The Conversation

Joe just sat down to start working on compiling a financial report.  He was good at explaining numbers, they told a story and they did not talk back.  A few minutes later, Joe’s supervisor stopped by and handed him a post-it note with a room number, and told to be there in ten minutes.  No other information.  Joe hid his displeasure.  Another flunky assignment.

Pete was running late today.  He woke late than usual and it was downhill from there.  He had received the email about the meeting the previous afternoon, but had not read it, other than where to be and when.  As he pulled into the parking lot, his phone beeped with a message.  He did not open to read the message, but saw whom it was from and it made him wince.

The meeting was in the HR conference room. Joe arrived first and looked around at the motivational artwork.  Pete hustled to get there.  Joe and Pete are strangers who work for the same company.

There is a quick introduction and then each wait for the other to start the meeting.  On the table in front of them is a memo, there are several copies, and both Joe and Pete’s eyes gravitate toward it.

“I guess this is for us,” Pete says, picking up the memo.  He hands Joe a copy.

The memo is entitled: Progressive Disciplinary Action, Proposed Changes.

Each read the memo, their eyes focused and each showing increased concern, as they get deeper into the memo.

Joe puts the memo down. “What are we supposed to do?  My boss didn’t really give me any instructions.”

Pete pulls out his phone and scrolls to an email. “I got this yesterday. It says: ‘Discuss and provide some feedback. Be prepared to brief.’ Oh, great.”  There is irritation in his voice.

“I don’t understand,” Joe says. “What do I know about this? I’m not in management.”

Pete’s phone buzzes.  He opens the message, reading. A frown quickly appears on his face.

“So, what do we do?” Joe says.

Pete’s eyes are distant, but he snaps back into the meeting. “I guess we provide our reaction to these proposed changes.”

“You know, this is typical,” Joe says tersely.  “Push out these policies and expect us to sell them. Same bullshit, different verse.”

Pete has drifted away again.  He looks at his phone, and then pushes it away.

“I have other things to do.  I do not know why I got this assignment.  First quarter results are due for distribution, that’s what I need to be working on,” says Joe.

Pete picks up the memo and his eyes dart around the page. “I think this is bad.  This company is so rule-heavy.  Why would they propose this?”

“They don’t listen to us.  They don’t care.”

Pete’s phone buzzes again. He starts to reach for it, and then stops. “I think we should say, this proposal is a step backward.  It is a slap at due process.”

Joe looks at his copy and begins nodding in agreement.  Concern suddenly grips him. “I don’t think I can say that.  I might think it, but…”

Pete has picked up his phone and is consumed in thought.  Joe looks around the room, reading the motivational posters and less than subliminal messages.

“Yeah, I know we can’t really tell them what we think.  I am not climbing out on that limb. Not now.” Pete still has his phone in his hand.

“Let’s just say it would be helpful to educate employees on the process. Develop some flyers and maybe a short video.  Keep it positive, since they are going to do what they want anyway,” Joe says.

“That’s an easy out.”  Pete smirks, looking at his watch. “Give ’em what they want.”

At that moment, the door to the conference room opens.  An energetic, bubbly woman enters. She is surprised to see Joe and Pete.  “I thought this conference room was open?”  She turns to read the schedule posted by the door.  Then turns to look at Joe and Pete. “What are you guys here for?”

Joe and Pete look at each other, confused. “I believe we are here about some sort of feedback, but we are done.

The woman has pulled out her phone and after scrolling, says, “I think you guys are in the employee bulletin board meeting.  That is down the hall in the larger conference room.”

All of their eyes go to the memos on the table.  She moves to quickly collect them. “Sorry, these were from the last policy book update. These should have been recycled. Thank God, we do not use this process anymore.  The Dark Ages.”  With that, she disappeared out the door.

Joe and Pete exchange confused glances before walking out into the hallway. Pete already has his phone messages open.



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