I didn't get any of the tasks done Thursday that I intended to. First, I slept in. Then I became fixated on Kevin McCarthy's multiple attempts to become Speaker of the House. Next thing I knew it was after noon and I was still in my pajamas! I was disgusted -- with my own bed hair and sloth as well as by the disfunction of the Republican party and headed into the bathroom for my shower. I'd just shed my nightshirt when I heard my phone. It was Jamie.
Jamie is a Senior Vice President at my last place of employment. He's very smart, very enthusiastic, very nerdy. We didn't always agree but we did always enjoy working together. When my client let the agency go, the agency kept Jamie. He's upper management, three rungs higher than I was on the corporate ladder. Far more valuable horseflesh. With my client's departure he's been concentrating on new business pitches. The agency is looking at a $10 million deficit for 2023, so acquisition is very important.
But I'm outta there. Why was he calling me? I simply had to know! Was it an accidental butt dial? I knew he was searching for a new job. We talked about it before I left in October. One prospective employer was located in the Merchandise Mart and I told him what a great old goddess that building is and what an easy commute he'd have. But that job fell through weeks ago. Through Facebook I knew Jamie, his wife and little girl had gone skiing and had a nice holiday season, but he wouldn't be calling me about that.
Amazingly, he wanted my advice.
Jamie has accepted a job on the client-side, as opposed to another advertising agency. It's a major bump in salary. Plus, this well-known company recruited him. Having a billion-dollar employer come to you has to be flattering. That's all good news, right?
When Jamie tendered his resignation to the agency where I used to work, they told him how much they wanted to keep him. They said how important he was. They promised to match or even better the salary he was just offered. He had become very emotional about the place where he's been working the last two and half years, and he wanted a "reality check" before he made his final decision, so he turned to me.
We talked for more than two hours. I reminded him at the outset that I'm still bitter about the agency, how my client was treated, and that I was literally let go while in the Recovery Room
. He said he understood that, but he wanted my opinion anyway.
So I gave it to him. From the side of my bed, while in my underwear.
1) Management wanted to see the offer letter from his prospective new employer. That's at the very least bush league, if not completely unethical. Why would he want to work with such people?
2) If on January 5 they're already $10,000,000 in the hole for 2023, there are going to be layoffs in the very near future. Does he want to be involved in deciding who stays and who goes? If they don't approach those numbers, there will likely be another round of layoffs later in the year. Isn't Jamie worried that his increased salary will mean a bigger target on his back?
3) NOW they are giving him an increase? He's been there more than two years and hasn't even had a performance review in that time. (My last performance review was before the pandemic.) The Chicago office is not that big. If human resource matters were a priority, reviews and raises could have been handled. Are they benignly incompetent or just cheap?
4) We agree that they don't put clients first. Even when Jamie and I disagreed on the content we gave our client -- and we did disagree often -- we were always on the same page when it came to giving them our best efforts. Where he and I both clashed with management was when it (too often) seemed we were interested only in giving our clients what we wanted to give them, not what they asked for or what they needed. We both saw that the agency did things on the cheap, giving too much day-to-day responsibility to new employees just out of school or with little training. Why would he want to work with such people?
5) I reminded him how he felt in real time. How while on the one hand he was working weekends regularly and cancelling vacations, and on the other hand Corporate was kicking back his expense reports over things like a $150 bill for afterwork drinks. That $150 tab meant nothing to the multi-national corporation that owns the agency but it meant something to him. In the fall, after missing Memorial Day and 4th of July and Labor Day with his little girl, after submitting and resubmitting that expense report, he didn't feel valued. Why does he think 2023 will be any better?
6) This one I believe is universally true: Accepting a counter offer is like reconciling with an estranged ex. The relationship will never be as strong as it was before. You cheated. You slept with another lover. Now you're back. You're always going to be viewed with suspicion from here on out.
He agreed with me on all counts. He said he just needed to talk it through with someone who knew all the players. He thanked me.
Then it was my turn. I reminded him of a decision I made almost exactly a year ago that I still regret. At the time, I was worried that my constant battling with management was detrimental to my internal teammates so I let one go. I didn't argue and presented some creative I didn't really believe in. In retrospect, I feel like I let my client down by not fighting for what was right. We gave him something weaker than he deserved. BUT, Jamie reminded me, he accepted it. The client is not a child. He could have kicked it back to us. He didn't. I should "let it go."
Let it go.
That's what we both have to do. We worked for a great client, but in a toxic workplace. We have to quit trying to make it what we wanted to be and let it go.