ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Work for a nasty editor again: yes/no?”

by Rachel Smith
22 May 2019

When you’ve been treated badly by an editor, what do you do when that person comes back to you weeks or months later as if nothing happened, offering you work again? Do I a) accept the work because I need the money, b) tell them I’d like the work but we need to clear the air or c) tell them to go jump because they have treated me appallingly? Barbara

Personally, I think life is too short to deal with toxic people just for a pay-cheque, but I understand the quandary – especially when you’re against a rock and a pile of unpaid bills. I once worked under a narcissistic chief sub for 18 months and I swear I had PTSD when I finally got out of there.

Power trip or personality clash?

Let’s face it: editors typically hold all the power – whether you’re a cadet cutting your teeth in a crazy-busy newsroom, or a freelancer just wanting to file your story and get paid already. And while some editors are conscious of this imbalance and treat their staff and/or freelancers fairly and well (maybe because they’ve also been on the other side of the fence), anyone who’s been in the game long enough will fall over a bullying, belittling, downright nasty editor or two.

What to do? I guess you need to work out where this editor sits on the scale: is it just a painful personality clash, or is this person bad enough to seriously damage your mental health? Saying yes or no to the work depends on your own personal boundaries, how much contact you’ll have with him or her, and whether you can put up the person for a short period until the job is done.

Confronting a nasty editor

Tempting as it is to give him or her a piece of your mind, I wouldn’t. When you’re freelance, reputation is everything and if the editor is acting like nothing happened, there’s a good chance they don’t remember or worse, treat everyone like that so think it’s no biggie. Don’t give someone who’s potentially very well-connected a reason to talk negatively about you to other editors who might well hire you (and be far nicer to work for).

Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

Listers! What would you do in this situation? Have you BEEN in this situation before?

Rachel Smith

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