The Reason for my current Unemployment

Rather than starting a different blog, I thought I’d simply digress from the topic of urbanism to explain how I became unemployed. I will not lie. I chose to leave my last job in car sales. However, I feel that there were enough unfavourable circumstances that my departure was a rational decision and rather than a ‘quit’, amounted to what most employers would fairly call a mutual parting of ways.

First, let me say that I pursued car sales as a fallback position but one that could possibly grow into a career if I found that he work was fun, enjoyable and something that I could do with a reasonable expectation of success. While no ‘Joe Girard’ I do believe that an average of 5 sales per month, in a depressed local economy, and in my first year of major sales, was not insignificant or a complete sign of failure. In my best month, I sold 11 cars. I can say that by the end of my tenure, my closing ratio was among the highest within the dealership.

There were two major events of what I consider to be managerial failures and de-motivating factors. First, as a social media advocate, I had proposed fairly early in my time at the dealership that I be appointed the Social Media director, potentially with some stable pay related to the time it would take away from the sales floor. Knowing that Social Media must be a two-way communication system, and CAN be a force for Corporate Social Responsibility, I proposed that we begin a significant campaign to draw new followers and earn ‘likes’ on both Twitter and Facebook. Since the Car industry is struggling to identify how to increase the cost-benefit of Social Media, I believed some outside-the-box thinking was in order and that the most successful campaigns on Social Media offer all participants some benefit – Social Media is not simply another way to advertise and the best companies know this. (Thanks, Trojan UV for sending me a water bottle for re-tweeting during Canadian Water Week.)

Sadly, the dealership chose to hire a Toronto firm to manage its social media – an act that I find misses the point completely and in a City struggling with unemployment, could serve as a major turn-off for potential Social Media-loving customers. London has a thriving communications sector with many qualified tech firms that could be retained at the very least to provide advice and technical support. Unfortunately, this dealer chose to import those services from Toronto. And they had an employee knowledgeable about social media, with experience in sales and marketing on a larger scale, with community organizing and development, that they chose to overlook.

The other major de-motivator was the decision to bring in a new fleet specialist when that position came open. Rather than surveying internally to determine interest in the position, the dealer chose to run an ad in the Free Press to seek someone new. Rather than promoting a talented individual with experience in Business Development, who clearly offered talents greater than typical salesmen, the dealer chose to bring in someone with more industry experience but with no knowledge of Ford’s line-up. As someone who’s been a manager, I firmly believe that promoting internally is a critical part of a progressive approach to Human Resources. By the time I had discovered the opening and that changes were occurring in middle management, the dealer had already hired someone and I was told to accept it.

In the slow months of January, a more recent hire decided to start making ‘walkaround videos’ of Ford’s cars and posting them on YouTube. Rather than providing any information about what differentiates this dealer from any other Ford dealer, the salesman chose to produce very biased demonstrations, of which there are no shortage on YouTube and which, informed customers just won’t look at since they are not produced by an independent, non-biased 3rd party. To me, this was a critical flaw. Come to early February, after 16 months without a vacation, working every single Saturday and not having 2 consecutive paid days off, except those I took off to get Dental procedures done (needed because of lack of benefits) I was feeling burned out. I took a few days off and went to Ottawa for a weekend.

Upon my return, the YouTube walkaround video production was in full-swing. I was sitting at my desk when I noticed my colleague filming directly in front of my desk and perhaps immaturely, but mostly out of fun, I erected my middle finger, which resulted in this 23-yr old, first-job employee having a hissy-fit and yelling at the top of his lungs “I’m doing this to draw traffic in which is more than you’re doing.” “This is about you getting your own name out, not about the dealership or anyone else” was my retort. My manager emerged from his office and waived me (rather rudely) to his office.

Having not been given an iota of respect regarding my, frankly (if somewhat egotistically-stated here) superior knowledge of marketing and sales and Social Media, I didn’t take kindly.

Within a day, I received a write-up, telling me all about MY bad attitude and abdicating any responsibility for my lack of morale. “You had a vacation, I was hoping you’d come back with a better attitude.” I replied that I had taken “2 unpaid days off and had a four day vacation after 16 months without two days off in a row.”

The conditions of my write-up were as follows. Even though it was February, that the date of the write-up was the 6th, that I had taken the first weekend off, and had 20 days left, I was expected to sell enough cars to earn the monthly bonus – 8 cars. Given the terribly inadequate pay when one doesn’t make bonus, I didn’t think adding any pressure was necessary, nor an adequate response to what was clearly a dissatisfied employee. It’s difficult to sell 8 cars in the busiest months of the year, let alone in February, with a gun held to one’s head.

Making it even more de-motivating, the write-up included a threat to revoke my ‘privilege’ to a demonstrator vehicle – something I paid for most months and paid to park at work and without which, I’d face a 40-km round trip each day by transit, bike or foot.

The 23rd arrived and with no sales, I could see the writing on the wall, at least if the letter were serious and that I’d face consequences. With my colleagues similarly facing a month well below bonus, I decided I would do them a favour and defer, thereby enabling them to have a real chance to meet their bonus. I even ‘conditionally sold’ a fairly good lead to a colleague who was within a sale or two of hitting his bonus. With eyes on better jobs in a more fulfilling environment in Ottawa, I decided I was going to be the bigger man and gave my two-week notice.

I met with my boss to give him my letter of resignation. My only request was that, given the write-up and the lack of foot traffic, that the dealership and I would formally part ways – that any record of employment submitted to government would indicated that the reason for my leaving was a mutual decision based on “Lack of Work.” Completing the Record of Employment in this manner would entitle met to Employment Insurance benefits of bout 1500 per month and was critical to my being able to pursue a new life in Ottawa.

By lunchtime, I was directed to clean-out my desk. I went home and began to pack, purchased a train ticket and started to make plans to move to Ottawa.

The Friday before I was set to depart I received an envelope in the mail from my former employer containing the Record Of Employment as submitted to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the agency that administers Employment Insurance. I was again disappointed by the lack of professionalism of the dealership but not totally surprised that a Car Dealership would NOT honour a handshake agreement. The form in the envelope indicated that I had “Quit.”

My former manager made some pathetic excuse that, this was the only way to fill out the form. Having worked in numerous environments, I know this not to be the case. This manager simply has a fragile sense of self and enjoys flexing dominion and power over his employees, since his moral authority and motivational abilities are non-existent having never sold a car in his life without the title of Sales Manager behind his name.

Now I wait to see if my appeal allows me to access the full benefits of Employment Insurance or whether I will only be able to get access to Ontario Works. The difference is significant. EI benefits are nearly $1000 per month more than Ontario Works, which isn’t even enough to pay rent, buy food or do anything else and which in essence, requires people to take any job they can get. EI respects that people face sudden changes for reasons not entirely within their control and that it takes time to find a job, hence giving benefits for an entire year.

EI enables better access to skills development, enables mobility to get to interviews and enables a reasonable lifestyle while searching for good employment. Ontario Works submits its beneficiaries to esteem-busting processes that rob applicants of dignity, or privacy and which are based in the resentment of the poor, taking a cynical view that those who don’t work, or can’t find meaningful, soul-rewarding work, are simply lazy and would rather sit at home. At $600/month, I’m not sure what home one is even supposed to sit at.

Next blog – back to Urbanism, Transportation, EcDev and City-thinking. 🙂 namaste


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