Albert was a company man. He had been working for the same company for twenty years. At age 38 he took pride in what he had accomplished. When people asked him what he did before working for “the company” he was proud to tell them, “high school”. Today he was scheduled to meet with his new department manager. He had respect for the manger and was looking forward to getting some face to face time with him. This person knew very little about him and Albert was eager to share a little about himself with his new boss. He was prepared to discuss a few items that the manager that had carried over from the previous department manager. All in all Albert was hoping to set the expectation level with his new boss.
Albert arrived at the office a few minutes early and walked in. He felt something was not right. The air in the huge office was very tense. The blinds in the office were open enough to let the light in but not enough so you could see out. The lights were off and the room had an ominous glow to it. “Sit down.” The Department Manger told him. “How was your drive over to the office?” He asked Albert. “It was a little warm for late spring but pleasant.” Albert answered. “That’s good, because it’s going to get a lot hotter in here.” The manager responded.
The temperature seemed to rise instantly in Albert’s body. His ears became very hot. Something was terribly wrong. He knew enough about this new manager that small talk was not something he enjoyed or participated in. Albert raised a hand to touch his own ear. It felt red hot. “Albert let’s get started. Did you approve this, this and this?” Albert looked down and saw documents he had signed off on. “Yes I did.” The manager did not look up at all to acknowledge the answer. The manager opened another folder and Albert could feel his toes growing cold and his head growing warmer. “I asked you by email to do this, this and this. Did you do them?” “Yes.” Albert replied. The Department Manager still was not making eye contact. He continued to sort through more paper work. “Did you copy in the people I asked you to?” “No, you had to remind me.” Albert responded. He was trying to keep his voice from cracking. He did not want to sound weak.
“This is not a disciplinary meeting Albert.” The manager said. “I do have concerns whether you can work in this department at this level however.” He said. Albert’s heart dropped somewhere below his stomach. “You may have twenty years with the company but I am concerned about your attention to detail and focus.” The manger was now making eye contact with Albert. “I know we have not trained you in everything a manager at your level needs to know but I expect better.” The manger said as he tried to pierce Albert’s body with his eyes. Albert nodded his head. Albert thought for a second, “I was not trained at all on how to do the things he had just covered.” The other stuff was petty. The main issues were the approval forms he had signed off on. The department manager had to get his bosses approval on those. It was all making sense.
Albert thought about the hierarchy of the company as he watched the department manager’s lips move. He could see them move but nothing was coming out. If the department manager was going to have to explain the approvals to his boss, the flow of pain was going to come down hill. Albert was at the bottom of that hill. The department manager’s voice suddenly came back into listening volume. “That is the way we do it in my department. Do you understand?” Albert nodded. His body was responding to the actions in the room but his mind was working overtime. Years and years of devotion had come to this. “I am going to expect a write up on your behavior and how you will fix it by tomorrow.” The department manager said. He was already looking through another file that had nothing to do with Albert. “I will have that for you.” Albert said in a low voice. He started to rise when the department manger started sifting through paper work in the file and did not respond. “Is there anything else you would like in the document?” Albert asked. “Did I ask for anything else?” The department manager responded. He dropped the papers in his hand and looked directly into Albert’s eyes. “Did we not discuss your lack of attention to detail and focus?” The look in his face was no longer professional. “This is what I mean, when I ask you for something that is exactly what I want. No more no less!” The manger said.
Albert nodded in response and turned to walk out. The manager was going through paper work again and did not acknowledge him as he walked out. He continued to walk out of the office and through the corridors of the building and out to the parking lot. It was only three thirty in the afternoon. Albert usually worked till six thirty or seven. Not today. He looked back in the direction he had come to see if he could find his heart and stomach. Nothing lay in his footsteps but cold concrete and asphalt. He got into his car and drove towards his home. Feelings of hurt and rejection were boiling in his mind. His stomach hurt and there was a lump in his throat. He had to talk to someone. He picked up his cell phone to call his wife. She was always there for him. Her voice came on the line but it was a recording. He dialed his brother, the same thing happened. At the next intersection he put his head on the steering wheel as he waited for the light to change. What had gone wrong? The decision he had made were customer focused, how can that be wrong? A horn went off behind him and he looked up to see a green light and no cars in front of him.
The drive home was not pleasant. He turned on the radio and the talk shows had all the wrong topics. The music stations were playing the wrong songs. Nothing was going right. It seemed all that he had worked for was gone. His thoughts went back to the conversation and words that seemed so confusing. “Your job is not being threatened, but you may not be able to work in this department.” His manager had said. “What did that mean?” Albert asked himself. “We may need to move you out of this department.” That was another phrase that did not make any sense at all. Everything he been told during his tenure was being turned upside down. What had happened to partnership and team work? Albert kept driving and tried to make sense of it all.
He arrived at home a few minutes before his wife did. He used this time to step outside and let the sun hit his face. He was standing in the back yard when his wife came out the back door. She looked at him and could easily see that something was wrong. Albert and his wife came back inside and sat on the couch. They discussed what had happened earlier. She looked at him and said, “Is this the worst thing that has ever happened in your career with “the company”? “No.” Albert said quietly. Then why is this any different? She asked. Albert looked straight up to the ceiling as if looking for the answer there. He was actually trying to swallow the lump in his throat. The pain in his stomach prevented that from happening so he looked at his wife and said. “I think I am taking this too personal, it just hurts. I know its business but,” he never finished his sentence. His wife reached out and touched his cheek. “It’s okay. Let’s talk about what’s really important”, she softly said.
“Do your people respect you and work hard for you?” She asked. Albert nodded. “Do they continuously put your name at the top of every contest?” Albert nodded again. “If you called any of your people for help right now would they drive to your house and help you?” She asked. This time Albert lifted his head and answered her. “Yes, yes they would.” He said with a little more confidence in his voice. Albert found the lump in his throat was starting to fade. His wife had a way of putting things into focus. “Albert, your people will be looking for a leader tomorrow and the next day, when are you going to be that man again?” She asked him. Albert smiled at her and stood up.
His people were the most important thing in “the company” to him. Looking back, the conversation was no worse than any other “counseling” he had received. His people still loved working for him, they respected him and most of all, needed his leadership. He leaned over and kissed his wife on the forehead. He looked at her with clearer eyes and asked. “Will you need an action plan on this counseling session?” His wife slapped his legs and stood up.
Later that evening as he lay in bed listening to his wife softly sleeping he began to realize the reason he had worked for “the company” for so long. It wasn’t the money, the stock or the power. It was the people he came in contact with. He knew he could get all the other things with any job, the people kept him there. That’s what was important at work to him. He would go to battle for his people. In fact the “battle” he had today was because of a decision he had made to help one of his people with a customers problems. No matter, he would do it again if he had to. He lay on his back and thought about the next day to come. His people would expect him to be there for them again, and he would. Albert put both hands behind his head and closed his eyes.
Sleep was not coming very easy. Something was still not right. He opened his eyes and looked over at his sleeping wife and found the real reason he worked. Yes, the people were very important, but here was the real reason right in front of him. If he had to he would toss the twenty years with “the company” out the window. His wife was the most important person in his life. After soul searching and having her console him, he knew. She was the purpose in his life. He had promised to care for her when they got married. He would keep that promise if it was with “the company” or any other company. Yeah, he thought to himself, this is why I wake up every morning. Albert thought of how every morning he kissed his wife before she woke. He was her alarm clock.
She counted on him for so much, just like he counted on her. She was with him before “the company” and she would be there after it was gone. There was some sense of reassurance knowing his wife would never threaten him with his job as her husband. Everything that happened at work was just that, work. It was his fault for taking it personal, not his bosses. He knew his boss was having no problem sleeping tonight. A smile came back to Albert’s face. He wondered if his boss shared the “counseling” with his wife. Actually he wondered if he ever counseled her or his kids the way he did his mangers. It didn’t matter, that was work, now it was time to enjoy his bed with his wife and sleep peacefully. He had to get up early, his wife depended on him for that all important first kiss of the day. Albert went to sleep finally realizing the “incident” was all it was. It was just something that happened at work. Next time it would stay there.