The Single Worst Job I've Ever Had

NOTE: I started writing this earlier this year when I was fired from my first new job in four years after four months. I just got the to the point where I didn't care to tell the tale any more, but now, some months later and more depressed than ever, I wanted to post what I'd written, just to get it out there. I'm no angel. I'm nowhere near perfect. I make mistakes and sometimes I've been fired because it was the right thing to do, but not this time. This is simply a matter of a rich asshole who thinks he's all that an a bag of chips can treat people like shit and it will never touch him. Something similar happened in France a while ago. That didn't end well. -TCR

On July 14th of this year, I will turn 50. That's quite the milestone for anyone. I never felt that I wouldn't make it to the half Century mark, but it feels somewhat surreal now that I'm here. One thing that being 50 doesn't often involve, however, is the level of humiliation I was forced to undergo with a recent employer. Out of a sense of honor, I won't reveal any identifying details, but I feel it is necessary for me to get this out of my system. First, though, some context...

I've been writing professionally for about 20 years now. The breakdown is simple; over 100 books as technical editor or revisor. One book as the author. Two more as co-author. Since contract writing is all about the ebb and flow, I also consulted, personally and for other consultancies. I wrote documentation for myself and the small businesses I worked with. After the computer book publishing world dried up for tenured authors like myself, I went into corporate work where I did high-level consulting and traditional employment. I wrote documentation for all of those companies. In short, I'd say I have experience.

2008 was a bad year for me, though. When contracts started dropping like flies from one consultancy I was working for, I was laid off along with half of the staff. I worked a number of contract jobs for a couple of years for a sizable discount. Money was "tight", apparently. The Recession illustrated to corporate types they could bring in the same revenue with fewer employees when those remaining felt the constant fear of being made redundant. HR departments also decided that work experience was shit and everyone needed an advanced degree to jobs cleaning toilets. Since I never received a degree, as I am not a traditional learner, I was left out in the cold. My advancing age and experience didn't help, either.

To summarize, I did end up getting a real job in 2011, which lasted about 9 months. The new drought brought me to 2013 where I got a promising contracting gig, but corporate politics well over my head nixed that. I would have to wait until just after the New Year of 2018 to even be offered something, so I took it.

Just four short months later, that would turn out to be a costly mistake.

So, the overview is easy. Small company. They've been in business for seven years, develop an application, and sell it to a tight, vertical market. Since it works on top of existing systems to add features that don't exist in the core market players, it's not really competition. The company charges a not-insignificant monthly fee for these small businesses to use their software. I was hired to perform a job and that job was to fix their documentation, both internally and for the customers.

I can say, in all honesty, that after four years of unemployment and two and a half years of rideshare driving, I was both elated and rusty. I worked with it, anyway. I was honest with them in my interview, and was told that I was hired, in part, because of that honesty. I'm old, have too much experience, and don't have a degree. I also have sleep apnea (treated with a CPAP) and mild narcolepsy, so I doze off during the day at times, usually when I'm not engaged in a conversation. I didn't hide anything (well, maybe a few things, but none of that shit's their business.)

I migrated nearly 300 articles from their old knowledge base system to the new one. Manually. With my colleague, I developed a half dozen methodologies for updating, modifying, extending, and simplifying the documentation, all of which were shot down. I found a friend in my colleague, as we shared frustration over the casual dismissal of what would be landmark improvements to the company. I was even asked to research and provide information for Single Source documentation systems, which I did, and was told weeks later that we weren't going to do such a ridiculously logical thing.


I marshalled on, weathering the weirdness and coming to accept that the smart thing was just not going to happen. We weren't in charge. We didn't have the money. We weren't rich. We were peons. Then some things started to change. I was brought into meetings to go over new features that I was expected to document. Nothing weird there. I dutifully took notes, asked questions, and did my best to add these projects to my plate. I inquired about priority, but was never given a straight answer, so I did my best, assuming that these new projects would take precendence. It's sometimes necessary to assume when your direct queries don't result in clear answers.

One of these projects turned out to be rather dear to the owner. I figured that since the owner was the lead (and sole) programmer and kept the entire thing in his head (and some random folders on his machine) that the entire thing was dear to him. Boy, was I mistaken. This one project caused a lot of problems. It wasn't a complex thing. In fact, it was rather straightforward, but the owner had his own way to describing it, and I didn't pick up any hints that, regardless of all the work I had done to normalize documentation and apply a standardized style guide, I was expected to deliver documentation in an obnoxiously specific way.

I was expected to write like the owner.

Needless to say, the owner doesn't speak anything but Programmatic Nerdish. Combine this with the fact that English isn't his first language and you get what would appear to be a surmountable oddity. Surely, without much convincing, the owner would recognize the need to have consistency in documentation and angle the content neatly towards the customers, right? I can hear the choruses of "No" in your head, and you'd be correct.

First draft was returned with notes.

Second draft was returned, but without notes.

Another meeting to go over the software again, By this time, it had all changed, a bad habit the owner had. I didn't take notes because he just had a few points, one of which just happened to be that "I made stuff up."

Yes. In essence, he called me a liar.

Now, this beggars belief, because there isn't one place I've worked on the documentation where I was called a liar because I didn't quite understand something. One thing that writers do with non-fiction work is to interpret the information and make it lean toward the expected audience. That's why we draft work and vet it with Subject Matter Experts (SME). I've done this so many times with so many people, I can't even guess at how many. Hundreds. Thousands. I get the notes back and make the requested changes.

Nope. I was effectively called a liar and was given a Word document that was written by the owner which I would insert into my document to "make it better". I was also told that I could edit the English, which made sense because the owner wasn't a writer and didn't learn English as a child.

Here's where I stopped writing and never came back to it. Long story short, and I realize that's too little too late, I started cleaning up some extraneous stuff from my computer, so they locked me out. At the time, I didn't connect the two things, so it looked like they fired me. The never came to talk to me, so I just walked out. Fuck 'em. They're inept imbeciles anyway. Being able to program doesn't make anyone a genius, the same way that knowing more than one language doesn't make you a genius. (Much like the structure of that sentence doesn't make ME a genius!)

So, that's it. The guys with way too much money and far too little sense get to keep what they have, and I lose nearly everything. Again. To an old guy who buys porsche on a whim and a kid who thinks his M-B C63 is just a "regular" car, I won't beg. I won't demean myself because you think that's your right as my employer. I won't and I didn't.

I realize, too, that this is a bit of a disjointed narrative. It's been a few months now since this all happened, and I just no longer have enough fucks to give.

If I manage to make my family moderately comfortable, I will have achieved a personal victory, but I won't do that at the expense of my values or someone elses right to exist in a dignified manner.

I am a human being, Alec. You may have more money, but that just makes you richer, not superior.