Who'd of thought? A bad boss in the music industry? Surely not! The thing that gets me about this story (if I may have a rant) is that people want to work in the music industry and most will do anything/work anywhere. This Boss From Hell is clearly one of those that has not only taken advantage but milked everything out of her workforce and in doing so damaged their view of the industry. Yes it's a competetive industry bit come on love...
Anyway, such was the negative feeling of Vicky that she really wanted to name and shame this Boss From Hell. No matter how bad the boss, the one thing we - and when I say we I mean me - guarantee on this blog is that anonimity is key. All names and companies are changed however I have a feeling that if you worked for ****** PR you'll know who this story is about.
It’s no secret that the creative industry is tough; it’s all about experience and more of who you know than what you know. You can work for months gaining experience at a Music PR company and walk away with little more than being an expert at making tea, a talent for scanning and a detailed knowledge of how Royal Mail operates.
So when I finally got my ‘break’ in the music industry, a 3 month unpaid internship at ****** PR, I felt extremely lucky. I was determined to do everything I could to impress and gain a full time position at the end of the 3 months.
On my first day as an unpaid intern I was literally thrown in the deep end – it was sink or swim.
It didn’t take me long to realise I hadn’t so much gained my big break but a big fat boss from hell, Gloria. My fellow employees quaked with fear whenever she was in office. Staff members were pitted against each other and it really was survival of the fittest. There were never any rewards or praise only shouting and criticism. Let’s say she favoured the stick over the carrot approach to management.
Gloria believed that cold calling was the way to music PR success. The whole of the PR team were expected to be on the phone constantly throughout ‘call time’ (10am-1pm and 2.30pm-5pm). If Gloria arrived in the office during call time and everyone wasn’t on the phone, she would scream “Am I in a fucking library? Why is no one on the bloody phones?”.
She became so obsessed with call time that she introduced Call Sheets. Every day you had to complete one noting how many journalists you had successfully spoken to in a day. At the end of each day you had to hand them to the Gloria’s second in command. At the end of the week call numbers would be added up – whoever had made the least amount of calls was then on tea and coffee making duties for the entire office morning and afternoon for the whole of the following week. Even now, the words Call Sheet still send a shiver down my spine.
Slowly she wore her employees down to a shadow of their former selves. Most people survived by shutting down all emotions. It quickly became apparent that Gloria got a big kick out of other people’s misery it was her drug and if you were sensible you didn’t deal.
Time off work for a family death? No chance. One guy dared to ask and was told “What difference does it make whether you attend the funeral? She’s dead she’ll never know the difference”. Maybe this was the first warning sign that I should run and never look back but I was so determined to succeed that I just put my head down and got on with it.
So I survived my 3 months unpaid internship. I worked my ass off; on top of working full time at ****** PR I also held down a bar job having to work 2-3 evenings a week plus Saturday and Sunday to afford my rent. At the end of the 3 months Gloria summoned me to her office. To my delight and amazement, she offered me a full time position (hurrah!). However the money she offered was pretty poor even for a junior role. However, in return for her offering me a full time position she expected me to give up my bar job (apparently she couldn’t risk split loyalties - with a bar!). How she expected me to live on the salary she was offering still baffles me.
Christmas time! Staff Christmas party, secret Santa, bonuses, fun times. Nope, not if you work at ****** PR. We didn’t have a Christmas party, Secret Santa was banned, we didn’t get a bonus and we certainly did not have fun. Instead one year, we moved office. Now when I say move office I actually mean that we lifted and carried every single item from our old office to a new one. This included carrying leather sofas, down stairs, down the High Street and up the stairs to the new office. And it wasn’t just sofas; we carried desks, computers, printers, cupboards, chairs and boxes of CDs, DVDs, and Books. No removal companies were involved and not even a removal van! And where was Gloria? Shouting...sorry working from home, constantly on the phone asking why we weren’t completing our Call Sheets. We weren’t even given a lunch break on moving day instead we got “treated” to 2 small pizzas to share between 8 of us from Pizza Hut!
Everyone loves Friday night – well nearly everyone. Everyone who worked at ****** PR knew the feeling of dread experienced on Friday evenings when your plans go flying out of the window……
“Hi I’m sorry I’m stuck at work and I’m going to miss your birthday drinks but I’ll see you at the restaurant later…..”
“Hi, me again, sorry to do this but you should go ahead and order. I’m still at work, don’t worry I’ll make the gig……”
“Yeah, so it’s me again, erm the thing is I’m still at work so I think I’m going to have to give tonight a miss I’m so sorry!”
You see in music PR world Fridays are reports day and at ****** PR this meant that you were not allowed to leave the office until every single last report had been written checked and then emailed to the relevant client. You weren’t allowed to send a report unless you had 5 new pieces of national coverage, 10 new pieces of Local and Regional coverage and 15 new pieces of online coverage.
Some weeks you would be optimistic, knowing that you had achieved this target and reports would be a breeze. So you sit there smugly at 6pm knowing that your reports have gone and the evening is yours for the taking. Then it dawns on you that just because you’re on the ball this week it doesn’t mean that everyone else is. Your evening is slowly slipping away as you make phone call after phone to change and rearrange your plans before admitting defeat and cancelling plans. After a few weeks you learn the hard way that there is no point making plans for a Friday evening.
But those evenings were never wasted….if you were lucky enough to have finished your reports by 6pm on a Friday you got the pleasure of cleaning the office (emptying bins, hovering, polishing, dusting etc). I wish I was joking.
Everyone at the company became brainwashed into thinking this was how every PR Company in the industry operated. You were constantly told that you were lucky to have a job. Gloria made you believe that she was doing you a favour by keeping you employed. But she never gave out a contract longer than 3 months and at the end of each 3 month period you would be appraised and told you’re not up to standard but she’d give you another 3 month contract and you’d have to impress during this time or else its P45 time!
Time off for ill health? No chance – I made the mistake of asking for an afternoon off to attend a doctors appointment. My request was denied. 3 days later I collapsed at work, got taken to hospital and was kept in over night. I emailed to ask for the following day off. My request was denied. I was back at my desk by 9.30am the next morning and Gloria never once enquired about my health.
So how did I escape? It came to a head on a miserable Thursday in July. I had survived at ****** PR for just over eighteen months but it was to end there. Gloria attempted to pull me up for something really petty and unfair - not to mention something I was in the right about. I argued my case in a calm and collected manner, she on the other hand flipped. In front of the entire office she started screaming and launching magazines/books/staplers in my direction. At this point something inside me snapped and I realised that as much I love the industry nothing was worth being treated like this. I turned on my heels and never went back.
It’s been 2 years since I left ****** PR and there is not a single member of staff that currently works there that I know. Staff turn over is extremely high. I regularly meet up with my old colleagues and hold annual ‘We Survived ****** PR Parties’ that act as an alcohol fuelled group therapy session. At the last one I heard two classic stories which optimises Gloria and makes me feel better, that I wasn’t imagining her being a Boss from Hell.
First, a guy in the office had got a bit fruity with a date and she had given him a hickey/lovebite/shag rash... Anyway, Gloria told him that he looked like a tramp and would have to wear a thick scarf until it healed. It was summer!
Secondly and best of all, Gloria’s second in command eventually got his own P.A. One morning before said P.A had arrived at the office Gloria called her second in command into her office. She told him that his P.A had an annoying voice and that he would have to do something about it! For someone whose natural way of talking was the shriek in your ear, seemed a bit ironic, don’t you think?
Vicky, 26, London, UK