Why I Stopped Working for "The Man"
And why I chose to pursue greater things
I've sort of been tiptoeing around this for a fair while now. But, to be honest, I think my anger has subsided. I feel no further connection with the workplace and if anything, I feel as if I can write with ambivalence towards the matter these days. There's no major hard feelings to any people I worked with. There's no hit list on a scrunched up piece of paper in the back of my wallet. There's just an old lifeline, and a new one.
This is a message to employees who feel like slaves in the work environment. This is for managers who fail to see the gleaming qualities in lower-tier staff. This is, essentially, my letter of resignation from the workplace established by "the man."
This is the reason why I chose to stand up again said man, and how doing so somehow managed to make me become a much better version of myself.
Take it from me: you don't need to follow their orders anymore. Just hear me out on this and I'll explain why.
When I was 17 I landed my first job as a video editor for an investigation company. And, being a film production student fresh out of college, I saw this as being the dream role that could take me to soaring heights. Plus, being in a small city where editing gigs didn't really come by very often I couldn't dare turn it down. So, I snatched it up.
When I first joined the company in February 2012, there were no tiers. There was no superior class of employees who reaped certain benefits or extra credit for similar amounts of work. There was just one family in a small central office with probably about 50 to 60 staff in total.
Coming in to work felt like turning up for a hobby most days. And, if anything, it was as if I was being paid for doing something I saw as a pastime as opposed to a job. The work was simple enough to hammer out without a great deal of stress, the atmosphere was gentle and laid-back, the team was friendly, and the whole environment felt safe in general. There was nothing I could fault with the place, and, in my eyes, I couldn't of pictured a happier place to come to every morning. It was perfect.
A couple of years had passed and eventually the company was recognised by much more powerful hands. But, for the sake of respect, I won't go pointing fingers on the company names here. So let's just say that this wider company technically owned a great deal of the security world. I'll leave the rest for you to decipher.
By 2014, this global infrastructure somehow managed to latch on to our small company and absorb it into the many branches it possessed. And, while technically this wasn't a bad thing for the CEO in terms of growth, it was something a vast majority of staff would eventually learn to fear—even hate.
The hand on the company began to squeeze rather intensely. Rules and regulations were put in place and the top-tier superior classes were quickly established. Radios were shut off, teams were almost silenced when working, and the friendly feeling abruptly died out in a moment's notice. In the snap of two fingers, the company had lost its touch. It was no longer a hobby. It was no longer a happy place. And, it was no longer a family, either.
Things became a lot more tense around the office as the business started to thrive. People weren't saying as much, staff nights out were cut thin, and if anything, most of us treated work like it was stepping on eggshells most of the time. Because, sadly enough, as management stepped in and began pulling threads and revamping the company, most people started to feel as if they had something to prove every day. They feared these strange people would rip out the beating heart and step over anyone who oppressed progression.
The office expanded four times over after a year or so. With a staff now consisting of 200 or more and toes dipped into several pools, the company was heading for things bigger than any of us originally imagined. The small-time family business had vanished, and the beaming lights of the corporate ladder were enticing managers to fall deeper into the rabbit hole.
By 2016, the company had reached the number one position in the market. But, by reaching the apex of the investigation world, the staff who helped reach it were more depressed than ever. But, thanks to ill-advised line managers, staff were led on a line of promises that things would improve and the quality of staff benefits would soon be introduced. And, frustratingly enough—we all believed it.
"If they don't increase our pay or sort this place out soon – I'm gone!"
I must've said it every month for eight years running. But, I never left. I merely listened to the stories of future opportunities and staff rewards. I followed the lies and kept drooling over their heels for every time they spoon fed us the nonsense. And, like everyone else, I trusted them. I thought they could change.
I spent most days trying to ignore management breathing down my neck. I worked my hours, and I went home without barely saying two words to colleagues. That's all I did for years.
If I worked an hour late most days just to finish a task, I was expected to engrave that into my pattern without consideration. If I completed six projects a day instead of the three the job description asked for, I was demanded to do the same every day without fail. If I was asked to assist with another department, I'd be harassed by a further manager for not devoting enough time for the first role. If I was one minute early from Monday to Thursday but right on time for Friday, I was scrutinised for shifting patterns.
In 2018 I worked three separate roles in the company. I dabbled in night classes to help assist with other departments, I alternated between various aspects of the company and I worked alongside most people under one roof. But, as expected, the rewards still didn't come. I still wasn't being recognised for what I was doing for the company. And, frustratingly, I still believed them when they promised me gold instead of pittance.
I'd shovel my way through the work week with gritted teeth most of the time. With endless coffee runs, late night overtime, thousands of hours invested into my work—I slaved. But, in my eyes, things were going to improve. Soon enough, things would change and the staff would finally be rewarded for their pivotal parts in the growth of the business.
Sadly, the only things we ever saw were bonuses being handed to managers and sealed lips when asked about breadcrumbs for the staff. That's sort of how it went for years. And, as expected, nothing ever changed for the greater good. The company was destined to go sour and corrupt beneath the powerful hand of the global infrastructure. That's something I wish we all accepted for so many years as we helped them build the empire they probably didn't deserve.
When I voiced my opinion, I was shunned. When I laughed with a colleague over something, we were asked why we weren't busy. When I spiked my hair up, I was warned for not presenting myself in a professional enough manner. When I worked until my fingers practically bled, I was asked if I could just do the same again the next day. There were never any thank you's. There were no happy bosses nor reasons to praise staff so long as targets continued to stretch past boundaries most of us couldn't reach. There was just an endless spool of lies and unbelievable deadlines.
We were, in essence, a small set of cogs in a very large mechanism. We weren't known by names, but merely skill trees and statistics. We had no reason to live other than for the upkeep of the company name. We were branded by numbers and left to fend for the pennies managers would throw over us.
However, the day did finally arrive where I stood up, and I told them for how it was. I was tired of living the same routine and wishing it would get better. I was sick of vouching for staff and trying to shed some light on their hard work all the time. I was fed up with the lack of respect and the endless wandering eye watching over my shoulders all day. I was done. I was finished.
In my final hour, I told them for how it was. I told them their problems and I targeted the CEO straight up. I told him how shambolic the company had become and how the staff deserved better. I left it at that and I knew the consequences for my actions. But, to be honest, I couldn't care less anymore. If anything, I was more than happy to be thrown away like an expendable teacloth.
In June 2019, I was discarded from the wheel. After eight years of hoping for better tomorrows, I left the company with the widest smile on my face. And, after years of thinking happiness could only come from climbing the company ladder, I was soon assured that said happiness was found in a different place entirely.
With a box crammed with office trinkets, I left work for the final time with the stupidest grin on my face. Because, as much as they wanted me to fight for my job, I couldn't think of anything I wanted to do less. I was free, at last. I was heading for a future unknown where I could carve a better version of myself from the ashes they reduced me to.
When I came home that afternoon, I kissed my wife and I told her what had happened. But, she didn't say anything negative. She simply smiled and said one thing.
"You're going to be so much happier without them."
And, you know what? I was happy. I mean, after having to deal with financial stress for a few weeks while I established myself as something other than an office drone. After that, I was back on my feet and looking to greener pastures.
I was home with my family. I was spending more time with my wife. I was watching my kids grow and witnessing their milestones rather than worrying about reaching tomorrows deadline. I had no stress, no urgent calls to answer—nothing. Nothing but time to make up for all the years I wasted slaving under the hands of corrupt ties.
I began chasing my dreams from home by writing a lot more on various platforms. Vocal soon became a place I could publish new works to. My novel finally reached the final phases before publishing. I designed myself a website where I could present my work for people to see. I connected with people again. I caught up on sleep. I replenished my spirits and became a fresher version of the person I once was. I was breathing once more in a world less dismissive. I was alive, and I was well.
Fast-forward to present day and I have a similar editing gig in a tiny office with two other people. I work when I want to work. I have keys and access to a building that's open 24/7. I wear what I want to wear. I spike my hair up if I feel the need to. I have no unrealistic targets or negative line managers. I have nothing but time and a whole world to look forward to. And, funnily enough, that was the dream job I was searching for for eight years. Only, it emerged from a place I never expected it to come from. It didn't fall from the company I slaved for for almost a decade. It came from the place I least expected and never believed to even exist.
I think the point most of us need to remember is: we aren't destined to slave for pittance while hoping for more. We all deserve better. And, if I could give anybody my advice on toxic workplaces, it would be this:
If you feel you're doing your all and managers say it still isn't enough, you might as well cut your losses. If they can't see you for what you do right and only badger you for what you might do wrong—it might be time to let go. It isn't worth it. Take it from the guy who suffered the consequences and came out happier.
Find your voice. Speak up. Don't ever let them see you as being unworthy.
Find your dream. Follow it. Don't ever succumb to anything that deprives you of freedom.
You've got this. You deserve more. Trust me.
- J Tury