Friday, 12 September 2008

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there in Corporateland

There’s lots to be said for being a freelancer. You can go to work in your pyjamas, you don’t have to sit through endless pointless time-wasting meetings or share a kitchen with 20 other slobs, the coffee is better, you can arrive at work at 5am or midnight, and take lunch at 10am or 3pm and if you don’t want to go back to the office afterwards, who’s going to tell on you?

But there’s also lots about freelancing that’s sucky (as my daughter would have it): no leave pay, no time off for being sick, no holiday pay, no bonuses, no free lunches. And now I’ve found a new one: no grievance procedure.

So what do you do if, as a freelancer, you find yourself working on a contract with someone who, in your opinion, isn’t professionally fit to lick your plates before you put them in the dishwasher after a really cheesy lasagne? Short answer: suck it up or give it up. Out there in Corporateland there are lots and lots and LOTS of rules, but none of them favour the freelancer.

Still, there are moments that can add levity even to a situation where you’re seriously considering bailing, even when you know that doing so will savagely compromise your lifestyle – ie, you won’t be able to pay your bond or the kids’ school fees, put petrol in your car, or buy cigarettes and wine.

I had one earlier this evening, wingeing my head off about this honestly awful situation to a friend who happens to be a specialist in industrial relations, and who is also a Very Sensible Man Not Given To Emotional Outbursts. He said, when I finally wound down (with a few hiccupy sobs), ‘Well, Muriel, I must be honest: I wouldn’t have handled things like this.’

My heart sank. Mainly what I’d done was send a few mildly worded emails, then a few more emails containing slightly stronger words (‘I feel I must make the point…’, ‘in my carefully considered opinion…’, etc) to the nasty colleague in question. But as he said that I knew – I just knew! – that somehow, somewhere, I’d missed something. Perhaps there were mysterious official channels I should have explored, reports I should have filed, bigwigs I should have consulted, etc?

‘Well, how would you have handled it?’ I asked.

‘I would have shot her. No, I would have STABBED her. I would have wanted to see BLOOD,’ he said.

What a darling.

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Juno said...

Mur, you sum it up so well. Being a freelancer is deeply sucky and sick, a lot of the time. I'm still smarting, ten years down the line, about stories I wasn't paid for because the two magazines in question folded. And I still feel infuriated and maddened about a conversation I had with some sub-literate junior sub, who slashed and 'edited' a feature so brutishly that I almost vomited when it appeared in print. When I registered a polite complaint, she said cheekily, 'Well, you're only a freelancer, so what you think doesn't count.'

meggie said...

What a Guy! Just the sort of friend you need on your side.