In the hallway, on the way to an important meeting, Jack was intercepted by his assistant Tom who said… “Here’s the marketing department summary you asked for… I have to warn you, that group is a mess!”
Jack reads the memo while walking, Tom at his side. Twenty or so steps on, Jack thrusts the memo back into Tom’s hands saying, “Look, this is just unacceptable. None of this can be allowed to happen, do you understand me? It is unacceptable!”
Tom says “But it is…”
“I won’t hear any of this! Don’t show it to me again!”
Six months later, Tom quietly enters Jack’s office, closes the door, and says, “I am sorry but we have to talk about what’s going on in Marketing – it’s just getting worse… I am afraid….”
Jack looks up, face gray with anger. “There is no room for that type of talk about my organization, I refuse to accept that they are behaving that badly! Get back to the stuff that’s really important, will you?”
“Look, I know this makes you angry but….”
“Tom, you are not going to work for me much longer unless you learn to listen to what I am saying, and then do what I tell you to do – full stop! Got it?”
“Uh, sure, Jack… full stop.”
Six months later… Jack wakes up and tries to get out of bed. As he starts to move, he notices his left leg and arm are numb. He tries to move them but can’t. After a call to his doctor, his wife calls 911 and he is taken to the hospital, no improvement in the numbness. His Doctor finally appears at eleven that morning.
“Well Jack, how are you feeling?”
“I can’t move my left side, that’s how I feel. I have to get up and get to work.
“Not today, Jack.”
“Look this is unacceptable, I can’t sit here and listen to this! I have to get to the office!”
“Actually you’re going to be staying here for a while, Jack. We need to be very careful for the next twenty-four hours or so. Blood clots, that’s what caused your loss of feeling, and it will take some time to dissolve them. We need to be sure one of them isn’t going to kill you.”
“Yes, kill you. You’ll be here at least a week. I think you’ll be fine, if we have a little luck, but you must to stay still and well, relax while we do our work.”
“Yes, we’ve given you a sedative to help.”
A week and a half later, in his bed at home, as if to pass the time, Jack is looking at old emails and comes across the Marketing Department memo. He calls Tom.
”Tom, the marketing department, I just re-read your memo. That bunch is a mess! What are we doing about it?”
“Nothing. You said you didn’t want to hear about it so we stopped paying attention, just like you said.”
“But we need to fix it!”
“Yes, well that’s true, only I don’t think it’s your problem anymore.”
“Of course it’s my problem, it’s my department, and they are totally out of control!”
“You’re right, they are, or were, Jack. But not any more. Your boss found out about it.”
Jack sat frozen, gripping the handset.
“I’m not sure how he found out but once he did, and then boom… all of a sudden he just took over. In two hours he had a task force, and later in the afternoon they were busy with the fix, or what they’re calling the fix. The whole thing was over in a couple of days, while you were still in the hospital. There was a lot of very direct talk, there were three or four reassignments, two heads rolled, and a new head of marketing appeared. Presto, problem solved.”
“But that’s my job! Who the hell does he think he is?”
“I think it was your job. I don’t think it is any more.”
“But that’s unacceptable!”
“I know Jack, but it is what it is.”
“God dammit! I said this is unacceptable!”
Yes Jack, that’s one way of looking at it, unacceptable. But your boss didn’t think that was much of a solution, or at least that’s what he said when he took over. “
“Like I said Jack, it is what it is! Maybe you should start there next time? It is what it is, and then do something about it, like that.”