For a few months last year, I worked with farkle-farkle at one of the worst companies I could possibly have chosen. I do not mince words. I could work in technical writing for twenty years, changing jobs every four months, and not find a worse place than American Sensors Corporation. The first time farkle-farkle said the name “American Sensors”, I thought she’d said “American Censors”—as if they stifle free speech and creativity. Well, it turns out that I was close. American Sensors instead stifles your will to exist.
From the moment I went in to interview, I should have known something was off. First off, I didn’t really “interview” so much as just sit down and get offered a job. I needed a job badly. And apparently they needed a writer because everyone else creative long ago jumped ship. Part of me knew why from the very beginning, but the idea of paying my bills was much too enticing to pass up. I decided naïvely to stay, even though my existence so offended the secretary that, on my day of arrival, without me saying anything to her at all, she stormed out of the office in a fury.
Warning signs were everywhere. The truck outside was permanently parked in the fire lane. The building was unevenly heated and lit with fluorescents. Its interior was covered in kitsch nothings that, despite their high quantities, failed to give the dreary office any character at all. It was only as sexy as a bodybuilding transvestite, and no amount of makeup could make it appealing.
Despite being a student at one of the top 20 schools in the country and pursuing a related degree, I was paid $8 an hour—essentially minimum wage. When I was hired, they had assured me that more was likely if I stuck around. I never saw it.
When I was hired, I was told I would be assisting with technical writing and marketing. For my first three weeks they had me doing inventory, packing boxes, and taking out garbage. I was expected to provide my own work gloves and box cutter. I patiently waited for my boss to find the time to train me.
To describe the boss’s treatment of his employees as “verbally abusive” would be an understatement so gross, it would need to be cleaned up by a hazmat team. Nobody who worked there was happy with their lives. It was a diverse team of workers that liked to shout at each other in different accents. People had come from a wide variety of backgrounds to come together and fail. As many teams have complementary abilities that build off of each other, so this one had complementary dysfunctionalities. Nobody was really good in any way… but some of them were worse in some ways than others. And together, the whole was lesser than the subtraction of their deficiencies.
Everyone was stuck in a rut, and that rut was this company. Nobody was particularly skilled, because they could not retain people with skill. Hours-long shouting matches were common, even in front of high-profile customers, or at least they were common whenever the boss was actually in for work. Everybody hated everyone else and they hated themselves more. Despite the fact that I tried to remain in the background and just quietly do my job, on the third day that I showed up, I became the subject of an extended rant and pissing contest. I did not join in. I was absolutely shocked that grown people would treat each other like shit without even wondering why they were doing it.
When they finally did have me doing marketing work, in their eyes, I instantaneously became responsible for all of the company’s failures in that area. So much for assisting. If something wasn’t done, it was never because I was only hired to work 20 hours a week without benefits or motivation, or assigned an impossible task, or because they gave me a an ancient computer—it was apparently because I was somehow defective.
I was not given an office. I was not even given a desk. I was placed in a room that is sectioned off for research and testing industrial equipment. My computer was placed on a table next to an outside wall that was uninsulated. I had to provide my own means of warmth and stayed wrapped in my two coats while I worked next to broken industrial equipment. A sign that read, “Warning: Laser Radiation” hung next to my head. It was poorly-lit and poorly-furnished. It only had one power outlet, and after we split it, we had to be careful how many things we ran off of it because we’d easily blow a fuse. The room was a shithole and a huge mess until I cleaned it, and the floor was littered with broken technology. There were three broken chairs in the room, and before I could even sit down, I had to fix one of them. When that took a half hour (not being, you know, a chair repairer but a WRITER), I was accused of unproductivity.
They had promised to train me. I was never trained. Anything that needed to be done, I just needed to magically know how to do. Even if something could not be done, I needed to find a way to do it. When I asked for materials to properly do my job, my requests were ignored or procrastinated.
For instance, my “computer”. I was given no computer to use for the first four weeks, and I was only given one then at my adamant insistence. When they finally gave me a computer, it was running Windows 98—a ten-year-old OS—and did not have a CD drive. Its case was off until I replaced it, and its monitor would not properly degauss. I was told to make posters and design graphics on a computer with only Word and Powerpoint—both antique copies—installed. If my own laptop had not had an old copy of Photoshop, I would have been screwed. If my computer had been a PC and compatible with their setup, they never would have given me a computer at all, and expected that I provide and purchase all the resources (programs, hard disk space, et cetera) required to perform my job.
Part of my job as a part-time employee was to redo the entire marketing and sales paradigm of the company. To this effect, I had to edit and compile a vast 250+ page powerpoint presentation (easily 400+ pages with the hyperlinked files counted). Every time the powerpoint was moved to a new folder, it broke the hyperlinks, and I had to go through every. Single. Slide. and fix them all. This happened twice, despite my insistence that nobody screw with it while I was trying to edit it. Once, it got deleted by someone else, and if I hadn’t backed it up (my own idea), the company literally would not have a sales plan. Did I get thanked? No—I got blamed for being unproductive, since I spent my day restoring it to the status quo rather than making progress on it.
In spite of all that, I did finish some projects, which some would call remarkable. But none of the work I ever managed to finish was used. All of it was prepared exactly as they had specified. Usually the parts of the project that they would ask me to change were the ones I had just spent days or weeks reworking completely to meet their asinine requirements. When, two weeks later, they did not remember giving me those requirements (even though I always had documentation), I was blamed for their own bad ideas.
I completed two jobs on the same day that they were assigned to me. Each time, I was rewarded for my hurry with two weeks during which, despite my repeated urgings, my boss ignored them. Deadlines passed and the projects failed. When they failed, I was blamed.
I asked my boss—repeatedly—for two essential documents to complete a crucial assignment she’d given me. I never received them. When I did not finish the assignment, I was blamed.
At $8.00 an hour, I was expected to put in time off the clock to give thought to marketing slogans and concepts.
I was not given a boss or supervisor who was present more than one third of the time to give me any feedback on my work. Most of the time, I had no clear superior to report to. This was also somehow my fault, and I was told that I was expected to come in on weekends to make up for that. This was where I drew the line.
For the purposes of payroll, I was a part-time employee with another job on the side. For the purposes of responsibilities, I was a full-time employee with ten years’ experience in the field. For the purposes of training, I was a severe mental retard with no potential to learn. For the purposes of abuse, I was an unwanted stepchild with an unattractive tooth gap.
The company and my boss were utterly uninvested in me, and had no respect for me as a worker or a human being. So, when my boss demanded that I come in on a Saturday (a Saturday on which my production company was going to be very busy filming a big scene), I said no. At this point, they had the audacity to fire me.
I would not work at a place so soul-sucking again for less than $12 an hour, and only then without any other offers whatsoever and rent due in a week. See, even then, I’d instantaneously accept a minimum wage at a job that at least pretends to respect me and honor the conditions under which I was hired.
I suppose it’s a sign of how whipped I am that the only actual revenge I’ve really gotten is writing this while on the clock.
…Until a few days after this was first written, that is. My correspondence with them about my dismissal follows, unedited. Some of it is a repeat from what you just read, but I think the record deserves to know exactly what I had the balls to say. I will also not be redacting the name of my boss, as he deserves any flak they might get for treating me like the scum of the earth. Welcome to karma, you asshole… and anyway, I’m a vindictive jerk.