how many managers does it really take?

Five, actually. Well, five and a half.

Dorey/Slimy Pants
The General

So we’ve addressed Rodeo, right? I like Rodeo, for the most part, because he pretty much leaves me alone. I have told him that I can’t stand Slimy Pants and Rodeo has promised me that I won’t really have to interact with him. Except, of course, that Rodeo gets fired. Someone’s head has to roll for the fact that the group has just lost a major account, and Rodeo is it.

Dorey steps in, except Slimy Pants has noticed that Dorey is a girl and SP has a deep-seated mistrust of the capabilities of anyone who lacks testicles, so he gives her lots of oversight. Somewhere around month three, when SP wants to start talking about renewing my client, he and Dorey take me across the street to a funny little Deli in another building. We all procure our food. He drives a 2-seater Audi, but can’t be bothered to pick up the tab.

Ooh, interruption. So in my first week, SP takes me to lunch. We go to a Thai place, and he spends most of the lunch grilling me about my mixed culture/religion marriage and explaining how he picked out his wife. He had success criteria, and she happened to meet all of them. I wonder if he asked for a resume submission from each of the candidates… and how on earth he managed to meet HER success criteria, because she’s beautiful and he has a nasty habit of smoothing his moustache with both fingers. Very icky. And there are bobby-pins coming from his beard. Very distracting.

Anyway, so we go to this lunch, and SP wants to know exactly how it is that I’m going to get the client to renew at the same level of licenses they purchased last year. I calmly point out that I won’t be renewing them at the same level as last year, indeed that there is no way in hell that the client will purchase 7,500 licenses when they aren’t even using 2,000, and there aren’t 7,500 people in the organization that even need the licenses. I pout out that, if we push for a renewal at 7,500, we will very likely lose the client. The only reason why we haven’t lost the client already is that we’ve pushed through an important initiative that meets several of their needs and secures continued funding for them. It is on that basis and that basis alone that they will even consider doing business with us the next year. The client was oversold, and SP hates the fact that I keep repeating some variation on the theme: they were oversold, if we don’t meet their needs, they won’t keep us.

Here’s the problem. No one, and I mean NO ONE tells SP no. Particularly not someone who was born sans testicles. He doesn’t believe me. He argues with me, and every point he raises, I calmly slap down. The reality is that he’s not getting the same million out of the client that he did last year. He’s going to have to be content with about a quarter of that and the knowledge that his division has retained a prestigious client. Slimy Pants is a nightmare, but the promised dawn is that he is slated to start his own company (with around a million dollars of start-up funds from his uncle, who is the head of TxInc). Some time around May, they have finally interviewed and hired our new VP.

Right around that time, they send in the head of HR to interview the team about the outgoing VP, the very same Slimy Pants. Ooh, what a fun meeting that is. Basically one person pipes up with a gentle indictment of Slimy Pants and all hell breaks loose. We can’t talk fast enough about what a creep he is, how he is prone to screaming at us, being unreasonable and so on. HR gets an earful, and seems to get what kind of disfunctional, uncomfortable nightmare we’ve been working in.

Shortly thereafter, our new VP arrives on board – The General. He’s not very tall, and perhaps not very bright, as he walks in the first day with cuts and bruises everywhere. Me, being me, I ask him what the hell happened to him. Well, there he was, putting in new windows in his house and a window fell, so he tried to catch it. Okay, General. Not very bright. Gratefully, he proved more intelligent than trying to catch a falling window suggests… all except for the fact that he is Republican.

The General, if nothing else, knows how to inspire loyalty and build a team. If what follows sounds enamored, well, it probably is. The six months he was running our division were fabulous. He invested in us personally, spent time with us on a social level, encouraged fun to balance out hard work, recognized effort and was otherwise a fabulous VP in every way. We had big contracts on the horizon and incredibly high expectations for growth. He spent the first two months getting to know the team, during which time I reported directly to him, and then he reorganized the team, giving promotions to Dorey and Tink (both of whom deserved the recognition). Dorey became director of proposals and marketing, Tink became director of operations. The client management team, of which I was a member, got transferred to Tink’s portfolio. We added a VP for business development, Rooster. (Though it isn’t immediately apparent, Rooster is an avid chewer of tobacco. His alias derives from a brand of chewing tobacco, though it probably isn’t the brand he actually chews.)

Everything is fabulous. Okay, so my job description is really more that of an admin assistant – I’m still doing government grunt work, but I love my team, we’re friends as well as co-workers and the working environment has much to recommend it. Conversations happen with the doors open. Everyone trusts everyone else. But there are storm clouds in paradise, because we aren’t going to be meeting our target of 40% growth in 2004, the blame for which is falling on the General. Our financials don’t stay consistent for more than about a week.

November. The General is fired. It looks like Rooster is fired too. Tink and Dorey can’t save the General, but they go to bat for Rooster. Rooster ends up staying and is the defacto leader of the group for all of a few seconds, when the Business Development guy (We’ll call him Stifler) they’ve brought on board to work for the Rooster is immediately promoted to VP, perhaps on the recommendation of the General. I never reported to Stifler, so he doesn’t exactly fit into this post, so take what you will from his nickname and I’ll get around to him later. He lasts maybe two weeks before he is fired?

At this point, the original four – the PSquared crew – are pretty shell shocked. We’ve decided to take a lesson from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: be humble. In other words, if you keep your head down, you might actually keep it.

The client management team is still reporting to Tink, and she does her damnedest to protect us from upper management. There is a lot of protection to do. In retrospect, the first clue that she was soon to follow the General out of the company came when client management – clearly an operational function – was transferred to the Rooster, the VP of business development for our division. The transfer meeting is painful. They call Greta and I into Tink’s office and start to explain the transition. I’m clearly furious – Tink is doing a good job, and the transition is gratuitous at best. Rooster asks me to express verbally what is all over my body language. I decline. He pushes further. I open my mouth and get about a sentence and a half out when Rooster interrupts me starts drawing circles on the white-board. He starts pontificating about how there are three ways people can deal with change, and we are all a mixture of the three, but here is the grown-up circle, here is the adolescent circle and here is the child circle and he hopes I can put myself in the grown-up circle.

Note, I was in the grown-up circle, with my mouth appropriately shut, until you pushed me you pompous bag of hot air. Not that I’m still angry about it or anything. Tink, who can read me pretty damn well by this point, sees all of this going across my face (Rooster is too busy at the white-board to see anything but his fucking circles), but can do nothing.

For the most part, Rooster is a perfectly lovely man. Perhaps a little bi-polar, but Rooster genuinely cared for our best interests. But that in no way mitigates the tedium of meetings that he held with the client management team and the sales team. In contrast to Tink’s meetings, which dealt with what was common and kept the individual stuff for individual meetings, Rooster’s meetings would go on and on forever and were totally irrelevant. He waxed poetic, he pontificated. But he also offerd to drive me downtown to pick up an important document for an upcoming deliverable…

I get into his car and there is a water bottle filled with murky brown liquid. I inquire, because I can’t leave well enough alone. He explains that this is his temporary spittoon. All that brown liquid is tobacco spit. And I come really close to puking all over the inside of his Denali. I might puke right now, just thinking about it.

Then Tink is fired outright, and I’m told I can either deal or move on. So a few weeeks later, I move on. I’ll leave that story for a new post…

how many managers does it really take?

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