Sidelined on the Way Up


Have you ever had that momentum in your job when things could not be going any better? You’re hungry for it. You’re nailing briefs, clients are happy, co-workers are high-fiving you and your role is just exploding as you take on more from different parts of the business and it all just seems to be this unexplainable synergy that’s radiating positivity. Never mind the rest of your life might be falling apart, your job is finally a CAREER and you’re just acing it from every angle!

I had been in this particular role for about 18 months and I’d finally found my groove in this slightly intimidating, super cool creative agency. I had inadvertently become the go to person for many of my superiors and I just relished in their reliance on me, it was like a drug. And the addiction could not have been more real. The company was expanding and I just knew that I was on the up. Even though I was the same 20-something, awkward introvert but I now had confidence in my capabilities and for the first time in my career I could feel that others did too.

Needless to say, the Christmas Party rolled around and as we all celebrated wild and wondrous successes of the year, my boss chose to pull me aside for a chat. Both teetering on the side of tipsy, we straddled the bar for the exchange: his words and my silence. He’d hired someone. She was due to start the first week of January. I would be reporting into her. Apparently she’s someone I “could learn a lot from.”

I nodded and smiled. Every ounce of confidence I’d rallied the past few months circled the proverbial drain. “We did consider you,” his token offering “but we really just need someone to sit over the top.” His hands gesturing a semi-circle in the air above my eye-line, like some fictitious rainbow.

I got very drunk that night followed by a rather somber festive season as I questioned absolutely everything about my role at the company. All of a sudden I didn’t feel good enough. All the successes, the unfathomable highs, the inconceivable wins, seemed to pale in the face of being sidelined. Those were two incredibly long weeks of painstaking self-reflection. Over the break I had the hard realisation that even though I was more confident in my abilities day-to-day, I still hadn’t gained the confidence of my seniors. It was a bitter pill to swallow but I knew that at the end of the day I still loved my job. I loved the company and the work we did and while I wasn’t exactly cartwheeling at the prospect of a new manager, I did start the New Year with an open mind.

Lucy started a week after the office had re-opened. January was an exceptionally busy time for us and we were in full swing by the time she arrived. Much to my delight, I had been pulled onto several massive new accounts and was blissfully distracted. Her desk was only a few feet away and we of course met and exchanged pleasantries but I had very little time to get her up to speed on what my role or duties really were. She witnessed first hand the conveyor belt of work being hand-delivered to my desk and kept a safe distance.

From our brief exchanges I couldn’t help but notice her overwhelming confidence like an enigmatic presence. And I couldn’t help but envy her in that regard. The whole unsavory woman at work competitive force thing is a whole other article or novel even! But yes. I envied her confidence. I’ll readily admit. Thankfully I was too busy to give any real precedence to these thoughts and just kept my nose down doing what I had always done.

I'd had the luxury of easing into the business and growing into my role and sadly I could see no allowance made for Lucy, who was brought in as supervisor. Right from the outset she was expected to trouble shoot or mediate certain situations but, with her limited intel, she relied on others to drive the conversation and understandably could only contribute the most generic of responses. She created reports for management comprised of information and figures she’d syphon from my existing work. She never seemed particularly busy and she was confident enough not too sit around for the sake of being seen as ‘working late.’

In fact she packed her things every day at 5:25pm and was gone five minutes later. Whilst skirting out the door she’d occasionally ask me if I’d have time to review or update her spreadsheet. Her affable confidence was about the only thing I did notice about Lucy and after about a month even that paled in significance to the mountains of work I was buried beneath.

It took five months for management to realize that Lucy was nothing more than an expensive overhead. Five very trying months for Lucy, who was noticeably bored and struggling to make any real inroads.

Sure there were lessons for me along the way. Perseverance pays off. Confidence is an asset that only gets you so far. Hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. Did the additional five months until my promotion make the deal sweeter? Absolutely. Was it somewhat tainted in the wake of someone getting sacked? Of course it did.

I will never forget the day my director pulled me into the boardroom to tell me things were not working out with Lucy. He reassured me I was doing a great job. He insisted that they needed me to keep doing what I was doing. He bumped my pay by a third. And he made that same inane semi circle gesture in the air. Only this time I saw the rainbow.

Sueanne Parker

Writer, Production specialist, Creative enthusiast.

4 min read

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