This week, I try to explain the nuanced realities of workplace harassment to a compositor whose naiveté could portend big problems at the studio.
I was recruited by a boutique studio because of my expertise with Nuke and After Effects. They brought me in specifically to handle a technically demanding set of CG spots for a well-known soft drink company. I’d been there only a week when the executive producer tells me they’re moving me onto another project where my skills were desperately needed. It turns out this “other project” is a set of feminine hygiene product commercials that I find completely offensive. It makes me cringe just thinking about it. I can’t believe they put me on this! Do you think being forced to work on such an offensive project constitutes workplace harassment? I’m furious about the switch and am considering talking to a lawyer.
Vincent in Chicago
First off, there’s nothing sinister or uncouth about exploiting the tremendously persuasive power of animation to influence women on what brand of product they choose to insert into their vaginas. Secondly, though I don’t know you, I already despise you. I’m sure growing up, your mother smothered you with attention and texted you constantly about your amazing artistic talent. She was lying. Your meager accomplishments have given you the false impression you’re much more talented than you really are, an all too common sentiment among pampered young artists today I’m afraid. Just because you were the only one to bed the nude model in your freshman life drawing class doesn’t make you anything more than lucky. She wasn’t that cute anyway and you were an impetuous and regrettable rebound fling to her. Nothing more.
Workplace harassment (as exquisitely pronounced “herəsmənt” by Layne Pryce in Mad Men) involves unwelcome and offensive conduct based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability or age. It’s not harassment to be taken off a project because you’re incompetent. So, unless the producer threatened to bend you over the Samovar and sodomize you for not agreeing to switch projects, the only offensive conduct I see here is the whining of your bruised ego. While as a general rule, I abhor workplace sodomy – there are far less messy ways to convince employees their meager skills are best applied elsewhere – I could understand its use in your case.
While I’ll admit it’s taken me many years to acknowledge workplace harassment is probably not the most appropriate way to handle employee relations, like tempering the enthusiasm of chronically cheerful employees or putting a halt to break room whispers about raises, in this instance, it would be justified as a means of adjusting your overly inflated sense of self worth. I have little patience for people like you, people who refuse to take responsibility for their actions, forever clueless about their own shortcomings, who always consider the problem at hand lies with someone else. In your situation, some workplace harassment, such as a nasty backhand, would probably do you good.
If you had worked for Art Babbitt, he would have laughed at your questionable skills, and then stabbed you through the hand with a pencil. Consider yourself lucky that your perceived workplace slight has left you merely angry, not bloody.
My dear Vincent, the problem is you, not the creative “bait and switch” you claim the studio foisted upon you. You were taken off the soft drink project because you’re incompetent, and an asshole, plain and simple. It only took one short week for management to realize you are far less capable than advertised. Your sense of entitlement and arrogant demeanor made the producer’s decision to move you off his project a “no brainer.” Be thankful he didn’t box your ears or slice your hamstring in the process.
Your hubris says, “How dare they ask me to do menial work. It’s beneath me.” Your talent says, “Stick this asshole on the tampon spot or fire him. What dumb fuck hired him in the first place?”
Take heed and maybe you’ll learn a valuable lesson. You’re an at will employee, nothing more. You can be fired at any time, without cause, though in your case, dismissal would seem quite justified. Get over it. Get used to it. You don’t own the company. You have nothing at risk – you have no skin in the game. If the company needs more equipment, your house is not used to collateralize the personal guarantee on the lease. If the company has a looming cash flow crunch, you’re not the one squirming in the hot seat at the bank begging for an increase in the already tapped out credit line. When your top right desk drawer contains a bottle of Tagamet rather than a dental floss dispenser, maybe you’ll be given a seat at the grownup’s table. Not a day before.
As an employee, you’re asked to do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Nothing more, nothing less. You are not “entitled” to a say in anything unless asked. Period. Your opinion on how the company runs is irrelevant. Here’s your desk, here are the tools to get the job done, here’s what we expect of you, now shut the fuck up and get to work. There’s water and coffee in the break room. More than 100 people much more qualified and deserving than you applied for this job. The studio chose you. Make them not regret their decision any more than they do already.
Stop complaining and get to work! Look around you. Rejoice that you even have a job! No one is forcing you to work there. You’re not doing them any favors by gracing the studio halls with your annoying presence each day. If you’re that unhappy with the job, leave! The front door is down the hall and to the left. If you go, please make sure you leave the parking pass with reception and don’t forget to remove your shitty container of soy milk from the refrigerator.
And just remember, if Art Babbitt had seen you drink a glass of soy milk, he would have laughed, and then jabbed you in the neck with a grease pen. And his feminine hygiene product commercials would have featured the most beautifully animated tampons ever created.