Thursday, February 17, 2005

Not making the grade

Monday, February 7, 10:00am.

"This isn't right, Steve." says Andrew from underwriting. "Commercial lines was supposed to finish up this report. That's who you assigned it to. Then I come in this morning and I see Mary from my department working on it again. She already spent five or six HOURS on this last week! We DID our part, now we're doing someone else's?"

"Wait a minute," I say. "This is the project I assigned last week, right? The one I need for the board of directors tomorrow?"


"So why is Mary working on it now?"

"Judy from commercial lines is out today. Again. She's out more than she's here, and every time she takes a day off, she dumps her work on someone else. Last night she left a note for Mary asking her to finish up the report."

"Bonnie, get Larry from commercial lines in here, please."

"Andrew, listen. Mary was working on the report, she knew the background, she was part of the team that prepared it up to that point. If Judy wasn't going to be in, Mary wasn't a bad choice to finish it."

"So why give it to Judy at all? You know she's not going to come in! Why bother giving it to her? Why not just give it all to my department?"

"Andrew. She's not out that much."

"She's NEVER here! And it always falls on MY department when she's not!"

Larry walks in.

"Larry, Judy is out today, right?"


"Are you aware that she asked Mary to finish up that report for her?"

"Yeah. I'm a three-person department, so when Judy is out I can't spare anyone."

"If you need someone from another department to do work for you, it ought to come from you, not her."

"This was fifteen minutes' worth of work!"

"It was?"

I look at Andrew.

"That's irrelevant," he says.

"So it's done?"

"Well, yeah, but come on, Larry, she's here maybe half the time. She's always asking Mary to do her work."

"She's missed six days so far this year," Larry says. "Her son has cancer and her husband is having gall bladder surgery today. She's having a rough time right now."

"I didn't know about the son," says Andrew. "He has CANCER? Is it serious?"

"It's CANCER!" shouts Larry.

"All right, Larry," I say.

"But fine, fine, next time she needs fifteen minutes' worth of help, I'll make sure I stop what I'm doing to ask you," Larry says.

"That's right. Because it's not my job to staff your department."

"No one's asking you to staff my department! It was fifteen damn minutes! You're exaggerating, just like you exaggerated how many days she's missed! Because of two family members in the hospital!"

My IM goes off.

JERRY: I nailed her all night long!

STEVE: when?

JERRY: LAST night, night before..

STEVE: where?

JERRY: her house friday, my house saturday and last night

"......MILKING it! She's always got some drama going on!"

"You think she's MILKING it? You want to speak to her doctor? You wanna call her at the HOSPITAL, where her husband is having SURGERY? Because of a fifteen-minute project?"

"No, Larry, I don't. But next week, it'll be something else. And it'll be MY department picking up the slack. I'm telling you, Steve, this is really unfair."

STEVE: YOUR house? no no no man

"Gentlemen," I say, looking up from my screen. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were bickering over nothing. This was a project I needed for the board of directors for tomorrow. So first of all, please have the report to me right away if it's done," I say to Andrew.

"Secondly, Larry, if you need help, again, YOU should be the one to ask the appropriate supervisor. And Andrew, if your group is unavailable to do it, say "no". You're allowed to say no. But we are a team here, and if there is an urgent priority that the company needs, I expect whomever is available to help.

"But that was assigned to HIS group. So they drop the ball, and it falls on ME?"

"You know what that sounds like to me, Andrew?"


"Remember that kids' story, where the two brothers lived in a log cabin, and one brother had to cut the firewood, and the other had to carry it in? And the one brother cut it, but the other one neglected to bring it in, and the first brother said, 'No way am I doing your job for you. That's YOUR job.' And a blizzard came, and it kept snowing harder and harder, and the second brother wouldn't get the firewood, and the first one refused to help, and the first brother ended up freezing to death?"


"When we have a job to do, a critical job, I expect us all to work together. You wanna discuss the ramifications and repercussions of who did what percentage of the work, I'll have that discussion - AFTER the emergency has passed and the work is done. But I'm telling you now, you're gonna have a hard time getting me very angry over fifteen minutes, and six days for sick husbands and sons."

"Well, it's just wrong, Steve."

"What's wrong about it? Should we have left the report undone, so I can go to the board of directors with incomplete information? Is that all you're looking to do, just make sure it's someone else's problem, and then walk away?"

"Just assign it to my group next time, Steve. Just give it to me, since I'm gonna be doing it anyway."

"My girl worked on it just as much as yours did," Larry shouts.

JERRY: She stayed over last night
JERRY: i think i am in love

"Yeah, right!" Andrew spits back.

"OK, Andrew. Next time one of your employees takes a Monday off for a hangover, you're gonna hear from me!"

"MY employees don't call out! YOUR employees-"

"QUIET!!!" I shout.

"This is NOT a day care center! Andrew, the attendance of Larry's department is not your concern. If he asks you to help with a project, and you can't help, say 'no'. But if you do, I better not see your employees playing Solitaire on the computer.

"Larry, it's not right for your employees to be asking employees from another department to help out with work. I know they work right next to each other, but you have to keep that in mnd. Alright, guys?"

They nod slowly.

"That is all."

They leave.

STEVE: i think we need to have lunch again my friend