Moncton — A once-thriving business has closed its doors and about 30 people are out of a job after workers were overcome with envy over a colleague’s newfound Internet fame.
Still struggling to come to terms with the news, few of those returning to the office to collect their personal belongings were willing to talk on the record. However, one former employee said the drop in productivity started when a member of staff, Jake O’Donnell, got an article published in The Manatee, a popular New Brunswick online publication.
“We all got real excited about it,” Terry Steeves said. “Once everyone saw his name on the website, we all started thinking, ‘Why not me?’”
While praise poured in for O’Donnell from Facebook friends, relatives and even a few strangers, his co-workers started to imagine getting a piece of that glory for themselves.
Steeves admitted he was jealous of the attention O’Donnell got from the article.
“He thought he owned the place just because he got 16 ‘likes’ on Facebook.”
Inspired by their co-worker’s sudden success, employees put work aside for the afternoon and started throwing around ideas for future articles. This quickly evolved into daily editorial meetings and, before long, employees were churning out draft after draft as the usually staid office drones enthusiastically strived to be the next one to get published.
“Before we knew it, it was month end and we hadn’t hit any of our sales targets. Not even close,” former CEO Brad Turner said as a moving truck cleared furniture from his old office. “This was a successful small business for 20 years, then suddenly, nothing. Everyone looked so busy lately and morale seemed so high, I just assumed everyone was working really hard.”
The man behind the original article said he can’t help but feel guilty about the closure.
“If it wasn’t for that article, none of us would have ever dreamed of doing something bigger or better with our lives,” O’Donnell said.
But instead of getting down on his luck, he’s using the loss of his job as motivation to get published again. With the New Brunswick economy looking as precarious as ever, he said having another Manatee article or two published would look great on his resumé.
“Living in New Brunswick can sometimes make you feel a bit stuck, like there’s no other way to get ahead, you know?” he said. “I think the glamorous world of freelance satirical writing could be my way out.”