The HR Juggler

Day 27: Perspective

Posted on: December 27, 2012


Today’s post is written by my HR colleague, Emma Blaney, who can be found on Twitter at @blaneyem. As she shares in her post below, perspective really is everything…


When Alison opened up her blog for Advent a year ago I was desperate to contribute. Yet struggled to think of a topic which was interesting, inspired me and was not just a repeat of many others out there. That was, until yesterday.

I am fortunate to work for a company which not only allows all staff to take time off to volunteer, but in fact actively encourages it.

As I live in Switzerland, finding volunteer opportunities is actually quite difficult. The combination of it being an affluent country which fiercely protects it’s boarders results in a very low unemployment rate which subsequently means that the state is able to set up and fund schemes to help those in need.

Eventually we identified a local scheme which would allow us to join them for a day, so that is where I headed.

The scheme in question ’employs’ a combination of Swiss nationals who have been out of work for some time and immigrants who have no legal right to work, although they do of course have a legal right to live in Switzerland.

The system in Switzerland works so that each person claiming social security is assessed against how fit they are to work (those seeking asylum for example are deemed fit to work 100% whereas someone coming off long-term sick may be on 25% and would be continually assessed with an aim of building this up). In order to receive social security benefits such as housing and money you must work the hours you are fit to. If you don’t work these hours then your benefits are either reduced or removed.

I could go on about the Swiss Social Security system … but that is not the inspiration for this blog.

As I sat down to work with the team – a job which involved dismantling video cassettes so the various parts (plastic, metal etc) could be sold for recycling, I started speaking to the man next to me.

We started with niceties such as where are you from. He said that he and his wife, who was also working on the project, were from Tibet.

We established we both had 2 children and indeed we both had a 4-year-old.

But that is where our similarities ended.

When I asked if his children enjoyed Switzerland he said that they were not with him. He then went on to talk me through the fact that, as he had fought for the Army in Tibet, he was a marked man, so one evening about 5 months ago he and his wife put their children to bed and escaped. They walked for 48 hours before getting a lift in a car and across the border.

He left everything he owned in Tibet including his family, job and worldly belongings and was immensely sad to leave.

In the 5 months since he has been away, he has not been able to make any contact and indeed his own parents, who agreed to look after his children, have no idea that he is safe and well. In fact they don’t even know that he made it out alive.

Yet – when you ask him about Switzerland he is pleased to be here because, in his words, ‘it is safe’

Every 6 months his case will be reviewed and a decision will be made to if he is allowed to stay in the country. Until such time that he is not able to remain this talented man will stay here dismantling video cassettes and the parts will be sold for recycling.

It simply amazed me that such a normal person has had to make such hard decisions due to no more than the lottery of where he was born.

It was also put into perspective when I called my husband later in the day who announced that he had had a terrible morning as the ski shop which was servicing his skis had lost them, so he was going to have to use hire skis the next day … I was tempted to reply ‘life’s a bitch ain’t it’ … but held my tongue

It also really brought back to me the validity of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, and the need for the likes of food first followed by security and safety and how one tier needs to be satisfied before you can move up.

So as we head into the next year I guess my message is that each and every one of us has so much to be thankful for, and I for one will certainly be thinking of my new-found friend if I ever feel that my day has not been so great.

4 Responses to "Day 27: Perspective"

Yes, Maslow is a durable model for me, in spite of it’s critics Emma. A good example to us all.


I have enjoyed many in this series, this one in particular. Thanks, Anthony

What Anthony said. Thanks.

That’s a real eye-opener. I have a dear friend who is currently looking for work in the U.K. so she can bring her three children here for a better life – we really don’t know how fortunate we are in the U.K. and Europe, notwithstanding the current economic climate.

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