I’m Not Trying to Be a Jerk, but…

When someone starts a sentence in an email that way, you know it’s time to move on.

Here’s another: I’m not saying you’re stupid, but…

It’s happened, again. I was out of town celebrating a birthday, and I got the call that one of my two freelance gigs was “terminating my placement”. (In fairness, the last time it happened I was kicked to the curb the second day back from a two week vacation, so not identical but similar.) I can’t say I was surprised, and I also can’t say that I’m upset, but – really?

And, do you want to know why they did it when they did it? Because they saw that I was checking email while I was away. They wanted to put a stop to the work, and frankly, I did, too.

I’ll get to my role in this in a minute, but first a few thoughts on them. They were terrible. They didn’t know how to set me up in the building’s system so that I could have a key to it and my floor (I did it). They didn’t get me a phone number (I did it). They didn’t realize until my 2nd day that they didn’t have enough seats in their data room and would have to kick someone off or buy more in order for me to be able to do the work. My immediate manager was fond of saying of his internal clients “they’re fucking idiots” (Fantastic attitude for a service department. Employee of the month!), and when I mentioned that it would be helpful to have a breakdown of sorts of the company’s negotiating guidelines he said “that’s so [insert name of former company] of you”. He told me to email less and make more phone calls (fun fact: I worked remotely most of the time, so apparently my phone was to be my business phone – the cost of which they were not reimbursing). I was told “we assumed you would know more about insurance” and that I was a lazy reader. When I said that I really hadn’t been trained, I was told “we met with you once a week – what other training did you need?” My manager, unaware that his company had guaranteed my hours each week, said: “We probably should have discussed at the beginning how your hours were going to work.” No. Really? Fuckwit.

I was also told to ask more questions. This was the one valid point made in a sea of insults and condescension. On that he was right – I didn’t ask enough questions.

But, in the general scheme of things, did I want the job? No. I didn’t. I didn’t like the vibe or the mood. I didn’t like my manager who I thought of only as “bro”. I didn’t like the paralegal who loved pointing out a mistake I’d made with my manager in ‘cc’.

Why didn’t I ask questions? I wanted to get it right. I wanted to prove that I could do the work, even though each and every contract was somehow an exception to a rule. I didn’t want to appear out of my depth and lost. I wanted to show them that they hadn’t made a mistake in hiring me, even though all along the clues were there. Not only had they made a mistake, but I had, too.

My fear of losing the paycheck – and my pride – got in the way of telling my agency that the placement wasn’t the right fit for me. The work wasn’t the issue, but the people sure were.

Who works in an office of three people and doesn’t silence their phone so that every few seconds you hear “beep” upon receipt of a new text message? Who works in an office of three people and doesn’t use headphones to listen to his (extraordinarily shitty) music?

Lessons learned. Teachable moments observed and absorbed. However, that being said, I don’t mean to be a jerk, but… fuck you, ‘bro.