if your boss tells you, “our brand must speak with one voice”, quit.

“My boss won’t let me” is a terrible excuse for not getting on with building your own personal global microbrand, within the confines of your job. A good boss wants her employees to have their own sense of sovereignty and destiny. Why on Earth would you tolerate a boss that didn’t?

I once had a boss who didn’t like the fact that I had a blog. Especially when I blogged about stuff that was relative to our industry. Yeah, “Our brand must speak with one voice” was his idea. Yes. I know.

Actually, the reality was, HE wanted to be “The One Voice”. He wanted all the credit, and all the rewards. He didn’t mind me putting words into his mouth- stuff I had written- so long as the outside world gave him all the credit. But he didn’t want me in any other role, other than subservient, nowheresville wage slave. He fought tooth and nail to keep me from ever becoming a rainmaker inside the company, something he wanted all for himself.

I left the job a few months later. I was glad to leave, frankly.

The story actually has a happy ending. To deflect some of the heat the boss was currently giving me, I decided to stop blogging about our industry for a while. I decided instead to write about a different subject altogether.

Not sure what to write about, I just dug into my past experiences and started writing a series of blog posts on the subject of creativity, from what I had learned from all those years of cartooning. This series ended up being read online by a lot of people, and then went on to become my first book, “IGNORE EVERYBODY”, which went on to become a business bestseller.

Last time  I checked, my former boss’ situation hasn’t changed much. He’s still hacking away in buzzword-infested mediocrity, his “speak with one voice” shtick still being completely disregarded by anyone who matters in the industry.


[About Hugh. E-mail Hugh. Hire Hugh. Buy Hugh’s Art. Car­toon Archive.]


  1. Good roll you’re on recently. This and the “fight like hell” post were a nice return to the quality stuff you had put out for a long time, but I had felt for a while there that a lot of your stuff had gone soft/lost some flavor.

    Here’s to more in 2010.

  2. Heh, Schadenfreude is a dish better served immediately :-)
    (Make it a cartoon!)

  3. Love, love, love this. Biding my time amid “buzzword-infested mediocrity” right now, but keeping my eyes on the prize (not sure exactly what that is yet). I get my knuckles wrapped every few weeks for not falling in line…

  4. BTW, that great NY NY piece reminds me of the large mural that used to be behind the bar at the Gramercy Park Inn pre-renovation.

    I used to say, “I work in publishing to support my NY habit.”

  5. Great story…I had somewhat similar story with a boss in one of the schools I was teaching. Quiting felt so good.

  6. The temptation to gloat is almost overwhelming … :)

  7. Ahh, the Karma of it all. 50 pounds is a lot.

    Companies should help their people build their careers. If they aren’t passionate about their present job then help them move on. Both sides will be happier. The company can find someone that truly loves the work and the employee can find the work that he truly connect with.

  8. Good Post. I have been struggling with my boss recently too. I feel like m not able to do what I want and anything I do gets stuck in his mail and never reaches the right person. Your post has given me some inspiration adn direction..:)

  9. The style of writing matches “ingore everybody” very much. Very often we need more than one head.

  10. Love your NY NY piece. I live on Canada’s west coast (Victoria, BC). We spent nine days in NYC last fall. Had an awesome time and would love to come back again.

    Can relate to the comments about your former boss as well, and I’m currently on a similar journey to find something better. What I do 9 to 5 is becoming less and less relevant and my life outside of work increasingly more fulfilling.

  11. This struck a chord.

    It seems to me that when large organisations are deciding who gets to have a voice and how the organisation is going focus outward presentation of expertise, there are three things at play: a) what’s good for the business, b) what’s good for the boss and c) what’s good for you.

    Only a) is supposed to matter. But funny how, given it’s the boss making the decisions, a) often appears to coincide with b), whereas coincidence between a) and c) seems to be much less common.

    So you end up with ten unsung heros working like hell behind the scenes in an attempt to make one person look like an infallible genius to the outside world. The ten people are kept at it by being told that if they work hard and keep their heads down, one day the organisation might let one of them be the ‘genius’.

    I have been very interested in hearing your thoughts and those of others as to whether this paradigm is the best way to run a business, and certainly as to whether it is the best way to to run one’s life!

  12. Hahaha, fantastic tale Hugh. The Schadenfreude was well earned. There’s nothing petty about exercising your personal freedom to create.

  13. The last coporation I worked for had a poster on the wall directly in front as you walked in the door. It stated “Processes are the Key to Success”. I regretted not grabbing that poster, since it represented everything that pissed me off about corporations. Never mind all of the creative people who made the company succeed despite the bad management decisions. The company wanted Lemmings with a standardized process. Brilliant!


  1. [...] to this, i found just a couple of days ago a great post from Hugh McLeod’s site titled: If your boss tells you, “our brand must speak with one voice”, quit. I once had a boss who didn’t like the fact that I had a blog. Especially when I blogged about [...]

  2. [...] on his own and was expressing it. It reminded me of communication policies in organisation and a post recently on gaping void titled “If your boss tells you ‘our brand must speak with one voice’, [...]

  3. [...] if your boss tells you, “our brand must speak with one voice”, quit.December 24, 2009 – this reminds me of my time at Apple: http://epeus.blogspot.com/2003/08/how-i-emailed-myself-into-job-and.htmlSkyDrive Explorer Mounts Your SkyDrive in Windows Explorer [Downloads]December 24, 2009 [...]

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Hugh MacLeod is a genius.  Genius.

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