Once upon A time, Not so long ago, Matt Sheridan worked for an organization that might not be too different from yours. Comments are welcome.
I was in the security office looking out over the cubicle farm, sorting out my meeting schedule for the rest of the week when Al Hern, who manages the guard staff, exploded through the door, ” Joel Stanley is going to kill Ted,” he gasped.
The HR manager’s office is just down the hall from mine so, it only took a few moments to get there . It looked as if Al wasn’t exaggerating. Joel Stanly, one of our computer assemblers, was leaning over Ted’s desk His face was red as a beet and he was shouting, “You have no right to do this It wasn’t my fault. The badge fell off because of the lousy clip. You won’t get away with this.”
Ted, who is a little guy with a Napoleon complex and a whiney voice, had pushed his chair back and was trying unsuccessfully to back it right through the wall. His face was ashen and the fear was palpable.
It was obvious that something serious was going on because Joel was not normally a hothead. Yet, he had clearly been pushed beyond reason. “Joel,” I yelled, “whatever it is, hitting Ted is not going to make it any better.”
Joel stopped, frozen in position, then slowly looked toward me. With the moment broken, I saw a little of the tension drain from his face.
“Come with me, we will talk about it in my office, maybe I can help”
Joel slowly turned . I walked out of the office and he followed. All through this Ted hadn’t said a single word and he remained quiet now. If I had my wish, he would remain quiet forever. He was an irritant.
By the time we reached the security office, Joel was a different man, his shoulders were sagging a little and his eyes held the look of defeat. We both sat down and Joel sat on the edge of his chair.
So Joel, “What set you off like this.”
“He fired me. He told me I had accumulated too many points this month and I had to go, as an example to the others.”
“Yes, but what happened today.
Joel leaned back a little, took a breath and started his story “When I got to work, I didn’t have my badge, the guard sent me home to get it. It turned out that it was on the floor in the kitchen. It fell off my shirt because the lousy clip. By the time I dove back, I was a few minutes late, with the points for that, I had too many and Ted called me in and fired me.”
I groaned internally, We have a point system to deal with our chronic attendance problems. I don’t like it because it is so impersonal but, it has cut down on the problem. Something was really wrong, In my opinion Joel was one of the best workers here.
I stared out my window as if I hoped something out there would make all this easier.
“Joel,” I asked, “How in the world did you accumulate that many points ?”
“Well, two weeks ago my son Bill fell during Gym class at school, the nurse thought he might have broken his wrist. They took him to the emergency room. It turned out to be nothing but I had to go pick him up and that counted as an unexcused absence. A week earlier, I’d had a dental appointment – My dentist doesn’t work on Saturday’s, and today, I was late because of the badge.”
“Was this an unusual month.” I asked, I already knew the answer but, I wanted to keep him talking to help him get it out of his system.
Joel visibly relaxed, “It sure was. I have worked here for five years, three of them, I got an award for not missing a single day.”
“What did Ted Say?”
He said, “The rules are the rules and if I made an exception for you they wouldn’t be rules, would they? That’s what set me off. He was so condescending and arrogant about it.”
” I lost it.” Joel gritted his teeth, “I don’t think I would have hit him with that paperweight, but his attitude, on top of getting fired, It was too much, especially from Ted. He takes more time off that my whole department combined and he gets away with it because he is in management. A few people here think that we need a union to stop this kind of crap, maybe they are right.”
“That’s something you need to decide for yourselves,” I said, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I will talk with a few people here and see of anything can be done but, remember, I run security, not your department, and not HR. The final decision is not mine. For now, you should go home. Anything you try to say today would only make things worse.”
I escorted Joel from security back to his work area. He took the few things he had there and I walked with him to the lobby. “This is Wednesday,” I said. “Call me on Monday morning and I will let you know how I made out. Good luck.”
Fortunately, the rest of the day held no more surprises.
it was a typical hot June day and traffic was heavy on the freeway. As I drove home in stop and go traffic, I turned down the radio and thought about my problems at work. As Security Manager for Cimarron Computers, I was fighting a losing battle. Inventory shrinkage was up in spite of more guards and cameras, Poor morale was a way of life because of our increasing financial losses and it took very little to set everyone at each others throats. Something had to give, But what? Me? A new job seemed more appealing every day.
Things got worse Thursday when I talked to Ted about Joel’s situation, He was adamant about Joel’s leaving. He even saw him as unstable and dangerous. Ted couldn’t even begin to understand that he was contributing the polarization between Management and the workers here. Monday, I will approach our CEO, Richard Engle, for all of the good it’s likely to do. He has been out of the office meeting with the board of directors for a couple of days –a bit odd.
Friday was the bombshell. I was in the cafeteria getting coffee from the vending machine when Al Hern walked up. “Have you heard the news, Dick Engle is out. I guess the Board is tired of the losses.” How did you hear that,” I asked.
Dick put his coins in the coffee machine and pushed the button.
Gayle Lyons, His assistant. She packed up her desk and left first thing this morning. The word is she didn’t want to work with the new CEO –I always thought there was more to their relationship than work–I guess this kind of proves it.”
“So who is the new CEO going to be?” Al took a sip of his coffee, “The name I heard was Jack Chapman. The story is that he was the CEO of some food company and he will be here on Monday morning. Until then its business as usual. We follow the mushroom theory of management.”
“What’s that,” I asked,” I’d heard it before but didn’t want to deprive Al of his moment.
Al smiled, “That’s where they keep us in the dark, feed us crap, and watch us grow.”
The rumor mill worked overtime all day but, only confirmed what I had heard. Information would have to wait for Monday. I was not looking forward to it. This job has just gone from really bad to worse.
As I came through the door, Lisa called out, “Someone named Jack Chapman called and wants you to call him back. I put his number on the refrigerator.”
“What does he want?” I asked.
“He said that he wanted to talk to you about security,” she said, “I told him you would be back about Six. You have time to call him before dinner if you’d like.
Lisa walked into the room with a smile on her face. “Dinner won’t be ready for a half hour,” she said.
Now, it’s not like my wife to try to prod me to do something like returning a phone call.
“Why do you want me to call him now, He’s probably a life insurance salesman, I had a hard day at the zoo today, more changes are coming and really don’t need any more aggravation today. I ‘ll call him after dinner”
Lisa said, “I heard about Dicks leaving from Brenda, who is a good friend of his assistant Gayle. I have heard some other rumors too. I think you might want to call.
“Ok, I think you are wrong, I doubt it is the same guy but, I will humor you and call.
I went to my home office which is really just a desk in the corner of the bedroom and picked up the phone.
A woman answered. “This is Matt Sheridan, returning a call from Jack Chapman, “May I speak with him?”
“Hello, I am Marie, Jack’s wife. He has been waiting for your call” she called him to the phone.
After a moment Jack came on. “Hello Matt, this is Jack Chapman, as you probably know I will be taking over as CEO next week and I wanted to discuss a few things with you.”
“Jack, no one has officially told us your name yet but, we know someone new would be taking over.”
Jack laughed. “I am not entirely surprised, poor communications have been at the root of a lot of the company’s problems. I’m sorry I caught you off guard.”
“That’s OK,” I said, I’m happy you are aware of some of the problems in advance. How can I help you.
“Matt,” he said, I have an enormous job ahead of me at Cimarron. I’m inheriting serious problems and I want to hit the ground running on Monday. I will be meeting with a few key people this weekend. Could you meet me for coffee at the Panera Bread over on East Road tomorrow at 10:00 for about an hour.”
“Sure, I said somewhat hesitantly, I’ll look forward to it.
When I arrived at Panera, Jack seemed to recognize me. He got up from a table in the corner. We shook hands. “Matt” he said. Lets get you some coffee and then we can talk.
We walked to the counter, I ordered, then poured a cup. He paid, and we went to the table.” Matt:, he said, “I really appreciate your meeting me on your day off. If I didn’t think it was extremely important, I wouldn’t have asked. Before we get going, and before I poison your mind with my ideas, tell me what you think the problems at Cimarron are.