Position Doesn't Mean Immunity From Destruction
To this day I don’t know why they hired me.
The truth is I was employed as a token Managing Director to replace the previous guy who ‘hadn’t worked out’. This was a sign, and I walked straight past it.
During the interview process the agency boss and I discussed that neither of us wanted the MD title as it positioned the role and scope incorrectly.
The morning I was offered the role I was advised that the title would be Managing Director as it would position me better in the eyes some clients. This was another sign, and I walked straight past it.
The reality of the job was not to actually manage anything, rather it was to add a depth to the strategic offering of the agency and to enhance the reputation of the agency in some areas. Some clients had expressed some concerns over the strategic depth of the agency and I was to be the antidote.
The honeymoon lasted a year, and then it took another two years for me to finally leave. My boss and his senior managers plotted and manoeuvred to get me to leave of my own accord. The most senior clients did not know what was happening.
Some of the tactics included:
+ Emphasising the token title – “He’s not really the MD, everyone knows that XXX is.”
+ Having to relocate from an office to open plan seating – “You should become part of the team.” And, sit in front of an equity partner who faces his team like a school teacher.
+ Excluding me from meetings that I had attended earlier – with holding company representatives and senior clients.
+ Ramping up pressure to generate specific revenues from reputation enhancement projects – through emails sent during holidays to increase paranoia and discomfort.
+ Employing obvious successors and making it clear “they're the future of the company.”
+ Ageism: suggesting I would want to start working part time – “I would if I was your age.”
In the end it came down to a meeting with my boss. The deal put forward to me was simple, leave the agency or accept a part time role.
I accepted redundancy and worked out my three months’ notice period by turning up every single day.
When I left the agency and went away for a holiday with my wife and some friends that we had planned six months earlier things felt a lot better.
The damage to my self-esteem, reputation, income and future prospects was profound. I now suffer from depression and am unable to participate in the job market effectively.
It does feel better getting it down in writing and now, on reflection, I do know why they hired me. It was all about them and their shortcomings, not about me and my strengths.
PS It was the first time I had an office in more than twenty years. I never liked it and it reinforced that I was 'alone' in the agency from day one.