She was barreling at me top speed, rushing down the stairs with her mouth twisted in anger—a very unhappy woman from the looks of it. No eye contact. No hello. Just a big ball of rage. This was our new president on her first day at the shop. Oh no, I thought. Is this what we’ve become?
In my years with that agency—one of the top in NYC—we’d seen several creative directors come and go. I’d grown used to that. But presidents? Our former president was highly respected and had been with the shop for a long time, so I understood she’d be a hard act to follow. But this angry woman rushing past me? How could she take her place? But take her place she did. And with her, she brought a culture of “gotcha” and “what were you thinking?” and “I don’t think so.” Before long, I once again had a new creative director—and he was a former colleague of our new president. And like her, I would soon discover, he managed mostly by shaming.
As a born and bred New Yorker myself, I like to think I have a (somewhat) tough skin. But this was a new world. My previous pharma shops had been incredibly busy with long hours expected, and the bar high for great work, but they were nothing like this. I was used to account teams that really liked one another, everyone coming together with excitement to create the very best advertising possible. Now, if I was going to stay, I would have to learn how to play a new way. Watch your back. Cover your tuches. Never let them see you cry. And for a few more years, that’s exactly what I did.
The experience did not make me more creative. Ultimately, it made me seek a way out—and luckily for me, I found one. Today, I am proud to be a part of precisioneffect in Costa Mesa, a shop—I have joyfully discovered—that honors kindness, as well as creativity. Once again, I have a team that truly respects each other and leadership that values each one of us. This experience HAS made me more creative, more engaged, more productive. That’s because I really like where I work.
So what did I learn from the mean girls? I learned what NOT to do. Don’t be a ball of anger, ready to strike. Don’t shame people for their mistakes. And don’t walk around with a permanent scowl on your face. A moment of kindness has the power to change someone’s day, make them feel seen, appreciated, valued. And juiced to write the very best copy she possibly can.