Snow White and the Wicked Workplace
Hi Ho, Hi Ho! It's off this working girl goes!
Once upon a time, at the end of the groovy, free-love '70s, a naive young girl called Snow White (SW for short) got her first professional job. Looking back, the word "professional" should perhaps be put in quotes.
This girl had lived a fairly sheltered life in a beautiful kingdom. She left the kingdom to attend college in another state with other ambitious maidens. This experience gave her a class A education, but ultimately did little to prepare her for the reality of the business world.
No, she did not work in a massage parlor
Welcome to the jungle, Baby
Snow White was overjoyed to land her first gig at an advertising agency. She didn't really know what an advertising agency did (this was years before the show "Mad Men"), but the address was on exclusive Newbury Street in Boston.
Fancying herself a modern-day Marlo Thomas, Snow White showed up for work on her first day all bright eyed and ready to learn the ad biz from the ground up.
Instead, she her lessons began in the kinky subterranean basement.
Lesson #1: My boss is a sot. As it turns out, Snow White's first day coincided with the agency head being sent off to rehab. Even though 3-martini lunches were the norm in those days, Mr. G was spending a tad too much time at Cheers* when he was supposed to be writing ad copy.
*There really is a bar in Boston called "Cheers" (same one the TV show was patterned on). However, back in the day it was called the Bull & Finch. Nonetheless, it is certain that everyone there did know Mr. G's name.
Lesson #2: The other boss has "issues." Starting with the fact that her first and last names were the same. Ok, so we can't help who we fall in love with. But if (for example) your name was Sally would you marry someone whose last name was Sally (or even Sully?). If your name was Mary would you take the last name Murray? Well, this lady's name was literally the same name twice. Given that her last name was 50% of the agency name, it would be difficult for her to change it -- even though she and her husband were in the process of divorce.
So here's little Snow White, fresh out of college, excited to be starting a job that doesn't involve caring for kids or scooping ice cream. It's day one and she's already been exposed to alcoholism and divorce. Wow! This is sure gonna be fun place to work!!! She can hardly wait to get started!
A dwarf called Wolfy
About 28 days later, Mr. G. returned to work. He was softspoken and serious and did nothing to arouse Snow White's suspicion. He seemed nice, even though SW didn't interact with him too much.
Then, one day, the agency's big kahuna client, Mr. Big came in for a meeting. Mr. Big smiled broadly, leaned over the reception desk where SW was working, stuck out his hand and said, "Well hello, Snow. Whaddya know?"
Snow White didn't know quite how to take this. Was he testing her? Flirting with her? She definitely felt off-kilter, and he definitely seemed to enjoy putting her there.
The Muse in the Bathtub
As part of her indoctrination, Snow White was taken out to lunch with the agency principals and the client. They obviously had history together. For whatever reason, they felt it appropriate/necessary to rehash what sounded like (at least to Snow White) the wildest, craziest times.
No one had mentioned this side of agency life at the interview. But it seemed clear that the "workday" here was not confined to 9 to 5. In fact, the majority of creative "thinking" seemed to occur after hours.
One particularly vivid story involved a party off-site. What they described far exceeded even the most debauched frat gathering. That is, based on Snow White's fuzzy recollections of frat parties, they seemed tame in comparison. Or maybe it was just the idea of her boss and other middle-aged "suits" indulging in such behavior that made Snow White blanche.
The story centered on Mr. G being discovered in a bathtub with someone other than Mrs. G... Ha, ha, ha. They though it was hilarious. Snow White thought otherwise. "Mr. G??? In the bathtub? With the client? WTF? Were they playing "Clue" or something? Gross!!!"
Check out SW in the chorus here
Whose Life is it Anyway?
Thoroughly horrified by this story, Snow White vowed to keep her nose both clean and to the grindstone. This proved to be difficult -- not so much because of the grindstone dust, but because of forces beyond her control.
As their confidence in her abilities grew, Mr. G. and Ms. First Name First Name started sending SW out with clients on her own. Well, technically, only with the one client, Mr. Big.
This being 1979 and the advertising business, liquid lunches were still very much permitted (except, of course, for Mr. G.). One day Mr. Big took SW to a restaurant just up the street from her apartment. During lunch (and at least two cocktails each) he slyly mentioned that Mr. G. had more or less promised him that he could "have" her. He said it so nonchalantly that at first it didn't register.
"Have me? Does that mean what I think it means?"
For the briefest moment Snow White considered bringing the client home to her house. Was that the expectation? Was her job on the line here?
"Now wait just a minute." She knew she had rights. She also knew she did not want to sleep with Mr. Big. And no job -- especially not one paying a whopping $185 a week -- was worth whoring herself out for.
Chicken Gram, anyone?
- ::: The Home of Ronnie Rooster :::
Singing Telegrams For All Parties, Birthdays, And Corporate Events. San Fernando Valley & Los Angeles County
Another job, another dwarf
Snow White never confronted Mr. G. about his promise to the client. She managed to keep Mr. Big at bay, as well. She quietly did her job at the agency until she got a new job at a new agency.
Alas, this agency had its own version of Mr. Big. This one made no secret of his crush on Snow White. He persisted and persisted, ingratiating himself in embarrassing ways that infuriated her boss. The last straw was when he sent her a chicken gram. That's right, a singing chicken. I am not making this up.
Snow White finally had enough of the agency biz and its crazy, sex-crazed clients. She decided to go inside, landing a job in corporate communications at a national temporary services firm. The company had branches across the US.
Although she heard plenty of tales of inter-branch romances (played out at frequent sales training meetings), she felt pleasantly immune from sexual drama. No one in her day-to-day work life engaged in anything more than harmless flirting.
Out of the blue, while at a conference in Detroit, of all places, she was propositioned. A regional vice president made his move in the elevator. He even went to cop a feel, but thankfully she'd stashed a hard pack of cigarettes in her bra.
This time she was more than mortified. She was terrified. This guy had power. He could make life difficult for her, if not get her fired. Still, she knew no good could come of acquiescing. So she declined as politely as she could,under the circumstances -- which probably was not polite at all, given that her brain and tongue were both numb from shock.
When she got back to the office she confessed the incident to her boss. Turns out the boss had had a similar run-in with the same veep years before. She was supportive and told Snow White not to worry about her job. Still, Snow White kept her guard up and her skirt firmly down until she left the company.
Forget it: I'm Snow White ...and you're a dwarf
Delivered from temptation
So far Snow White had had three different jobs. She'd survived three wacky workplaces and the advances of three horny dwarves.
She had learned how to conduct herself professionally in the face of sexual harassment.She'd built up a solid resume of marketing skills. And she'd learned to play the game.
Snow White was ready to move into the big leagues. And so she did.
You may be wondering if things calmed down for our heroine after that. Let's just say the Snow White story wouldn't be the same without dwarfs. And our Snow White continued to encounter them wherever she went.
Snow White's 7 Workplace Dwarfs
During her career, Snow White amassed quite a collection of "admirers." Just as she had done with Mr. Big, she gave each of them a name:
1. Wolfy (Mr. Big)
2. Clucky (the Chicken Gram client)
3. Coppy (the Detroit elevator feeler-upper)
4. Shotsy (a colleague who throughly enjoyed doing body shots)
5. Frenchy (the colleague who thrust his tongue down her throat at her good-bye party)
6. Banty (a colleague who opposing counsel once called a "banty little rooster")
7. Schlep (possibly the dearest one of all, he would do anything for SW, even though he could never, ever have her romantically).
Snow White lost touch with them one by one as she progressed in her career. She eventually found her Prince Charming, but NOT at work!
Workplace Harassment Resources
- Sexual Harassment Information, Laws, Attorneys, Lawyers, Articles, Information & Resources
Sexual Harassment & Employment Discrimination - Laws, Lawyers, Attorneys, News, Cases, Articles, Resources, Links & Information
- Understanding Workplace Harassment
Federal Communications Commission
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