Office Madness

Bill owns a small business. He would like to make it grow. He would like to go to the business conference to promote his new product…but he can’t depend on his staff to run things while he’s gone!

Things are a mess in the office. Mary is complaining that Rick has made some remarks to her, put downs with sexual overtones. She wants Bill to talk to Rick about his behaviors. John, a trusted employee for over twenty years complains that the new guy, James, a very talented young man with extensive technical skills is trying to make him look bad. James says, "who needs this? I can get a better job someplace else." George, who has been very productive in the past, is slacking. George says, "nobody else is pulling weight around here, why should I do other people’s work"? Jean and Phyllis constantly gossip about others in the office. Others complain to Bill and want him to do something about the gossipmongers.

Bill spends more time being a referee for his employees than he does promoting his new product. He asks himself, "don’t they know that if I succeed, we all benefit. Can’t they work out their little grievances themselves? Bill puts out a memo. It reads:

To Whom It May Concern:

I Quit!

Totally dismayed, his employees call a meeting to figure out the meaning of Bill’s memo. When they come to ask Bill what this means, Bill tells them that he can either continue to referee their altercations or he can promote his business. He tells them he’s quit being their referee, then reveals his plan to them.

He offers each of his employees a $500 bonus to come up with a solution to their own inter-office problems.

Mary is the first one to come to Bill to collect her $500. She explains what she did to solve her problem with Rick. While Rick’s remarks to her are annoying, she knows he poses no serious threat to her safety. When Rick whispered his remarks to Mary, she repeated them ver batim, including the gutter language, loud enough for all present to hear, and then asked if he eats with that mouth. Rick had embarrassed her and she embarrassed him in return. Rick apologized to Mary and began to treat her with more respect.

John was the next to claim his bonus. He related to Bill how he’d solved his problem with the young tech whiz.

John was well liked by just about everyone in the office. He wisely recognized that James was threatened by his rapport with the others. James was not well liked, only tolerated because of his knowledge and skill. The office was not a pleasant place for James.

In an effort to make himself look good at John’s expense, James took credit for something that John had actually done. Only James knew that John had supplied an important piece of the complicated solution that he was taking credit for.

In private, John told James, how much he admired the younger man’s knowledge and skills. John offered to help James with his image problem in the office and to promote him to some of the others who were tired of his superior attitude. John has the wisdom to know that if you want others to treat you well, it might be a good idea to do something nice first.

With John’s help, James begins to feel more secure in his interactions with the others, and the workplace seems friendlier to him. He no longer feels the need to make others look bad or to take credit for what John has done. He decides not to jump ship for another job after all.

George described his solution to the slacking problem as he saw it. He used to pick up his own pace so that he could do what others had neglected. That just got him in more trouble because they learned to expect him to do their work for them. Then he got resentful and slowed down completely. That didn’t work either because George takes pride in his work. Complaining to the slackers only got him a lot of flack.

Here’s George’s solution. He did his own work quickly and efficiently. Then he took a break. He said, "I’ll just go for a walk until the rest of you catch up so that I can do the next step in the process". George held his co-workers accountable with respect and dignity.

Jean and Phyllis were well aware of the complaints about them. They agreed to stop the gossiping and the complaints about them also stopped. They also agreed to split the $500 between them.

Bill was pleased to go off to the conference to promote his business. He told all who would listen that that was the best $2,000 he’d spent in a long time.

Bill’s next memo to his employees read:

In Cooperation,

Everybody Wins!

When asked what the memo means, Bill answered, I just secured a major contract and every one will get a bonus this year.

—M. LaCourt

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