Friday, February 04, 2005

Ballbreaking: The aftermath

Wednesday, January 19, 5:05pm. Dom comes to my office.

"What was going on with Rob? He flew outta your office like a big bird."

I show him the email. He laughs.

"Did you fire him?"

"No. I just made him sweat it out for a while."

"Is that why you made an appointment for a day in advance? And wouldn't change it?"


"OUCH. That's harsh."

"Bet he won't do it again, though."

"I know. Rob is a prick. Did you put a memo to the file?"

"We're doing that tomorrow."

"Because then, if he does it again, you can fire him."


"You wanna have a drink with me and Tim tonight?"


"The girl I met the other night."

"You're dating a girl named TIM?"

My phone rings. I probably shouldn't answer. After 5:00, it's usually bad news. Either that, or it's Stephanie. Sometimes she calls my office line right after 5 to ask how my day went.

"This is Steve."



"Steven, Steven, Steven. WHAT have you learned today?" He sounds angry.

"Well, let's see. Not to piss up a rope, maybe?"

"Funny you should mention pissing up ropes, Steve. I just fielded an angry phone call from someone in your office!"

"Is that right?"

"Phil says that you are circumventing his authority."

"I spoke to him. I offered to have him come to the meeting; he refused."

"He says you only offered because he called. And what did this employee do, anyway?"

"I only OFFERED because he CALLED?"

"He says you didn't keep him in the loop."

"But, of course, he knew all about it, because that's why he called you."

"But HE had to call YOU."

"I would have called him. This is DUMB, Dan."

"Did you call HR?"

"They know all about it."

"What did the employee do, Steve?"

I read him the email.

Long pause. "Fucker," he says, softly.

"As far as I'm concerned, he got off light. I could have fired him."

"I would've fired him on the spot. Especially in your case, where you're new and trying to mark your territory."

"Exactly. These guys have to learn that I'm not a substitute teacher."

"I know. But Steve, this whole nonsense about making the appointment and making him sweat it out? That's just silly. For something like this, if you want to fire them, do it. I'll back you up. And if you want to rip him from stem to stern, rip him. But do it right away, and bring HR into the loop. AND the supervisor. They can't trump you, but they have a right to know."

"All right, Dan."

He's right, I suppose. If it were me, I would want to know if one of my employees was being ripped by the boss. But if he told me after the fact, I think I'd be ok with it. Phil is just being a candyass.

"Just between you and me, next time somebody does something like that, fire them. You need to mark your territory. Did you know I fired three people in my first week as CEO?"


"Yes, three."

"Things like this?"

"Borderline cases. But I had to mark-my-terr-i-tor-y!"

"I see."

"Steve, I've got to run. Just don't pull a silly stunt like this again. Just fire the guy next time. I'll back you."

"Ok, Dan."

"Carry on."



"You did WHAT?"

"I told you, Steph. I ripped him a new asshole."

"You made him wait a whole DAY?"

"Yeah, why?"

She curls her lip. "Steve, that's cruel!"

"And what about calling me an asshole? That's not cruel?"

"That's stupid and childish. It doesn't justify you being stupid and childish back."

"Bet he won't do it again, will he?"

"If you ran him over with a freight train, he wouldn't do it again. Does that justify it?"

"That's a good idea! Where were you when I needed you?"

She tilts her head at me. "I swear, Steve, when you tell me about what you do at work, you remind me of..."

"I remind you of who?"

"Never mind."


"Al Pacino in Scarface."

"Steph, come ON."

"Say helloo to mah liddel friend," she says, in a mock hispanic accent.

"So I should let this guy walk all over me."

"NO! You SHOULDN'T! I know you have to assert your authority to send a message. But making him wait was cruel. His productivity was probably shot that whole day!"

"Dan Johnson told me the same thing."

"So I hope you learned your lesson."

"And I hope YOU'RE done breaking my balls."