Friday, July 8, 2011

Dysfunctional families run a business and other work fun

I graduated from college during a recession. Not this most recent one, but another one. It wasn't as bad as the one we're in now but it certainly felt like it. I moved into my dad's basement and started looking for work in DC. It wasn't long before I got seriously depressed about my job prospects and became afraid that I would never get out of the basement. Never.

I was looking for a job in the film business, since that's what I studied. But there were slim pickings in DC. And then finally after a long hot summer, I landed a job at a video company in marketing in September. The guy who hired me assured me that I would soon move to production. His wife had gone to Smith as well, and he was convinced any woman who went to Smith was a genius. I was excited to start my first Job (with a capital J).

It didn't take long for me to figure out that I had landed in a very odd company. It was run by not one but two dysfunctional families. The first, we'll call them the "Smiths," consisted of a dad and three adult children (plus a couple of spouses). The second was a mother and son (we'll call them the "Cranes") who pretended that the mother ran their portion of the company so that they could qualify for women owned company contracts with the government.

Just a few of the strange and highly suspicious events that happened during my time at Company X:
1) I sent out letters on stationary with the wrong company name (they kept changing their name, so "Company X, inc." became "Company X corp." in order to escape paying their bills, but strangely enough never threw the last name's stationary away)
2) We moved the company over a weekend in order to get out of paying the rent in an old space
3) We once had visitors interested in doing business with us, and we had to set up a whole charade to make it look like our company was busier and had more staff than it did (I had to type at one computer then run upstairs before the tour got there and do something else in another office while the tour walked by).
4) I was told not to go into a certain editing room because a client was editing soft-core porn.

In the end, I was fired. Not for the stationary debacle, but because my boss (a "Crane") lied to the head of the "Smiths" about me. He told them I was a marketing expert who was going to revolutionize their direct mail campaign. I had no idea what direct mail was, so I did not perform this revolutionary act to Mr. Crane or Mr. Smith's satisfaction. So I left a little bit wiser and a lot more cynical about the workplace, and went into my next job with my eyes wide-open.

And I got the whole thing out of my system by writing a comic screenplay about my experiences. Who knows? If it happened today I'd probably kill them all off in mystery novel.

They got lucky.


Lois Winston said...

I find it interesting that so many of us mystery authors have been fired from jobs run by dysfunctional people. I wonder if that has something to do with us turning to killing people on the page for a living.

Meredith Cole said...

You may be on to something there, Lois... How funny!

Kelli Stanley said...

Meredith, this sounds like a wonderful movie ... I can totally see Tina Fey in it!! :)

At least the horrors of the workplace always make for good stories, you know?