It’s Deja Vu All Over Again


Muddy Road

Tanzan and Ekido were once travelling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.

Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

“Come on, girl,” said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. “We monks don’t go near females,” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?”

“I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

It’s almost two years to the day that I was let go from my first job here in Australia. I didn’t really like the job itself but after an exhaustive and fruitless search I was just happy to be making money. It’s only recently that I heard the company is over $5 million in debt and is “restructuring” with what remains of the staff.

I was unemployed for nearly six months during the start of the so-called GFC, which I’ve probably mentioned too many times already. To read about my adventures in the job that I eventually got go here.

In an obvious response to the unrelenting toxicity of that work environment I, naturally, started looking for another job back in July and, after interviewing for one job that, while I wasn’t all that excited about it, I would take just to get out of my (then) current one — which is exactly what I did.

The sense of relief was great and I looked forward to a fresh start. My wife and started looking at selling the apartment and buying a house (although, frankly, I thought it was a bit premature). We imagined that we’d start to finally get out from under the burden of the debt we’d accumulated just to get by in the first couple of years here. With my daughter finishing her first year at private school and my son slated to start next year we finally felt confident that this would be something more stable, that we could start the life we’d hoped to have when we moved here five years ago.

One thing I should mention was my job description, which said that I would be “managing” a “team”;  that I was to immediately jump on the existing client projects; and, oddly, that I was to decorate the office with window treatments for the offices and conference room, along with what to hang on the walls(!?)

And I was, of course, expected to review all existing company brand collateral — websites, logos, brochures, etc. — and, working with “management” establish a timeline for reworking everything. My title was Studio Manager, which was a departure from the description and title I’d originally applied for, which was that of Senior Designer. The switch was made, apparently, in the time between my initial interview and the night they offered me a job.

In retrospect, had I been hired for that role things would have worked out for all involved.

When I accepted the role I was introduced to everyone one Wednesday afternoon in September. When I started on Oct. 11 the design “team” was now one full-time recent grad and two student interns. Apparently “management” forgot to tell me that half the people I met just a few weeks prior had all quit. Oops.

Also, in my correspondence with the General Manager I was given the option of starting on either Oct. 5 or Oct. 11, whatever my preference. Feeling no urgency I chose the 11. On the 13th I was informed that I was expected to work on new logos for the various divisions and rework their repsective websites — by Nov. 1. This was in addition to working on ongoing client projects and thinking about the office decoration.

This was my first two days at my new job.

I should mention that the General Manager was in England when I started. She was originally supposed to be back on the 12th but didn’t return until the 20th, and I had  not received any correspondence from her since I’d been offered the role back in September.

I can’t really say the two and a half weeks I was there before they fired me were horrific, taking into account my experience with my previous employer. However, I do feel that I was saddled with a ridiculous workload and completely unrealistic deadlines; that I spent hours sifting through the chaotic filing system on their servers; that no one could offer any direction in terms of logins to work on both company and client websites; and that I was not supplied with any information to make the task of rebranding the company’s print and online materials, only told that she was “working on a whole lot of strategy stuff”.

I realized that I would not have enough time to complete all the projects so I came into the office each morning about 7:45 am and stayed late every night. I came in over the second weekend to catch up on emails and look at various CMS for tracking work, since their existing system of having everyone update a single Excel spreadsheet was, well, a little arcane. Of course, when I emailed my suggestions to the General Manager, she informed me she “didn’t have time” to look at them. I printed off the features page from each site but, again, she just couldn’t find the time.

It’s at this point I should mention alcohol.

It was consumed in mass quantities, usually starting about 4 in the afternoon. The big boss could, apparently, consume a few bottles in an evening which, now that I think of it, probably resulted in some questionable “strategic” decisions.

I was confronted on the 22nd (I know this date well because it was my 10th wedding anniversary, as well as the day I had to drop my mom and sister at the airport for their long journey back to NY) as to “where we were” with all the internal re-branding. I told her I hadn’t done anything yet because I had been feverishly trying to work through the existing client work, trying to establish a more streamlined way of tracking the work for billing purposes. My efforts, though, were overlooked because I’d apparently failed to meet up to their expectations as to what I should have accomplished by that point, since they were expecting a complete overhaul by Nov. 1.

Keep in mind that the role of Studio Manager — along with it’s responsibilities — is not what I had applied for, but it was what was offered to me. And that no specific deadline was specified for company rebranding.

I let her know, with my own unique intolerance, that there was no one else present in the office who worked across all media except me. The “design team” consisted of two 3-D artists and one design student — none of whom knew anything about print or web design. And guess what kind of work needed to get done?

I asked if my job was in jeopardy; she said that wasn’t even on the table. I asked the Managing Director the same question on that Monday and he, also, told me it was not a consideration, that he wanted to “see my success at the company.”

They gave me a Wednesday deadline to have some things to show for logos, websites and print. And I delivered. But I didn’t get to present.

I was summoned into his office at about 4:45 and was told that “this isn’t working out… that (he) sees me back there [at my desk] working hard and looking tired.” And I thought, “I’m being fired because I work hard?”

At this point I should mention that I learned that on Tuesday night the Managing Director, the General Manager and another co-worker went out to dinner and had 5-6 bottles of wine and 2 bottles of champagne. That would explain why, when I turned on my phone at 5:30 am Wednesday morning, I got a notice (sent the night before) that the “Catch-Up Meeting” with them had been changed from 2:30 to 4:45.

They decided to fire me while shitfaced. Bravo.

Epilogue

The hardest part of this — and the last few years — has been trying to resist the sense of personal failure. When this happened I thought about all the unexpected problems I have faced since moving here and did, indeed, feel like I’d failed. It would be cowardly to cast blame rather than look within and, without dwelling, move on. Still, it’s hard to not blame myself for what happened.

But today I heard the most sage advice I’d heard in a long time: “Say sorry to yourself.”

“Why?” I asked, puzzled.

“Because you got mad at yourself. So now say you’re sorry.”

That was from my son. He’s three.

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