I have sadly worked with my share of lazy, arrogant and whiny millennials in recent years, but the young team at the Yilmaz Agency was truly in a class by themselves. They turned whining into a sad, pathetic sort of art form.
My younger colleagues, who were mostly based in our agency’s Chicago office, complained about the usual things such as working late, and on weekends, but they even bemoaned being tasked and challenged to do their jobs, including writing press releases, pitches, media relations, putting together media lists, competitive analysis, etc.
Andrew’s constant refrain to me was the “team is frustrated.”
The young team that I managed for our sports app was headed up by Andrew and Agnes, the king and queen of millennial whiners at our agency who poisoned all the other young people on the team, including Marissa Aslan, the young Turkish woman who was Dane’s favorite, which I mentioned in an earlier blog. Marissa quickly became disillusioned as with the rest of the young team, and yet these entitled fools. were only starting their public relations careers. They hadn’t earned their hatred of the PR business as I had through years of disappointment, bad work environments, ugly clients, and terrible colleagues and bosses.
So, naturally, this young group was difficult to manage and motivate, but Lulu didn’t help things with her scare tactics and heavy-handed management style. Actually, it was tough for us seasoned public relations veterans to take Lulu’s brutal honesty at times, but the young people at our firm freaked out over Lulu’s constant barrage of criticism.
Even though they irritated me with their whining, the young people at my agency did have my sympathy as it related to Lulu. She was crazy and there was no easy way to deal with a boss like her except to eventually leave which many of our young interns and account executives did in droves.
Making the sports app account even worse to manage was an arrogant Indian woman named Payal Shiladitya, who ran the New York office before she quit and was replaced by Molly Paulson.
Payal was a shallow former entertainment publicist but came across as slick and articulate with an attractive British accent to hide her incompetence and how clueless she truly was. She couldn’t write worth a shit and her media pitches and press releases were also lame. It was soon apparent to me that Payal was also lacking in media relations skills. I had also heard from Lulu that Payal loathed working with tech and healthcare clients and it showed after a while in her writing and attitude.
The funny thing was when I first arrived at the agency Miriam thought Payal would eat me alive because she had a much stronger phone presence that I did in conference calls. Not surprising, as Miriam was a former local TV producer who championed slick performance over substance. Lulu and Miriam did praise Payal’s client relations skills in dealing with our crazy Turkish airline client, which was why I think they kept her around even though she came up woefully short in every other area of public relations.
However, it was how Payal tried to challenge my skills and experience and then dump work on me and the younger team with no consideration that began to piss me off.
Payal also had no concept of teamwork as she was always trying to compete with me. The only problem was that she delivered no media coverage for our sports app client and tried to blame it on her lack of tech and sports experience and her heavy workload with our airline and housewares clients. We were all busting our asses so I told Lulu Payal’s complaints were lame.
On a Friday, of all days, she dumped another last-minute pitch letter assignment on the team in Chicago. Andrew and several new interns called me to complain.
At the same time, Lulu was putting a lot of pressure on me to produce results for the sports app client and to manage the younger team’s dissension.
The following week during a team meeting on the sports app account I snapped and unfortunately berated Payal in front of everyone.
“What do you think you are doing dumping last-minute assignments on the team?!” I asked angrily. “I know you’re swamped, but you don’t seem to have any consideration for our team’s workload. You keep passing off your work and saying you’re too busy to help. The team is frustrated with your attitude. Please don’t do it again without checking with me. OK?”
There was dead silence on the conference call line. You could have heard a pin drop.
“OK?” I asked again.
“I heard you,” Payal said coldly.
That was all she said before I quickly ended the meeting.
“OK. Well, thanks for listening,” I said.
“Jake, Payal already left the call,” Andrew said. “Good job. Thanks for calling her out on her behavior. I hope she’ll change her ways.”
“We’ll see,” I said.
A couple of other team members also praised my outburst, but I was embarrassed by my unprofessional behavior. I should have told Payal privately about my dissatisfaction with her job performance.
When Lulu heard what I had done, she didn’t scold me, but in fact, laughed about it and said, “Jake, I didn’t know you had it in you.”
It was a page out of Lulu’s twisted management style, but my outburst I felt damaged my credibility with our young team, and they didn’t trust me after the call except for Andrew, who actually respected me more.
I finally met Payal in person during my first visit to the Yilmaz Agency Chicago office about a week or so after the heated phone call. She had long black hair and was in her early thirties. Payal wore casual designer clothes as if she was trying not to overdress and be cool. When I first met her, Payal was talking Daniel Rizzo, a former TV producer and reporter that the agency hired for media relations, about the New York fashion world. I will write more about Daniel’s arrogant flakiness in a later blog.
It was hardly surprising that Payal was standoffish and borderline hostile toward me.
I began our meeting that Miriam had set up trying to diffuse a potentially hostile and ugly situation by apologizing to speaking to her so bluntly in front of the rest of the team.
“It’s OK,” she said. “But why did you yell at me in front of the whole team? Why didn’t you just call me to talk about it? You made me look bad in front of our colleague…”
“I know and I regret doing that,” I said. “It wasn’t something I planned. My frustration got the best of me. I promise it won’t happen again.”
“Just call me next time,” Payal said.
Then Andrew weighed in.
“Payal, Jake was just expressing the entire team’s frustration. We feel you have checked out on the account and are passing on all your work to the junior people on the team without consideration of their workload.”
“I am surprised you guys feel that way, but I’ll be more careful about that in the future,” she said.
We concluded the meeting agreeing that we would communicate more openly with each other going forward. However, afterward, things only got worse as Payal withdrew even more from working on the account to focus on our larger clients.
Not long after, Payal left our agency to return to entertainment PR. It was just as well as it was obvious to everyone at our agency that her heart was not into working on tech and consumer clients.
The whole sorry episode also showed me I was turning into the worst version of myself because of management pressure from Lulu.
After that, I worked harder to avoid taking out my frustrations with the job on my colleagues. Although I must admit it was tempting at times, I didn’t berate anymore of my colleagues during meetings. I was already hated by many of my colleagues at the agency anyway, Why make it worse?
It wasn’t worth it in the end.