Don’t Kid Yourself. You Are Expendable.

/ Comments (9)

Anyone here like Office Space?

Dumb question.

Anyway, there’s a part in the movie that has always rang true to me more than any other, although most of it is biting. It’s the conversation Michael Bolton and Samir have with Peter. And it goes something like this:

PETER
Lumbergh's gonna have me work on Saturday, I can tell already. And I’m gonna do it because I'm a big pussy. Which is why I work at Initech to begin with.

MICHAEL
Uh, I work at Initech and I don't consider myself a pussy, ok?

SAMIR
Yes, I am also not a pussy.

MICHAEL
And they’re gonna find out the hard way that I'm not a pussy if they don't start treating us software people better.

SAMIR
That's right.

MICHAEL
They don't understand. I could come up with a program that could rip that place off big time…big time.

PETER
Yeah.

Later in the movie Michael and Samir get shitcanned. No warning. Just dumped. And all that fuck you bravado went straight out the window.

That boasting and self-assurance is something I have heard throughout my entire advertising career. A bunch of fevered egos strutting around thinking they’re untouchable. They’re rock stars. They kill it. They basically do everything important, do nothing wrong, and if you don’t agree you can go fuck yourself.

They bitch about how poorly they’re treated. They whine and complain about the long hours, the crappy pay, the shit benefits, the awful clients, the dogshit briefs, the lousy account managers, the rotten creatives and the fact that the agency is going down the crapper. But they are the oasis in this desert of mediocrity. They shine. And without them, the whole damned company would be nothing.

I guarantee, you will hear this raving braggadocio conversations in your agency sometime this week. Probably sometime today if you tee up a conversation with “how are things going?” or “what’s going on with client X?”

You may even, dare I say it, be one of the people who believes they are, in fact, the most important cog in the machine.

Think about it.

Do you think “this place would be fucked without me” at least once a week? Do you wonder how half the people around you get a paycheck? Do you have to bite your fist to stop yourself saying “how the fuck are you still employed?” to your boss?

Well, this is your wake-up call.

I don’t care if you’re the boy who gets the mail, the blonde bombshell account exec, the award-winning writer or art director, or the shit-hot creative director.

When push comes to shove, and other suitable clichés, you are not bulletproof. The sad fact is, there are meetings happening all the time about the state of the business. If you’re part of a large corporation, there’s a meeting like that happening right now.

They talk about profit margins. Trimming the dead wood. Streamlining. Hiring a younger team. Bringing in new experience. Fresh blood. Or just “that smartass who never stops complaining.”

If you're a crack creative team with 20 years’ experience, that means you (hopefully) do fabulous work. It also means you get paid more than most, and have the attitude that goes with it. There are younger, better looking, hungrier teams out there willing to do your job for half the price. And they won’t spend all day bitching about the shitty clients and awful briefs, they’ll just be happy to be in work. They’re in, you’re out.

That’s when you sit up one morning, and realize you didn’t have it so fucking bad after all. And shit, where do I go from here?

I know people like this. It sucks for them, and it’s scary for me because I come close to being that arrogant, whiny little bitch on a daily basis. Sometimes, I fit into the role like it was made just for me.

When you find yourself thinking you are unbeatable, unfireable (it’s not a word, but it works) and irreplaceable, remember you are none of the above. You may be great, perhaps even the best at what you do, but it doesn’t give you immunity form the axe. All it takes is for one big client to leave, one important person to hate your guts, or one stinking bad attitude, and you're out on your ear.

And as I finish this, I should also add…spending time doing something other than what you’re paid to do is also something that can put you on the hot list.

But shit, at least I look busy to passersby.

Felix is a site contributor, ranter and curmudgeon for The Denver Egotist. He’s been in the ad game a long time, but he’s still young enough to know he doesn’t know everything. If he uses the f-bomb from time-to-time, forgive him. Sometimes, when you're ranting, no other word will do. In his spare time, he does not torture small animals. He's been known, on occasion, to drink alcohol by the gallon. Do as he says, not as he does.

Comments

Ah man, I read this headline and was expecting to disagree with this editorial but you are totally right. I carried this attitude with me for way too long and it infected the people around me at work and also at home. It cost me friends and caused me to lose out on too many opportunities. It's my greatest regret and after starting my own company and being on the flipside of trying to earn business and work directly with clients it was immediately apparent that you cannot have this outlook and succeed. People can smell it. They can hear it in your voice and feel it when you walk in the room.

I don't know so much if 'people' are expendable but 'attitudes' are definitely expendable. I think what you are highlighting is attitude. From personal experience I adopted this attitude as a defense mechanism and I would hazard a guess that's why a lot of creatives do it. It's a business of fragile egos. You have to 'defend' your ideas and it's tough to literally be 'on the defense' when you pour your heart into what you do.

Deep down I think everyone knows they are expendable but it becomes a question of attitude. Do you keep being the kind of person you are pointing out or do you change your attitude. The way out I found was to decide to be grateful first. When you begin to feel those 'yeah these bastards are lucky to have me' thoughts creeping in that's when you flip immediately to thinking of what you are grateful for. It moves that attitude out of the way before it can take over. If you start your thinking or attitude off with 'I am lucky to be here, I am grateful for this opportunity, I am grateful to have these talents, I am grateful to be able to be creative for a living, etc.' it changes the direction of the mind. It's hard to be defensive, negative and bitter when you are feeling grateful. Almost impossible really.

It's an exercise you have to remind yourself to do every day. When those thoughts start creeping in you have to cut them off right away. You can feed your ego with all kinds of thoughts and decisions but nothing feeds the ego faster than negativity. I fed my ego that diet for a long time and it was like a cancer that ate up my soul.

Be grateful. Happiness isn't something that you ascertain, it's a choice. You have to decide if you are going to 'be' or 'not be'. Be thankful you work in this industry. Be thankful you earn a living. Be thankful you've been given a chance to do the job you have. Start from there. And do it right when you get out of bed by being thankful you have the money to pay for a comfy bed. That's the advice I have to give as a reformed 'fragile creative'.

I have a much less eloquent response. I'm an egotistical arsehole. Trying to stop. Losing the fight.

The one thing you left out was this isn't a bad thing. Those who recognize their expendability stay hungry, continue their education, and push for more out of themselves.

In my time in the agency world, I've seen this all too much.

it's called humility. it goes a long way in this industry.

agree with everything felix and christopher wrote. my friends say i'm not nearly the asshole i used to be, but i still have my moments. it's a good reminder to keep things in perspective.

Yes and no.
While any one of us could be dropped at any given minute just like Michael Bolton and Samir Na..Nainn...Na' gonna work here, you have to put your best energy into everything you work on and try to make yourself invaluable. Nobody is fireproof, but you will be out of a job much faster if you aren't trying to be the most valuable member on any given account.

I think carrying around that kind of attitude wastes a lot of energy which could otherwise be spent on something creative. However, most people don't wine and complain for absolutely no reason, which leads me believe that they feel undervalued. A well timed thank you can go a lot further to calm a flaring ego than your proverbial bitch slap...not that I didn't enjoy it.

all of what you say is true but there's no denying theres a ton of fuckyberg managers who dont do anything but yet always manage to keep their jobs when the lay offs come. lets be real

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