Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Thick Skin Project

There's a particular phrase in job postings that never fails to make my blood boil, "Thick skin required." I don't know if this sort of language is common in other industries, but it turns up a lot in Hollywood.

Let me translate for you, "You will be working for an asshole who is so convinced of his own self-importance that he doesn't deem those under him worthy of common courtesy. When he has a bad day, he will take it out on you. You are the flesh-and-blood stress ball. You will be yelled at, degraded, humiliated, unjustly chewed out and called names." Yet somehow all of this is okay because they specify "Thick skin required."

At what point does one's ego trump the simple human decency of treating others - even those under them - with simple respect? Most of these job postings are for assistant positions with long hours and low pay. I've gone on a few of these interviews, and you could tell just by talking to the current assistant that the boss was a real asshole. The worst is that those bosses are surrounded by people who kiss their asses so much that they've completely forgotten the manners their mother taught them.

You know what would make me happy? For all the job-seekers in Hollywood to get together and send out a standard response to any idiot in HR who thinks this kind of bullshit is acceptable. You know, come up with a standard template that reads something like this:

"You must be a total asshole to need to specify your employees should have thick skin. At what point were you elevated to being above simple manners? If you are a rude prick who can't speak to your underlings in a civil tone, that's YOUR problem, not your employees. Don't make your failings as a human into a "weakness" you blame on those who break their back for you. If you have to warn those around you to have thick-skin, that's a pretty good sign no one loves you."

If every tool who posted this got a few hundred emails, it might embarrass him into being nice for an hour.

I'm aware that most of those emails are screened by assistants, and as such, there's a good chance these hypothetical emails would never reach their target. Still, it would be great if those assistants printed those out and "accidentally" left them behind for the boss to find after said assistant has moved on to their new job. Would I feel bad about flooding the assistants' emails? No, not really. They know they work for a jerk, so they'll probably get a kick out of it.

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking, you can find the UTA Joblist posted HERE and see examples of what I'm referring to. The version that's active as I write this has no fewer that three jobs specifying "thick skin required." The UTA list used to be a closely guarded list that was passed in the shadowy corners of back alleys, but it's been pretty accessible for a while now, and thus, useless as an "exclusive" job list.

Anyway, if this joblist quirk annoys you as much as it does me, feel free to send out a link to this page, Twitter about it, put it on your Facebook page, or blog about it. Other bloggers, you're welcome to repost any of this, or even come up with funnier versions of my retort. (And if anyone does have even more clever retorts, please post away in the comment section. You're all creative people - what's the most biting way you'd respond to a "thick skin only" post.)

Viva La Resistance!


  1. We live in an age of seemingly innocuous phones that double as video cameras. I'd love to see somebody's little temper-tantrum find its way onto YouTube.

  2. Dear Mr. Agent,

    I'm inquiring about your position for a thick-skinned assistant. I'm dedicated to the trade, with links to film blogs, talent agencies, and producers taking up the majority of my browser's "favorites".

    I've watched "Gigli" 27 times. I wrote a screenplay about a mean executive torturing a scribe (think "Devil Wears Prada"). It got a "consider" from my third grade teacher, who I hunted down over Google.

    I keep my left hand housed in a leather glove, filled with vaseline, reserved for your purposes (credit to Steinbeck, "Of Mice and Men"). My right hand is calloused from tweeting and upping my Facebook friend count, pretty thick-skinned, so whether you like it soft of rough, I'll be there.

    Also, I've worked for Kathy Griffin, as a dog-walker, so I am used to dealing with a lot of crap, figuratively and literally.

    God bless,
    Jack Handey

  3. Thick skinned is implied automatically in every position these days. Middle management in corporate America breeds a borderline sociopathy where the value of other people is reduced and conscience muted and how people are treated is of little importance.

    At least in Hollywood the truth is openly acknowledged.

  4. Perhaps a Hollywood Renaissance could happen.

  5. Dear Hollywood-

    Thank you for taking advantage of my desperation to break into the business. I am very excited for the opportunity to forgo sleep and sanity to work for someone who relieves me of the stress of the life of a commoner. I will happily put my personal life aside to do all of your grunt work and some of your not-grunt work and then take the blame for the lack of quality of "your" work.

    I went to my brother-in-law and have a sample of my skin in hand to show you the thickness thereof. According to him I am in the 85th percentile for skin thickness (you'll see when I bring it in for my interview) and I can make it thicker with the proper diet, though it might be tough while I'm working all those hours. Do you allow eating on the job or are you an all-coffee association?

    I take great care of my skin, a friend gave me some pointers (thanks BB) to ensure its thickness, durability and stretchiness. I rarely cry after verbal abuse and have drastically cut down on violent reactions since I got out of the institution.

    I look forward to meeting you one-on-one and our future together. Please contact me quickly, I'm not sure how long the sample will keep.

  6. "If every tool who posted this got a few hundred emails, it might embarrass him into being nice for an hour."

    I really don't think that would have any affect, although it'd be nice.

    It'd be better if no one applied for those jobs, but then they'd probably just change the description and take out the "thick skin required" part.

    Or everyone could walk out of their assistant jobs when their bosses cross the line, letting them do their own menial tasks for a day or however long it takes them to find someone else.

    When you're the boss you're allowed to treat people however you want, as long as you don't do anything illegal. But as the employee you have a right to quit whenever you want, and you can tell your boss off in the process :D (Yes, maybe this isn't practical, but in my opinion it's the best (only?) way to let your boss know he's an asshole).

  7. I've worked for and been around these tools. The problem is, it's impossible to make a point with these people. The sad truth is that on this level, we are all replaceable by the a line of people out the door who would happily do our jobs for free.

    Until they get to the point we all do, and hand over the reins to the line out their door. Assholes can be assholes because the people they work for are as disposable as toilet paper.