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I’ve been in the advertising and marketing industry for the better part of two decades and in that time have come to one overwhelming conclusion: I only want to work with nice people. I’m now making it my goal to convince everyone else to do the same and stand firm on this very simple rule.
For years, I thought the measure of success in my profession was making world-class creative, landing the next big project, or being recognized by some self-serving industry organization. Having won big accounts, created a bunch of cool stuff, and brought home a few awards over the years, I thought I should be happy by now. I thought I loved my job. That was until a moment of clarity hit. What I really love doing is working with people I like — making cool things for people who are nice to us.
Having worked alongside some interesting characters over the years, I can easily say I enjoy working with the “nice people” much more than the “assholes.” No matter how hard, complex or difficult the assignment was. Nice people help build you up, inspire you, keep your energies going. Assholes drag you down, empty your creative soul, and make you want to punch them in the throat. This is true both for clients and co-workers.
Who To Avoid
Here are a few people I’ve vowed to remove from my personal and professional life. You should look around to see if these characters are dragging you down, as well:
The Bully – This person thinks that the world revolves around them. They feel like your job is to serve their narrow needs and desires. If they’re disorganized, indecisive, or aloof, you’re the one who will take the fall. As a mental condition, these folks tend to show sociopathic traits. They may not know they are a bully, because they don’t have empathy. They yell, scream, throw tantrums, intimidate, and go behind your back to make you serve them. The Bully is the worst client, but even a worse co-worker. Step away and remove them from your life.
The Scoundrel – The scoundrel is self-serving like the bully, but they do it with a smile on their face. They are constantly sneaking around trying to trick people, play them off each other, and make themselves seem competent. The scoundrel is toxic to any working environment (either in-house or as a client). They’re always up to no good and will try to make themselves look important while trying to get the teams to fight with each other. I the agency world, these are the guys without talent who will fight like hell to get the world to think they do. But they don’t.
The Jerk – This is a strange character, because they don’t know they’re behaving badly. They claim to be blunt, but what they really are is a jerk. I don’t expect gold star awarding treatments from everyone, but a sense of professionalism would be nice. The jerk asks a lot of questions, but once you dig into the questions you’ll soon realize they’re empty statements designed to distract you or cause you to do more work for them.
Mr. & Ms. Important – These characters make the worst clients. They feel like the agency is there to personally serve them. At all costs, at all hours, and for all the crazy reasons they may come up with late on a Friday night. Your time is not important, because they’re paying for it, of course. These are the people that are bad tippers at a restaurant (most likely when they were the one who messed up their own order) and micro manage every project out of paranoia and distrust. On the agency side, you’ll notice these people are constantly late for meetings or make people change their schedules around to fit their needs. Their ONE project is way more than the 45 other things you may be working on.
I will admit that I’ve displayed some or all of the above traits over the years. I’m not proud of it. I get frustrated sometimes. I want to do great work and I try hard to provide good solutions.
Making A Change
Having identified these people, it becomes easier for you to distance yourself from them – personally and professionally. If we all join together and start a movement together, maybe they will go away forever. At Bolin (the agency who pays my salary), we decided that we only wanted to work with clients who we had a shared passion. We also started recruiting and hiring based more on personality than resume and portfolio. For the person with the right character, we can help release their true talents. The results have been amazing and I can truthfully say I love coming to the office.
Lately, we’ve been having deep discussions at my agency, Bolin, about making another simple rule: We only want to work with nice people who want to do great work for products we believe in.
Imagine a world where you got to work with world class people, doing things you loved, for people who trusted and appreciated the work you did for them. I’ve had this several times in my career and I’ve decided that this is no longer negotiable.
Who else will take this pledge?