The price of freedom

Getting hired

When I applied to be hired at the Chamber of commerce, I was full of hopes for my future job. If I passed the selective exam, I would work in the public sector, within the vast apparatus of the civil service that appealed to me for its high mission and prestige. Being charged with the task to serve the nation, I would no more be subject to the profit logic that I had found hideous in my first workplace where I’d felt squeezed like a lemon in exchange for a nominal salary, with all the profit I contributed to generate falling straight into the owner’s pocket.

Moreover, I felt the urgent need to move away from my then current job, where a blatant case of nepotism badly hurt my pride. I played all my cards, and crammed for about three months studying in every possible bit of spare time, even during the lunch break and in the evening hours. I sacrificed my social life on the altar of an ambitious goal, but I simply had to succeed – I kept telling myself. Eventually, my efforts paid: I did very well in the exam and got the post.


Changing jobs was a chance to grow professionally. Adapting to a new organisation proved a stimulating challenge and all of a sudden I felt invested with the status of a functionary. However, if I had been loath to be exploited by a private entrepreneur, the thing that struck me since the beginning in my new job was a different approach to money. The mission here was not to make a profit, obviously, but to bestow hand-outs and inject money into the economy. Saving money was why the Chamber of commerce existed, and this circumstance was reflected in the management style: we had two company drivers and as many cars, a small army of errand clerks and the staff was bloated, to name but a few examples. Productivity seemed lower and consequently, wages were not particularly attractive.

My exam syllabus was centred on statistics and economics, but, rather unexpectedly, I was charged to lead a team of co-workers in a fast developing area of activity, the promotion of the local economy. Although it does not represent the core business of the organisation, it is nevertheless every so often at the centre of publicity campaigns and gives evidence to the economic clout of the Chamber of commerce. The latter is in fact rather better known for the causes it supports and the money it hands out, than for the run-of-the-mill registration of companies.


One of the first days, I was tipped off by an older colleague that it was of the utmost importance... Read on