I spent the better part of 20 years in a variety of roles at Dupont Pharmaceuticals. In those halcyon days I felt like I was truly on a mission and part of a huge, loving family that actually believed that people mattered, and that what we were doing for our modality and our customers was actually a worthy goal.
I remembered feeling that If I ever did something that would bring about my termination, my biggest regret would be disappointing the wonderful folks who gave me an unbelievable opportunity. I couldn’t bear the thoughts of having to leave under those circumstances, or any circumstances for that matter. They had me. Emotionally, physically and spiritually. I thought it would never end. But it did. Our division got sold to Bristol-Myers Squibb and the change was immediate and devastating.
National Sales meetings turned into opulent exercises in incompetence and incoherency. The new CEO, aptly nicknamed “Joe Isuzu,” was hand picked from a used car lot on Pharma Row in New Jersey. Cringeworthy. I’ll leave it at that. The new V.P. of sales reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock on quaaludes. A stiff of immense void. Watching him attempt a sentence was painful. A total energy suck. I could see him possibly running the guard shack but sales?
My friend Dave’s sole responsibility was to intermittently place a mirror under his nose to see if he was still breathing. Oh, and to hand out twenty dollar bills to anyone who could spell sestamibi. I had never seen anything like it. These Fellini extras were about to take this enterprise to the depths of despair in a hurry.
While in Arizona as a rep, I developed some marketable skills as a video producer and was offered a position created solely for me back in the home office. If I thought the company was a mess from a distance, I was shocked at what I experienced once I came back. It was like “The Shining,” empty, dead quiet and spooky. All office doors were shut and if you passed someone in the hallway they made no eye contact. Meetings were full of poker faced, terrified strangers. It was totally unnerving.
Then came the new V.P. of In Line Marketing, my new boss. We only met once, after a year, due to a question on one of my expense reports that she once, accidentally happened to look at. I guess her AA was off that day. She even had to print her own e-mails so she could read them. Before that meeting someone said “prepare to be underwhelmed.” She had no idea who I was. I started to develop a fear and a lack of trust that would dog me until the end.
It was then that I got introduced to a new corporate technique called “spend that money.” I started getting e-mails from upper management telling me there was three to four hundred thousand dollars available to me for video tape and software. Tape and software? It was written as $300M, so I asked around to make sure I knew what the “M” meant. I thought there had to be some kind of mistake until it was explained to me that I should quit screwing around and start spending that money before the next e-mail came. I had the most incredible video studio in the corporate world. I attended multimedia classes for a living. I would even fly world class editors in from New York and L.A. to personally train me. I took one for the team:)
The next boss I got was a V.P. of who knows what, the titles changed every 15 minutes. At my review he said, “I’m not sure what you do here but I’m sure you do a good job at it.” (Every word of that nonsense is true.) The only thing he ever asked me to do was make videos of all his on-line golf lessons. I decided right then and there that not one ounce of fuck would ever be given again.
The VP of sales finally retired and died two weeks later. (I actually thought he was dead when I met him.) He must have known where all the bodies were buried to get such an important job. When I would walk past his office he was either sleeping or looking at boat magazines. Otherwise, his desk was empty.
When the next CEO showed up, I barged in his office, threw copies of tapes, cds, music and examples of my multimedia work on his desk and told him he should either utilize me, send me back to sales or lay me off. He sent off an e-mail to the leadership team but nothing ever came of it until another money dump came along and they decided to put TV screens all over the site. Then I got busy. Real busy.
But by now the thrill was gone. The layoffs, re-orgs, firings and incompetent leadership had taken it’s toll. In some perverse way, not caring anymore can feel liberating. You spit the hook out and stop listening, stop believing and mentally start preparing for your next phase. You’re free!
The takeaway here is that when an organization gets an emotional hook in you, you will most likely give your best. You’ll care about how you do things. Not waste precious resources. Enjoy your co-workers and live the dream that you never want to end.
But when you give a bunch of mother ship rejects a responsibility beyond their pay grade and emotional capabilities, you hurt a lot of people besides your reputation and your business. Productivity runs down your leg while the slow, silent mutiny takes shape. As usual, you’ve become too big to succeed. The stiffs from the big house start showing up, good people leave and everybody loses. But that was probably always the plan, wasn’t it?