My Brilliant Career
From 1971 to 1984 I worked as a medical photographer at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. By 1978 I had become chief of the department. After beginning my career with three excellent bosses, eventually I was to end it with two very mediocre ones. My downfall was a gradual one but alas predictable. By 1981, I was chief of the department, producing a volume of work unmatched by any other hospital department in Montreal while maintaining a superior level of quality and working within my budget. I was the darling of the medical staff to whom I provided photographic and illustration services. My last manager, John B., a brilliant and wonderful boss, had unfortunately he had passed away and my fate was now in the hands of less capable but far more ruthless micro-managers. The first of these was Barbara (picture above) who belonged to the shit-flicker school of management. She was of the opinion that if you walked into a department and flicked enough shit at the mid-managers (like myself), she could then report to her bosses that she had discovered “problems” but due to her brilliant skills as a manager, she had thus “straightened everything out”. How she straightened things out was by select terrorism. She would micromanage every aspect of ones work but never take responsibility for her decisions. She would decide the priorities of jobs coming in but when problems arose I was told “You are a manager. I expect you to make these decisions without coming to me for every little detail.” Although she allegedly had a degree from a school of management in Quebec, I suspect her management skills were carved from supervising immigrants in the Montreal “shmatuh” sweatshops on St. Laurent Blvd. Over the year things went from bad to worse, but in an institution of mediocre managers, the best way to show those above you that you have things in hand is to reorganize and so after about a year of this crap, they reorganized. Barbara was no longer my boss. She was sent to flick some shit in the maintenance department and my new boss was Paul. Paul was Barbara’s husband. He was as arrogant as Barbara was cruel. The first thing he did was announce that he was too busy to deal with a department as small and insignificant as mine so they hired Diana to be my new manager. Diana’s first statement to me was “I always follow orders.” What an introduction. I knew I was going places. Things simmered down for a while but Barbara liked to run things (including Paul), Paul was still an arrogant asshole and Diana always followed orders.
About a year later it was time to evaluate me for performance which would have bearing on my salary. The meeting with Diana began with her telling me that Paul had decided regardless of the evaluation, that I was not to have any raise for the next two years. He had decided that my “attitude” was not good and I should be punished. “What’s the point of evaluating me” I asked. She told me that the Ministry of Health required it for setting performance standards to determine salary scales. I asked then why they were not honoring this and she replied “I always follow orders” I was falling down the rabbit hole.
My professional association suggested I file a grievance which I did. There was a hearing which went my way unanimously. The hospital refused to honor it and my next step on the advice of my association was to sue. “This is outrageous. Your rights are being stomped upon. They are acting in a very personal and arbitrary manner. Personalities should not have any bearing on salary.” All of this was true. they agreed to pay my legal fees and I sued. The next day the Director of “Human Resources” called me into his office and told me my job had been abolished. I had ten minutes to gather my personal effects and was to be escorted out of the building by a security guard. After 18 years I was eligible for 1 years severance pay. I emptied out the desk and as the security guard escorted me to the exit I passed Barbara in the hall. She was grinning from ear to ear. The association sent me their regrets and said they will never forget me. That was it.
I did not feel so bad about it. I hated the place and I was going nowhere. With my severance package I was able to finance my own business and I did so.
Two years later, my business is thriving and things were never better. The phone rings and on the other end is a young feminine voice with a French Canadian accent. She tells me that she is a lawyer represent my association and that the lawsuit I filed two years ago is coming to trial. “What lawsuit?” I asked. She said that although I was no longer employed, my association still felt that there was a serious issue to be resolved concerning how employees in the public sector are paid and that my case was still alive. She said that an appearance before a judge was scheduled the following week and wanted to discuss the case with me. I went to her office. She was very young, very attractive, and very inexperienced. She told me that it was a very difficult case because there were no records available. I was not allowed to retrieve them from my office when I was “terminated’ and the hospital seemed to have “misplaced” any reference to me in their own files. How strange?
I truly believe that two or three times in a person’s life, given the right circumstances, they are blessed with moments of sheer brilliance, and if they are in the right frame of mind, they recognize this and take action. This was one of those moments.
“Can you send subpoenas” I asked
“Absolutely: she replied. “as many as are required”
I told her that I never did any work for the administration and that all of my duties were for the medical staff of the hospital.
“If there is any issue as to my competence and attitude as an employee why don’t you ask the people I worked for?” I suggested
I told her that there were 21 different medical departments and that every department head knew and respected me.
She replied that it was a dangerous move because there was no way of knowing what they actually might say when they testified.
I was beaming. “ No problem. It will never get to court. I cannot imagine one of those self-centered workaholic doctors wanting to spend and hour in a courtroom, let alone a day waiting to testify over such an insignificant matter. I bet most of them will be marching down to the Executive Director’s office shrieking at him to settle the case.”
The following morning, 21 subpoenas were delivered to the various department heads at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. At noon I received a call from the lawyer.
“They want to settle” she said. “The amount in question was $2400, and they are offering $1500.
“Make it $2200.” I answered
She called back half an hour later and that was it. I received a check for $2200 the next day. Since my business was going very well, Sharon and I decided to spend a week in NY City, eating well, seeing some shows and spending time in a good hotel.
Within the next few months, Barbara was fired. (She eventually became head of a nursing home.)The CEO of the hospital retired and Paul did not succeed him as he had expected, (He now works the long-term geriatric ward in the hospital) and the new Director of Professional services took the job only on condition that Diana be fired.
My business continues to flourish. I make a very good living. I have lots of time off. I travel extensively. I winter in Florida.
1. Whenever someone tells me they have been unfairly fired and are feeling down on themselves, I always say being the victim is a negative attitude and that being fired should always be considered as a promotion. After all who would want to work in a place where you were not wanted. You always end up in a better place.
2. During the past 17 years, I have never had any animosity toward Barbara, Paul and Diana. On my 90th birthday I will go into a bar and order 3 drinks. I will then in turn, drink a toast to each of them and thank them because if it were not for those events so long ago, I would not be where I am today.
My Brilliant Career