I have to admit Liam Call was one of the most talented interns to work for me during my career.
As I had mentioned previously, Liam was a strong writer and showed a great deal of promise in media relations. In fact, he was a better writer than most of the more experienced executives at our agency. I appreciated his help a great deal at our agency’s L.A. office.
Liam also showed enthusiasm to learn more about PR. Yet, as with all of our interns, his enthusiasm eventually waned, as he discovered the full nightmarish nature of Lulu and her pathetic agency.
On the surface, Liam seemed the perfect intern, as he never complained and even worked late. I had no qualms about going to bat for Liam to urge Lulu and Miriam to hire him as I detailed in the previous chapter.
Sadly, even Liam proved ultimately a disappointment, and my private nickname for him was the Mormon Backstabber.
Liam’s clean-cut appearance belied a darker, disloyal side.
He was a tall, a little over six foot, skinny and gawky 24-year-old from Salt Lake City.
Liam actually reminded me of a skinnier version of the TV character of Kenneth, the NBC page, on the sitcom, 30 Rock.
Liam really laid on his sincere Mormon bullshit thick with a fake smile and sincerity.
Let me get this straight — I had nothing against his religious beliefs. I just feel that like politics, there is no place for religion in the workplace. It is potentially divisive.
A couple of times, Liam tried to push some Mormon propaganda films on me and even suggested a historical book about the Mormon Church, but after I told him I wasn’t interested, Liam kept his religious beliefs to himself.
Liam seemed to have a good sense of humor and was smart, but honestly, we had little or nothing in common. I also knew when I occasionally used profanity in response to Lulu’s craziness, it bothered him and he secretly hated it.
My main criticism of Liam’s work was that sometimes he would not listen to my instructions on an assignment and do his own thing, pissing off Lulu or our client. I yelled at him a couple of times as a result and later regretted it. I always hated it when my bosses yelled at me, and now, I did the same to Liam.
Liam admitted to me late in his time at our agency that he had panic attacks. One morning he came in late and revealed to me that he had a panic attack and couldn’t get out of bed.
I told him that all the stress and responsibility was on me at the L.A. office and that he had nothing to worry about. I now realize that was the wrong approach as panic attacks go way beyond work stress. It could be a deeper psychological condition stemming from his family situation or home life.
I believe now that Liam resented the stress he was under at work and felt I was abusing him because of my profanity and occasional outbursts. Liam mentioned several times that I reminded him of a boss he had when he worked on a presidential campaign that used to curse him out and then I felt even worse.
Still, I never suspected for a long time that Liam was bad mouthing me behind my back, but I eventually realized, there was no denying it.
My first sign that something was up involved a young blonde woman in her mid-twenties, who worked at a law firm that we shared our offices with. She was friendly initially toward me, but after I saw Liam speaking with her a couple of times, her attitude completely changed. She used to greet me with a hello and smile, and now she ignored me and even gave me a dirty look.
I got the same reaction from an African woman, who worked a couple of offices down from ours. She was also friendly toward me until I saw her speaking with Liam.
Soon after, the African woman started giving me hostile looks and would avoid me like I had the plague when she walked past me in the hall. One time, I held the elevator door open for her, and she walked past without even acknowledging me.
I have to also mention that Liam was in the middle of a divorce, and must have imagined himself as a ladies’ man as he was talking to most of the women in our office. So, you can imagine how I was hated by almost every woman on our office floor because of Liam’s backstabbing and they didn’t even know me.
Liam’s garrulous nature truly hid an ugly, backstabbing soul.
I am not sure if Liam tried his backstabbing bullshit with my co-workers at our agency, as he knew they already hated him from his review. I initially thought my colleagues despised him to get back at me, but I think it went further than that.
Liam’s backstabbing ways showed up again during one of the final work events he helped me with. As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, Liam and I had to support an early morning satellite TV tour for our housewares client. Everything went well initially until I noticed Liam speaking privately to several of the support staff at the satellite studio. As the tour went on, these employees became standoffish and unfriendly toward me. It started to impact my ability to do my job. They had suddenly lost respect for me, which made the event more difficult to manage.
Then near the end of the satellite tour, Liam tried to take over managerial aspects of the shoot and began advising our client’s spokesperson on how to talk about our client’s products. Lulu and Agnes had stressed that they only wanted me to work with our client’s spokesperson and managing the event. I finally had to pull Liam aside during a break in the tour, and tell him to back off and let me handle any consultation with our client’s spokesperson as that is how Agnes and Lulu wanted it and he wasn’t qualified to do so.
Liam was apologetic, but for the first time, I didn’t think he sounded sincere. I knew I couldn’t trust him anymore.
Also, when we left, the studio employees were friendly toward Liam and cold toward me. I had only just met them and gave them no reason to despise me. It was crazy. The backstabber had struck again.
Liam left our agency a couple of weeks later and said he wanted to return to school to get his MBA. I couldn’t blame him as working with Lulu could scare off even the most enthusiastic PR executive.
When I look back, I realize I had also engaged in backstabbing my bosses through the years. Now that it had happened to me, it made me realize just how unprofessional, insincere, and counter-productive backstabbing your boss or employer really was.
Backstabbing poisons work environments.
So, even though I admired his talent and work ethic, I was not sorry to see Liam go.