Years ago, I sat crying on this corner after my Creative Director gave me a scathing review

By - CTL
August 4, 2017
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By Alex Wadelton, Executive Creative Director at ZOO Group.

At the time, I was working at a major multinational advertising agency. My art director partner and I had won the agency awards at every major show. We’d been the key driving force behind a $50 million client win. We were the go-to team for when account service wanted an idea cracked fast, after other teams had not been able to. We were overseeing a range of junior teams, and were lead creative on several big accounts.

For our yearly review, we had asked for a pay-rise, and the title of Creative Group Heads- because that is exactly what we were without the title.

We believed they were not unreasonable requests.

Walking into my review, I was nervous, even more so when my boss said he’d got back the results of my 360 review- where various people had been asked to fill in a questionnaire about me.

The results were awful.

I was apparently a bully, unapproachable, and disruptive.

I honestly could not believe what I was hearing. Just a week earlier I’d been talking to a range of account service people who were devastated that they’d been told I was too busy on other jobs to work on their briefs.

For five minutes I was dressed down, by my boss reading notes off a piece of paper. He’d gotten in a leadership consultant to help him with my review. He said he didn’t believe in titles like Creative Group Head. He said he hated giving people credits on work, because it created jealousy. And he said I wouldn’t get a pay-rise. Well, obviously!

I asked him who he had got to review me and he refused to let me know.

I walked out, with no pay-rise, and no title, and the belief that all the hard work I’d done for the agency was for nothing. All the late nights I spent coming up with ideas were pointless. And that I was a terrible person who everyone hated.

I stood on this corner and just cried.

Later, I found out that the people who had reviewed me had not actually worked with me. My boss had got people who disliked me to review me to cook the results, so he wouldn’t give me a pay-rise or a title. Perhaps he was threatened that I was being given credit for doing great work?

It was the impetus we needed to leave. Within a month we had secured a new job, with a new title and a substantial pay rise.

Within three months, the place where I used to work had installed three teams as Group Heads across all of the clients that we had worked. Management had been shocked when we had left and wanted to make sure more other people didn’t leave.

It made me realise that you just have to believe in yourself. Other people have agendas you can’t control. Don’t listen to people you don’t respect. Listen to yourself.

Life really is too short to spend late nights and weekends working for people who are only looking out for themselves. Just do it for yourself. And your family.

Belief. It can get shaken so easily. But never, ever lose yours.

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