Dear Millennials: “face time” is not to be confused with FaceTime

The reality was, I needed this job. I accumulated US$100,000 worth of student’s loan and personal debt for a Masters Degree to get a chance at this job. I moved to Washington, DC, and left the warmth and sunshine of the Caribbean for this job. The World Bank branded itself as a respectful workplace that values families, treasures diversity and is committed to inclusion. Why wouldn’t I put all my eggs in one basket and expect a good experience?

I saw an ad, I rallied support, I applied, I got in! They said they needed diversity, they needed qualified young people like me, and that I will spark a change. I believed the President at the time, Dr. Kim inspired and encouraged us: “the future of development”.

Within the first year, it was undeniably clear that I was unwanted. My crime – being the eager millennial.

One day my Manager took me aside and said I needed to put in more “face time”. Silly me, I enthusiastically agreed that since everyone had iPhones it was a great idea to let me join meetings by FaceTime. People were finding it challenging to get in for meetings that kept starting earlier and earlier. I gushed with ideas. We could project persons on the screen as they spoke, I would teach the others to use the PowerPoint/screen share features, we would finally use the office AppleTV (for more than screensaver pictures). That. Was. Not. What. He. Meant.

To my embarrassment, he explained that he meant I needed to be seen as working harder.

Unbeknownst to me, I was in a fight against unreasonable perceptions and traditional views of work at work so you can be heavily monitored. Later, I would learn that some of the ladies in the office had confronted him (directly or indirectly about me), unhappily declaring that he was being too permissive. That for their decades working in the Unit, they had not witnessed any Manager let staff work remotely or from home as often as he allowed. They were particularly disturbed by how I was allowed to work on my own time and in my own way.

I mumbled something about the age of the internet…He laughed. I quickly pointed out that he and I had agreed on flexible work arrangements so that I could manage my family needs, you know, “life-work-balance”. That HE had said that he didn’t care where I worked, just that I delivered. I pleaded my circumstance, how much in fact I always delivered and outlined the business case.

The record would show that I did Home Based Work (HBW) only as often as we had agreed and no more than was reasonable since I didnt utilize Alternative Work Schedule (AWS). AWS lengthened your work day and most people still worked on their bi-weekly “day off.” I needed some accommodations. I gave him glowing statistics about my performance, that I was never late on any project. I worked three times faster on HBW than the others, even volunteering to do extra work to support the team. I justified how I was operating was an asset to the organization given the different time zones of field offices we had around the globe.

Paradoxically, he smiled, proud of his star millennial, and we shared a joke about the future of work.

Purposefully. He started again.

He firmly stated that I needed to be seen more in the office, at my desk more in line with regular work hours. Sarcastically I asked, even if I’m just surfing or on Amazon like they do? With a straight face, he said “Yes”.

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