Really Giant A*%holes: An R/GA Employee’s Lament

By Matt Van Hoven 

Sometimes when you lose your job you feel like the situation is not only out of your hands, but also like you were set up to fail. That’s the case for whoever penned a site called, which claims to detail the story of an R/GA employee’s slow meandering departure from the agency. The best part: it starts nice and ends with a layoff disguised as a porn-related firing. We’re not sure which side is up, so in the meantime just read. (R/GA was not immediately available for comment)

I was a writer at R/GA for three years. When I started I was doing some great work and I really liked the place. We were getting our account noticed and the client seemed cool with it all. Then, out-of-the-blue the client took the work in a very retail direction and took our part of the business to a more retail agency. I had a meeting with the head of the copy department and asked him if I should quit. He said no. So I became a floater.

Floaters at R/GA work wherever they’re needed on whatever comes their way. A couple months of that and I landed on a pharma client. This wasn’t really my forte so I found another job and quit. R/GA countered with the best account in the building. So I stayed. Then came regime change on my new account. My partner and I got the brush-off. Again I asked the copy department head if I should pack my bags. Again he said no. So I returned to floating.

While floating I was offered a column in the weekly company-wide, internal newsletter. The column was a collection of the wackiest, weirdest stuff I could find on the Internet. I would even get links from people at R/GA &#151 the head of my department even sent me links &#151 to some pretty crazy crap. I would then pick the best and least offensive content; throw in a dash of context and off it went. The column was called, “You See That Shit?” (Expletive deleted of course)

Click continued to read on. It’s worth a minute or two of your time. The funny thing is that a few weeks back we told you about an digital agency that fired an employee for allegedly masturbating at his desk. Coincidence?

A few months later I got put me on an account with a creative director who was a megalomaniacal micromanager. I kid you not. This guy would tell me my work was fine, then go home and rewrite it at 4am. (How do I know 4am? He told me.) I told him I’d adjust anything he didn’t like. He assured me everything was fine. I knew it wasn’t. I told the head of the copy department. I even sent him emails from this guy to prove I wasn’t exaggerating this guy’s psychosis. I told my boss that I would have a talk with the guy to try and get him to let me do my job. Bad idea. The freak apologized profusely while offering creepy compliments, said he knew he was a control freak, was almost in tears as he expressed regret and then… he had me kicked off the account. Best thing that could have happened, actually. I returned to floating.

The head of the copy department called me in for a meeting. If I didn’t find an account to call home in 4 weeks I would be laid off. This was really a catch-22 as it was the head of the copy department’s job to find me assignments. I approached this challenge in the no-win-situation spirit in which it was given. I contacted every producer I knew. I got a little work but nothing permanent. Four weeks turned into five months. As I awaited the inevitable I picked up random assignments here and there, looked for a new job and continued to scan the web and write “You See That @#$%?” for the newsletter.

I got a meeting request from the head of the copy department. There was an HR person on the request &#151 so I’m thinking this is where I get my walking papers, cool. As I sit down my department head tells me, “I have some bad news.” Then this creepy HR lady jumps in, “Someone saw you viewing objectionable material on the Internet and complained to HR so we’re going to have to let you go.” At first, all I could think to say was, “Really.” But my desk was in a distant corner. My back was to a wall. So I ask them how someone could have seen my computer. Creepy HR Lady quickly jumps in with, “Oh, you can see your screen.”

With my boss — the guy who repeatedly told me not to quit, the guy that promoted me — sitting there like a mute Creepy HR Lady asked me, “Do you want to see the rule on this in the company handbook?” “I’m sure you have it written down somewhere or we wouldn’t be here.” I said. “Can I see the site this “someone” saw me looking at?” She pulled out a printout with a bunch of URLs. I shrug and said, “I guess I shouldn’t have clicked on those links I was sent. It wasn’t like I was looking at porn all day.” And then Creepy HR Lady got nasty, “Yes you were.” That was it. I was done. I was about to remind them about the column in the newsletter but I decided if R/GA was going to treat me like this it was best for me to just leave.

Creepy HR Lady tells me that R/GA wants to do me a favor and help me out since “no one wants to work with you.” Then she says R/GA is willing to offer me a severance package, “even though we don’t have to,” and she starts telling me about the extended unemployment benefits available through the Government Stimulus Plan. So let me get this straight. R/GA was firing me for cause but offering all the perks as if I was simply laid off? Then I asked, “So you’re doing me a favor?” “Yes,” she quickly countered as she slid a package of documents in my direction. I said, “Thanks,” looking in the direction of my former boss, took the envelope and left.

The next day I got a call from Creepy HR Lady advising me that I had 14 days to sign the papers or I wouldn’t get the severance money. A day later, she calls back to tell me I have 21 days. I used that time to make sure I could get all the benefits I shouldn’t have been able to get if I was fired for cause. And It didn’t seem like I was fired for cause. There was nothing in writing saying it. R/GA told the NY Department of Labor I was released for “lack of work” aka laid off. So why go through all this crap with the “someone saw you looking at objectionable material” confrontation when, for all intents and purposes, this was a lay-off? Then I got a call from a friend at R/GA who tells me that megalomaniacal micromanager was going around telling people I was fired for looking at porn. Awesome.

That really got me thinking. If I take R/GA’s money and sign their forms I’m accepting what they did and giving them a pass. That just didn’t feel right to me. On day 21, Creepy HR Lady calls. I tell her I’m not signing the forms, “Thanks anyway,” and I hang up. Not fifteen minutes later she calls back and leaves a message saying she wants to, “Discuss our last conversation.” I had nothing more to say to her or R/GA. A week later I find out I’m part of an R/GA team that won a Silver One Show Pencil. You gotta love this business. But I wish they they would have just said goodbye and sent me on my way. I wish they could have just included me in the big round of lay-offs they did a month or so later. But I guess they couldn’t because they are…Really Giant Assholes.