Tuesday, October 5, 2004


John was fired this morning.

Yesterday, he had an argument with his boss over what he should be doing. He was caught up on every project except one book, so he was working on that, cleaning up the prose and laying it out for publication. His job title was desktop publishing specialist, but since the editor was fired, John's been basically the only one who did any real quality control on the books to be published.

His boss hated him for this, believing that any editing by John was a) a waste of time and money, since the authors were working professionals in their fields, and therefore could be trusted to turn in publishable manuscripts, and b) likely to result in some author complaining to the boss because John asked had him to fix or revise something. For example, one ex-military security consultant claimed in her manuscript that the Soviets had been working on X in the Ural Mountains. (I don't remember the exact claim, and probably wouldn't post it if I did.) When John questioned this, asking for a source and citation, the author claimed that it was common knowledge among her colleagues. "I don't need a source," she said. "I'm the source."

Anyway, the point is that John wanted to assert some minimum standard of clear writing, factual correctness and proper use of citations. The boss wanted to placate the authors by making essentially no editorial demands, so that they'd go along with having their work published for a pittance. He did not and does not believe that poorly-written, virtually-unedited books sell any less well than well-written, well-edited ones, or discourage people from buying from his company in the future. This is why the editor in chief was fired, and ultimately why John was fired. John tried to do as directed, but he couldn't cease to care about making the products as good as possible in the time alloted.

So. Yesterday. John had no other books to work on, no catalog to do, no IT problems to solve. Based on a prior discussion with the boss and an inexperienced young co-worker the boss had made John's supervisor in the five-person company, John had the impression that he was supposed to do some minimal editing and cleaning-up of manuscripts as well as laying them out, but not any extensive editing. Nor was he to take any more time over the manuscript than the boss's arbitrary rush-rush production schedule allowed, no matter how bad the manuscript was.  But in this case, there was no other work to be done, so John was working on the manuscript, quickly but with reasonable professionalism. The boss came in and told John he was taking too long. It didn't matter that John had nothing else to do. More books would be coming soon. The young supervisor sided with the boss rather than confirm that John was working in accordance with the last instructions given to him.

This morning, John got to the door to find his stuff in boxes outside (along with pretty much everyone else's food from the kitchen, it turned out). The boss met him at the door. "I'm firing you under employment at will," he said, or words to that effect. "If there's anything else of yours inside, let us know and we'll bring it out to you. You're not welcome in this building any more."

"Bite me, S.," John said.

The erstwhile boss looked shocked. "Why do you say that?"

John called him one of the rude epithets he'd heretofore used only at home to describe S. during four years of nearly-intolerable stress over a job he hated, entirely because of S.'s attitudes. John had outlasted every co-worker except the current crop, because he'd promised me that he wouldn't quit until he'd found another job--which had proved difficult to do.

S. went into the building and locked the door.

Noticing that his coffeemaker was not in the boxes of stuff, John knocked on the door.

"You can't come in here," S. said through the locked door.

"I'll trade you your keys for my coffeemaker," John said.

The exchange was made, and John went home.



ryanagi said...

Ugh! Sorry to hear John is jobless at the moment...but happy he got out of that toxic work environment. I hope he finds something quickly in a place that will appreciate his work ethic and detail oriented...er...ness. :-)

justcherie said...

That really sucks.  But it sounds like he'll be much better off away from that place.  

sakishler said...

That was a sad story, but John rocked in it! Go John!

And go Karen for making the sucky story so engaging.

cneinhorn said...

Well! That just sucks!  I guess it's good that he got out of what sounds like a really crappy work environment, but still sucks none-the-less.  I think he handled it great though!  


shellys555 said...

Geez, I'm sorry to hear about that, but John's best out of that place. Sheesh. It's amazing he was able to last as long as he did there. His former boss sounds awful, kinda like the boss from hell I had a number of years ago.