A New Career In A New Town (Part 2)

So I’ve managed to scrape some free time to myself in the early hours of the morning and it was basically a coin flip between writing a new review for my channel or writing a blog post finishing off my frankly obscenely long thereputic purging of my most recent period of time in employment. I will be doing notes for a new review tomorrow evening. Though im still trying to decide whether to do a Red triangle episode I have outstanding or whether to focus on a collaboration I’ve had in the fire since February/March time that I really should crack on with.

(This is all the clues you’re getting for that one!)

But that’s getting away from the bigger point! If your reading this your wanting to know how the story ended (Or rather how we get to the ending of this story, because odds are I wouldn’t be writing a blog post about my experiences in the film industry if it ended with “And Im still working there and everythings great”…) So! When we last left off we’d just had the first major altercation that would set in motion my current situation. After that incident happened I was fundamentally changed in my opinion about my place of work. Before I’d led with the mindset that people do occasionally have bad days and that sometimes people will be short with you when they’re in a bad mood but they’ll typically apologise for there actions and try to move on from it. This was one of those incidents where I fully expected an apology for his outburst because not only was it totally unnecessary, it was equally very unprofessional and it hurt me to think that he had so little regard for my feelings that he thought it was okay to talk to me like that. As I mentioned in the previous blog post the disciplinary never happened. But he never made it known that it wasn’t going to happen…This meant that I spent the next 2-3 weeks expecting to be on the receiving end of a bollocking that I didn’t agree with and it almost certainly effected both my work ethic and my performance as a result.

The weeks rolled on and slowly I started to get back to normality. I thought maybe it was just a one off odd incident and that things were pretty much back to normal. That is until November when there was another slightly minor incident involving miscommunication that led to a particular filming gig being sent out later than we’d been told to send it. This again didn’t get rectified but at least it didn’t end with someone walking out screeching about Disciplinaries so I could sleep well for the time being.

December led to the next incident when I was told not by my boss but by the accountant for the company that I was being denied my Christmas holiday time because they wanted an editor in the office over Christmas in case there was an emergency and that I’d drawn the shortest straw. Some back story, the company has existed for just under 15 years  (16 this year) and in the 15 or so years that the company has run there has never. And I mean NEVER been an edit called in over the Christmas period. The post production department winds down at the end of November and typically doesn’t get a new job in till the end of January. There was nothing in the schedules that was any different last Christmas nor was there any inkling that anything was going to happen. When I raised this to my boss with a very polite “Why is this happening? Im so confused” he parroted what the accountant said and with that I worked Christmas Eve and the 26th-30th of December. How many people were in the office over the Christmas period? Two. Two  people. Me. And the accountant. And during those 6 days or so I literally spent that time organising files and doing absolutely anything I could think of to stop me decking everyone. Even the boss didn’t appear during the Christmas period and they knew I had nothing to do while I was there. The only saving grace of the entire experience was that on the 30th of December the Accountant got a phone call off the boss who apparently told him to tell me that I could go home at lunch rather than sit there for another 4 hours doing literally nothing productive. Though because of this incident I ended up missing out on the Christmas holidays effectively and I never really got time off that was in any way meaningful as a result.

(Imagine this but somehow less busy and more depressing)

Now that last point may sound like sour grapes and a bit self-indulgent. And you’d be right to an extent. But I don’t have any time off pretty much year round specifically because I like to take Christmas off. They knew that and I always stress to make it pretty clear to anyone who knows me… If I’d have gone in for a purpose I could have appreciated that. If it was a big company who were short of staff I’d have at least understood it… I’d know I wasn’t wasting my time. I offered to work from home during these days because I knew there would be nothing really going on, this was refused because they wanted someone to “Fill a seat” and as mentioned in the last blog post the only thing more of an arse than having to work over Christmas is having to work over Christmas doing absolutely nothing and having to wake up at 6:15am and commute for 50 minutes just to do nothing. In short, if they’d said I could have been on call or worked from home that would have been fine. If I’d gone in with purpose that would have been fine. But they seemingly called me in there for nothing and I think that by the last day even they’d realised that all they’d achieved in doing what they’d done is made our relationship even more fragile than it already was…Though the real tipping point and the last straws were still to come…

I believe it was the last week of February that the final straws were put into place and broke. For the past 2 years my department had been levying the boss and the senior staff members to try and get workers contracts drawn up. We had been working for 2 years without any kind of contract or job security when we first broached the subject mainly because we didn’t really like the idea that the boss, if he was in a mood, randomly firing us without notice period or pay (Something he had done to 2 ex-employees within that 2 year period) we’d badgered him and mithered him but seemingly it was all in vein until February of this year (4 years in at this point). Now. I’m 90% confident that our badgering him had no effect on whether we got contracts or not. What I do think swayed it however was that my Boss had been in touch with his insurance company who were not happy with how things were being run, nor were they happy with the idea that we as staff members could effectively walk out at any time because we weren’t under contract.

So in the last week of February apropos of nothing my boss walks in with a big wodge of papers slams them down and starts passing them out saying “Can you read this, sign it and hand it back to me within 48 hours, any issues let me know and we’ll try our best to accommodate.” These were contracts. And they were fucking awful. They were badly written, vague to the point of pointlessness and they were littered with grammar and spelling mistakes. They were also heavily weighted in favour of the employer over the employee to an almost comical level. I read through this contract and there were numerous points I disagreed with. But one point in particular stuck out to me I have the document scanned on my computer but as I’d quite like to keep my anonymity on this one for at least the foreseeable future the wording was something to the equivalent of “You cannot work for a rival media company for 3 years after your notice period” Now. I had multiple problems with this stipulation. Firstly the vagueness of the wording. “A rival media company” could be anything from a fully fledged production house right the way through to B&Q because they have a facebook page. Equally there was a further stipulation to the above point. An addendum if you will that stated that I “Was not allowed to work for, start or continue work in any media venture in any capacity for 3 years after my notice period” which again is so vaguely written it could mean anything from “Your setting up your own business? Well see you in court…” to “ You uploaded a video to your facebook profile?…well…see you in court…”it was a seriously flawed contract and the majority of it was written that way. So I went to my boss and explained my concern.

(This face isnt far off my own when I read that contract)

His response? “Ahh mate don’t worry about it, we wouldn’t do anything bad to you… it’s just to protect our business.”  When I suggested (To put my mind at ease) whether he’d mind tweaking the wording to either clarify what a “Rival business” was or whether he would tweak the wording to at least specify what kind of work he didn’t want us doing for 3 years he became a bit cagey he started off down the line of “Well we cant change it for you mate because we’d have to change it for everyone and if we tweaked any of the points in this contract it could end up making the whole thing null and void”…I protested the point by saying “Well the rival business thing is fine for say; the company electirician or the website developer. They can move to any industry and get started. But I work in the film industry and this point specifically seems to imply that if I quite here I wont be able to work in the film industry for 3 years thereafter.” … there was a silence. And then after some thought he reiterated “Look mate. We arnt trying to diddle you. We wouldn’t bother taking you to court we’re not like that. But don’t just ask me for advice on whether you should sign this or not because I helped write it so of course im going to suggest you sign it…by all means get a second opinion”

So I did. I went to a union that offered free legal advice and they informed me that first and foremost if you have a problem with a contract you should submit it in writing because if you didn’t and it ever did go to court you’d at least have a document proving you disagreed with the terms of the contract. So with a bit of help from my family I drafted up a formal letter raising all the issues I had with the contract and asking for either clarification or tweakings to the meanings because I wasn’t happy with just how vague it all was.

This email was sent on a Friday. Monday morning I get into the office to find an email waiting off the boss asking for a meeting at the end of the day, “Oh brilliant” I thought “We’re finally going to get things sorted…Im really glad I signed up to a union now!” I thought…I was wrong to think that.

This wasn’t a meeting. It was effectively bullying. Because whereas I thought I was walking into a pleasant conversation one on one with my boss about contracts and how we could reach a compromise. Instead I walked into my boss and his mate who refused to listen or acknowledge my issues for 50 minutes and instead for those 50 minutes chose to go completely batshit insane at me for DARING to talk to a union and the frankly DISGUSTING behaviour I’d shown in sending them the email that I did in which I insulted them by daring to acknowledge that I had issues with the contract. When I sat down I was expecting pleasantries…what I got right off the bat was “I GOT YOUR EMAIL MATE. WHAT ON EARTH POSSESSED YOU TO SEND THIS!? IM INSULTED. DEEPLY INSULTED AND I WANT TO KNOW WHY YOU THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA!?” I was stunned. It was like someone had hit me with a bat. And while I was able to recover and stop babbling after about 10 minutes or so the next 40 minutes could best be described as me trying to explain that I joined a union to seek a 2nd opinion as he’d told me to do (He would rebuff that sentiment by saying “I was only joking about the 2nd opinion mate! I didn’t think you’d actually go and do it!”)  and my boss adamantly stating that I was trying to breed an “Us Vs Them” mentality in the office and that I was trying to bring back the “Worst elements of the 70’s” by involving “Spineless unions” his mate would only chip in to tell me that he too was “Utterly lost with the email I’d sent in” and the pair basically spent just short of an hour slagging off the unions, questioning my competency and refusing to answer any of my questions (There was a highlight moment for me that would give paxman a run for his money where I must have said “Define what a rival business is?” to my boss about 12 times without a solid answer) I reiterated my point that “If you could just tweak one point in this contract non of this would be happening” to which they adamantly refused because it wouldn’t be fair to the others…when I explained that the term I had problems with would only seriously effect my department and that everyone else would get off relatively easy they ignored it…at one point my boss asked why I didn’t ask the accountant for a 2nd opinion instead of going to a union. My response? “Because he wrote it and you helped write it too! You specifically told me not to take your word for it because you helped to write it! So im not going to ask your mate for a second opinion if he helped write it too!”

(Your home boy here was beyond pissed and really couldnt be arsed to take it anymore…)

Another prominent part of this “Meeting” was when I’d put a point like that across…that was clearly right. They’d take a long pause and say “…Oh we’re just going round and round in circles here” which was there codeword for “We don’t have an answer to what you’ve just said but we don’t want to seem like we don’t know what we’re talking about so we’re going to change the subject now”…The culmination of this 50 minute argument was a point where my boss literally called me “Slimy” for using a union and then after I rebuffed one of there points quite thoroughly he just snapped at me “Well mate! Im not compromising! You either sign this as soon as possible or you can go to your union and ask them for advice on severance packages!. I don’t mind paying out two to ten grand. It means nothing to me! But they wont help you find a job mate! So you have a good hard think about that. We’re done here.” and with that the meeting was over. While making minor small talk about “Thanking them for helping clear the air” (I said this ironically if you couldn’t tell) they took that point seriously and for the next 5 minutes while I found my shoes, coat and bag they just kept repeating back and forth to themselves that “This was just a sad situation and that I didn’t know what I was getting into by messing with them.”

I left the office for the night fairly silently, got in my car. Called my partner and told her everything that had happened. And then and there made the decision I wasn’t staying with this company anymore. I was done. I wouldn’t get talked to like that by my own parents. Letalone a little upstart and his mate thinking they can muscle me into submission. That night I got home and told my parents who were absolutely stunned by my bosses behaviour and about half an hour after I told them my father in law phoned me to say that my partner had told him everything and frankly it was a wonder “I hadn’t twatted the git” the irony was my boss thought the situation was sad but from my perspective I found a man much older than me having to get his mate in to help him hold an indefendable corner against a much younger man  on a point that could have been rectified and fixed in 20 mintues within a word document much much sadder.

I spent the following month applying for jobs, I had a couple of initial responses but nothing substantial. My boss seemingly didn’t think the “Meeting” we had was anything significant because after this happening he pretty much just went back to being himself. Only further adding to the strain of needing to get out was the fact that there was a growing possibility of the office being relocating somewhere even further away. There were only 2 places relocation was likely to happen in, one of them was the next town over. Making my rapidly approaching hour long commute an hour and ten minutes in and an hour and a half out. which was ludicrous. The other location was up in the hills, it would only have 2 ways in and 2 ways out and both would be inaccessible for large swathes of winter.

So now the pressure really was on because I couldn’t stand to drive any longer than I was already doing and my boss is the kind of person who’d have you drive your car off the road and in to certain death if only to ensure there was a chance you’d be in work that day.

(Self explanatory really…I wouldnt mind but the boss himself has always either lived 5 minutes away from the office or literally IN the office…)

So with mounting pressure and a serious lack of jobs going in the area, one evening in May I sent off for a raft of jobs and as a laugh I put in for a job in a non film industry position that was based about 5 minutes away from my house and was nearly double pay. I had no chance. But it was a laugh and the worst they could do was say no so I went with it. And then 2 days later I was asked to submit a video interview. “Ahh it’s probably just formalities. Everyone who applies will have to do one” I thought…it was a very weird experience having never done a video interview before but I didn’t burst into tears at any point during the interview so I see that as a positive.

I heard nothing back from any of the other jobs I applied for but about a week later the company who asked for the video interview got back in touch to say they were impressed with my video interview and wanted a “Face to face” interview to check my competency. “Ohhhhkay. I thought; well…I guess I did a bit better than I thought…I’ll go to the interview but im sure there are better qualified people for this position. I mean; I review bad and cult films on the internet Im hardly well adjusted enough for this position…” but I accepted there invitation, went along, and while I was a bit nervous, a touch rambly and for some reason my throat decided to close up during the interview. I managed to get across 80% of what I wanted to say. Though I thought I’d not been confident enough. I felt like I’d said all the wrong things and that “Joe mc’brill job” was going to cruise into proceedings with his £600 suit and slick back hair and just seal the deal in 3 smoothly crafted words. I on the other hand had verbal incontinence and a tuft of hair (What was left of it) I wasn’t feeling confident.

Shockingly though 24 hours later I got a phonecall from that new company asking me if I wanted the job…”Shit!..” I Thought “How on earth has this happened!?”  I thought. I was stunned. I really wasn’t expecting to pick up this position nor was I expecting to be able to walk out of one job into another. I fully expected to either be let go or to have to quit due to the stress involved in day to day operations. So to be told within a month of that infamous meeting that a rather large company wants you to work for them in there middle management department for significantly more pay and 10 hours a week more time to yourself. How could I refuse!?

(Pictured: Me and the family – If this new place works out)

I informed my boss about a 3-4 days after I was told. There were several hold up’s in telling him, largely centring around issues with accepting my application and processing issues on my new employers side of things. Im not going to lie I was bricking it having to tell my boss. We’d recently seen a string of losses and my leaving would mean there were only 2 people in the post production department doing the work of 4 people.  I even took some comfort in asking strangers on message boards what I should do and whether my situation was normal. Apart from the 2 dozen people who just wrote “Fuck your boss man, he sounds like a bellend.” The majority of people said that after some of the events that I’ve mentioned in this blog they’d have probably left years ago. Feeling somewhat invigorated I finally asked my boss for a quiet word and told him exactly what had happened.

I made it clear to emphasise that this wasn’t a decision I had taken lightly while at the same time making sure he knew that my new employers really wanted me to confirm I was on board with working for them so I needed to get plans mobilised as soon as possible. I was expecting another bollocking but this time I think he was genuinely surprised. Whether I’d shocked him for once (I.E : I think he thought I would stay after he turned the screws on me but It’s actually backfired to the point of me leaving) or whether he was genuinely happy for me I cant say. But his response was a very calm and upbeat “Oh! Well. Well done mate! People come and go all the time and your one of our longest serving staff members so it’s understandable” he was quite shocked  I was leaving the film industry and he wished me well before not talking to me for the next 3 days.

I told my co-workers and while they put a brave face on it I could tell they were upset. More often than not I’d acted as mediator between them and my boss and now I was leaving they wouldn’t have somebody there to help them get through the day. They all seemed terrifically sad that I was leaving and in confidence a couple of them later messaged me on facebook to ask If I could keep an eye out at my new place for any potential openings.

Since all this has happened the only major drama that’s gotten in my way has been the tight turnaround deadlines for information requests from my newest employer. Seriously all this week it’s been emails like “We need you to send us 3 unique pieces of identification that cant be anything traditionally used as I.D…we need this information within 24 hours otherwise we’ll treat it as if we’d never offered you the job in the first place” which is fine had it not been the case that all of there application forms are various shades of broken. And that they’re terrible at responding to emails. (A good omen im sure you’ll agree)

But barring one or two minor niggles here and there im now feeling pretty confident about my decisions. Its now fairly likely that the old business will be relocating to a further away location within the next 15-24 months and I’d have rather jumped ship willingly than been pushed while I desperately cling onto the plank. I’ll never forget my old job, When it was good. Which it was more often than not. It was one of the best jobs that a guy could ask for. But multiple external factors coupled with complete and total random outbursts from the boss, The man im supposed to trust, has just made this job totally untenable. Though im really hoping this new job opens up a bit more opportunity . at the moment im trying to keep positive, and while it is upsetting to me that I’ll be leaving behind some great friends, easy work and a fun environment *Most of the time* I do feel like I’ve advanced as much as I can within my current place of employment. I look forward to my new career opportunity, a fresh start with new people and a chance to challenge myself.

To me this entire thing is a lesson on how communication can be absolutely integral to a business in regards to whether your clients or your staff will stick around or not. This entire situation was avoidable. Had my boss not absolute and totally pointlessly attacked me on multiple occasions over a 12 month period I’d probably have stayed fairly docile. Its also taught me that Pride in a position Is only worth the money its earned by. Having a Job that sounds cool but pays like crap isn’t a particularly good deal no matter how you look at it. Especially if you have external negatives only making the situation worst.

And while the potential office relocation stuff would have still been a serious factor in me moving. I’d have probably waited till the week we were supposed to be moving before looking for a different job. But because he was so nasty, because he was so personal and because he seemingly just didn’t know how to handle the situation he’s lost a senior member of his business absolutely needlessly and its going to be a real legitimate pain to recover that loss. Not to blow my own horn here.

And that’s pretty much all I have to say on the matter so far. Inevitably there’ll be teething troubles with my new job (as Is the case with any business a person joins. They have different ways of handling stuff so things are more than likely to go wrong. All I can do for the time being is repetedly contact my new employers customer support in the hope that they will fix everything. And other than that try and make leaving my current employment as smooth and ninja like as possible.

If you’ve read these two parts all I can do is sincerely thank you. It’s been a very difficult situation I’ve found myself in and I’ve predominantly suffered with my own thoughts, so to be able to put it all out there has really helped me out, its really been a weight off my mind. Thank you for putting up with this is all I can say. Thank you.  Normal service will be resumed shortly.

(Optimisms on the rise so I think this is a good way to end this and also look hopefully to the future)

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