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

Don’t Be A Victim Of The Corporation Jail [Remember, Holiday’s Are A Right, Not An Option!!!]
September 5, 2008, 7:21 am
Filed under: Comment

Excuse the impending long, long rant – but I’m majorly pissed off …

Orsetto in heaven

One of the many things that’s interesting when you start a company and have people working with you, is addressing the ‘principals’ and ‘philosophies’ you talked about putting into place before you opened your doors.

You see it’s very easy to come up with all sorts of ideas about how you want your company to operate but when you realise what the implications of your decisions could be, it’s another thing altogether whether you actually bite the bullet and do them.

I make no apologies for the fact we had to think long and hard about our planned maternity/paternity policy – because as much as we think it’s wrong companies subliminally bully people into not having children because of financial constraints, it’s tough for a small company to cover the sorts of costs we were talking about incurring.

However despite not being legally obliged to do it, we went through with it [thank you Mary!] and whilst there’s been a couple of occasions where we’ve looked at eachother and said “ARE WE MAD???”, the loyalty and positivity we have received in return made it totally worthwhile.

Another thing we felt really important was holidays.

Infact we felt they were so vital to the mental and physical wellbeing of our people – as well as ourselves – that every 3 months, we had/have a mandatory long weekend.

I absolutely hate how people don’t take holidays … I hate it … and whilst there are many supposed reasons for it, I believe in the main, they’re all bollocks.

If a client can’t live without a member of their agency for a couple of days, then they’re either not very good at what they do or they need to pay the company a hell of a lot more money for their work.

If the agency can’t live without an employee for a couple of days, then they’re either really badly managed or they’re going to get a resignation letter from one of their staff very, very soon.

If a person can’t afford to take off a couple of days, then they’re either incredibly inefficient or they need to ask for a big promotion.

OK so I’m being sarcastic – however as much as I accept there may be the odd occasion where taking time off could be difficult, it should be the exception not the rule and certainly not get to the point where you have multiple days left to take by the year end.

overloading Work Overload by Khawaja

When I first moved to Oz, I was amazed that some companies paid out holiday time that had not been taken.

Now that might sound great in theory, but the fact is some people regard this as potential additional income so purposefully work and work and work.

This is a false economy for everyone ….

The worker becomes less productive because of tiredness and stress – which often leads to mistakes and illness.

The company is incurring a ticking timebomb of additional costs that they’ll have to pay out at some point in the future.

The client has people working on their business that are not as sharp or open to opportunities as they need to be.

It is because of these reasons that we do not pay out for untaken holidays [unless we are the cause for it happening, which to this day has never been the case] and are continually monitoring where people are with their holiday allowance.

Of course it can be awkward when they all want to be on holiday around the same time – but our view is that it’s their holiday – to take when they please – not when it suits us.

OK, so things like school holidays and Christmas need abit of openness and fairness to ensure everyone can enjoy the moment rather than just Mr/Mrs Super Organised, but in general if someone wants to take a holiday and has given more than a couple of weeks notice [unless certain circumstances dictate otherwise] then they have it.

pregnant-01 Photo: Max Sauter

I remember when Fred had 4 weeks off when baby #3 came around.

It was without doubt the worst possible time because a couple of our team were already away but what was I going to do, tell him no?

Apart from the fact [1] we’d known it was going to happen for 9 months and [2] he would quite rightly of told me to fuck off … the fact is family is more important than work – and if a client/company doesn’t understand that, then they need a reality check pretty damn quick.

I cannot tell you how much I hate how business has created a work ethic where people feel obliged to give all their time and energy to a company.

Working 8 hours a day is no longer enough – they expect even the most junior of people to put in 12 hours + a day and not complain when they’re called in at the weekend. Hell, if you somehow manage to go home on time they make you feel like you’re cheating the company, it’s outrageous.

OK, so if you’ve been pissing about [writing blogs, ahem] or you get paid an absolute fortune, I can understand you may have to work later than usual, but companies shouldn’t expect everyone to work these hours – especially if they’re not going to recompense them for it.

Which brings me to another point … why can’t adland be a 9-5 industry?

Lets face it, clients rarely work till 9, 10, 11 o’clock at night so why do their agencies consistently have to?

Of course it’s because the powers-that-be have sold the value of creativity so far down the river that the only way they can make a buck is by under-resourcing on staff whilst positioning themselves as a ‘service industry’ … however here’s the thing … adland is not [or should not be] a service industry, infact it’s more related to the manufacturing industry than anything to do with service, which is why everytime I see some network CEO stand up and declare his/her staff as their greatest asset, I laugh myself silly.

365 Photo: Miss Advantage

Anyway back to my point …

The problem with this ‘total ‘effort’ expectation within organisations is that it’s not just affecting people’s job satisfaction and loyalty … it is affecting the fundamental dynamic of society.

Not only are families spending less and less time with one another, but they’re losing their ability to communicate and relate … hell, it’s even affected why people go on holiday – it’s now more about recuperation than discovery and even then the poor holiday maker is at the mercy of the dreaded blackberry!

[I don’t mind admitting that I’m dreading the day mobile phones can be used freely on all airlines. One of the reasons I love flying is that for the time I’m in the sky, I’m shielded from all the problems and demands of work. Infact I have made it a policy that whenever I go on a plane, I never do anything work related at all. Sure that means I have more to do when I land, but I treasure that that time in the sky so when phonecalls can be made/received at 38,000 feet, my last sanctuary from work is officially over]

Anyway, the real reason for this rant is because a friend of mine has just been told they may have to cancel their holiday because their boss is going to be in NYC for part of [not even all] the time they’re away.

It shouldn’t matter if their boss is going to Timbukfuckingtu, the fact is my friend gave the company masses of notice [ie: months] … they need a break because they’ve had to manage a global account with little or no assistance for the past year [despite their agency having account people coming out their arse] … they’ve had to contend with a pretty major family crisis going on at home and … possibly the best bit … it’s not even a real holiday, they’re doing a fucking climb up the Himalayas for charity.

Yeah, agencies really give a damn about their staff don’t they?

Seriously, I thought the LOWE principals incident was bad, but this is just beyond belief.

Personally I hope my friend leaves and drops them in the shit because they don’t deserve having talent like that in their company – however until companies realise that sometimes the best thing they can do for staff loyalty is to let them have a life, I would imagine I’m going to hear/see more of this corporate buffoonery than less.

35 Comments so far
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How to win loyalty and improve morale in one easy lesson – and all for the sake of a couple of face to face meetings in an age of digital communication.

Comment by John

I wonder what the client would think. After all, they all have CSR codes these days relating to sourcing of their materials etc.

Comment by John

What can I say? This is a brilliant post, you’re even better when you’re angry about personal issues rather than just character assassinating bad ads.

There are so many interesting and valid points made in this that I don’t know where to begin, “letting people have a life creates loyalty”, “why adland won’t be a 9 to 5 industry”, “the cost of principals in business”, “the emergence of the 12+ hour day”, “the need for holidays”, “the benefit of plane travel”, all great points that I need to absorb for a bit longer before being able to pass any real comment.

What your friend is experiencing at their company is awful. Obviously his or her boss is an absolute heartless tyrant and I hope they leave them in the lurch. Everyone needs time off but too many companies believe only the most senior of management are being productive when their version of effective revolves around how many lunches, dinners and rounds of golf they’ve been able to make in any given week.

I will always remember the reply you gave when I asked how much the additional benefits at cynic cost the company and you said less than the cost of seeing great people every week. Funny how some companies get it and some don’t and now google is recognised as being one of the best organisations for looking after staff, it can be said this approach benefits profit potential.

Great way to end the week and pass on my best wishes to your friend.

Comment by Pete

I’m with Pete on this, it’s a great post. I think I know which friend you’re talking about so pass on my support and tell them to stop being so considerate to a company that doesn’t care about their wellbeing or happiness.

You make a couple of great points John, one of which is similar to the point Robert raised in his John McCain post a few days ago. You would think someone in advertising would understand this issue more than most but it appears in the case of Robert’s friend that is not the case.

Comment by George

Excellent post Robert and you will be happy to know you weren’t too subtle with your anti mobile phone on airline comment.

I also note that you mention Mary’s contribution to cynic’s HR policies but not ours. Should I regard this as a deliberate snub or an innocent mistake due to being focused on not alienating, upsetting or aggravating George’s wonderful wife?

Comment by Lee Hill

This is a great and important post Rob. What’s happened to your friend is terrible.

Most companies and all ad agencies talk big about looking after their staff, attracting and retaining the best. But in terms of actual behaviour, it’s all driven by short-term financial results. When the company books aren’t happy reading, principles and humanity go out the window.

For the long term I can’t see how this loyalty-killing behaviour could lead to stronger organisations with better profit potential…but perhaps that’s because I like to believe that quality matters in the ad industry and that we can’t be a ‘volume industry’ if we’re going to survive.

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

Given this is the first comment you’ve made in about 6 months Freddie, should I assume you’re a victim of ‘profit before people’ or simply that you’ve had far better things to do with your time?


What bothers me is that for many companies the quest for profit has no specific goal, it’s always “can we squeeze a little bit more?”.

This is one of the key problems with being a listed company because your destiny is out of your hands – and yet so many companies seem to think this is the only way to raise cash, which is ridiculous – especially when you’re a profitable business.

Comment by Rob

100% behind all of this post

Comment by Bazza

Great post – you’re right about all of it.

“If the agency canโ€™t live without an employee for a couple of days, then theyโ€™re either really badly managed or theyโ€™re going to get a resignation letter from one of their staff very, very soon.” – so happy I’m not the only one that thinks this.

Comment by Ben

Hi Ben … I think you’re new around here so it’s great to have you come by and I hope you come back soon.

As much as you and I seem to feel the same way as regards how certain companies operate, I certainly don’t think we’re in the minority – the issue is that too few people say anything because they are kept in a permenant state of fear about the ramifications if they voice their opinions.

I don’t know if you’re in adland but I wish there was an ad agency union because the sort of shit that goes down on a daily basis is up there with the sweat shops that Guardian readers love to complain about but don’t do much interms of fundamentally acting against.

God with comments like that, I should start wearing a Kevlar vest incase the multinational ad agency snipers decide to pay me a visit.

Comment by Rob

FYI Rob this post explains “why”. Well said buddy.

Comment by Jonathan Rosenberg

Thanks for the words, but it doesn’t make me feel any better about the situation. But then Simon Cowell is rarely pleased is he? ๐Ÿ™‚

Comment by Rob

Ah wonderful.
When I used to write for small businesses the issue of time off and pregnancy was such a heated one. I understand perfectly that some businesses simply ccannot afford to do that, but I hope that those who can will do.

One thing I like about this place, I get my birthday off in addition to my holiday. Another small addition that really endears a company to you.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Sorry to tell you this Rob but apart from you, the only people from WPP who read this blog are their lawyers so your nice comments are all in ‘payrise’ vain ๐Ÿ™‚

Comment by Rob

It does feel nicely distant from WPP Central here.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

That is a grade a fuck up. Hope they turn up to work with an AK and spread some bullet karma. Almost makes me feel I’m in a good place and that’s as fucked up as me being in the office at 5am. Are you reading this Rob? George? 5 fucking am.

Comment by Billy Whizz

As I said in my post Billy …

“If youโ€™ve been pissing about or get paid an absolute fortune, I can understand you may have to work later than usual”

Now stop stealing the equipment, feed Max and go back to bed you mad sod!

Comment by Rob

I don’t get paid enough to work 3 hours a day let alone start at 5am . I left my fucking keys here so this is my note to say I’ll be late in today.

Comment by Billy Whizz

What do you mean you’ll be late in? You’re already there. You mean you want the company to cover the loss of productivity costs for your bad memory? It’s all take-take-take with you isn’t it? Now off you go and we’ll let the matter go as long as you can tell me what the hell you were doing being out till 5am on a school night. ๐Ÿ™‚

Comment by Rob

good post.

Comment by Marcus

Come on Marcus, you are someone I know will have a lot of views on this – tell me, tell us – what you think is going on in businessland in relation to how it treats its people.

Comment by Rob

it would be a very long comment, and would probably upset me to write it.

Comment by Marcus

No worries matey – I have a feeling you’re in agreement with the rest of the people on here and probably have some rather nasty examples as well.

Comment by Rob

interestingly, the right to more leisure time is only a modern phenomenon, as a result of the trade union movement from the mid-19th century and resulting from the rise of capitalism – how can you support modes of production, if you don’t have time to spend? prior to that, people’s identities were solely associated with their work and civic life, so work was fulfilling, as a contributing member of a society (not a production worker with no purpose to the role). i’m seeing an irony here.

that’s not to say that i don’t agree absolutely with what you have to say, rob. except a little bit about the aussie ‘accrued leave’ model – you know that we all save up our leave so that we can take at least 4 weeks to get the fuck out of here for a while each year. because we’re so far from anywhere, we can’t just trundle off to spain for the weekend to educate/discover, anywhere to discover is a major production, so most people save up lots of time.

[and can i just say that i’m personally grateful that my last job paid out my leave because it meant that i could get the fuck out of there as quickly as possible and have some breathing room for rent.]

Comment by lauren

Bloody hell, Lauren’s gone all George Bush ๐Ÿ™‚

I believe it was Henry Ford who introduced the 5 day working week so to boost the local and national economy as well as keep his employees more effective for longer. At the time he was slated for doing it and yet now – as much as companies want more and more out of their staff – it is accepted as a visionary act.

I know what you’re saying Lauren regarding the benefits of Australia’s holiday leave accumulation policy – especially for those people who want to go traveling given they live so far away from the rest of the World – however modern travel means 4 weeks to explore is no longer a neccesity more a ‘nice to have’, though I do appreciate it is easier for someone in the UK to nip over to Spain for the weekend than an Aussie ๐Ÿ™‚

Whether they do that of course is another thing … the things on our doorstep are often the things we visit last, not the first which is why I think I’ve seen more of Oz than the average Aussie.

Anyway that is an entirely different matter and you can slag me off on this via email ๐Ÿ™‚

Comment by Rob

i’m only going to slag you off on here now, given that you’ve just suggesting that i’ve come over all fucking conservative christian republican! fuckin’ hell! i don’t think you could offend me more if you told me that you had been fucking my mother! ๐Ÿ™‚ trust me, there is no way that george bush would be suggesting a reversal from production-based economy to a pre-industrial economy, based on the craft of the individual. it’s straight out of the mouths of marx/engels commie pinko faggot wank, so it’s hardly george bush, for god’s sake!

and i was just pointing out that as the privileged peeps who are marketing products and services, it’s ironic that we’re whinging about working too hard, when the people producing the products/services also have shit worklives – ie, maybe they don’t even get weekends, or maybe they have to spend 40 hours a week picking cans off a production line. or maybe they need to have 2 jobs to support themselves. you know, a bit of perspective.

Comment by lauren

As Andy would say “Gotcha!” ๐Ÿ™‚

Of course you’re not really George Bush plus I would of thought it would have been more offensive if I told you I WAS your Mother rather than underwhelming her at the weekends [sorry, bad image for all of us there] … however as much as this post is referring to a mate of mine who works in adland, I was actually trying to represent all workers, especially those who have far shitter lives than everyone on this blog could ever imagine, where they work 3 jobs and still are broke. [There’s a few docos that are especially good at showing the divide between ‘illusionary wealth’ and ‘poverty’ inclucding Alain de Botton’s “Status Anxiety”, Micheal Moore’s “The Big One”, “Maxed Out” and even Jamie Oliver’s “Highschool Dinners” … and I accept the irony that a bloke in adland is writing this post and it’s something I both hate and – believe it or not – try and use my clients money to change whilst still obviously trying to make them successful. God I sound like one of Hitler’s henchmen don’t I. I hang my head in shame]

Now can we all be friends again? ๐Ÿ™‚

Comment by Rob

yes, but only because you used the phrase ‘underwhelming her on the weekends’.. ๐Ÿ™‚

BTW – i am sorry to hear that your friend is having to deal with grade A fuckbags.

Comment by lauren

I really like this post& Cynic’s philosophy.

One more thing, employers exploit people only because employees don’t stand up. Yup, educated talented people letting dumb employers suck their most valuable and treasured possesion ; life.

Comment by bhaskar

I think it’s the only way they could get people to agree to work with Rob ๐Ÿ™‚

Comment by Billy Whizz

who the fuck did this and who the fuck is being shafted? answers campbell i want fucking answers

Comment by andy@cynic

Reading your post I had to think of these I saw recently…
How to be a great boss:
and.. How to be a great employee:

Comment by Jonathan

I think we wrote them Jonathan … ha!

How are you, it’s been a long time … too long.

Comment by Rob

[…] responsiblility to protect it’s own business interests, the interests of their staff (which are apparently their biggest asset), their client and their […]

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