fco I have a friend in the industry. Let’s call him, Mr X. In fact, Mr X could be Ms X. You may know her. Or him. Or maybe not. But even if you did know Mr X, I’d be surprised if you knew Mr X’s tale of agency woe.

Now, Mr X is a smart, likeable person. His clients like him as do his colleagues. He delivers value, and consistently challenges his team to push the boundaries of their creativity. He wins work and commitment, and like many in the industry, works above and beyond the hours that he is paid for.

You’d think he’d be seen as a valuable asset. Especially in an industry where you win work based on the skills, expertise and talent of your people.

But Mr X is a contractor.

And despite winning contract extensions, inspiring the creativity of teams and maintaining a high charge out rate, the agency he works with has not paid him for months. Sure there have been dribs and drabs, but he is now out of pocket stretching back to earlier this year.

Maybe I am an idealist, but I believe in paying people for the work they do.

But the most amazing aspect of this story is the damage that this type of behaviour will do to the reputation of the agency involved. Now, even before social media, the advertising and marketing industry was full of rumour and quiet conversation. But these days, anyone with an internet connection can produce content, share their story or experience – and warn off both clients and potential employees.

Employee conversations are no longer only the secret domain of sites like 2000s icon FuckedCompany.com. And while the names may be changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike, the private wires – the DMs, emails and phone conversations – run hot.

So, next time someone contacts me to ask whether they should take a job with this agency … or next time someone rings and asks whether the agency does good work – guess what my answer is going to be?

And if social recommendation carries as much weight as we in the industry claim it does, then slowly but surely the story behind this story will get out. And the talent pool will dry up. The good and talented people will find good and talented agencies to work for, and the projects, opportunities and clients will follow.

And I bet, for every Mr or Ms X out there, there is a whole alphabet of others sitting silently in the corner eating their own self esteem. If this story resonates with you – know that you are not alone. Write your story and share your experience with others – but keep names out of it. This is, after all, a small, global industry – and we are all adept at spotting a trend.