The Exceptional Executive

Patricia Marx’s Humor Class

Dorothy Marcic

May  8, 2013

Every day starts anew. That’s what I always remind my employees. Forget sunk costs, and focus on the future. Make tomorrow better.  I had those thoughts in my mind as I rode my elevator up to the 45th floor and stepped out to see the beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline, but instead was staring at two smudges on the floor-to-ceiling windows.  Jodie jumped up from her desk as soon as she saw me, and I wondered if I should mention to her she ought to lose those pounds she’s added recently.  But I don’t want HR on my back about a male boss making what they like to call “inappropriate comments.” They’ll just give me that sob story about how she’s going through hard times since her husband died.  Or was it her husband and her son? Some car accident.  Or maybe mountain climbing. But why is that MY problem? I mean, it’s been, what two weeks already, or maybe two months? And why does she have to look at me with those forlorn eyes?  Is she the only one to lose a loved one? I was nine years old when death devastated me. Hensworth died. I could barely function after my beloved gerbil was gone. But, life goes on.  Turn challenges into opportunities, and when life gives you a lemon, make lemon pepper linguine.

Jodie handed me some messages and I hurried past her. Why doesn’t she use better eye make up? This is an executive office for godsake.  If she’s so worried about crying, she just needs to get some waterproof mascara.  Then Jodie told me the director of our Birmingham factory was on hold and said it was urgent.

“First get me my latte,” I told her.  “Today use skim. I’ve got to lose that half-pound I put on last week.” I’m not THAT much of a metrosexual, but I thought a hint like that might push her in the right direction. Does she know how annoying it is to look at someone with a third-inch of flab above her belt?  Disgusting. “And bring me some fresh raspberries.”  She scurried off and I picked up the phone, noticing the cleaning people hadn’t gotten all the fingerprints wiped off from yesterday.  Time to replace the janitorial company. This place is lucky to have me as boss.

“What is it, Frank? Can’t you wait until I have my coffee?” I turned to the computer and opened my email, so I wouldn’t waste my time on this call.

“We’ve got a work slow down, Mr. Downs. One fourth called in sick today.”

“So fire them,” I said, so tired of hearing about whiners.

“You know we can’t do that. I told you this would happen if we cut back the wages.” Jodie brought in my coffee and I told Frank to hold on while I smelled the aroma.  So perfect. I insist on high quality everywhere in my company and this was no different.  I only let buyers get St. Helena Coffee, which comes from the South Atlantic island where Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled. It’s nice to think about leadership when I am sipping such excellence. I picked up the phone again.

“They know the economy is bad, right?” I asked this as a rhetorical question.

“It’s too much, Mr. Downs, to ask them to take a thirty percent pay cut.”

“So what’re they going to do about it? Let them see if they can find better jobs down there in Alabama.” I popped a couple raspberries in my mouth. They were firm and tart, with just the right amount of sweetness.  But I noticed that the foam on my latte was swirled counterclockwise. I just might have to fire that girl. She just can’t get anything straight these days. Frank was breathing hard, so I continued.  “You know what I don’t understand Frank?  Why no one cares anymore. When I started out, I was making $2.50 an hour and I was glad to have a job and I worked hard and wanted my boss to succeed.  What’s wrong with people nowadays? Where’s the motivation, the sacrifice? No wonder this country is going to the dogs.”

“But Mr. Downs—“

I knew what he was going to say and I just couldn’t tolerate it.  If he can’t exhibit more backbone, like me, he’s out of here.

“Frank, what are you doing today that gets you closer to tomorrow?” and I hung up. Then Jodie transferred in a call from Norm Whiteside, Board President.

“Henry, I got your note about the bonus and I don’t think I can bring the board around.”

“Norm, you owe me.  Remember I saved your ass from the SEC,” I said.

“I told you not to talk about that SEC stuff on the phone,” he said just a little too huffily. Then I motioned to Jodie to come replace the raspberries.  Two of them were showing signs of aging, with soft brown edges and some molecules of white in the center.  And you know what they say about what one rotten apple does. Norm was droning on about some issues, but I had to make sure Jodie understood me. After she left, I tuned in again as he went on.

“Just think about it, Henry,” he continued after I thought it was resolved. “I don’t think I’d have any problems with forty mil. But sixty-five, well, well…”

“Well, what? That’s what I need to know you guys appreciate me,” I said, exasperated. I started thinking of ways to replace the board members I was sure were behind this. “Show me how much you care.”

“You know, Henry, there’s a whole shareholder movement out there to limit executive pay.”

“Well, let them try my job for a week and see how they do!”

“And our stock’s down 19 percent from last year,” he said.

“So? Oracle’s dropped 22 percent and Larry Ellison still got 96 mil.”

“Henry, I’m on your side.” I knew he meant to help, so I said, “Put the other 25 mil in stock options so it’ll sound better. Whatever it takes, or I’m out of here and they’ll be stuck with my buyout.” I paused and then added some positive leadership before I hung up. “Make tomorrow better, Norm.”

Jodie brought the new raspberries, which looked only slightly better, but I was tired of giving her feedback on her performance. “Get the right people on the bus,” is what they always say in the leadership programs. If I can’t fire her, at least I can transfer to down to the secretarial pool.  She’ll be happier there, surrounded by the other girls.  She can gossip with them and go out to lunch or whatever they do. It might be a cut in pay, and I’ll let HR come up with some rationale. And anyway, her husband is dead, and maybe her son, so why does she need as much money? I’m sure she doesn’t go out as much and she has less grocery costs, so she’ll be fine.  It really comes down to caring.  If she really cared about doing her job well, she’d be more vigilant about the fruit, she’d lose weight, and she’d have a smile on her face all the time.  How many times have I told her the importance of starting every day anew? Make tomorrow better. Some people just can’t learn.