right in the face.

Suddenly it was July, and out of the clear blue sky, Jim Santo called me and said “We’re done.”

“Great,” I said, “Can you please send me a tape now?”

But Jim had other ideas. He wanted to bring the band to my house and actually play the tape for me, with them present.

This was actually a really stressful thing for me, since I was worried about what would happen if I actually didn’t like it. How bad would it suck if the band was sitting right in front of me, and I didn’t like the songs?

Just the same, I had a contract that I needed the band to sign. To save money, I bought a few books on record contracts and got some advice from Matthew Kaplan on how to construct an agreement on my own. I wrote one up and sent it to him, and he was kind enough to tweak it for me pro bono – we had never actually established that he was our lawyer, but since I liked him so much and he represented so many bands I liked (and so many friends’ bands), one day I just asked him if he could be our lawyer, too.  And recognizing how broke we were, he was good enough to help us out.

I sent the contract to Jim by email, and although he said the band was comfortable with it, he wanted to sign that in person, too.

So I decided to make it a “thing” – I’d pick up some burgers and dogs, throw them on the grill, and play the tape outside while I got to know the other guys in the band a little better.  We’d sign the contract, and have a little party.

What I didn’t know was the kind of day I was going to have at work immediately before the contract signing.

At some point in early June, Danny and I were having lunch together one day and we started talking about the sheer volume of people who had left the company during our time there.  The turnover was astounding.  As we were talking about it, Danny produced a copy of the company telephone extension listing, and we started going through it, person by person, trying to establish when each person had come to work for the company.

There were 45 employees in the office (there were probably another 100 factory employees).  In going through the list, we discovered that he and I were #9 and 10 in terms of seniority at the company.

Let that sink in.  I had been with the company for six months, and 36 people had been there for less time than me.

So I brought it up to Fred, and explained that it was tough to keep morale high when the turnover was high.  Somehow, I thought that he would grasp the fact that his abuse, his attitude, his yelling and drinking was chasing people away.

He drew a different conclusion: he was hiring the wrong people.

He decided to begin administering Caliper tests to all job applicants.  Caliper tests were, basically, personality tests.  You could identify what type of employee you’d want for a given position, and a Caliper test would tell you if a person’s personality was a match for the profile you’d created for the position.

He made it a requirement for all managers to define the type of person that they wanted for each position.  And then he took it a step further, and made all his managers take the test, to see if they matched the profiles that he had created for their positions.

A lot of people felt that taking the test was running the risk that they’d be fired for not matching the profiles he’d created, and thus balked at taking the test.  Still steaming over the Indianapolis debacle, I didn’t give a shit.  So I took the test.

The week Jim told me the recording was done, the results of the test came back.  And at 5:00 one afternoon that week, Fred called me and asked me to come to his office.  So I did.

“I got your Caliper test back, and I’m not happy,” he said.  I felt like I was back in high school, being asked to explain to my mother why I had failed a math test – except this wasn’t math, this was my personality.

“What did it say?” I asked.

“What did it say?  What didn’t it say?”

“Let me see it,” I said.

“I’ll tell you what it said: it said you make bad decisions, it said you’re selfish, it said you’re egotistical, it said you make lots of mistakes.  It says you don’t listen, and you’re impatient. I’m not happy.  If you were a job applicant and I got these test results, I wouldn’t hire you.”

“Let me see it.”

I do make bad decisions.  I’m selfish, egotistical, impatient and I make mistakes.

But that’s not what the test results said.  Here’s what they said:

Al is a bright and proactive individual who can certainly be influential with people when necessary.  These qualities would likely be among his strongest assets as a product manager with XXX Company.

Certainly, Al displays the abstract reasoning skills to assess complex issues.  He is creative and willing to take chances in order to try new methods.  However, while he is somewhat careful, there may be some times when he does have a tendency to make some snap decisions.  He is certainly adaptable enough to learn from his mistakes, but ensuring that he does engage in careful planning beforehand can sometimes prevent him from making any inadvertent errors due to haste.

That notwithstanding, Al is well able to take initiative.  He is persistent and intense, and will be seen as someone who can get the ball rolling very effectively. He is also able to overcome obstacles.  However, while his discipline does allow him to stay on track, he can be somewhat selective in applying his sense of urgency.  When he feels that a particular task is essential, he can certainly move forward quickly, but at other times he may not place the proper level of importance on each and every responsibility.  As a result, his buy-in needs to be received and he needs to be given time frames.

The same can be true in handling details.  Al may be more focused on the big picture.  His discipline certainly allows him to work through these tasks when necessary, but he may benefit from having assistance in this regard.  He also needs to ensure that he does consistently pay proper attention to some of the finer points which can be a necessary means to an end.

Comfortable in unfamiliar settings, Al can establish rapport with others.  He is able to assess feedback from people, but we note that he is impatient and may not always take the time to listen fully.  He needs to ensure that he is being consistently consultative.  This will enable him to fully utilize his ability to listen, and people will feel more comfortable in coming to him when they do have concerns so that they can utilize his problem-solving skills.

Still, Al can be forceful with others.  He can express his point of view in a direct manner and defend it when challenged.  He is also ego-driven, and this inherent motivation to persuade can be a decided asset to him in motivating people because he can gain a sense of gratification from convincing them to agree with his viewpoint.  Still, here again, he does need to ensure that he is a patient enough listener to utilize his ability to assess feedback so that he can target his responses in the most appropriate manner possible.

Overall, Al is a bright individual who can be creative and forceful with others.  He is able to move forward proactively in making decisions, but there can be some inconsistency in this regard.  When he feels a particular task is essential, he should move forward very quickly, but at other times, he may not place the proper level of importance on tasks.  Receiving his buy-in is, therefore, essential.  Also, he needs to be more patient with people.  He displays a strong ability to assess feedback and fine problem-solving skills, but he may not always extend himself to others in a helpful capacity.  By doing this, he will be able to take more full advantage of feedback from people and they can utilize his problem-solving skills to assist them in their roles.

Blah, blah, blah.  It went on to say, in summary, that my need to persuade others is an important motivator for me, that my empathy enables me to understand others reasonably well, that I’m able to establish good relationships, that I have above average abstract reasoning ability, I’m flexible, I have the potential to be a good leader, I have a tendency to make impulsive decisions, my impulsiveness may limit my effectiveness in delegating, and that I don’t enjoy routine detail work.

In the summer of 1996, by the way, I was twenty-six years old.

So we sat there for hours, talking this Caliper test around in circles, me listening to Fred tell me all the reasons I was bad for the company as he drank glass after glass of Absolut and ice.  Eventually, we were the only two people left in the office, as the second factory shift worked downstairs.

“So why don’t you just fire me, then?” I eventually said.

“Fire you?  You’re like a son to me.  I just want you to work on your faults.”

Finally, at about 9:00, I left.  Fred went downstairs to work in the factory.

The next morning I came to work.  Really late.  And Fred, surprisingly, was sitting in the lobby, in a wooden, folding chair.  Taking note of everyone who was late.  I think it was about 10:00 when I got there, an hour and a half late.  Fred usually didn’t get there til noon.

So I got yelled at for that.

And as I walked out of his office, his secretary pulled me aside and whispered to me.

“Did you hear what Fred did last night?”

“What he did last night?” I asked.  “He was with me all night.”

“After you left,” she said.

I hadn’t heard.

“He went down to the factory and started working on one of the assembly lines.  He was giving a guy a hard time – just a kid, maybe 20 years old.  Finally, the kid said ‘Fred, maybe you should go home; you’ve had too much to drink.'”

“Uh-oh,” I said.

“Yeah.  He took the kid into the foreman’s office and smacked him.”

What?!”

“He smacked him.  Right in the face.  Then he said ‘If you ever talk to me like that again, I’ll chop you into little pieces and throw you out in the woods, like I’ve done to other people.'”

“Get the hell out of here,” I said.  I had to physically pull my jaw up off the floor.

“But here’s the best part,” she continued.  “When he got in this morning, he asked me if the kid had shown up for work today.  I figured he was going to apologize to the kid.”

“And?”

“And the kid is on the second shift, so he’s not in yet.  So Fred made me call him at home, and tell him not to bother coming in unless he had a written apology.”

I stared at her, blankly.

She said it again.  “Fred wants him to apologize.  For saying he had too much to drink.”

“He smacked him?” I asked again.

“Right in the face.  In front of other people.”

By lunch time, the story was all over the office.  Every ten minutes, someone else came into my office to ask me what had happened.  And every person I told “Nothing, don’t worry about it,” then went into someone else’s office and got the actual story.

It went on for the rest of the week.  Fred raved about it to anyone who would listen.  Can you believe the nerve of that kid?  Who the fuck does he think he is?  This is my company!

Fred had purchased a case of Budweiser and put it into the office refrigerator, and hung a sign on it with my name.  It was my beer, which he bought for me so that I could sit and drink with him when he went on his late-night rambling tirades.

The day he bought the case, I had one.  Once in a while, when I was working late, I’d open a can.  That Friday afternoon, after everyone had left, I opened each of the remaining cans and dumped them down the sink.

Then I went home to get ready to have a contract-signing party with Jenifer Convertible.

~ by Al on November 10, 2009.

5 Responses to “right in the face.”

  1. This isn’t real… it can’t be…

  2. It. Gets. Worse.

  3. Christ.

  4. I’m guessing this wasn’t a union shop.

  5. Indeed it was.

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