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Chasing The American Dream

May 14, 2005

BREAKDOWN

I figured out that I’ve probably worked in the neighborhood of 5,000 days since college. And I’ve had some unbelievably horrific days. I started thinking whether yesterday was my all-time worst day in the workplace. I had to think really hard. I’ve had three days where I was almost fired and was basically on trial in front of an executive panel. Those three days would probably rank ahead of yesterday. So overall, I guess 5/12/05 comes in at #4. Emotionally, I think it ranks #1. Let me tell you what happened.

The day was normal, as normal can be around here. I’ve been posting about the environment here so you already know what’s been going on. So same ol’, same ol’ until about 6 p.m. We were supposed to have delivered some documents to the client. We had been working with the new consultants, and what should have taken an hour to wrap up took 8 hours. My good friend Slightly Askew (SA) was the person working with the consultants and the client on the documents.

So six o’clock comes around and it looks to me like we’re finally finished with the revisions and we’re ready to submit them to the client. Now bear in mind that most all of our work submitted thus far has been crap. Remember, before I arrived four weeks ago, the client and the auditors had zero confidence in our work. I’ve done my best to manage the damage control and restore some credibility. The work *has* gotten better with the addition of some people who worked with me on the previous project. The auditors and the client have repeatedly told me how thankful they are that I’m here to restore order and improve the project.

So this deliverable was our first big test. We simply *had* to get it right. We worked hard to get it in tip-top shape, and we were apparently ready to deliver it to the auditors. Now out of the blue, my ‘buddy’ the Managing Director (MD) comes in from a meeting (yes, I’ve put him to work) and declares he’s hungry because he’s had a muffin for breakfast and no lunch. I certainly didn’t blame him for being hungry because I had basically the same meals. But we had a HUGE deliverable due, and I certainly wasn’t going to join him not to mention that eating dinner would just keep me here that much longer.

Just before SA walked out with the MD, I asked her if she emailed the documents and gave the hard copies to the client. She hadn’t so I asked her to do so before she left for dinner. She said, “on its way,” and so she left. Well, hindsight’s 20/20, but I should have confirmed that the client actually got the email before she left. I soon found out they didn’t.

Five minutes after the dinner group left, the CFO came in and asked me where the documents were? I indicated to him that SA had sent the email already. He thanked me and left. A minute later, he was back. He didn’t get it. So I called SA to make sure she sent it, and she confirmed she did. I looked over at SA’s laptop and noticed the hard copies of the document. I thought they’d been delivered. I offered them to the CFO who thanked me, but then he had a question when he started shuffling through them. He noticed they were originals and not copies so I told him I’d take a look and get right back to him.

I quickly called SA to explain the situation. I could tell she was upset at not being able to take a break for even 5 minutes. She told me she’d get her dinner to-go and be right over. So I waited. Ten minutes later I got another visit from the CFO. “Anything?” “Nothing, I called and they should be here momentarily.” He left. I got more nervous because I had no control over the situation. No answer. Left a message. Called SA no answer. Another 10 minutes went by. Not a word from anyone. Called the MD, no answer, hung up. Called SA, no answer, hung up. Called the third member of the dinner party and he answered. I asked him if SA was there and he said she was. I almost swallowed the phone. WTF, she’s *still* there, I thought? Before I could even ask, he told me they were leaving now.

Distraught and defeated, I felt I had to apologize once more to the CFO because after all, if I’m the captain of this sinking ship, then I had to go down with it. I walked into the boardroom and apologized for our company looking like an ass. He reiterated to me how important the documents were and that the auditors and the audit committee were waiting for this information, and that somehow, our guys decided to eat dinner first. I mean, what could I say? I told him they were literally arriving momentarily. I apologized, told him I knew it wouldn’t do any good to make him feel better but if he had to fire me to just go ahead and do so. I made the same “I’m sorry, we suck” speech to the SVP and to the audit Managing Partner. Wait, it gets worse.

The MD walked in first with a sort of contented, I’m full, look on his face. SA came in just as I told the MD, “Ya know, we’re about to be fired!” Incredibly he said nary a word. Instead, he picks up his Blackberry and dials up someone and starts talking about a banking question. It was like he never even heard me. And then I really got caught off-guard. My dear sweet friend showed me a side of her I’d never seen. She started to yell, curse, and scream at me. This was round one. She couldn’t understand what the BFD (Big Fucking Deal) was? She couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just make copies for them or call her and get her password and send out the email? I told her she had a point and that I was guilty for that, but I didn’t want to give them the wrong information and that it needed to be right. I told her I thought she was coming right back so why do it myself? It got worse. She thought I’d blamed her for us about to be fired and that I blurted it out in front of everyone. And believe me, she was yelling. I sat there, trying to remain calm. I tried to point out that I made the comment to the MD and not to her and that it was no one’s fault. Our company, as a whole, didn’t deliver. I wasn’t blaming her and I didn’t blame her when talking to the CFO. It really didn’t matter what I said, because she was pissed and there was nothing I could do. You see, to me, that was the most upsetting thing about the whole fiasco. The fact that she was so upset. This whole fucking job has reduced us to ‘this.’

She stormed out to make copies leaving me and the MD in the room. Again, unbelievably, he didn’t say a fucking word to me. I finally suggested he talk to the CFO. I mean, he was the MD, the true head of this project and I wasn’t about to talk to those guys again. So he got up and left. SA came back and gave me round 2. That girl lit into me with so many four-letter words that I was just dumbfounded. She hated the fucking job, hated the fucking client, hated all the bullshit, hated everything, etc. She was crying. Explain as I might, but it did nothing. She was inconsolable. She stormed out to give the CFO the documents.

She came back and was still visibly upset. She told me we were meeting to go over the Purchasing cycle in 10 minutes. Now, it was already 8 o’clock and these meetings typically lasted 4-plus hours. I told her I had arranged for the meeting to be moved until the morning for her benefit and this was even before all this shit. She mentioned something to the effect that she wanted to make up for her mistake and that she was gonna do the meeting tonight. I tried in vain to tell her how difficult this whole thing was for me. I told I was trying to please the client, please the auditors, please the consultants, please the MD, and please the staff. I told her I was doing the very best I could. Right then, the MD walked in. I wondered what he’d finally have to say. His words of wisdom? “Todd, are you ready for Purchasing?”

SA excused herself and said she needed 10 minutes. I did, too. I took my papers and went into the copy room to make my copies. And then it happened. It all hit me. All the bullshit, all the hours, all the stress. I was trapped. What the fuck was I supposed to do? I so desperately thought of walking out. But knowing I was on the hook for child support and alimony made this an impossible choice. Still, I considered it. I considered all of it. And when I thought of how badly my friend was feeling, I lost it. I broke down. For the first time in all of my 5,000 days, I cried at work. I cried as I copied, sorted, and assembled the documents. It gave me time to get myself together before walking back into the room.

I was barely able to utter to the MD that I was going to the meeting. I told him I’d see him tomorrow…maybe. I ran into SA in the hall and stopped her. I told her I’d just spent the last 10 minutes crying in the copy room because I was sick at all this shit but especially sick of how badly she felt. I couldn’t even get the words out. I started bawling like a baby. And then she started in. Can you imagine? Two 43-year-old adults crying like kids. We hugged. I had hoped she believed me about how badly I felt. I think she did. We managed to compose ourselves, wiped our eyes, and trudged into the boardroom for the meeting. We broke the meeting at 10 o’clock to be continued the next day.

We got back to the room and thank god, the MD was gone. I walked SA to her car and we talked. I told her the two things that bothered me most about all the shit that went on. First and foremost was the fact that she got upset and it hurt me to see her that way. Secondly, our fearless leader could seemingly give a shit. The guy didn’t say another word to me about any of it. No apology, no nothing. Instead he got on the phone and talked banking with some other dude. We both weakly smiled knowing we had to face the music in less than 12 hours. We said goodnight and off she went.
I thought long and hard during my 40 minute drive home. This is when I figured that this was my worst emotional day at work and 4th worst overall. I also knew that I had to change my course of direction. I had to figure out another work solution and figure it out fast. I know, I know. Go ahead and yell at me. I know I’m doin’ a whole lotta bitchin’ and not a whole lotta taking control and making an effort to change things. Change WILL happen. It’s a given. Even if it means pumping out Venti non-fat Caramel Macchiatos at Starbucks. Well, it’s 6 a.m. and this post is already too long. Thanks for listening to the rant.

15 Comments:

  • You both have been through an emotional rollercoaster at that place, so your "breakdown" was just a release of all that tension.

    Hey and BTW, why are you trying to please EVERYbody???

    Enjoy your goofy coffee, relax and enjoy your weekend. Burn yourself some new tunes for the Pod.

    By Blogger Jewels, at 7:18 AM, May 14, 2005  

  • Do you think it is wise posting about work and clients?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:17 AM, May 14, 2005  

  • Anon, probably not but if I'm lucky, maybe I'll get 'dooced.'

    By Blogger Plantation, at 9:27 AM, May 14, 2005  

  • i would never yell at you for this. yes. you're doing a lot of bitchin', but that (and the crying) is probably a much needed release for you. at least you know that here there are people who will listen and sympathize. i, for one, believe that you will find a solution, maybe not right away, but soon enough to save your sanity. you put up with more shit than just about anyone i know. you are to be commended for sticking to your standards even when no one seems to appreciate all of the work you're doing. i'm glad that you ans sa hugged at the end. best wishes.

    By Blogger ropedncr, at 12:53 PM, May 14, 2005  

  • Todd, I'm sorry, but SA needs to be held accountable. She made a committment to do something, and she didn't do it. Then when you followed up with her, she still didn't do it. Then she blew you off. Basically, your sweet friend left you swinging in the wind. Friends don't do that to each other. I wasn't there, so I don't really have a right to judge, but I've been there and she was out of line. You don't put people you respect in that kind of position, and she did.

    By Blogger M, at 12:55 PM, May 14, 2005  

  • Bottom line Michelle, is that I'm responsible. I should have made sure documents were received before she left. Blame her all you want, but I'm ultimately responsible.

    By Blogger Plantation, at 8:19 PM, May 14, 2005  

  • Even so, a team is only as strong as its weakest link. (Cliche, I know.) I would have NEVER done that to my boss. It's a shitty thing to do.

    By Blogger M, at 12:11 AM, May 15, 2005  

  • I have to agree with Michelle!!! Please always remember niceness is perceived by some as weakness!! You were taken advantage of (leader or not) NO ONE should take lunch, dinner or break when there is a commitment to a client and it wouldn't fly in my corporate world.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:14 PM, May 15, 2005  

  • Sometimes a break is ABSOLUTELY necessary. Look how many mistakes, hurt feelings, and stress were caused by this project.
    Hmm..perhaps thats why I'm a low-low totem pole civil servant.

    By Blogger Gatsby, at 4:18 PM, May 15, 2005  

  • think TOUGH. think like Trump. it's business, not personal. people need to get their fucking clocks cleaned. if you're in a position to do it, and they deserve it for something they did or did not do, you have to come down with the hatchet. it's business. if people can't hack it (har-har, pun) and break down and call you names, deflect blame, etc. they need to step aside. dog eat dog my man. it's tough being in bid-ness, only the strong survive. i hope you can separate the personal from business and can start swinging some fucking bats at these people. good luck.

    By Blogger Bubbles, Ink., at 5:36 PM, May 15, 2005  

  • how long till you post about your crush on the SA and then the post about how she led you on and turned you down, etc etc ?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:36 PM, May 15, 2005  

  • Anon, not gonna happen cuz I don't have one. Read the SA post, smartass.

    By Blogger Plantation, at 11:48 PM, May 15, 2005  

  • I agree with Michelle!

    I'm sorry things suck so much right now. Feel free to vent all you want. That's one of the things blogs are for.

    And who is this anon? Do you have an enemy out there? craziness.

    By Blogger girl from florida, at 3:47 PM, May 16, 2005  

  • This is my first and probably last post. I am not a blogger, a writer or even particularly prolific. The fact is, this is a site devoted to Plantation’s perspective of life and those things within it that affect him.

    For the record and for my dear friend who I’m sure already knows this....

    I try to spend most of my energy making my life and the life of those around me more enjoyable. That I have allowed this job to affect my ability to maintain that is something that disturbs me greatly. As for that night, I do not regret getting something to eat as I knew we would be there until quite late, I did send the email as was requested and I took quite personal what was said when I returned. My reaction to that is my regret; which Plantation is well aware of.

    When sleep was had and sanity returned, it became painfully clear that remarks made were not personal; that our friendship is stronger than a physically and emotionally draining job and that Plantation is blessed with many who care.

    I’m very happy to see so many have made a wise choice to care about someone who truly is deserving of it.

    SA

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:07 PM, May 16, 2005  

  • SA, Your one and only comment is pure gold. Tks for braving these waters. Business sux, especially over there. It will eventually come and go, but friendship endures. PT

    By Blogger Plantation, at 3:00 AM, May 17, 2005  

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