Friday, June 1, 2012

You ingrate! How dare you look for another job and try to leave this minimum wage ninth circle of hell!

In most businesses your last day at a job can be filled with parties, hugs and a big sendoff.

In television news, you may be unceremoniously escorted out the door (after all, you might say something negative about the station during a live shot) while someone dumps the contents of your desk into a box and drops it off on your doorstep during a thunderstorm.

Oh, and consider what you may have to go through to make a resume tape, sneaking into the building in the middle of the night, hanging by wires like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible while dodging infrared beams and a back door that records your every coming and going. (Don't forget the resume tape sniffing dogs that check your desk every once in awhile.)

It's silly, but for whatever reason it seems about half the News Directors and General Managers in this country think you're an ingrate if you a: try to improve yourself by looking for a better job, or b: actually get a better job and leave.  If you're the resident of a station that wants to keep you under a draconian contract on bread and water, you're probably wondering why the hell your managers are acting this way.

I've given my notice at several stations along the way, and the response goes one of two ways. "Get the hell out," or ,"best of luck, we'll really miss you."

Why is this so?

Let me explain the mentality (or lack thereof) of those managers who want to keep you locked up. They fall into several psychological categories:

-The green-with-envy manager: Got a manager who doesn't have much talent and has been stuck in said ninth circle of hell for awhile? Well, misery loves company, and if he's gotta shovel coal into the fire pit while getting poked with a pitchfork, so should you. You have a lot of talent? Don't be surprised that he knocks down your confidence with cutting remarks and constant negative feedback. If you don't think you're good enough to move on, you shouldn't even try.

-The hometown Palookaville cheerleader: Yes, your first job is in a market with two traffic lights in which a big night on the town is a trip to Wal-Mart on double coupon day. But your manager was born and raised there and cannot for the life of him understand why some kid from New Jersey doesn't want to stick around for the annual tractor pull. By leaving or trying to leave you're implying that his town isn't good enough.

-The revolving door stopper: Hey, it can be a pain to go through the hiring process as a manager. If you can keep people locked up with long contracts and rules against making resume tapes, you won't have to find new people.

-The tech-savvy revolving door stopper: I can't tell you how many clients I've had who need an act of Congress to make a dub. At some stations the archive process is so technically convoluted it would take an engineer from NASA to make a copy of your best stories. Trust me, that crazy archive system is designed to make it difficult for you to make a tape. These managers figure the best way to keep people from leaving is to make it impossible to make a tape.

-The old money beancounter: Yes, he makes plenty of money but will begrudge you even the slightest raise and is stuck in the belief that it is still 1982 and people can live on eighteen thousand dollars a year. Besides, he gets a bonus if he comes in under budget, and your leaving will make him spend some of said budget to find another person.

Get the picture? While moving on is part of this business, many managers simply don't understand it or don't want to deal with it. The news business is like baseball: you start in the low minor leagues and work your way up the ladder hoping to make it to the show. But that doesn't mean your managers will be cheering you on along the way. In many cases you have something they don't: ambition.

Got a guy who wishes you well when you move on? Count your blessings.

Otherwise, don't expect a brass band on your last day.


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