Phrases I Love At Work

I’ve decided that of all the ways to relieve my stress at work writing about it seems to have the most holistic effect. I’ve tried working out, eating entire pints of ice cream, drinking, drinking while eating ice cream and working out and they just don’t seem to do the trick. Writing – or should I say writing with a touch of sarcasim, seems to do the trick… at least for now.

Given my little preamble I can now jump into my therapeutic release for today’s main event. It was another sunny day as I headed to work. Traffic was low, and I sipped away at my perfectly made hazelnut latte, while music played and birds chirped along in the background – at least that was the dream that played in my head as I woke to realize that I was twenty minutes late getting out the door. Traffic was hell due to the rain and drizzle, and I probably wouldn’t have minded the cold had I been able to stop for coffee but I was late and didn’t have the time.

As I walked in the door my manager, waiting at the door, said she wanted to have a meeting to plan out the week as we regularly do on Mondays. Sitting down at the table with my her and my counterpart in the south division I could feel the effects of my ADD meds kicking in and it made me thankful that I hadn’t had that perfect hazelnut latte after all. Ever see a sales manager blow out his jaw rambling on at 95mph? It ain’t pretty so I really didn’t intend to open my mouth. Just sit pretty, nod, make a couple scribbles on a few pages of some behemoth report that no one reads because it’s never accurate and then get back to my office. The look on my counterpart’s face (we’ll call him Bilbo – as in Bilbo Baggins because this story really isn’t that interesting so I figure using a Hobbit will bring me the credibility needed to win the Pulitzer – I digress) says he’s thinking the same.

“I’m glad I had the sales rollup report last night,” I said as our boss (we’ll call her Cyndi Lopper – there are no Hobbit look-a-likes that quite capture the grace – digressing!) walks in the conference room. “With the amount of activity this week I really got a better feel for the processes.” Now, this was not – I repeat not – brown nosing. Why? Because I’m the new guy and in order for Cyndi Lopper and Bilbo Baggins to stay out of my Shire I need to make them feel comfortable with how much I understand the business. Reasonable, right?

“Good,” Cyndi says with a smile, “You seem to be getting the hang of things.”

“Yes I am… now, the best way to leave the Shire is to follow this dirt path right back to your office,” I think. Last week Ms. Lopper told me how pleased she was that the sales team and office staff were really happy with me and that I was starting to fit in. It did give me a measure of comfort to know that I didn’t need to look over my shoulder so much and could focus on doing work.

Cyndi pulled out the report wanting to review numbers and figure out strategy for the week. “Ok, let’s start with…”
“Um, I have a quick question.” I smiled with a hint of apology in my tone. Then I launched into a couple issues that I recognized as problems from past experiences with other operations. In any case, they were anything but quick questions and the look on Mr. Baggins’ little face knew it. Cyndi Lopper glanced at her watch and then to Bilbo. Non-Verbal communication – ain’t it a bitch?

I knew what my little question was going to get me… confirmation of what I had suspected all along. So let me go back a minute. When I was hired I was told that one of the reasons they liked me was because of my knowledge of processes and operations and how valued that knowledge would be here. I’d heard that before, but inevitably the minute you implement something new, even if it’s something with strong proven results that they were all gaga about during the interview, the minute you get it rolling then you get asked to not do it. So to me, what they were saying was BS so after I started I made sure to keep my mouth shut, however, my boss and others regularly mentioned that they would like for me to speak up more in the meeting and present them with ideas. I continued to resist for the most part, but finally, I did put together a binder for the sales team and showed it to my boss and her boss for an endorsement. To my surprise they loved it.

“ Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I should talk more?” Ms. Lopper even remarked that I am “too straight-laced” (contain your laugher people – they barely know me). They went on to tell me that everyone loves me and get a copy to the other division. Ok, so I distribute the book to the sales team. You know what…. I should’ve handed out cards that said they were all closet necrophiliacs. I was that popular.

My questions gave me the answer I was looking for – or better yet it got me the truth. And as I asked more questions I found out that the sales team really didn’t like me and no one else did either. Apparently I’ve ruffled more feathers than a hyperactive, groping, fox in a hen-house. I wasn’t surprised however. All last week people would get quiet when I come around. They would forget me on emails and the emails I did get were laced with carefully worded language. I started to hear phrases like, “reinvent the wheel” and “trying to make us like [previous company].” The phrasing comments were so consistent I could track who talked to whom on what day.

Now, it would be easy to fall into the trap of “they didn’t like my ideas and so now I’m going to go eat dirt and sing along with Striesan,” but that’s not my issue. The fact of the matter is that irregardless of how much people say they want your ideas, they want your input, they like change, change is good, bring it on – the fact is they don’t. That’s ok with me. It’s human nature no matter what you say so I can swallow that, but don’t tell me how great everyone thinks I am and let me run amok like Godzilla in Tokyo knowing different. Even worse, don’t tell me, “You have my back” in these situation. You don’t.

My little question has erupted into a 2 hour debate. Cyndi Lopper’s not having fun anymore and Biblo Baggins has to pee from the extra large coffee he drank. Although, I hate having my intuitions confirmed as to my standing in the company there is a certain amount of joy I’m taking out of the whole thing. There’s a demented glee I garner watching Mr Baggins rub his hand over his face in exacerbation. If he starts doing the pee pee dance I don’t think I will be able to contain myself. It’s at this point that as I make the point about creating a dynamic sales force that I refer to the team as being one dimensional. Uh, oh. Not only are they necrophiliacs but they are now pedophiles as well. Both Cyndi and Bilbo practically come out of their chairs. This is confirming too. You see along with the comments of, “we want your ideas,” and “we got your back,” goes the phrase, “we have thick skin.” Now, I realize it’s not what you say but how you say it; however I was purposeful in both my tone and selection of words to avoid this common pitfall. Now they were jumping out of their seats like angry fans at sports bar after watching a bad call on the TV. No – scratch that analogy. I was Hitler at a barmitzva… ya, that captures it.

At this point I realized I had confirmed all that I needed about what they really wanted from me. Get in step with our program no mater how jacked up and keep your mouth shut. We don’t need no stinkin’ processes. As we walked out of the conference room – well, Bilbo darted actually in a mad attempt to get to a urinal – then I heard the other comment I am weayr of, “What’s said in this room stays in this room.” This is to be interpreted as we will discuss this more… when you are not around.

“Got it, Boss.” I gather up my reports, “Thanks for explaining this all to me. Now that I know what really going on I won’t cause anymore trouble” I wonder which one of us is going to follow that path out of the Shire first.

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