Things were finally stabilizing after doing the equivalent of three jobs for a year-and-a-half. An absolutely fantastic person was hired to handle the operational aspects of the job, which never should have been mine to begin with. And the publication I worked for was now under the purview of a new boss, who, unlike PHB, was a good person. He wasn’t very popular, but to be fair, even those who disagreed with his ideas or policies knew they weren’t done out of selfishness or with ill intent.
This will instantly give away the new boss’ identity to anyone reading this who was with the company at the time, but whatever. His most distinctive feature was his laugh. It was a cackle that went in one ear, bounced around your brain while swinging a jackhammer and a hockey stick, and went out the other ear. This cackle could be heard from miles away, sort of like a train whistle, only nowhere near as pleasant.
That being said, I actually like the guy, and I still do. As I said, his heart was in the right place, although after PHB, the bar wasn’t set very high. Let’s put it this way: If I ran into the cackler in the street, I would stop, say hello, ask him about his job, and be absolutely pleasant. If I ran into the PHB in the street, it would take every ounce of self-control in my body not to break his jaw.
My main disagreement with the cackler revolved around the fact that he managed “by the book,” even when the situation demanded an alternative action. And the “situation,” in my case, was the fact that I did three jobs for a year-and-a-half without getting one extra dime, other than my annual “merit raise,” and I was determined to do something about that.
I’m sure everyone reading this has gone above and beyond the call of duty at their job at some point. No one ever handles their “job duties,” and nothing else, and no one really works 9-5. I’m not trying to sound like a martyr, or like the first person to ever take on a huge work load. But after doing three jobs for a year-and-a-half, being told that there was no way I could get fairly compensated because of “company policy” just didn’t cut it. Kindly find me the parts of the “company policy” that cover not being told your boss was fired, or that cover doing three jobs for a year-and-a-half.
“Company policy” can be bypassed under exceptional circumstances, and it took me another year of constant fighting to finally get something resembling a fair raise, even though it was one-half of what I deserved. After a year of trying to hammer my points home at every opportunity, the fight had left my body, and I settled for the raise I was offered. No matter how fiercely I believed in my cause, there comes a time to just let it go, and I had reached that point.
One thing that always amused me about the cackler was that he always attempted to pacify disgruntled employees with American Express gift cards of $50, and sometimes even $100. It was a nice gesture, and my hunch is that the money came out of his own pocket, even though he always made us sign an acknowledgement that we had received the gift cards. But in my case, I wanted recognition for my efforts and something resembling financial stability, not a gift card.
I mentioned our annual merit raise earlier. The way our company handled these raises was the source of my most frustration in the 13 ½ years I spent there — yes, even more frustrating than dealing with PHB — and it directly or indirectly led to my exit, depending on how you look at it.
Let me pre-empt my vent by saying that a 3% raise a few years ago, before our country’s economy went into the shitter, was quite different from a 3% raise now. I know that members of the work force who were fortunate enough to hold onto their jobs were subject to the elimination of raises altogether, pay cuts, being force to take unpaid vacation time, and other financial penalties. A 3% raise doesn’t seem so bad today. But at the time, it barely covered the cost-of-living increase. In my case, the increase in my rent and parking usually swallowed up the entire raise, leaving no opportunities to better my situation or to actually put money away in savings.
That being said, moving past the amount of the raise, this was my issue, and I will fight this point to the death: Every single employee got 3%, regardless of their performance. Excuse my language, but this has to go down as the single fucking dumbest management move in history.
There are always some people who work harder than others. What is the point of going the extra mile, extending yourself, sacrificing things that are important to you, and burning yourself out, only to be “rewarded” with the exact same raise as the person who does the bare minimum, shows up late, leaves early, and never steps up to the plate when things are crazy? Where is the incentive to maintain that sort of pace when it’s not rewarded at all?
On a side note, while implementing its policy of 3% raises across the board, the senior management had the balls to call a special, all-hands-on-deck meeting with the purpose of having every employee come up with one “million-dollar idea.” Hey, jackasses: If I actually came up with a million-dollar idea, don’t you think I’d pursue it myself, rather than watching the company implement it and receiving a thank you and the same 3% raise? My “million-dollar idea” was the fictional doctor’s appointment that kept me out of that meeting. I have a few other million-dollar ideas, but I’m really trying to limit profanity on this blog.
The final straw for me came when we underwent another Dilbert-like reorganization for no reason whatsoever, and responsibility for the website I worked on was split between myself and another co-worker. Did you assume that when I said “split,” I meant that the work load was divided 50-50? You’d think that, wouldn’t you? Needless to say, that’s nowhere near what actually happened.
Our “split” work load was basically yours truly getting up early in the morning to edit and deploy a daily email newsletter, and then getting to the office at normal time, working a full day (doing most of the work), going home, and covering any stories that might have broken after-hours. Meanwhile, my co-worker (and I use the term “worker” very loosely) would show up at 11 a.m. on a good day, but often not until the p.m. hours, and vaporize by 5:30 at the latest, claiming that he was “working from home.” Yeah, that old gag, except that when two people work on a website, it’s pretty easy for one of them to tell what the other is doing, or, in this case, not doing.
My breaking point: One Friday, when the shit was hitting the fan, with several news stories breaking and most of the editorial staff wrapped up with closing the print edition, he walked into the office at exactly 2:30 p.m. Rather than making up some sort of excuse or apologizing, he joked, “I had a rough commute.” He lived on the same subway line as the office, about 10 stops uptown. Needless to say, I did not find humor in his attempt at a joke.
A couple of months after his 2:30 arrival, our fiscal year ended, and our merit raises went into effect. I actually heard this person on the phone, bitching to a friend of his that he had “only” gotten 3%. There have been few times in my life when I was mad enough to kill, and this was one of them. I had to leave the office and walk around the block a couple of times to stop the shaking. The person who did maybe 20% of the work got the same raise as the person who did the other 80%, along with a higher salary, yet complained about it? Folks, you just can’t make crap like this up.
So this is where things started to go downhill, about two years before my layoff. I still worked hard because I had pride in the website. If the website looked bad, I looked bad. But anything resembling passion had vanished, and, while I would still do my best to handle any important news that broke after hours, I absolutely refused to extend myself one minute more than necessary. What was the point? It wasn’t appreciated, and it wasn’t rewarded.
But our hero’s story isn’t done yet. In the next installment, I explain how I was uprooted from the publication where I had worked the entire time and forced to join another magazine with a completely different culture, only to find out that the move was made to save my non-working co-worker’s job. I shit you not.