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Annoyances work

Changing Focus

“To ghost, or not to ghost? That is the question.”

“Shakespeare,” maybe

Okay, that’s not how the quote goes, I know, but it’s a question I considered for a long time before making my latest life change. I quit my job.

I worked as an hourly contractor in a customer support position for the last five years. It was close to the perfect job for me:

  • the pay was right
  • the hours were reasonable
  • it involved some writing
  • it was for a non-profit supporting deserving people
  • and it allowed me to help people who needed the help.

So why quit?

When I started at the company, the focus was very clear. We served parents of kids who needed support and help. Every part of the business felt aligned with that goal. As a customer support representative, I interacted daily with the people we were trying to help. I provided them links to our many articles and resources. I was a shoulder to cry on. Through me, they gained access to experienced professionals in related fields.

But…

It always comes back to that conjunction.

After five years, the entire business has changed and not for the best. The words of the focus had not changed, but the attitudes of the people doing the work had. And the people themselves had changed as well. In my last year there, the marketing team had changed completely. My partner, another contractor, and I had been there five years. We were the longest lasting staff members on the team. That should have been a clue that something was wrong.

But I stayed.

A Reorg Seemed Promising

About a month before I quit, there was a reorganization. It resulted in some layoffs and changes to the business. My team—Customer Support—had been reporting in to Marketing, but I spoke with one of the senior staff members and it seemed like our team might move out of Marketing into a more support-oriented part of the company.

Can Marketing be Support-Oriented?

I believe not.

The focus of marketing is to generate demand for the product and grow the customer base. The focus of support is to sustain and assist those customers.

Marketing will use any methods to generate demand and grow the customer base, including lying and manipulation. Support should provide honest answers to customer questions and concerns and represent the company as a helpful resource for the customers.

Instead, We were Asked to Lie

Okay, perhaps I am being too literal in my interpretation, but it felt like lying. Management asked me to create multiple accounts on their new app and interact regularly with the customers there. But we were expressly told not to tell the customers we worked for the company. Instead, we were told not to provide links to resources on the site because that would drive them away from the app.

I was explicitly told not to provide links, because that might make customers think we are employees and ruin the “authenticity.” However, I’m not sure which persona: the one where I was a single mom with two kids, the young adult with issues, or any of the others I used was actually authentic. None were my lived experience. Was there any authenticity to ruin?

With these accounts, they directed me to talk with the existing customers, commiserate with them, and ask them questions. I was also supposed to write new posts, trying to get other people to answer me. My job was to market to these people, and get them to engage on the app.

Do as We Say, Not as We Do

Early in the app’s beta, an executive chastised me directly. She was upset that I had helped a user find a resource on our website. She told me in no uncertain terms that I was not supposed to use links when talking with customers. The next day, I received a reply to one of my promotion posts that had been languishing. It was that same executive. She responded to my persona with a link to the site.

So much for authenticity.

The Reorg Did not Pan Out

The day of the reorg, my partner and I met with the interim director and another senior staff member for a few minutes to learn our fates. She assured us they valued us as members of the support team. She asked if we had questions or concerns. I voiced my opinion that marketing might not be the best place for a support team. After that discussion, I felt good about the reorg. It seemed like they recognized my concerns.

I was wrong.

About two weeks after that, they introduced us to a new employee who was taking over marketing. She promised she would meet with us individually to learn about our concerns and discuss the new situation. But I suppose a part-time contractor, no matter how long she’d been with the firm, was ultimately beneath her notice.

Instead, she assigned the newest junior social media marketing representative as our manager. She was a sweet young lady who, at one point, had told me that my marriage was older than she was and at another point marveled at my knowledge of things like Usenet. “We studied that in school,” she told me.

Managers Need Training

As far as I could tell, she had no management experience, and her number one technique for management was ghosting. She would request feedback and then get upset when I provided it. Rather than assisting me, she brushed off all my concerns about my job duties. She never acted as a manager, except by telling me the times and days I was supposed to work. But since I was an independent contractor, that could have made the company subject to fines and penalties.1

I requested a definition of the goals and purposes of community support and she explained how marketing can help people. Then my manager “taught” me about social media.

Did I mention that my marriage is older than she is? Well, my work on the Internet is older than my marriage. And because of my former limited Internet fame, I made a conscious choice to walk away from it.

I Chose to Work at a Company With Values

Unlike my manager and the other social media marketing managers she worked with, I had already tried playing the “internet famous” game. At my peak, my site and community were getting millions of page views. I had hundreds of followers and I was playing the game of growth at all costs.

When I started, the company had similar values to my own. It was all that I could have hoped for. By the time I left, it wasn’t.

Virtue Signaling Should Not Outweigh Positive Action

By the time I left, helping struggling people was much less important than appearing to help them. One of my managers explained to me that by growing the customer base, we were helping more people and that outweighed the fact that we were doing less to help.

Does Any of this Matter?

In the long run, I was just a part-time independent contractor working in a small support department of a mid-sized non-profit. This post is like an ant standing up to the molten aluminum as it fills my hive. I’m not sure they even noticed me leaving.

My manager didn’t. At least, she ignored my resignation letter and ghosted me.

And that answers my question. I didn’t ghost the company. Instead, I resigned without fanfare about a month ago. I turned in my final invoice and closed my books. My young manager may believe ghosting is the right choice, but I can hold my head high and say “I quit.”

And it feels great.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

1: See: the laws and regulations for Independent Contractors