Monday, March 8, 2010

Day 54 - Ivan the Terrible

          I got calls today from two recruiters who saw my résumé on line. This is encouraging. They wanted to talk about my experience. This is something of a problem. It’s not that I don’t have relevant experience. It’s that my relevant experience didn’t take place at my last job. My last job was a step down from the level of responsibility I’d had before. I had a lot of responsibility and autonomy at the Alabama company, even more when I worked for Henry. When I worked for Henry I made good things happen and I kept bad things from happening. I managed a lot of people, not the least of whom was Henry himself. I made decisions about systems, staffing levels, financing arrangements, banking relationships, and facilities. I did this because I knew how and because Henry trusted me to do a good job of it—at least insofar as he didn’t want to be burdened with the nuts and bolts of running the place. He left that to Mike and me while he schmoozed the customers and chased the skirts.
My sphere of influence began to shrink rapidly when Ivan’s company took over. I could manage those bastards not at all, and that’s exactly the extent to which they trusted me. The day after closing I went from being an executive of some importance to being a second class citizen. My every decision was questioned, second guessed, and ultimately undone. My every opinion was held in such low regard that I began to wander why they even kept me on the payroll. I thought they were interested in buying our business because they thought that we brought something to the table in the way of knowledge, experience, expertise, and or good sense. That wasn’t the case at all. I don’t know why they bought our company. They didn’t like us. They didn’t like our boats. They didn’t even care very much for our customers. Ivan thought most of them would die before they ever bought another boat. They were just that old.
Not long after I began to notice my influence slipping away I had the bad judgment to disagree with Ivan on what I thought was a small matter. It was just the two of us in an office so it’s not like I caused him to lose face or anything like that. I offered no disrespect. My comment started out something like, ‘well yeah, but don’t you think…’ I never got to finish the sentence. Ivan went off like a grenade. In the space of several sentences he used every swear word, every vulgarity, and every obscenity I had ever heard and at least two that I had not. I was so shell-shocked by the whole exchange that I cannot remember to this day what it was about. I never disagreed with him again or even offered my opinion. To the extent that my opinion had any value to him at all, he did not, nor would he ever profit from it. I suspect he’s missed out on a lot of reasonably good conjecture in this way from almost everyone who’s ever had the misfortune to work for him. Henry would at least listen to you before he chalked you up for stupid.

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