Monday, April 20, 2009

RUMINATING - Sometimes it is healthy.

So, for some reason I was ruminating on events from 10 years ago and more. I worked for a leading environmental services company for 16 years in the 1980s and 90s--in an administrative position assisting a high-level executive. The job ended with a hostile takeover of the company, but my boss for 15 years of the time was fired (for no reason other than a criminally minded new President who was fired in short-order himself) a year before the company actually was sucked-up by a raider.

My ruminations were on the boss I had during the 16th year--great packaging, but a combination of smoke and mirrors. He was Irish with a lilt of an accent, handsome in a fresh-out-of-the-bandbox sort of way, He was also mean, unscrupulous, arrogant, narcissistic, and demeaning. One morning he ranted at me because he didn't like the way I said good morning to him. He walked in, said, "Good morning," and I said, "Hello." Truly. That was it. He told me he was sick of my attitude, etc. I ended up meeting with HR (who already had his number) and the HR person begged me to not quit but to stick it out and get the severance package that was sure to come. In the end, with no prodding by me, the founder and Chairman of the company called this guy in and told him to lay off and that I was a valued employee and he required him to be more respectful of me. I got no apology, but there was no repeat performance.

It was an undeclared truce. I did not respect him, but I had always been respectful. It's funny what a person can read into a communication--totally flavored by their own paradigm.

I was foisted on him--no one wants the old guy's assistant who surely comes with loyalties and baggage. But, that wasn't how I started out. I wanted a fresh and successful start with him. I got my hair done the weekend before he started, I bought some very high-end business casual new outfits, and I bought him a lovely flower arrangement which was waiting for him on top of his bookcase. Just to be clear, that bookcase was directly across from his desk chair--in perfect view every minute he was in his office. He never acknowledged it, though there was a card with a kind sentiment, and I eventually threw it out when I got tired of not being thanked. It was my $35, not the company's.

He required me to buy his 2% milk to have available fresh in the frig in our private coffee area. My former boss was extremely self-sufficient. This guy was not. But, the weirdest thing was that every time he poured milk into his coffee (maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but not much) he would spill milk on the carpet and then grind it in with his shoe... No kidding. He was a pig. When I met his wife at a company function a couple of weeks after he started and told her he did that, she said that he was messy at home, too. She said she literally followed him up the stairs every morning wiping the coffee spills from his trail.

One thing I loved--he got his hair styled, not cut, and he got highlights! His stylist called one day to say she couldn't do the highlights that day because of a personal conflict... That was perfect! I was tempted to write the message out in-full, but resisted... He had slate grey hair with silver highlights. He was stunning, really quite striking. But, beauty is as beauty does and he was a heel.

The Chairman fully regretted the decision to hire this guy. They basically ignored him--shunned him--and only dragged him out to appear in front of the investment banker-types when they came in for the sales presentation while we were marketing the company--"To enhance shareholder value."

My last day there, it was disgusting. This Irish guy was on the phone with the fired President who hired him and they were gloating about their Golden Parachutes and how they had made out like bandits. Really, the laughter was evil.
When I met a bit later with the HR guy for my severance announcement and termination, I told the guy, "I'm going to be the easiest person you've had to talk to." He presented the package, which was EXTREMELY generous, I signed the paperwork and went back to my desk to finalize the packing-up. The Irish guy was on the phone, so abruptly I decided to leave without saying good-bye. Most of my friends in the executive area had already left the premises, except for the one or two who would continue with the new company.

I was driving down the road toward Naperville--it was actually the night of my last class of my last course before finishing my degree and graduating, and CA's soccer team was participating in the state tournament in Naperville that day, too. I wasn't more than a mile or so down the road when I thought, "Mariellle, you're better than this. That was a tacky way to leave--you should go back and say goodbye." Then I thought about it for a quarter second more and decided no one always gets it right, and this time I would just let the chips fall. I never looked back.

Working at S-K was a great run--great people and a great business. I put two kids through college and built up a retirement account. I had been suffering from what I liked to call ennui for a few years--which is what got me back to college. The run was over, and except for the last year I got to work for the most intelligent man I have ever met. He was kind and quietly charming--shy at first, but he totally blossomed over the years. I know he used to eavesdrop on the conversations between the executive assistants. Rather than being annoyed at our conversations and closing his door, I think he loved the gossip and perspective. I have always known that respecting my boss is paramount, and I always respected him.

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