Early in my career, I moved from California to Illinois. I soon realized that I needed an MBA to advance in this market. I enrolled in Loyola University. Two years later I had my diploma in hand. My coworkers decorated my office with streamers, balloons and a banner that said ‘Congratulations!’ That day, my boss, Roger, walked into my office. He looked around and asked if it was my birthday. I said no, I just received my MBA. He said, ‘You got your MBA?!’ I said, ‘Yes, you’ve been signing my tuition reimbursement papers for two years!’ He congratulated me and continued to discuss the reason he had come into my office in the first place. When we were finished, he got up and walked out, throwing his head to the side and saying ‘Happy Birthday!’
It’s not like he had a lot of direct reports, maybe five or six others. He had literally been signing my paperwork for the program for two years. Months later he told me he had come home late from a business trip. He walked into his house and when he closed the door there was an echo. He turned on the light and the entire contents of the house were gone. That included his wife and children. As he’s telling me the story, I was reminded of my Happy Birthday experience with him and really could feel no sympathy whatsoever.
There were other instances at that company that fall under the same category (callousness, lack of empathy, narcissism). When I first started, I was in a meeting discussing bids that I had received for a project. I wanted to go with the middle one because I felt the quality would be better overall. One of Roger’s colleagues incredulously said, ‘You are obviously not Jewish!’ Some one had to explain to me later what that meant.
And one more story from that chapter of my life. We were a subsidiary of another company. The President and his entourage were coming to tour our facility. The week prior to the visit, the place was humming with vendors bringing in rented plants, painting the hallways and bathrooms, etc. The carefully orchestrated preparedness had the facility looking bright and shiny. After the visit, vendors came back to take away the plants and other décor. It was at this time that I realized they had painted only the areas that the visitors would see. The women’s bathroom remained untouched.
Ok, one more story. I was organizing a trip as an incentive to our sales team. The event would be held in Nassau, Bahamas. I had much of the planning completed when I got a call from the corporate president’s office stating that they had a yacht in Nassau and would like for us to use it for one of the parties. It was irritating that they would force me to do this given that much of the planning had already been done. With one of my vendors, we flew out to Nassau for a final site inspection. I needed to see the yacht to figure out how to incorporate it into the event schedule. At the harbor, I couldn’t find it. The slip was empty. I went to the harbormaster and was told that it had burned down several months earlier. Can you imagine? The corporation was big enough that the people forcing me to have an event there, didn’t even know. What if I hadn’t done a site inspection?
After three years in Chicagoland I decided I wanted to move back to California. Just before the move, I received a call from a headhunter for a position in the City. I interviewed for it and narrowly didn’t get the job. So, I called the moving company and with my future husband and two dogs in tow, headed west. About a month after I was back I got a call from the same headhunter. The company I had interviewed with wanted me to come back and do the marketing for their international side. It would require a lot of travel overseas. They would pay to move me back to Chicago. I spent a sleepless night debating. I had just got back to California, I didn’t like Illinois in general (there were a lot of people like Roger there) and I was somewhat sick of travelling. The only thing tempting was the international travel, I hadn’t done very much of that yet. Alas, California won over international travel and here I still am.
Roger that. Over and out.
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Thoughts that are alien to any of my other projects can be found here.