The Czar of Harassment–Part 1
Norbert Dodge breathed a sigh of relief. The interview was easy. He expected to be grilled on accounting procedures, but Al Leonard mainly talked about himself and football.
Now, football was a subject Norbert could discuss in detail. He and Al sealed their bond when they did a play-by-play account of last Sunday's Jets game. Both had been at Meadowlands Stadium cheering their team. So before Norbert knew it, Al was offering him the job and Norbert accepted on the spot.
Norbert wasn't exactly sure what to expect, but he figured he'd muddle his way through. Al mentioned something about supervising a group of three women. Although Norbert had never supervised anyone, and he didn't relate well to women, he wasn't worried. He didn't have to like these people–just tolerate them.
Al also said something about a computer system. Norbert's experience was primarily simple record-keeping, using a manual system. How hard could it be? Norbert figured he'd worry about that later.
During the first week, Al introduced Norbert to his group. First, there was Mimi, the group leader and most tenured employee. Mimi was about five years from retirement and an outstanding performer. Next there was Lettie, a middle-aged Jewish woman who had been with the company for about six years. She was a solid, reliable worker, whose sense of humor always kept the group on an even keel. Finally, there was Marsha. Marsha, also a competent performer, was in her late 20s. Marsha was Caucasian and had married a man from Kenya after a three-year courtship during college. She and her husband, Iman, were excited about having their first child, which was due in two months.
"Mimi, I'd appreciate it if you'd show Norbie, here, the ropes. Walk him through the procedure books, and acquaint him with our equipment," Al requested.
"Sure, Big Al," Mimi smiled. "I'll get right on it."
Mimi spent the week with Norbert. Each time she'd show him a new procedure, his eyes would glaze over in a trance-like state. She wasn't sure if she was helping the Dalai Lama or an outpatient from the St. Matthews Mental Hospital. When Mimi would review material, Norbert would wave her off with a "Yeah, yeah, yeah, you told me that. So what else do you have to show me?"
Despite his assurances, it was clear to Mimi that Norbert had no inkling of what was going on. Finally, when she tried to pin him down on a technical matter, he snapped, "What's an old bag like you doing still working anyway?"
Mimi was hurt and offended and kept to herself after that. "Fine, go hang yourself, you jerk. Try to figure out the error reports on your own," she thought, as the pile on his desk mushroomed past eye level.
When Lettie informed Norbert she would be taking a personal day for Yom Kippur, Norbert sneered, "I think we have too many kikes working here. With all of you out for your stupid holiday, we'll only have a skeleton crew. We might as well shut down. It's no wonder I can't get my work done!"
Lettie was so appalled that she immediately told Mimi. Mimi shared her "old bag" experience and assured Lettie, "Listen, honey, it's only a matter of time. He'll work himself out of a job. Just ignore him."
Al began to realize that Norbert was not performing to expectation when reports were late and other department heads complained about poor service. He counseled Norbert on several occasions, but Norbert didn't seem to improve. Each day grew progressively worse, and Norbert's incompetence became increasingly evident. Every time Al would bring up reports that required certain formulas, Norbert would turn the conversation to point spreads on the next football game.
During his third week, Norbert noticed the women heading out for lunch with presents in their hands. Several women from other departments were joining them. "Where's the party?" he asked.
"Oh, we're giving Marsha a shower. Her baby is due in about a month," Lettie smiled warmly as she glanced toward Marsha.
Norbert shuddered and shook his head at Marsha. "I don't know how you could let that slimy African touch you. Ughhh!" he bellowed, contorting his face and shaking all over. The women just stared at him in disbelief until Lettie gently suggested they be on their way.
Al realized Norbert was beyond saving. He did some after-the-fact checking with Norbert's former employers and realized Norbert was in way over his head. Al decided that Norbert had to go before he could do any more damage. He called the human resources manager, Marianne Metheny, for help.
"Marianne, I've made a huge mistake. I know it's only been 30 days, but I need to cut my losses. I've hired an incompetent guy, and I need to get rid of him right now," he informed her.
"Have you been counseling him on performance?" she asked.
"Yes," Al sighed, "and he gets worse instead of better." "In what areas?"
"Technical. He's just plain technically incompetent," Al said sadly.
"How come you're finding that out now? Didn't you identify his competence during the interview process and follow up with reference checks?" Marianne probed.
Al was redfaced. "Marianne, I got snowed."
"How? You've been through interview training. You know all the traps."
"I know, but somehow we got off track. We got to talking about football. I have no excuses. I guess I've been so lucky with all the other employees in the group. I just liked him and thought he would work out great," Al admitted with embarrassment.
"How about his supervisory skills?" Marianne asked.
"I don't know. I haven't talked to his group and no one has come to me."
"Maybe you'd better check on that as well before you do anything else. I know one of them applied for his job. I just want to be sure there is no attempt to sabotage," Marianne explained.
"They aren't the types," Al said, defending his troops. "They're all good, loyal employees."
"Fine, but let's just investigate."
"Okay, I'll talk with them," Al agreed.
To find out what Al learned click here