Susan Bloch Headly is feeling very satisfied with herself as she looks around her huge office decorated so tastefully in high-corporate moderne decor. She has a three-bridge view through the floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows of her 28th-floor digs. Her desk is oak and huge, the carpet thick and plush, the couch expensive and firm, and her salary huge, huge and huge. A cool million dollars. Y-e-e-e-e-e-s!
Susan is in her third week as the HR director at Mega-Maxi Corp., which employs more than 55,000 people, and she's loving every minute of being the admin chief of most of those 55,000. This sure beats her old job as HR director for a way-smaller company in the hinterlands, which specialized in manufacturing pizzas. She had been in charge of health and safety and hiring and training and… everything admin, large and small. Susan frowns as she remembers spending most of her time on compensation cases, safety cases about workers who had hurt and maimed themselves on slicing machines and pizza ovens, or in boiling and roiling caldrons of pizza sauce. Susan flinches as she thinks of how the scalding cases had really gotten her goat.
These goats also get her goat.
But that was then, and this is now. Susan is thrilled that, as HR director at Mega-Maxi, she is concentrating only on hiring and firing, and yes, workplace "morale" building. She glances at her Rolex. It’s 9 a.m. She has five minutes till her meeting with the CEO, Michael Dummkopf. Time for her one-minute meditation. It keeps her grounded in this crazy corporate world.
At 9:05, Susan is sitting next to Mr. Dummkopf on an even softer and bigger couch in an office twice the size of hers. This CEO loves living large, Susan thinks, even though he's not. Mr. Dummkopf is corpulent, weighing in at 300 lbs on his 5’ 8” frame. Mr. Dummkopf starts talking… real, real fast.
"Susanwe'reproudofouremployeetrustandcommunicationplan." His words tumble out of his mouth at warp speed.
"Mr. Dummkopf," Susan says in slow, measured tones.
"Michael, yes." Susan pauses and starts in again. "Michael, yes, you are so right. We have a wonderful employee communication plan, and I can't wait to take part in the first exercise. The 'Trust' exercise."
Dummkopf nods his head, and smiles.
"I'mSOproudofit." His smile widens even more, and his cheeks plump up. Her CEO is happy. Oh good.
"It's so good for morale. The first exercise is at 10 a.m. today in the Cerberus conference room on the 9th floor." Susan is always careful to remind her boss of HR-generated meetings and activities. His memory is not what it used to be.
The conversation turns to hiring and firing and retention for the rest of the hour.
At 10 a.m., Susan and the CEO take their seats in a conference room packed with 50 employees, ripped and ready to participate in the team-building exercise. It starts with a rousing company cheer. "Mega Maxi, we're the best, we're on top of all the rest!" Lots of fists punch at the air.
The employees break into smaller groups. A few join hands and arms, and one other person stands in front. The point of the exercise, Susan knows, is to feel so trustful of your fellow human beings that you will be comfortable enough to fall backward into thin air, trusting, no, knowing that these humans will catch you.
Great concept, Susan thinks. And it works, Susan hopes.
Group by group, the employees fall and are caught, fall and are caught. After a while, the rhythm emerges. Silence, quick intake of breath, a slight "whoosh" sound, the slap of flesh upon flesh, and a concluding cheer.
Give us an “H!” Give us an “R!”
Rah, rah, Susan thinks. It's happy time now, but it's all downhill from here. She's spending the rest of her day with the hire-fire committee.
She needs another one-minute meditation.
Lunch is fast and solo and at her desk. It's one of the rare times in the day that Susan has to herself. No phone calls. No e-mail. No nothing. Just her and the Zen zone.
At 1 p.m. sharp, Susan takes her place at the head of the table in the Charles Van Doren basement conference room, with the eight other committee members. Hiring comes first in the agenda. Susan reads aloud the job description she has crafted for the vice president of communications. It includes requirements like: "20 years of experience in a communications corporate setting. They must be able to manage all internal and external messaging throughout organizations, and communications staff, including public relations, media relations and community relations team members, to ensure adequate and appropriate messaging." Susan pauses for breath.
"Hey, we're going for an ubermensch -- or uberma'am!" Susan looks up from her papers and gives a frosty grin to the speaker, Bill Hiss. Susan knows Bill is a short-timer and knows that Bill doesn't give a hoot about corporate decorum. Bill's leaving the company at the end of the week. Thank gawd.
"Yes, Bill. We want only the best of the best for Mega-Maxi." Bill responds with a smile that radiates the warmth of a barracuda.
The meeting continues till 4, and then Susan heads back to her office, where she has a meeting planned with her second-in-command, Emma Goldman. Emma is in charge of progressive discipline for an employee who is sick and tired of being sick and tired at Mega-Maxi, but just won't quit.
Emma is already there, waiting with a thick folder that holds the paper trail. Susan takes her seat behind her desk. Emma clears her throat, and starts jabbering.
"OK, dude came in a 9:01 a.m. EVERY DAY for the past 10 months. That's ONE MINUTE LATE. THAT'S INEXCUSABLE! Here are the time card records." Emma is huffing and puffing in indignation as she flings the records onto Susan's desk.
"OK, OK. The phone calls. HE MAKES PHONE CALLS. At work. That's, that's... DISGUSTING!" Emma pulls slightly crumpled phone records out of the folders. Each phone call is circled in an angry bright red circle. She hands them to Susan.
"We've more than made our case. He's outta here." Emma has the look of the righteous.
"Good work, Emma. I will take this under advisement and move forward. Thanks for doing your usual stellar work."
Emma leaves, Susan takes one more one-minute meditation. Such peace after a full, full day. But it's 5:30. It's quitting time after a full day of doing good works. Susan loves how she helps bring order to what could be the chaos of the corporate workplace. She is a force of calm and order. She's doing good. And she can sleep at night, knowing it.