Monday, November 14, 2005

I suppose one more bang for old time's sake is out of the question?

October 5, 2005, 10:00am
Human Resources Department
Mary's office

"Steve, I have Lynda from corporate HR on the phone."

"Good morning, Lynda."

"Hi, Steve."

"Lynda, did you bring me back a pineapple?"

"I'm sorry?"

"You went on your honeymoon. To Hawaii. Didn't you?"

"Yes. I wasn't aware you wanted a pineapple," she intones.

"I was kidding."

"Had I known you wanted one..."

What the fuck is wrong with this chick? Oh, and so much for starting off a difficult call on a happy note.

"Lynda! I was just kidding!"

"I see."

"So what can I do for you ladies?"

"Steve, what is this plan you have with Lila?" Lynda says through the speaker, her voice scolding and impatient, as if she were a librarian and I had an overdue book.

The impulse is to defend oneself against an obvious attack like that one, or to start off with an "um" or a "well". I don't do it. She asked a question, and I'm going to answer it just as quickly as she asked, and that's all I'm going to do.

"I want to hire her back for underwriting."

"She's not eligible for rehire, Steve."

"What do you mean, she's not eligible?"

Mary is strictly an accessory at this point, whipping her head back and forth between me and the speaker phone as each party speaks. Yes, I know exactly what Lynda means. But I have no intention of making this easy.

"She walked out on her job, Steve. Our policy is very clear on this. Any employee who abandons their job is not eligible for rehire!"

"Lynda, I have spoken to Lila personally and I am satisfied that she has addressed the issues that led to the .... incident you're speaking of."

"That doesn't matter."

"It does matter if we have an employee that would do an exceptional job of underwriting for us, and for a slightly lower-than-usual salary, and we throw the opportunity away."

"She walked off the job. With no notice. She left us in the lurch! She-"

"I am satisfied that's not going to happen again! Do you really think I'd be wasting my time on this if there were ANY chance it wouldn't work out?"

"So you can guarantee there won't be a problem?"

"I can't guarantee something like that. I can't guarantee that you won't run off and join al Qaeda tomorrow. I can't guarantee the building won't get hit by lightning. But I can tell you for sure that Lila is no more likely to walk out than any other employee."

Pause. "If we're going to make an exception to this policy, we're going to need approvals."

"Send it over, I'll sign it."

"What did you mean by, 'a lower-than-usual salary'?"

"In a case like this, there's nothing wrong with being extra careful. So I've told Lila that I would offer her $32,000 as a starting salary, and that I would give her a 90-day review, and if there were no issues whatsoever, I would agree to an increase of up to 20% at that time."

"That would put her at-"

"Thirty-eight six," I finish. "Still well below normal underwriter pay. And trust me, she'll work harder than most of the people over there."

"Why the extra conditions? You said she's going to be fine, Steve. Didn't you?"

"Yes I did."

"So why the stipulations?"

"Why do people sign prenuptial agreements? They sign them just in case. If something goes wrong, and we're within the 90-day window, we terminate her immediately. She's well aware of the conditions. I basically told her this is sudden-death overtime."

"The conditions do help. But this position calls for one to three years' underwriting experience. Does Lila have one to three years' underwriting experience?" Lynda asks. She knows the answer too; evidently she has about as much interest as I do in making this easy.

"She can do the job."

"So she doesn't have the experience!"

"I'll make a deal with you. I don't tell you about human resources, and you don't tell me about underwriting. Fair enough?"

Heavy sigh. Yes, she disagrees, but she also realizes she has no valid counter-point. This is looking good.

"What about Kevin, the underwriting manager? Does he approve of this?"

Definitely! I believe his exact words were, "Lila? You mean the hot one with the nice ass? Oh HELL yeah!"

"One hundred percent."

"I don't like the precedent this sets, Steve. What kind of message does this send to the other employees?"

"Everyone LOVED Lila around here. Dom and I took a lot of heat for the whole deal. Everybody blames US, not her. They'd welcome her back with open arms."

"I'm going to document that we advised you strongly against it."

"Fair enough. I'm planning on bringing her in for an interview. Should I have Mary set that up?"

"Sure," says Lynda.


Steve's office

"This is Steve."

"Steve, Steve, Steve."

"Dan, how are you?"

"What have you learned today, my friend?"

"The toast always lands on the carpet butter side down."

"Ha! Pessimistic, are we? That's unlike you!"

"It was the first thing that came to mind."

"All that means is you were being honest."


"Steve, what's this I hear about you rehiring your assistant?"

"I'm bringing her back as an underwriter."

"HR is very nervous about this, you know."

"Of course they're nervous. They're professional ass-coverers. If they're not sounding the death knell about something, they're not doing their job, and then THEY'RE expendable."

"Professional ass-coverers!" he repeats. "Yes, yes. If there were an ass-covering olympics, HR people would win all the gold medals. But it doesn't mean they don't make a good point at times."

"I'm absolutely convinced that she's going to do a great job for us. I wouldn't be sticking my neck out otherwise."

"You aren't still sleeping with her, are you, Steve?"

"No sir."

"Good. I heard about how she left last time. This girl is too young and immature for you. And if she's going to come back and work for you, that's even more reason to stay away."

"I agree. I've already had this discussion with her. She knows the ground rules. And I'm seeing someone else, anyway."

"I'm going to trust you on this, Steve."

"I'm sure she can do the work. She-"

"I don't need to hear the details. If you vouch for her, that's all I need to know. This company is built on strong people, and we need strong managers to find those people. Strong MANAGERS, Steve, not strong HR people. HR is the filter that gets the worst people out. It's your job to pick the gold out from the iron pyrite."

"Iron Pyrite. You mean Fools' Gold?"

"EXACTLY, Fools' Gold! The old west and all that. I like that you are taking a strong stand on this. I like that you are fighting for what you want."

"Thank you."

"I just better not hear about any problems, Steve. I mean it. I better not hear of this again. Is that understood?"


"Carry on."