Friday, August 20, 2021

Missing the job. A visit from The Word Man.

editor's note:

I don't know Dave Harland but he's a writer and someone who posts funny things online--on Twitter and LinkedIn. I found over time that a lot of things I found funny were written by "The Word Man."

On Wednesday, I saw a short piece The Word Man wrote and I loved it. I sent him a note--a carrier pigeon, I believe--and asked if he would "host" it in this space. Lucky for all of us, Dave agreed.

So many people with so many degrees in so many exalted places over so many powerpoint pages make advertising or marketing or content or communications or messaging so complicated.

Half the time I read these proclamations--about brands being companions or part of a community or forces for social good and I don't know what they're talking about or who they're trying to snow.

The brands I deal with, I just want them to do their job. 

My burger rolls, I want to hold a burger. My seltzer, I just want to quench my thirst. My dish soap, I don't want to clean petroleum off endangered waterfowl. I want to finish the dishes so I can watch Jeopardy!

Mostly I think people want brands, and anyone else who interrupts them, to make the interruption worthwhile. Give me something thoughtful, beautiful, weird. But mostly funny.

That's what Dave seems to do.

I wish more people could.


Endless autonomy. Creative freedom. Zero idiot bosses. And unlimited earning potential. Just four of the reasons why, five years ago this week, I decided to jump ship as in-house head of copy to become a full-time freelance copywriter.


It was definitely the right decision to go solo, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t still fondly reminisce about the place I commuted to for nearly a decade.


Here are the 16 things I miss the most from the employed life...


1. Being cornered in the kitchen every Monday morning by Martin from accounts, who would give me an in-depth account of his latest caravanning weekend, usually somehow mentioning his gas bottle and/or awning. I cherished these mini masterclasses in tedious storytelling.


2. Phoning in sick. My ability to put on a hoarse voice, lie about terrible symptoms and remain pessimistic when asked my expected return-to-work date has not been flexed for five years. If I'm sick nowadays, my only option is to curl into a ball, turn emails off, and cry.


3. Colleagues copying senior management into emails to score points. This brilliant indication of the character of the person doing the copying allowed me to cease potential friendships before they flourished. Today, the only person with the power to deceive me, is me. And he does try really hard tbh.


4. Monthly review meetings. My one opportunity to vent at my boss about their terrible leadership without fear of reprisals except being given one star out of five for 'workplace positivity', whatever the fuck that is.


5. Clocking off at 5pm and then not thinking about work again until about 10.30am the next day (despite clocking back in at 9am).


6. Having to wear trousers and a shirt in a non client-facing role. This became some kind of heat endurance challenge during July, when my sweat glands would really stretch their legs. Today, my body wilts at anything over 22 degrees, even in shorts and flip-flops.


7. A ten-tier sign off process where different bosses would correct other bosses' amends, often in real-time, and I was expected to manage it all. It was like a giant, unexciting sudoku that I could never complete.


8. 20 days' paid holiday a year. Genuinely. I get fuck all now.


9. A 0.5% annual pay rise. My last salary increase covered a mega 1.5 months worth of Council Tax! If I want a pay rise now, I have to sensitively ask clients, and it can get awkward, especially when they've already said they'd do it themselves but they've just not got the time.


10. Being undermined by a moron of a director on the daily. My skin is no longer as thick as it was back in the day when the man with zero writing experience called my stuff 'banal'. I've also lost the ability to come up with deeply puerile insults that I never say aloud.


11. Being forced to work on projects I actively hated. Nowadays I can decline work without fear of futile disciplinary proceedings, but this has made me at least 57% less tolerant, and at most 71% less focused when faced with shite jobs.


12. Arriving at work to see a passive-aggressive SECURITY VIOLATION note left on my keyboard by someone from IT because I didn't padlock my laptop to the desk overnight. I used to love Tweeting about that shit.


13. Being asked for my professional opinion about something before being completely ignored. This stopped me ever getting too bigheaded. A masterstroke from management.


14. Getting paid on the same day every month, like clockwork. As a freelancer, I only get paid after sending an average of four reminders, one threat of legal action and a promise of a visit from my uncle Tony.


15. Office lingo. I mean who doesn't love talking about the ETA of the DPS and whether Derek from Sales is giving Linda some TLC in the HSV HQ. It's like a magical insider code that I sadly no longer speak.


16. Uncrucial meetings being called at 4pm on a Friday afternoon when you're gagging for a pint. This taught me the art of making instant enemies, something which now serves me well on Linkedin.


There are plenty more, but I’m getting pretty teary here. Not as much as when I got the annual letter about the 0.5% pay rise, but emotional nonetheless.




About the author


Dave Harland is an anti-bullshit copywriter from Liverpool who goes by the ridiculous pseudonym The Word Man, although his only pathetic superpower is being unstoppable at Scrabble. For two decades, he’s been writing ad and marketing copy with oodles of personality for business and brands who are fed up of boring people to tears. You’ll find him on Twitter as @wordmancopy and on Linkedin, winding-up far-too-serious people usually called Colin or Roderick. He also writes a weekly email about copywriting and storytelling - sign up at


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