The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


When Work Tries To Destroy You …

So as I said on Monday, this is my last post for a couple of weeks.

Given the extra-low quality of rubbish I’ve written over the past few days, that is probably of huge relief to you.

However I want to leave you with a post that – for me – is deadly serious, as the title of this post hopefully suggests.

It’s quite dramatic isn’t it?!

Well, sadly it’s not a joke and it is really happening.

Worse, it’s seemingly happening more and more.

What am I talking about?

The systematic destruction of employees confidence and experience to either leave them questioning their ability, their future or forcing them to be a complicit robot to the whims of management.

Now I should point out I am not in any way suggesting this is something companies are actively trying to do – however, many of their managers actions and behavior are doing just that.

Maybe it’s down to the pressures they face from the people above them.

Maybe it’s down to a sense of insecurity about their ability or their job security.

Maybe it’s the competitive environment and so it’s about ensuring clients are always happy.

Or maybe it’s simply their inability to deal with people who have different opinions to them.

Whatever the reason, it’s destroying talent, standards, creativity, agencies and client relationships.

I don’t care that some people will say that’s the ad business and everyone needs to toughen up … because the reality is it’s NOT the ad business and it’s not a case of toughening up.

Sure we will continually face disappointment and judgement, but that is very different to undermining individuals confidence, especially when it’s from the very people who should be giving you protection and encouragement.

Adland is at its best when it harvests diversity of opinion, backgrounds, experiences … when they have people who look at the World differently … but nowadays, everyone is trying to look and act like the clients they represent or – worse – punishing those who don’t fall into line with the company narrative.

The very existence of our job is to help companies have a role and position in culture.

To connect … entice … seduce … play with …

You don’t do that with people who look and act like their clients, you do that with people who can translate what clients need and express it in interesting and intriguing ways that culture will actually give a shit about.

Once upon a time I had a job that did this to me.

Of course, at the beginning everything was fine.

While there were the odd difference of opinion, I just put it down to that thing where every new job starts off with this balancing act between expressing who you are and learning how everyone else is. But quickly – and I mean within a few weeks – I started to sense this was something more than just teething problems, because it felt certain individuals were going out of their way to either stop me expressing any different point of view or just openly devaluing it to others.

What made it more confusing was generally, these people were being nice and smiley – possibly because they didn’t see or think what they were doing was causing any harm – but it was and I started reacting to it.

At first it was just asking them if there was anything wrong and if there was a better way for me to communicate my views. But after they said all was fine but their attitude towards me continued – I started to get a bit dogmatic.

No one wins when this happens … but then no one wins when someone feels this way because of others actions.

I should point out clients and colleagues seemed to be happy with my work, but certain bosses – regardless what I did – seemed to immediately sideline me and then position me as ‘the problem’, without ever telling me what the problem was.

The worst bit to all this was that I only mildly understood how damaging this was starting to have on my mental health over time.

I knew I was miserable – truly miserable – but the full impact of their subtle destruction only became clear much later when I realized I wasn’t the only person this was happening to and a few of us started to chat about it openly.

It was then that I knew I had to take action.

Again, I must say I am sure none of this was intentional – they too were going through personal and professional bad times – however it doesn’t lessen the fact it happened and while I could have made life much easier for myself if I just agreed with them 100% of the time, the reality was I was just trying to make things better and genuinely thought my experience or viewpoint was worth at least discussing rather than dismissing out of hand.

And while I tried to find ways to work better with them, their attitude towards me – and countless others – didn’t change and the effect it was having on me was getting much worse.

I questioned myself.

My abilities.

My hopes and dreams.

And what’s even more criminal is how it affected me outside of work.

I felt isolated and abused.

I became very argumentative.

I let people who cared for me feel left aside or behind.

I hate what these people did to me … because unintentional or not, they caused it.

While I’ll never know the real reasons for their attitude towards me, I have my thoughts …

Survival being one of them.

Survival in terms of salary. In terms of role. In terms of ego.

Where their insecurities – personal and professional – were able to be managed by undermining the confidence of those around them … the very people they were paid to nourish, grow and trust.

It’s almost the ultimate betrayal.

While this all happened a while ago, I still believe that if I’d stayed I would have suffered from clinical depression.

A depression that could have ended up breaking the things that I love.

Which is why I am so grateful I was able to get out and move on, while appreciating I was in a situation that meant I could do it relatively easily because I didn’t have to worry too much about family responsibilities, financial commitments or simply not having any other options available to me.

I still remember the shock I felt when – in my new job – I showed some work to my boss and they said it was great.

I asked them what they wanted me to change and they looked at me like I was a lunatic before saying, “you’re hired for your opinion not to repeat mine”.

It was at that moment I knew just how far those bastards had hurt me.

But now I am seeing many of my friends in a very similar situation.

Where they feel they are also being destroyed by managers who want to control them by undermining them.

Letting them feel they are failing so their bosses can appear strong. In charge. In control.

Going home crying … wondering who they are, what they do, what their worth is.

A sense of being trapped because they’re too worthless for someone else to want them.

It’s psychological abuse, pure and simple.

Thankfully not every company and not every manager is like this. In fact there are probably more good than bad – however given how many of my friends are going through a situation like this, I also know it’s not isolated incidents and I know it’s getting bigger.

Given how all these company mission statements say their staff are their most important asset, I find it disgraceful more and more people feel their employers are actively hurting them … where the only way to survive is to follow leaderships orders, whether they are in their best interests or not.

Of course the great irony is our industry in particular is built on those people who see the World differently.

Who challenge, provoke, explore and experiment … but as adland chases money – having sold the commercial value of creativity down the river long ago – we are increasingly regarding anyone or anything that gets in the way, as our enemy, ultimately speeding the pace of our demise.

Which says the leaders of the companies who are allowing this to happen, are basically only focused on their own future.

Where any member of staff left behind is simply regarded as collateral damage.

Labeled as not good enough.

Not strong enough.

Not adding enough value.

It’s wrong.

Worse than that, it’s an act of viciousness.

I know money is important.

I know business needs it to survive and it’s getting harder to get.

[And not just because there’s more options for clients than ever before]

But when many talented people are feeling broken and worthless by their bosses, maybe it’s time we all take a good look at how we’re operating and what we’re asking our people to do, because if our future is dependent on showing how we can do amazing things with creativity and smarts … we’re doing a great job of making sure that stops happening.

If anyone recognises themselves – or someone they care about – in this post and wants someone to talk to, please reach out. I can’t fix it for you but I can listen and I can encourage.

Advertisements


We Are Always On Display …

Thanks to technology, our private lives are less private.

While many of us seem to be OK with this, there is a potential price to pay.

With more and more companies worrying about their professional reputation, they are actively delving into the lives of their existing – and potential – employees … making sure the way they conduct themselves out of work reflects the values of how they should be acting when they are inside work.

While we can talk about whether a company has any right to demand how an individual behaves is open to debate, but what is certain is our personal and professional reputation is now constantly being viewed and reviewed by those around us and if you want any chance of continually moving forward in life, you have to be conscious of what reaction your actions may have on that.

Let me tell you a story …

A few weeks ago, I was staying in a hotel in Germany.

It was a fancy-pants hotel, with the room overlooking a central garden.

Imagine my surprise when I looked out the window and saw this …

Yes, that’s a man.

A man who is walking around his room.

A man who is walking around his room, naked.

A man who is walking around his room naked with the curtains open.

He was like this for bloody ages and yet, when he saw me trying to take a photograph of him, he acted shocked [not shocked enough to put on his clothes though] when he was the one who knowingly poncing around his hotel room with his unimpressive penis on display.

Look, I get when you have travelled a long way, you just want to get into your hotel room and let your metaphorical hair down … but making everyone complicit in your actions is a bit mean.

Maybe I should give lessons on hotel etiquette …

You might be wondering what gives me the right to do that, well let me tell you why.

About a year ago, after an extraordinarily long day, I finally got to my hotel room and just wanted to relax.

Problem was, a very dear friend of mine was leaving Wieden and I had to send in my leaving ‘video’ that night.

Did I send my message while standing naked in front of a window?

No …

As you can see from the photo below, I found a way to balance the need to chillax after a long day of work with a sense of professional decorum towards my friend and fellow hotel guests.

I have created a 5 step ‘reputation training program’ to help any individual or hotel group who is interested in knowing how to best handle these situations in ways that balances self expression with managing a strong corporate image.

All at very reasonable prices.

You’re welcome.



Monday Misery [For Me … Even Though I’ve Written A Blog Post]
February 25, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Authenticity, China, Comment

Well this is going to be a good week for you because not only am I only writing posts for 4 days instead of 5, you’re then free from me till the 11th March.

Yes … no posts whatsoever for almost 2 weeks!

How did you get so lucky.

But it’s not just you who gets the good fortune, it’s also the people who were in danger of seeing me present at DMX in Dublin because due to circumstances out of my control, I have to go to Shanghai.

Which means while Ireland also get to enjoy a positive Monday, the big losers are the 1.3 billion people of the Middle Kingdom who will have to encounter me again.

OK, maybe not all 1.3 billion, but a lot of them.

As way of an apology to all who has to put up with me, I leave you with a message I received from a very senior client of mine.

It’s possibly the best back-handed, passive-agressive compliment I’ve ever had.

You’re welcome.



They’re Always Close To You …
February 22, 2019, 6:16 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Emotion, Empathy, Family, Happiness, Home, Love, Mum

A few days ago, I received this.

I say ‘I’, but it was addressed to my Mum.

It was an election notice from the Italian Government.

Now I know it’s a bit weird that they are sending something to my Mum, to her old house in England, when she died almost 4 years ago, but it feels so lovely to get it.

Especially given the terribly sad situation regarding my Mum’s sister that occurred this week.

While I’m not a huge believer in ‘signs’, I can’t help but think this is a sign …

Thanks for reminding me you’re always watching out for me Mum.

I’m glad you and your sister can be together again.

Love you. Miss you.



For Auntie Silvana …
February 19, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment, Dad, Family, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, Silvana

Outside of my Mum and Dad and my best friend Paul, Auntie Silvana has been involved my life the longest.

From my earliest age, I remember her always being there – whether that was arguing with my dad about politics or showing us around London on one of our frequent trips to visit her.

Despite facing many challenges in her life, Auntie Silvana – like her sister – was a fiercely independent woman. She never wanted to rely on someone else for help which is why she could be incredibly stubborn if she disagreed with something someone was trying to make her do. But when I think of her, the memories that flood my mind are of an incredibly kind, incredibly considerate, humble yet generous person.

She only ever wanted the best for others. She would encourage you every step of the way. And when you achieved something – however small – she would celebrate it with genuine happiness and celebration … never wanting or expecting anything in return.

There are so many things I am thankful to Auntie Silvana for. From giving me my first ever television to taking me to my first theatre show to helping my family when we needed it most.

She was a wonderful, kind, worldly and cultured lady and while I am devastated she has gone, there are 3 things I am grateful for.

1. She was able to continue living an independent life till the end. Given her eye problems, that’s testimony to her tenactity.

2. I am able to be here to let her know how much I loved her and how much my wife, Jill and my 4 year old little boy – Otis (who called her ‘Auntie Nana’) – did as well. I will forever be grateful she got to hold my son given my Mum sadly passed away before she could meet him in real life.

3. I am able to repesent my Mum and Dad – who are no longer here but would absolutely want to be if they were around – so they could share their love for her and say thank you for all you did.

Silvana, you were an amazing Auntie to me.
An amazing sister to my Mum.
And an amazing friend to my Dad.

Words will never be able to capture how much I thought of you and while the pain of your loss will last a long, long time … the memory of you will last far longer.

The World is a little less kind for your loss.

I’m happy you can be reunited with your family.

Say hi to Mum for me and thank you for everything.

Tanti Baci.

Comments Off on For Auntie Silvana …


My Dearest Silvana …
February 18, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: Family, Love, Mum, Mum & Dad, Silvana

So on Saturday, my Auntie Silvana passed away.

She was an incredibly kind and generous person but – like my Mum, who was her younger sister – she was also fiercely independent.

A few weeks ago she suffered an illness and sadly, while there were some positive signs, she ultimately succumbed to her ailments.

I am devastated for so many reasons.

The main one is obviously that she’s my Aunt.

She loved me and always wanted the best for me, Jill and Otis.

The second is she was incredibly kind to my family, especially Mum – who loved her so much.

During my early years, she was almost like a guardian angel to us when we encountered some tough times.

The final reason is that she is the last of her generation …

The last link to a group of wonderful people who defined so much of who I am.

While I am happy she is no longer in pain or suffering, I am so, so sad that she has gone.

Her loss will be felt for so long but her memory will last a lifetime.

Goodbye Auntie Silvana. Love you.

Rx

Comments Off on My Dearest Silvana …


Valentines Day Might Not Be About Love, But That’s No Reason To Not Talk About Love …
February 14, 2019, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Emotion, Empathy, Family, Love, Valentine's Day

Don’t worry, I’m still away.

And there won’t be another post tomorrow.

But I couldn’t let today pass without writing something.

As many of you know, I hate Valentine’s Day.

I’ve written about my hatred of this day for years … because the truth is it’s far more about fear than love.

But this year I’m going to change the narrative.

I still think Valentine’s Day is an act of marketing evil, but as it is supposed to be about love, I’m going to express it.

To my wife.

My wonderful, supportive, kind, clever and beautiful wife.

Since we met, I have taken Jill on a hell of a rollercoaster ride.

While I could argue she should have seen the warning signs when I was rushed into hospital within weeks of us meeting [resulting in her first conversation with my Mum being her saying I was having an emergency operation] … the reality is in the 15+ years we have been together, we have experienced, encountered and enjoyed about as much variety of life as you could get.

Birth.
Death.
Adventures.
Adversities.
New countries.
New languages.
Hopes and dreams.
Disappointment and broken promises.

There’s not many people who would leave their home and family to follow a guy she’d only met 6 weeks earlier.

There’s even less people who would then move to Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Los Angeles and England … with the last 3, all happening in the space of 2 years.

And there’s even less people who would do all that when the guy in question is me.

But through it all … through absolutely everything, including the ridiculous Jillysim blog … Jill has stood by me, supporting me and cheering me on, even during times when she could have rightfully said ‘can we press the pause button?’.

Nothing says this more than our time in LA.

Of all the places we lived, she particularly loved the Californian coast.

Not because of the sun, the beach and the lifestyle – but they helped – but because she had a real and vibrant friend network there.

Taking her away from that broke my heart.

She could have said ‘no’ … but she wanted to do what was best for us, not just for her and she knew I wasn’t enjoying my time in LA as I hoped I would. Because of that – and her commitment to us and our relationship – she swapped sun for rain and has embraced everything that has come her way – stuff that has tested many things that are important to her – with openness and acceptance.

I am a stronger and better person because of my wife.

She cares about me in a way that is both wonderful and unbelievable.

Everything I have achieved in the last 15 years is because of her support, brains and commitment to us.

She’s an amazing, talented woman, mother, daughter and all around person.

And while she knows I loathe valentines day with all my heart, I am happy to use this day to say I love her with all my heart.

I owe her so much and so much more.

I still can’t believe I got this lucky.

I love you Jilly.

Rx

Comments Off on Valentines Day Might Not Be About Love, But That’s No Reason To Not Talk About Love …