An Open Letter To My CEO
talia jane

You majored in “English literature”? Clearly, you didn’t have to meet a minimum standard of English Language.

Having read your letter, I would never employ you to write. Your letter is full of alleged “sentences” that are, to put it politely, patently incomplete.

I’ll happily let you know that at one point in my working life I was spending at least three hours (each way) on public transport. This didn’t include the hour-long walk to get to and from the station.

I didn’t know it at the time but, I have been living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since the age of four. There would be nights that I couldn’t sleep and, when sleep finally came (in the form of a coma), I could “sleep” through an entire two-hour alarm. When I eventually woke, it would be pointless to head into the office because, by the time I arrived, it would be closing. So, on those horrible nights, I would catch a really early morning train, arrive at the office at 5am, and then attempt to sleep until the manager came in to say, “Time to start work.”

I would spend hours of my own time as a free-lance typist for students such as yourself, correcting their punctuation, connecting disjointed phrases into proper sentences and then learn that I was under-charging for the level of work that I was doing. These days when someone brags about a Post-Graduate level, I look at writing such as your own and ask the person, “Who re-wrote your Thesis for you?”

For all those full time hours, and the extra work I was doing, I was still living below the official “poverty line”. I’ve lived on Rice and Cheese. I’ve paid extra in rent only to find out that we were getting further and further behind because my flatmate was gambling it away.

In my last position, before I was forced to leave the workforce permanently, I had a mattress rolled up under the desk and only went “home” one night a week. On Friday and Saturday nights, I was living on caffeine to moonlight as a DJ.

I know that the U.S. minimum wage is a pathetic joke. I’ve seen the comparisons between minimum wage and cost of living in the U.S. versus Australia. I know that, as long as we can stop our Parliament from passing the highly illegal TPP, we’re financially better off than you are. However, that doesn’t mean that we live on “Easy Street”.

I’m not just an average typist; I’m a typographer, and a linguist. I make sure a sentence parses properly before deciding whether to put other punctuation on the inside or outside of quotation marks, while people like yourself claiming to be writers set out, as Douglas Adams so eloquently put it, “… to boldly split infinitives that no man has split before.”

Did you notice that in those previous two paragraphs, the first finishes with the period outside the quotes while the second ends with the period inside? Do you understand why they appear that way? I doubt it.

Can you write a single sentence that is grammatically correct, yet runs for nearly a full page? I doubt that too.

I’ve constructed single documents that exceed 1,200 pages. So, I know my craft and, I know it well.

During periods of unemployment (in the 90s), I’ve known what it’s like to get the Saturday paper, spend the entire weekend going through the classified “Positions Vacant”, marking all the positions suited to my skill-set, only to ring at 9:01 on the Monday morning to be told, “Sorry, that position has already been filled,” because a male voice was inquiring about the vacancy.

If you want to complain about working conditions and wages after only a few months in the workforce, I really wonder where you would be after 30 years of struggling to keep up with everyone else while living with an unknown and unrecognised chronic illness.

My first serious bout of CFS-induced clinical depression occurred in 1987. At that time I was living on my own in a modest flat furnished with: a bed and sofa that someone else was discarding in exchange for a carton of beer, a desk that had been left behind by a previous tenant, a $5 office chair and a $20 TV acquired from a garage sale, and the first PC that I had purchased for myself.

I was being decently paid, I had a boss who understood that I was a little “different” to everyone else, and I was eating proper food.

I spent a whole week crying my eyes out: “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing! I have no debt, I’m living reasonably well.”

“Are you having any personal problems?”

“No. I’ve good friends and I have no office-dispute with any staff. I don’t know why I feel like this.”

My boss gave me a handful of blank disks and a pile of papers. “Take these home and work on them in your own time. Come back to work when you feel ready.”

The following week, I was fine.

I freely admit that this single experience is a stark contrast to your own but I want you to imagine your entire working career with that sort of inexplicable baggage following you around — I was 35 before being properly diagnosed. That’s 31 years of desperately trying to keep up with “normal” (through Primary and Secondary School and then entering the workforce) not knowing that I was ill and therefore failing to understand why “normal” seemed such an unreachable goal.

In appealing to your Big Boss for an improvement in pay and conditions, you have come across as unduly sarcastic. Sarcasm is a Power Tool. You don’t attempt to use it until you know how to swing a hammer. Whether or not I think Rich Corporate Bums should pay better wages does not detract from the level of disrespect contained in your letter.

Yes, I’ve worked in customer-support, too — regularly in a paralegal environment, where I was known as “the polite one”, and briefly doing tech support for a PC company that no longer trades in Australia. The PCs produced were shoddy, under-performing and over-priced, often containing second-hand components in so-called “new” machines.

It was common experience, when registering a “new” owner on the database to discover that the machine in his possession was already registered to another former owner. The machine had just been recycled and a sold off as “new” again. I discovered one machine in the database that had a history of four previous owners. That’s demonstrative of a really crappy product.

The company treated its staff worse than you have described in your letter, and the CSTs walked out en masse to join the Miscellaneous Services Union, commencing actions to rope the Company into defined Minimum Award Wages for that category of work.

Although I am no longer officially in the workforce, I still do support some of the paralegal customers and I find that, apart from the completely clueless who have not read their materials before calling, I am quite willing to supply my personal phone number so that customers can call me outside normal office hours.

It is unfortunate that your first foray into the workforce has left such a bitter taste in your mouth but, the choices that you made regarding where to live (or with whom) and where to seek initial employment were your own.

No matter what type of work you find, there is always a positive way of presenting that on a quality CV. If you think there’s a magic ladder of success that doesn’t require some work to build up your CV, then I can only assume you are deluded.

Again, if I received a letter of application and CV from you with the quality of English that you displayed in your letter, I wouldn’t be considering you for employment in an authoring or copy-writing position!

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