The Horrible Working Conditions at This Agency Led One Employee To Become An Actor

Having worked in quite a few advertising agencies over the course of my career, I've had my fair share of ups and downs, of good bosses and bad, or horrible working conditions as well as great. 

One agency presented a canned ham instead of a bonus (when bonuses were a thing). That same agency made us all come to work in the middle of winter when the heat decided not to work for two days. One boss, back in the day, publicly chastised me for suggesting the Internet was going to be an actual thing.

At the same time, one agency sent our entire Boston-based office to the home office of Chicago for three days for a company retreat just so all four offices of the agency could meet each other. Yes, it was 1999 and the dot-com money was everywhere.

Yes, there are ups and there are downs. Sadly, these days it seems like there are a lot more downs that ups. In this Globe and Mail piece by Karen Donald, we are invited into a world of despair in which the agency Donald worked for issued a memo instructing everyone to remove any and all personal items from their office space.



Sharing a bit of the bleak existence at this particular agency, Donald wrote: "Looking out across the cube farm, I noted the plants, family pictures, sagging balloons left over from a birthday and other little objects employees used to remind themselves why they came to this place every day -- to earn a living.

"I thought about the long hours; the snide comments uttered if one dared leave at 5 p.m.; feeling a little guilty as the rest of the team slogged away; working weekends. I’d even worked Christmas Day to meet a client deadline of Dec. 27, knowing full well the work wouldn’t be looked at until well after the holidays.

"My boss didn’t speak to me unless I was presenting her with something that absolutely required her approval. She didn’t speak to anyone. I never figured out if she was a miserable person or just unhappy in her life. An assistant once came to me near tears because she thought she was going to be fired: The boss had said hello. Everyone was constantly reminded that if they didn’t like it there was a lineup to get in the door. Pleas for more staff went unanswered or denied based on budgets."

This environment, coupled with several other soul-crushing experiences, thankfully led to Donald leaving to pursue a career in acting.

Granted, this sort of work experience is by no means limited to the advertising world. But one would think with all the vibrant creativity that's supposed to be flowing through the floors and walls of an agency, advertising should be the one place a person could expect a more upbeat and vibrant work experience.

Have we fallen so far? Has it really become this bad? 

2 comments about "The Horrible Working Conditions at This Agency Led One Employee To Become An Actor".
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  1. Nicholas Fiekowsky from (personal opinion), October 23, 2015 at 11:22 a.m.

    Why does this happen? Three magic words explain management attitude, "Because we can."

    At one work place, had an interesting counter-experience. Full-day, all-hands session to move to a more constructive culture. At day's end, senior management summarized the day, shared some of their career history. One VP talked about an awful two years working for a total jerk, waiting for him to move on. Encouraged us to be patient if we're in aimilar situation.

    In following question period I asked, "Your story about reporting to the jerk was impressive. Today, senior management has been encouraging us, the grass, to stand tall. What are you doing, besides telling us to be patient, to prevent these rogue lawn-mowers from cutting us down?" Strong applause from fellow employees. The following year, "No Jerks" was added to the program.

  2. Jean Meehan from Meehan Enterprises, October 24, 2015 at 2:47 a.m.

    You are to be applauded on these articles working conditions and management lack of leadership.  Thank you.

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