countries (Macedonia, Spain, Kenya, etc...were mentioned) but we had one thing in common - the way we value people has changed or has never been that bad to begin with, so we started valuing more our initial views.

I have always thought that if you are on a high position is OK to be that arrogant. But no, it is not! And I learned that while working in Starbucks because being humble human being was never in my books. And it looks like it doesn´t come in anyone's book and definitely in the company's corporate culture culture.

It is not justified to hide you lack of manners behind your cultural, educational, professional background. If you are rude, you are rude!

And I am not saying that working in Starbucks (when I say Starbucks, I mean every minimum wage job post, as Nero, Costa, Greggs...) is the solution to our "problems" with other people manners and I would not recommend that to my worst enemy. Sadly, maybe that what our worsest enemy needs - finding himself in front of a pile of dirty cups and dishes in order to change their perspective. Would call it the "Starbucks effect".

Unfortunately, I am able to observe this abnormalities thanks to the fact I always end up underemployed. Have build up knowledge to be Managing Director but working as an office clerk poorly paid. Able to see the bigger picture and slide up and down my perspective is what made me aware of facts that might have been missed by an MD.

The job is boring, no complications when  have to use my intellectual capacity, but complicated when I need to use skills that you can only get through practice.

The crack in Capitalism you can see it when more Master's degree students are working in Starbucks than the actual organisation where you'd expect more of them. I see "the invisible hand" of the marked amputated.

We still need to talk!!!


The first and a half month in UK in 2014, went down my list to visit every consulting company that I have on my spreadsheet. And it happened as I described here. There were a lot of closed doors. The red door on Russel Square was the only one to open. And I am very grateful for that. I would follow the recommendation that the Managing Director gave to me that day.

There were doors that never opened. I even had a comic situation where, the first day I went only made it to the receptionist, and the next week I came back the company has moved the office just the opposite building. The company was nice to mention that, but the MD was still unavailable for me. Luckily, now the things have changed with that company, and don´t have to knock that door anymore, because I have a proper pass.

The key of human happiness should be in the persistence. But the persistence not always pays your bills.

And here I am in Birmingham and we still need to talk about my career in International Development.






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