A New Career in a New Town (Part 1)

So it’s nearly one in the morning where I am and I was supposed to go out and record a couple of new episodes of “TYTD reviews” and “The Red Triangle” tonight but after some very frustrating attempts to get my laptop to connect to the internet which failed coupled with several awkward attempts to send the scripts from my non internet connected laptop to my Ipad I decided that the world just didn’t want me to go out tonight and I’ve decided instead to put my time to something more productive and instead therapeutically blog about my “Feelings”.

This past fortnight I’ve been incredibly unproductive but that’s not without good reason. While I may have dropped the ball in producing some lovely shiny new episodes of my show for you guys Its because in my real world actual life I’ve been dealing with a quite sudden and unexpected change in my delicate and heavily structured life. Mainly focussing on my career and my current workflow; It’s been a very stressful time and I feel that if I put it out there on this blog it’ll help me process whats happening a bit better and also it’ll let you guys understand why I may have been a bit silent recently on responding to facebook/youtube/twitter/reddit comments and why I haven’t been actively producing anything new apart from my readily scheduled episodes for the last few weeks.

I love my job. I loved my job. I’ve mentioned it in a few places but my current employment is as a manager of a media company, specifically the post production department of a media company. On average I manage a team of 3-4 editors in producing content for clients (Though I have managed up to teams of 10-15 in the past.) The client base range from solo artists looking to showcase there work though to some of the biggest companies in the country (I cant go into too many details here because Im under multiple non disclousure agreements but I can assure you that some of these jobs were BIG) everyday was a new adventure, everyday was a new challenge and its very rare that you’ll be put in a position in your life where you’ll get to work with a team that consists of your best friends, with no managerial constraints and deadlines that we are able to set. Quite literally I can turn up to work in the morning and hang around with my best friends cutting together enjoyable movies and managing the workflows and schedules of my friends till its hometime with minimal reporting to higher staff and very little kick back from clients. Its been a real blast.

Now that sounds amazing, and for the longest time it really was. I left university and went straight into this job. In the interview they said they were looking for an “all rounder” and while I’ll admit to being one of the clumsiest gits on the planet (Seriously im a hazard to myself) at the same time I made it very clear that my passion was in editing and that while I could be versatile, editing was what I really wanted to do. And they accepted that in principle. So I started working there. There were a few initial hiccups. I had been led to believe that the company was based in my home town but it was actually based in the next town over…this wasn’t a problem because I could drive but it did bother me a bit that they wernt up front about it (Especially when they held the interviews in my hometown)  on my first day I found out that there was another minor deception when I realised that the “Offices” I’d be working in were actually not offices at all but rather my bosses back room of his house. Again a minor setback but the promise was of a successful projected future in which I’d have my own closed office, flexible working time and enough money to go and invest in a summer home somewhere in Europe. These things were not to come to pass.

Initially things were a bit frosty. They treated me with a quite “Hands off” attitude. While they wernt exactly hostile to me. They showed me the ropes and then expected me to just get on with it. If I made a mistake I’d be corrected, warned and if I made the mistake again at Any point in my tenure it would effectively  be an instant Disciplinary. I thought this was a bit odd but I took into account that this was effectively a small business and that accidents of any kind could mean the difference between keeping or losing a client and I soldiered on. When there were disciplinaries or incidents I usually accepted them even if I didn’t feel I was at fault. At the time I was grateful to have been given a job when, around the same time, about 80% of my fellow university graduates were on jobseekers allowance and desperately seeking employment with anyone who’d have them. I felt privileged. I was earning above the minimum wage, I was effectively more or less in control of my own workflow, the commute wasn’t awful and they were quite reasonable and understanding about being flexible with my working hours.

But as time went by things slowly started to lose there lustre a bit. For one thing working for a small business meant that I was effectively at the bosses whim on most if not all of his wishes. There was no procedures or codes of conduct because my boss simply didn’t think they were necessary because, in his own words, “Its all common sense mate” These are words that I’ve now grown to despise as a result of working for this company. My boss could best be described as having a bit of a split personality, some days he’d be your best mate. Perfectly reasonable, compassionate and willing to go the extra mile for you, Other days if you gave any less than 101% you’d be in a disciplinary and on the receiving end of a quite vicious shouting match. At first when I wasn’t in the line of fire I would consider his actions “Firm but fair” I was on the outside, so when other people would be pulled in for a disciplinary I would only hear the narrative my boss put out and I would agree with him. It was only when I was on the receiving end of a disciplinary where the narrative was spun purposefully against me that I realised he had these mental swings.

The first couple of years went by pretty soundly. There were no major incidents and what incidents did occur were remedied fairly quickly. I thought we were a pretty efficient team. And it was equally around this time that things started to go a bit wrong. One day completely at random the boss announced that we were moving to a new office and that he was looking for feedback as to what we’d need in a new space. My requests were pretty basic:

*Ideally if we move could we move somewhere I bit closer to my hometown?

*Ideally if we move could we get somewhere with a good internet connection because we’re literally currently on dial-up?

*Ideally if we move could we get somewhere that has reasonable parking?

The reason for these 3 were simple, the first was because travelling from my town to the next town over took me on average 40 minutes in the morning and 55 minutes every evening in terms of my commute, so even if he moved 10 minutes closer to me that would have been tremendously beneficial for me. The second was because where we worked at the time was out in the middle of the country side without broadband, which if your trying to run a digital media business that relies on sending multiple film projects to clients on a daily basis having a reliable and fast broadband connection really is a must. And third because, as I had to drive to get to the office, being told that I needed to park in one specific area and walk 20 minutes down a single carriage country lane with tight bends to get in every day was a situation that I thought was quite unreasonable. I could legally park closer. Much closer. Like. 30 seconds to get in closer. but when my boss had one of his mental switches he decided one day that he didn’t like me parking where I was (Even though it had no double yellow lines and wasn’t causing anyone any troubles) he demanded that I park on a nearby community center carpark and when I politely declined and told him I was happy parking where I was and that legally there were no issues with me parking there he left it for a day before giving me a disciplinary for talking back and telling me that if I didn’t park where he wanted me to I’d be fired.

But anyway I digress. I put these points to my boss who laughed at me and told me there was “Absolutely no chance” that we’d be moving closer to my hometown because he needed to be close to his house and that “Fast internet” wouldn’t be a problem because he’d happily invest in Satellite internet if we found somewhere in the countryside. Which he was seemingly hell bent on being the case.

In my bosses mind he wanted an office that was out in the middle of nowhere, preferably something along the lines of a closed pub which he could renovate into an office that would be a 5 minute commute to and from his house; mainly because he was obsessed with the idea of having an office that was surrounded by rolling countryside hills and areas he could take long walks in. But at the same time while he wanted the office to be miles away from civilisation, he equally wanted it to be very well connected with no more than 5-10 minutes travelling time to get a van onto the duel carriage way due to the nature of how some of our shoots had been organised. Basically what he was looking for was so specific it was almost impossible. and he was so obsessed with that vision that he would have been fully willing to pay an eyewatering amount to realise it. In the end however he settled on a very small office space in a nearby town center. It was bigger than our then current base of operations but at the same time it was further away than my current commute by about 10-15 minutes or so. It also had very limited parking and again he’d get weird about exactly where you were and wernt allowed to park…in a city center.

It was also around this time that I began to really look at my paycheque each month. When I started, the idea of being just above minimum wage was great, it made me feel like a big earner when compared to my peers but after 2 years; the promise in the interview that pay “Would be scaled in line with how the company grows” seemed like a distant memory. 2 years in a managerial position and I’d gone up £20 a month (Mainly due to hitting a tax bracket with my first payrise which meant I may as well have not had the first pay rise in the first place and a 2nd payrise in my second year which basically made me 20 quid a month better off) But while this was resting in the back of my mind along with the now extended 45-50 minute commute in and 55 – 75 minute commute out everyday…

It was around the time we moved that my boss decided to implement a new policy with me and my team, effectively the Ted turner approach. “Get the best people in to do the job and then get the hell out of there way”. This translated to him effectively leaving us alone to just get on with things unless he had extra work to put into the schedules or if he felt something wasn’t right. It was around this time he also abandoned appraisals and One to one meetings both of which he brushed away saying “If you have a problem just tell me.” Which at first sounds fine until you realise that there are some issues you really don’t want to broach unless asked first and while I imagine some people would bemoan appraisals and Im certainly not someone who constantly needs to be hand held or told im brilliant. Just being told “Hey you’re doing a good job” once every so often can really perk up the working experience. Likewise, Being told nothing makes you feel like your nothing.

It was around about this time that the procedure gaps started to show themselves. Because there was no policy on exactly what was and wasn’t acceptable and because we had no dealings with clients until the final post production stages, we had no idea whether we were dealing with just a bloke with a small art project or the literal Queen. It meant that sending out emails would become a veritable minefield as we adopted a standard form template explaining the services we’d offer and quite regularly my boss would come storming down to our department furious to know why we sent a standard form email to a client we’d never spoken who in fact would turn out to be a major contractor in there field, and as a result we should have been kissing there feet and calling them twice (if not thrice) a day to keep them constantly in the loop. Because of this it made sending any emails so paranoia inducing that I physically felt sick everytime I hit send because I couldn’t deal with my bosses disciplinaries.

Things came to a head one afternoon in autumn last year when I contacted my boss because a client had got in touch with me with a edit request and because I didn’t know if I was dealing with joe blogs or a far flung royal I sent an email to my boss explaining that the client had got in touch and asking how best to handle it. His response? “Has she sent instructions through, does she know what she wants”. I sent him an email back “She’s sent some through but not all the instructions we’d need to complete the edit”, his response? “Ask her”. So I emailed her back with a full set of instructions and asked her to get back to me with the bits we still needed. Half an hour later my boss runs into the office wild eyed and says “What d’yer think yer playing at mate!?” I was completely baffled. I said “What do you mean?” he says; “That email mate! That was totally inappropriate! I cant comprehend how you thought that email would be a good idea. We’ve got to offer the client now all our services and even some additional extras for free now because you’ve totally destroyed the relationship mate!”…I was stunned. Speechless almost… I said “But I only sent out the standard email we send to all the clients. I asked you what was the best thing to do you sai-“ he cuts me off, at this point shouting “IF YOU THINK THAT’S AN APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO SEND TO CLIENTS MATE THEN I DISPAIR I REALLY DO! ITS COMMON SENSE MATE I TOLD YOU TO CALL HER!”. I said “No you didn’t you said “Ask her” the conversation had been held on email so I thought it best to continue it on email. If you’d have said “Call her” I’d have called her. But this is the standard email we’ve sent out for years to clients.”…He looks at me like I’ve just grown another head…he (Again shouting) responds “MATE IF YOU CANT TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BIG CLIENT AND A SMALL CLIENT AND YOU CANT HAVE THE INITIATIVE TO CALL A CLIENT WITHOUT ME HANDHOLDING THEN ALL OF THIS IS POINTLESS YOU MIGHT AS WELL GO HOME.” Still reeling I apologise but again reiterate my point that unless he informs us who are big clients and who are small clients theres no way we’re to know who we have to treat with extra care. He turns to my co-worker and says “IM GOING MAD. I MUST BE GOING MAD. MATE! IF YOU WERE IN THIS POSITION WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE?”…and to his credit god bless my co-worker he said “Well you wernt very clear with “Ask her” so I’d have probably emailed…though I could see how it could be misconstrued.” My boss looked at us both like we’d were the aliens from “They Live!” and after a bewildered pause he shouted “RIGHT! RIGHT! WELL. THATS IT THEN. THIS IS GOING TO HAVE TO BE AN INQUEST. AND MATE IF YOU CANT TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CALLING AND EMAILING THEN YOURE NOT GOING TO BE ALLOWED TO SEND EMAILS ANYMORE. ITS COMMON SENSE MATE AND YOU CANT BE TRUSTED. THERE’LL BE A DISCIPLINARY AND AN INQUEST. DON’T TALK TO ME.” And then he stormed off.

Now. that disciplinary never happened. Nor was there an inquest. Whether he forgot or whether he realised he’d not so much overstepped the mark more used it as a starting line for a relay race I’ll never know. A few weeks after that incident he called me to a private meeting with my manager in which he informed me that he didn’t want me to send external emails anymore because “We don’t feel its your strength” even though 12 months earlier he cited me as “One of the best people to handle clients in the business” but by that point it didn’t matter to me. His attitude and general behaviour in recent months, the lack of pay rises and the now gratingly unpleasant commute…not to mention that incident in particular had set in motion something in my mind that would eventually lead me to where I’ve been this week.

It’s now gone 2:15am and I need to be up for work in about 5 hours so, so I’m going to cut this blogpost short here…for now. But the story is far from over. Consider this a part 1 if you will. In part 2 things get much more saltier , but I like to think this story has a happy ending of sorts, theres certainly a final resolution though I think that’s another post for another time. Till then though.

 

(No pictures really did this blog post justice so im sorry it looks like a wall of text…btw I chose to end the blog with this music track because it’s been the only thing keeping me sane these past 2 weeks. Seriously the Housemartins have saved my life this week…)

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