Radio’s Hostile Workplace Uprising

It appears we have the first signs of an uprising by abused radio employees protesting the increasingly pervasive hostile working environments they are being forced to tolerate.

In the past I have heard rumblings from workers at Citadel complaining about Chief Bottle Washer Judy Ellis, at Cumulus directed at John (Other Brother) Dickey and Gary Pizzati (The Terminator) and, of course, Clear Channel where lack of a solid example at the top has spawned little dictators terrorizing perfectly good clusters.

Now, it is about to get uglier.

Employees are speaking up and some are even retaining lawyers to stand up to unnecessary and unproductive working environments.

Keep in mind that most people who have been the victims of workplace abuse, harassment or discrimination have had little option other than to complain and suck it up.

We’re in a recession.

They need their jobs.

What is sick is that the three worst radio groups – see the latest poll here – are about to get more trouble than they bargained for under the “you reap what you sow” act.

What I am about to outline here are complaints that have been made verbally and through written documentation to their employers about the growing hostile environment in radio.

I’m proud of the fact that even faced with losing their jobs – or, in some cases, having already lost their jobs – most people have decided to give their allegedly abusive employers a chance to “talk it out” (hugging it out is out of the question).

Some of those who have provided these accounts insist that “this isn’t an isolated incident”.

Some are sadly eloquent:

“This isn't the first letter you've received from an ex- employee and all you do...(or your human resources department will do is send copies of the letters back to the station) where they are shown around the station and everyone gets a good laugh. So lets all have a seat because this is going to be a laugh that should bring tears to your eyes”.

They are not troublemakers.

Not malcontents.

You can be the judge of whether you would like to work in an industry that treats its loyal and good employees like this:

1. Women discriminated against because they have children.

Specifically, references made to female executives about the restraints of motherhood. In some cases female employees can only hold their noses and try to proceed with their careers – even if they are outperforming all the men in their clusters. (Cumulus employees allegation)

2. Retaliation when reporting workplace abuse.

The communications between human resources and the complaining employee breached. One local GM reportedly laughing about having “girls” at headquarters that tell him everything. Failing to follow through on complaints. (Clear Channel employees allegation)

3. Illegal overtime being allowed for hourly workers.

Labor Boards tend to be sympathetic to employee complaints because it is hard to believe that everyone's work can be finished between 8:30 and 5:30 in a business like radio. There are allegations that so-called hourly workers are working on an “unpaid” basis – that is, unpaid overtime because they are doing the jobs of more than one person. One lawsuit ready to be filed cites how a traffic manager also has to work the reception desk for hours a day because the station is not allowed to pay for one. Then, stay until 7 pm, return on weekends to get the logs done – all without additional pay. (Clear Channel allegation but certainly I have heard other complaints on this).

4. Abusive language creating a hostile working environment.

The “F” word is tossed around as if it were 1965 – a boys club. Many women – and men – find this language inappropriate in today’s workplace and they may have a case when it is their turn to speak. Cussing out employees in front of air studios (the employee cussed out was eventually fired). (Clear Channel and Cumulus allegations – I have even heard an allegation that Cumulus hit man Gary Pizzati referred to “girls” to clean up an (sic) station office he didn’t like – a reader’s recollection of the incident was "the girls in the office need to help … I'm not good at hanging pictures or anything like that, and the girls need to put their heads together to get it done".

5. Now you’re working/now you’re not severance packages.

One Clear Channel employee was allegedly told they had three months of severance to choose if they left which was allegedly withdrawn for no apparent reason when the employee was dismissed without severance.

6. Disgusting and unprofessional sales meeting tirades.

In one instance I know about, there are allegations that the operations manager of a station that flipped formats who solicited questions at a meeting, railed at several seasoned sales people who were concerned about their clients potential reactions to the timing. They were supposedly told that if they didn’t like the f***ing rules then go play somewhere else. And market managers letting the entire sales staff have it when he started his meeting early and one account exec showed up at the scheduled time. (Clear Channel employees allegation).

7. Falsely accusing employees of stealing.

In one case that came to my attention, the manager accused an employee of stealing a file that was reportedly not stolen. But the threat of the apparently unfounded accusation alone was out of line.

Oddly enough, there is a lot of abuse directed at account executives lately – perhaps because their bosses see their careers passing quickly before their eyes if they cannot make their numbers.

This makes about as much sense as cursing out your neurology surgeon before she performs brain surgery. You don’t abuse the very people who can help you.

But that’s not so at some of the big groups in radio.

Look, there are still a lot of companies that treat employees with respect – that invest in training to make them better, pay them fairly, use honesty and respect when dealing with them.

If Bonneville ever bought Citadel (and I doubt they will), Citadel employees would greet them the way the occupied European countries greeted the Allies when they were liberated in World War II.

Bonneville, owned by the Mormon church, is the best radio group according to the poll. They make coffee available at some stations and Mormons don’t drink coffee.

What they do well is treat employees with respect.

So as I have been saying, times they are a changin’ and it reminds me of a story in one of my favorite books, “Man's Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who was incarcerated during World War II. As a physician he tended to the dying – Dr. Frankl was all they had. Just weeks before the Allies were to arrive, their captors offered the incarcerated a chance to leave early on a train allegedly to freedom.

Frankl agonized over what to do – his new wife had also been taken prisoner and sent to a separate location so he was anxious to know whether she was still alive. Frankl decided to stay and finish his job of caring for the sick and dying. Most everyone else who could boarded the trains. Their trains went to a separate location where they were all killed. Frankl survived by staying back as he waited out the arrival of the Allied troops.

The lesson in Frankl’s book is that there is always hope.

We don't have life and death issues like Frankl, but the message is the same -- there is always hope.

The worst is over.

Radio CEOs are being punished now as they must hand over control of their companies to the bankers who turned them into people without a conscience.

There will never be a day when they are inducted into the Radio & TV Museum. History will give them what they deserve -- shame for choosing personal wealth over the health of an industry that could have also given them an excellent living.

For those who have endured, the digital future will reveal itself in the coming years and the survivors will be an important part of it.

It appears that consolidation may be giving way to mediation and litigation.

And while the the abusers are defending themselves in court, their employees may finally be able to move on.

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