I’ve been very vocal about my former job at Carnival Cruise Lines. I have not come so far as naming my direct supervisors, but I have definitely openly called them out about how they treated me and others in their personal pursuit for corporate domination. At one point, I was sitting on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, about 1 or 2 days out from Nassau, Bahamas and I was in tears because I was forced to create a “crew video” from tons of footage given to me by crew members and stuff I shot. This was technically not my responsibility. Our department was onboard this brand new ship to shoot and incorporate video into the production show as well as produce some corporate training videos. That’s it. My boss had this grand plan to make our little video department a big corporate department with big budgets. He played to my mid-twenty year old dreams of having a six-figure per year job at such a young age. (At this time I was in considerable debt for my age, so I was really interested in the career track he dangled before me). He promised that if we dug in and did this kind of stuff – showed “them” what “we” could do, we would be sitting pretty, making lots of money and delegating this lowly work to others. I’ll admit, I was onboard! But I soon came to realize that I was the main guy who was to do the majority of the work to get there.
I actually left school for the job, with only 5 classes short of my degree. I was a supposed to go into radio, but I had a good knack for shooting and editing video. Plus, I was a radio guy and therefore, free Voice-Over talent! (For many years, my voice was on over 20 ships’ TV systems). I often wondered about the qualifications of my boss. He seemed so much older than me and really talked the talk. I soon realized he couldn’t do anything I could do and he was mainly self-taught. I found his resume one day when I was searching for some paperwork. It was wedged in the back of the file cabinet so I was intrigued. I will sum his resume and qualifications up with this: he spelled College “Collage”. ‘Nuff Said.
Generally, he was a nice guy when we were having beers and smoking way too many cigarettes. We’d have some fun here and there – just enough to keep me in line with the dream. But, then it would kick back in – the stress and the impossible deadlines. I would be working late, until 10 or 11pm. I would oversleep the next day because he expected me to be back at work by 9am. I was tired, burning out and he would just keep hounding me.
If I was late he’d make me work the weekend. If I needed a day off for a doctor’s appointment or if I was sick – I was expected to make up the time on the weekend. I was so green and naive, I had no idea that he was breaking corporate rules. Add to this, the fact that he would often call me a “fat bastard” and make fun of the fact that I was often single. He would poke fun at me because I could never “pull” when I was out on ships. (Basically, that means chatting up girls and sleeping with them while I was onboard). I loved women very much, but I always wanted a girlfriend who was wife material, not a one-nighter. I could have gone to HR to complain – but the VP on HR was one of the people who he was always trying to impress – so we could take our little video department to a higher level.
Keep in mind that this takes place over the course of 4 1/2 years. The company was cranking out a new ship per year and each time, our department had something to do with it. Many times, it was not really something that was in our job descriptions, but we were all seeking that Holy Grail of the big budget corporate video department, so we agreed that we needed to “show them what we could do”. In that time span, I think he chewed up and spit out 5-6 other staff members. I have a very cool management style. I would never make my staff do something I wouldn’t do myself and if they had a skill that I didn’t have, I would never exploit it or worse, pretend I could do it better while “choosing not to”. My supervisor forced me to emulate his management style – which was autocratic and unforgiving. I failed terribly. Meanwhile, he was grooming someone else who would take up that style.
I finally quit. I was done, I was over it all. I had to move on. I was really depressed and started self-medicating with various substances to escape from the constant stress. The 4 1/2 years really changed me. While onboard the ships, it was customary to go to the crew bar where drinks were very cheap. Everyone would buy a round and I was told it was rude to decline. One of the things he stressed to me was the importance of having the crew on your side. You see, we were from the head office in Miami, so we were considered management to the crew. If we had them on our side, we could get things done onboard outside of the typical chain of command-ish.
I left the company and moved to Rochester. I brought all of that emotional baggage to my poor soon-to-be-wife. The escaping from problems with self-medicating, emotionally over sensitivity, general depression and so many self-esteem issues I cannot even begin to enumerate them. Now, I am sure not all of that came from the job, but I am positive any of it I had was exasperated because of it.
You know how some women cannot leave an abusive relationship? It was like that for me too. I had difficulties finding work in Rochester and an opportunity opened at Carnival and the old boss called me back. It was actually a sweet deal so I took it. I figured that this time would be better and it was a marked improvement. But, there was a huge difference this time. So much had changed in the department – and the one guy he was grooming along with me, took over my position in the management chain and he was a clone of the boss. We got into it a few times because I taught him a lot and he would take that condescending tone with me and I would not have any of it. We got called into the boss’s office a few times because of that friction. The guy was once my friend and I could not wrap my head around the idea that he would treat me the way he was. This was a different position and so I was travelling quite a bit and working on my own. I had a 10 month contract with the option to renew..but I didn’t. This time it was because my wife and I were going to have a baby and she wanted to come back to Rochester.
I went back one more time for a stretch of 3 years and that was the last straw. I felt oppressed in that environment. Even with the boss leaving me mostly alone to do my own thing. I had a family with young kids now and I wasn’t going to let him stop me from doing what I needed to do. The depression and the self medicating was still an issue – so I finally got fed up and decided we were moving back to Rochester for good. That was 2007 and I am so grateful that I made that choice. It has not been an easy road, but I have the love of my wife and kids and some great friends. I am getting therapy now because to this day I still have nightmares that I work in the video department of Carnival Cruise Lines. That department is no more. Initially, the boss was fired (forced to resign) for misappropriating funds. He didn’t steal, but he robbed one account to pay someone else more money so the job would get done faster and make him look better. Ironically, all of the senior management has since gone and he is back there in an adjacent department.
There is so much more to write about but I think you have the general idea. I let him control my life – I take ownership of that. I signed up for acting classes one time and he convinced me to quit, I lost my $700 I paid for the class.
If you have a son or daughter and see them going down the corporate path…pay close attention to them and their mental well-being. No job is worth the years of emotional pain I’ve endured and caused my family. Yes, the skills I learned there are a big factor in my life now, but I mostly try to practice sound management. When I direct a film, I am approachable and honest. I actually have trouble delegating jobs because I sometimes feel the task may be “beneath” the person I am asking to complete it. I can work on that.
I never really realized how much therapy could help me get over this and I look forward to not having dreams about working there.