Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Just another tricky day for you me

Wednesday, July 5, 2006, 10:15am
Steve's office

"I need to talk to you," Peggy from finance barks, squeezing my door frame with her right hand, as if to keep from being pulled away.

I have an open door policy. In my two years at this job, I don't think I've ever refused to meet with anyone. Of course, that does not mean that you can just barge in whenever you want; I organize my day just like everyone else does, and interruptions throw me off schedule.

Part of Bonnie's job is to be my gatekeeper, to redirect people like Peggy so I can stay on track. It's not easy. Everyone's got an emergency; every problem is life or death, and some people aren't polite about it. Sure, Bonnie takes coffee breaks, and uses the bathroom, but she's good about telling me before she leaves her desk--and she hasn't. So how did Peggy get past her?

There's no way I'm going to ask her what the problem is. If I do that, she'll break out the violin and give me the saddest sob story you've ever heard, and I'll be a cold-hearted bastard if I dismiss her. The trick is to deflect her gently, to subtely remind her of the rules.

"Peg, I'm actually right in the middle of a contract negotiation. Why don't you talk to Bonnie and tell her I'd like her to set up a meeting for this afternoon?"

"I'm gonna walk right outta here," she says, her voice quivering. "He's driving me crazy! I can't take it anymore! I'm gonna look for another job!"

So much for redirecting her. Peg is overly emotional at times, but she does seem very upset. I sure wish I knew where the hell Bonnie was.

"Who is driving you crazy?"

"Jared! He's waiting for me to balance a file and he keeps calling me every five minutes to see if I'm done. I have other work to do, Steve! He's always doing that. Why does he keep bothering me? He's not my supervisor--"

Jared works in our payroll department. He is an amazing worker. He'll do whatever project they throw at him, no matter how early he has to come in or how late he has to stay. When he took a week's vacation, we required two full time employees to produce the same amount of work.

The problem is, he is also a head case. He walks around the office singing gospel songs, argues loudly with anyone who disagrees with him, and regularly sends out rambling, stream-of-consciousness emails complaining bitterly about his working conditions--normally copying the CEO, the VP of Human Resources, me, and anyone else he can think of.

After such a tirade, I'll call him into my office, and he'll smile and tell me not to worry about it. "I was just having a bad day," he'll tell me.

"I know he can be tough to work with--"

"So do something about it, Steve!"

"Peg, I really need you to set up an appointment with Bonnie."

"She's not there!"

My cell phone rings. Maybe Bonnie had an emergency and had to leave; I'll bet this is her. I pick it up.

"Steve, I need to talk to you right away. That woman is going to be the death of me! May she burn in hell! God fogive me," Jared shouts, so loudly that I instinctively pull the phone away from my ear.

Bad move.

"Is that him?!" yells Peggy.

"Is Peggy in there with you?" Jared squeals. "What is she doing there?"

"I was in here first," Peggy says. "You can call him back later, because I came in here first."

Da-dum, goes my email alert. That will be from legal; I was supposed to have the contract reviewed two hours ago.

I wish I could talk to these two together; it would make things easier.

Wait a minute--I can!

I hit the speaker button and place my cell phone on the desk. "Everyone take a deep breath. Enough is enough," I say, slowly. They fall silent, and it looks like things are under control. For now.

"We're not going to resolve all of this right now," I continue. "But Jared, I assume you are waiting for the deposits to be released so you can post the tax payments."

"Right," he says.

"When are the taxes due?"

"Steve, I don't want to wait until the last minute--"

"Friday!" Peggy shouts, so loudly that her voice reverberates. "We don't even have to release them until tomorrow!"

"If we wait until the very last second and then something goes wrong--" Jared shoots back.

"Enough!" The room goes silent.

"Peg, how much time do you need to balance the file?"

"It will be done before I go to lunch at noon."

"Jared, if you don't receive confirmation by 1:00, call me. Not her. Okay?"

"Okay, Steve."

I swing around in my chair and check my calendar. "I want both of you in here at 3:00 today to discuss what's going on between you two."

"Steve, he's constantly-"

"Three O'clock, Peg."

I wonder where the hell Bonnie is.