Agency Agony Uncle - Uncle Carl
The Drum's very own Uncle Carl answers your questions
Dear Uncle Carl,
What’s the most professional way of making a bulk of redundancies?
What a f**king depressing question. The redundancy process rightly or wrongly normally starts with a wave of internal warnings in the shape of ‘trading is difficult’ emails and chats, following statements such as ‘the board and senior management have to make some serious decisions’. This is then followed by the Friday-afternoon-all-staff-get-together announcement that ‘we have to downsize, please stew over the weekend’. Eventually you get to the ‘consultation phase’ - the picking off of individuals who are then offered totally unsuitable jobs within the group; “Yes, we know you are a creative director in Leeds but we can offer you a night shift overlooking a four-colour press in Wakefield”. All of this is sort of ‘normal’; whether it’s professional is arguable!
Dear Uncle Carl,
I work for a smallish agency where HR is virtually an alien concept. I think I’m due a pay rise because I’m performing well, but should it come to me or do I have to ask for it? Is it reasonable to expect regular pay increases when you think you’re performing well, or is it necessary to move on to get more money?
Bless you for ‘performing well’ and ‘due a pay rise’ indeed. I think all staff should be allowed to give themselves pay rises when they feel they have done well - it’s the future! There wouldn’t be any agencies left but what a great time you would all have.
If you feel undervalued then leave and go somewhere else and see if they will pay you more. Bearing in mind you will not have done a day’s work for the new company but you will expect them to pay you more.
I don’t mean to be an old f**k (actually I do) but in my 23 years in agency life I never once asked for a pay rise, but I always received them. And I never had to ‘move to get more money’ yet I ended up earning more than anyone. Shall I tell you how I did it? ...It’s simple – I never worked for my own benefit; I worked for the benefit of the business and the department and by doing my job well, the rewards came.
Dear Uncle Carl,
The agency I work for has just closed, leaving lots of talented people redundant. I’ve been approached about co-founding a phoenix agency, but I have my reservations. Is this a risk worth taking?
What risk? - You have just lost your job! Surely, you can only ‘gain’. I do some presentations to people on ‘how to be a success’ and it’s easy really - the only thing holding 99 percent of people back is fear. What are you fearful of? What have you got to lose? And if you struggle to answer those questions, why not start thinking ‘what have I to GAIN?’ and ‘What rewards lie ahead?’
The way your career has come to an abrupt ending is most unfortunate and you have my sympathies that either the economy has caught up with you or perhaps some feckless-clueless-idiotic parent company has made a huge, crass, catastrophic mistake by closing down your agency when perhaps there were other options. But I digress.
Back to you, it seems you have little to risk and everything to gain. So consider these factors; have you a sniff of an account or two to work with from your old agency, are there other ex-staff wanting to join you, do you have the sympathy of other possible clients and suppliers and the press? Perhaps you and your colleagues have the opportunity to create a new business that you can mould every aspect of; its ethos, its values, its output, even the colour of the chairs - how wonderful is that? Go for it you can always get a ‘proper job’ later. I wish you all the luck in the world.
Dear Uncle Carl,
One of the star performers in my team has had a lot of afternoons off lately and I’ve heard murmurings around the office that he’s had interviews for other jobs. Do I need to start worrying about a replacement or am I just being paranoid?
HELLO! ‘They’ are all looking for jobs all of the time! But that doesn’t mean ‘they’ or he, in your case, will take it. Why on earth are you telling me? Take the guy out for a coffee and be straight with him – you have nothing to lose. Ask him if he is considering moving on and find out why. What is the point in him telling you in a f**king exit interview – the swine has gone!
Sometimes as a ‘boss’ it can be easy to overlook the stars in your business when things are going well and assume they are all as happy as you are. The adage of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, is a dangerous one to apply to people. As your Uncle Carl I suggest you start thinking ‘if it aint broke – how can I make it better?’ Talk to him NOW, outside of the office and find out how you can make things even better for him so he won’t leave. If you don’t do this then you are not really that bothered about keeping him – remember you have nothing to lose.
If he is looking for a new role then this might be your last chance and if you fail to enthuse him he will go anyway. And if he isn’t looking then perhaps you have rumbled the fact he is visiting a prostitute every afternoon/doing drugs/has a second job/likes going to the dentist so you are giving him a chance to come clean. If none of those scenarios are true then he will simply be so flattered that you took the time to ask him if everything is alright and that you want him with you for the long run.
Are you troubled? Don’t be. send all your questions for the drum’s agony uncle to firstname.lastname@example.org Or, If you wish to meet with carl to talk about your business, then simply email him on email@example.com