Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Adventures In Advertising: The Worst Workaholic I Ever Worked For

My second job after college was at an agency then known as DeGarmo.  It was a creative boutique with wonderful accounts – Rolex, Pitney-Bowes, Life Magazine, ABC Owned Stations and affiliated stations, including WABC-TV New York.  I worked on several of these businesses.  On one of the accounts I worked on, I reported to a man who was demonic in his need for both control and in being a workaholic.   We will call him Don for this post.

He was so much of a workaholic that every year he worked right through the agency’s Christmas party – those days held at the office. He just stayed in his office, doing something, but no one knew what.  He was basically anti-social.

DeGarmo was one of the first agencies to adopt summer Fridays.  When the staff memo came (long before emails) everyone was elated except Don.  A day or two later he asked me to have lunch with him.  He did not go out for lunch without an ulterior motive.  I assumed the lunch had to do with summer Fridays.  I was right.

At the lunch he asked if I would be taking Fridays off.  I was about 23 at the time.  My response was that I would be doing so, provided my work was done or that it could be finished the following Monday.  He pressed me. He asked what would happen if a client needed me urgently.  I told him that I would always let my clients know how to reach me and that if there was anything they anticipated, to let me know so that I could take care of it.

My response was not good enough for him.  He kept pressing.  “Well, suppose the client had a last minute emergency.  You would not be there to handle it.”  I asked him if he planned to take these days off.  He responded by lecturing me that the agency was irresponsible.  I said to him, “If everyone was gone and the client had an emergency that required other people to resolve the issue, it would have to wait until Monday.”

He was furious with me.  And I knew he was the Grinch who stole the summer.

After my lunch I went to the head of account management and told him about the conversation.  He just shook his head and told me not to worry about it and to enjoy my long weekends.

So, every week on Thursday, I told my clients that I would be off the next day.  They all had my home number and there was never a problem other than that they were jealous.  During the summer there was never an urgen phone call from any of my clients.

One Friday night, when I had taken the day off, I was having dinner out.  At 5:00pm I popped into the office just to see if Don was there. I was not disappointed.  There he was all by himself, sitting at his desk reading Ad Age, waiting for the phone to ring. There were one or two other people in the office, but there was no reason for Don to be there.  To this day, I can still see him sitting there waiting for a call that would not come.
No kidding.

At the end of the summer, I asked off the account. No way could I work for him even though I always felt sorry for him.  The worst part is that to this day I realize that he spent his summer Fridays just sitting in his office just waiting.


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