Do you need help getting motivated to show up for work each Monday? Lucky for you, the Internet is the world’s greatest gathering of self-made self-help gurus, and there are thousands working the #LoveYourMonday meme.
Should you need an update on why companies are promoting Monday, Erin Griffith, a reporter in the San Francisco bureau of The New York Times recently welcomed her readers to hustle culture. It’s an entertaining piece.
Hustle culture is obsessed with striving, relentlessly positive, devoid of humor, and — once you notice it — impossible to escape.
The grim reality of 2019 is that begging a billionaire for employment via Twitter is not considered embarrassing, but a perfectly plausible way to get ahead. On some level, you have to respect the hustlers who see a dismal system and understand that success in it requires total, shameless buy-in. If we’re doomed to toil away until we die, we may as well pretend to like it. Even on Mondays.
I love the condemnation in her voice. Griffith also surmises: “It’s not difficult to view hustle culture as a swindle. After all, convincing a generation of workers to beaver away is convenient for those at the top.”
Are Ad Agency Workers Ruled By Toxic Norms?
The ad agency business has several sacrosanct but rarely spoken rules of conduct.
Rule number one: Be available for work at all hours on all days, because a client’s needs always supersede your own. You know the saying, “Your failure to plan does not constitute an emergency on my part”? Forget that you ever heard it.
Rule number two: Clients and jobs comes and go, but your portfolio is forever.
Rule number three: Get to the corner office by the age of 40 or get out.
Is the agency business home to predatory employment practices? I wish this were a rhetorical question, but it’s not (see rules one and three above). Women, people of color and people over 40 all have long lists of legitimate claims that they’ve been marginalized, passed over for promotions, paid less than they’re worth, and so on.
As loathsome as rules one and three are, I think rule two is the most odious and most damaging to the ad agency business. The agency business is a service business from top to bottom. You can accurately call ads information products, but you only get to make them when you’re good at servicing the client. And you can not, by definition, be good at servicing the client when you’re self-absorbed.
I don’t want to blame the legions of ad pros who care more about their portfolios than their past, present or future clients. This is the on-the-job training that people receive, and generally speaking, no one gets promoted for caring more about the client than the agency or their won career advancement. The problem is that this bias and selfishness is obvious to all, and most importantly it is obvious to the clients.
So Serious, So Dour, So Uninspired
Time for a non-commercial interlude…
Okay, back to the article. Poor business practices are more than a minor bummer.
Molly West Duffy, an organizational designer at IDEO New York remarked to Gretchen Rubin:
Researchers at Baylor University found a nasty coworker not only makes you and your family grumpy but may have a ripple effect that extends as far as your partner’s workplace. It happens like this: I come home irritated because of my crabby colleague and snap at my husband. He catches my bad mood and goes to work the next day equally irritable. My colleague’s sour attitude might then spread to my husband’s coworkers.
I feel like spouses of people in the ad business deserve all the trophies that creatives covet. The long nights and lost weekends are bad enough, but the backstabbing by colleagues and bosses causes even greater psychic damage and the potential for it to spread.
At the end of the day, the battles that ad people create and endure are all about making better ads. Not a cure for cancer, not justice reform, not a more sustainable answer to mass transit…advertising is what ad people lose sleep over.
This isn’t to drain advertising of its power, it’s merely to provide an ounce of perspective where a pound is needed.