Conversations at brunch: Did you hear? Jess got fired | Part 7
It's not you, it's me. Or is that the other way round?
A new personal blog series exploring the highs and lows of the conversations you have at brunch.
This is Part 7 of a series. For a recap, click here.
While I didn't want to - I was sad, I was grieving my aunt's passing, and I was still gripping with my dad's ongoing battle and fear of Covid - I headed back into the office.
I was fired a month later.
Around this time, Melbourne was between hard lockdowns, but restrictions were still in place. For instance, you could go to work, but not to a friend's house. Or you could have a picnic, but restaurants had strict capacity requirements.
Every day, Australians arounf the country were glued to their TV sets, ready for their Premier to announce the day's numbers and any impending restrictions. Sometimes, six people in the state had Covid, and entire suburbs were locked down for two weeks. Other times, three people had crossed the border with Covid, so the entire state would go into a 'snap lockdown' for two weeks. It was a time of extremely high anxiety, uncertainty, and stress for many, around health, finances, physical and mental wellbeing.
People handled it differently. Many complied, fearful for their health and the health of those around them. Many grumbled, but did what was expected. Some rallied, protested and fell into dark conspiracy groups online.
Me, I went with it. I trusted the science, and while obviously I hated it, believed it was in our best interest. Plus, I was terrified for my parents. But it doesn't mean it was easy. Life was a jumble of caring for dad, managing LAL, understanding my new job, moving house, and trying to re-organise our wedding for later that year if conditions allowed.
As detailed, on top of this, my only auntie in Australia died on my first day in my new office. Obviously, I needed to return at some point, and two or three months in a role doesn't exactly provide a lot of leave.
The office itself was incredible. They really knew how to incentivise returning to the workplace. They had free arcade games, chocolates, snacks, soda water, and even an ice cream fridge. Every day you came in, you were given a voucher for free lunch. There was frequent team drinks, and we still got those bougie packages in the mail. The perks were seriously rad, and I bragged about my new gig to everyone.
At my three month review, everything went well. My #GirlBoss was thrilled with my performance, and felt I was on track. I asked if there was anything I could improve on, and luckily, there was nothing. Phew.
For those not in Australia - during a 'probation' period, a company trains you up, but if you're not the right 'fit' (eg: they don't like you) they can legally say it isn't working and get rid of you. Once you're 'ongoing,' it is a lot harder to let an employee go - this becomes more about office procedures, performance, warnings, and so on.
My next review was at six months, when probation would be over and I would be 'ongoing.'
There were company drinks where my #GirlBoss laughed off my worries about the review, we chatted about guys and movies and our weekend instead.
After this, it's hard to really understand what happened. To be honest, I barely get it myself, even now.
I do acknowledge this: starting a new job in a pandemic, isolated at home without any support, on new systems and processes without documentation is really, really hard. My orientation guide was only sent to me at the four-month mark because they 'forgot' to send it to me on my first day.
Later, on my first day in the office, my aunt was hospitalised and later died. I was still reeling from the redundancy and wedding cancellation from the previous year. My mum was in cancer remission and my dad was dying of terminal cancer, and I spent a lot of my time taking him to appointments or keeping him company during Covid - which was known by the organisation.
At first, I was told I could keep working from home with the threat of a pandemic greatly distressing both me and my parents, but it was then 'strongly encouraged' by a head manager to be in.
There were no manuals, templates, or style guides for a huge, multi-faceted company that continually spoke in acronyms. I tried so, so hard to remember, to make notes, create guides, get used to working at home, the office, meet people, and understand how it all worked. Sometimes, for whatever reason, you just can't grasp or get it the way they want you to. For some reason, it just never clicks.
For me personally, I'm much better at learning if someone shows me once, so I found it hard to remember the constant bits of information on every little task that appeared to change depending on the day, casual throwaways like, 'We always do drafts in Times New Roman 10 pt,' or 'Did you click the left hand tick button under the subtext on page 4.2 in clause 5.8 like you're meant to?' etc. But perhaps I could have recorded this better.
I also found it increasingly difficult when tasks were asked of me that seemed outside the realm of 'copywriter'. For instance, I was told to study an analytics review and write a report on the statistical trends.
Another time, I also created an entire slide deck on what the company's entire Instagram strategy should be, or what their company designs should look like.
I was also asked to come up with different strategies or full campaign ideas for every single blog or post, as there was no overarching strategy. Like, for this ad, focus on themes of space! Or, for this one, talk about hot air balloons, or penguins! Or, what do you think these banners should look like, Jess? For a major organisation.
We all also needed to know the origin story of how the company started, and were made to feel like we were extremely lucky to have made it through the rigorous hiring process.
Around the four or five month mark, in March of 2021, I had a coffee with my #GirlBoss who I got on with very well.
Seemingly out of nowhere, at least to me, she said she had some 'concerns' about my performance. I was totally surprised, considering nothing had been mentioned to me earlier. She said it was around me not 'getting it' and not 'being where I needed to be.' I asked if she could explain this in more detail, and she said something along the lines of understanding 'the company way', or 'how things are done at the company.'
Internally, I was completely freaking out. I got out my notebook and asked her for three main areas I could immediately work on. She stated attention to detail (fair) and referring to previous tasks when doing new ones. She did not provide a third. Okay, fine. Again, I asked for clarification around certain information that still had not been provided to me despite months of asking so I could do my job better - you know, like a basic style guide or single template. That evening, obviously, I was very upset and cried a lot, as I felt somewhat blindsided, but took the feedback on board. My partner helped me create an action plan that indicated my 'challenges' and what I planned to do to 'overcome' them. Over the following week, I spent an insane amount of time on smaller tasks, referring to previous ones and ensuring they were word-perfect, even though the entire brief would say something like, 'Write a blurb for YouTube.' All I had was this sentence. No word count, tone of voice, style, product mentions, it was for me to 'interpret' a few months in. I panicked. If I ask, I thought, I'm 'not where I need to be' and 'not getting it,' so I would do my best and hope it was the 'magic interpretation' in their heads that they were looking for. A week later in the office, around 5.30pm, my #GirlBoss asked to chat. I said yes, even though it was the end of the day and my partner was in the car waiting for me. She asked if I had been 'playing around' in the new software we were going to be using for social posts. At the time, our social media posting had been paused while they were hiring someone for the role, with the last post going live over a month prior. As a background, at the time, I had been incredibly proactive on the social strategy front (even though I am a copywriter, not a social media manager). In my first month, I created a 42-page presentation on social strategy, incorporating business figures, case studies, potential templates and posts.
It got no response.
The month prior, I created a Social Content Calendar WIP, detailing a Source of Truth document that all the content creators could utilise for social brainstorming, to store log-in information, creation of an ongoing content calendar, and utilisation of core social changes.
She told me she had not read it.
Over my five months, I had also developed countless ideas for their social media, including Instagram story ideas, post ideas, and two pages of blog ideas. I had sent a whole brochure and strategy for graduate career recruitment, was in the process of creating manuals for all communications, volunteered to run meetings and attended company events. I write all this, perhaps indignantly, because when asked if I had had a 'play' in the software (as in, not actually post anything, just 'played' with the software for funsies) I stated no, I did not realise I should be 'playing'. She looked disappointed and said something along the lines of, "Yeah, it's just this, not being pro-active... It's just about taking initiative." I got upset.
I knew I wasn't perfect. I had definitely made some mistakes. But I was not, am not, someone who does not take initiative. I had been overly proactive in my creation of social materials. Without any communication, I was meant to 'guess' that I should be 'playing' in the draft area of a system we weren't even using. I had tasks that took all day, and had done a range of large scale extra tasks that went unnoticed. If directed, of course I would have complied. But somehow, not 'playing around' was me 'not being proactive'. Around this point, I started crying profusely. It was unprofessional. I am not very good at confrontation, and would have much preferred the discussion to have been arranged on the calendar so I could better prepare if I was going to be 'performance managed' after my workday had ended. I was emotional, and said I was confused. Nothing negative was said at my three-month review (which was only a month or so prior). I mean... literally two or three weeks before, she was buying me drinks at a bar, telling me about her ex-boyfriend, laughing and saying 'not to worry' about the probation period.
I reiterated my interest in the company, team and role, and asked her if she saw a future for me there. She stated she was 'wanting to prepare me' the best way she could for my review in a few weeks' time.
I left, not really understanding where I stood, or why, and, once again, cried a lot in the car, on the way to my dad's hospital appointment, and at home, unsure of what was really happening.
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