A Vicious Circle
A Vicious Circle-it never ends!
The report is due
I was struggling with a report my boss had demanded from me when I realized that I didn’t have any of the facts that I needed because my boss had them all on his desk. I knocked on his office door and waited for his response. He bellowed that I could enter, but that I needed to be quick. I entered his office and glanced jealously at the marble statues and hardwood desk as I made my way across the distance to his desk.
“Sir,” I began, “I am having difficulties with the report you asked me to write…”
“WHY?” he shouted before I could finish. “I thought you were at least capable of that small task. Do I have to assign someone else to do that for you as well?”
“Ah, sir,” I began again, “I don’t seem to have all of the facts available to me so that I can complete this report.”
“FACTS?” he shouted. “Who wants facts? I want a report, not a list of facts!”
“Yes, I understand that sir,” I said trying to be tactful, “however, I have no facts on which to base the report.”
“Are you foolish?” he asked me glancing up from the paper he had been reading during our conversation.
“Ah, no sir,” I answered.
“Then why can’t you do this simple thing for me?”
“You have the information I need to make the report,” I said paying close attention to my shoes.
“Look,” he said with a frustrated sigh, “either you can, or you can’t. Now, which is it?”
“I guess I can fabricate something from what little knowledge about the subject that I have,” I said. “Would that suffice?”
“Get to it!” he shouted and pointed to the door.
I'd be at unemployment by lunch!
I felt I was looking at my desk for the very last time. I was doomed.
I returned to my desk and sighed. I had nothing; absolutely nothing. He had all of the information and all of the facts and I had nothing on which to base a report. But a report was what my boss wanted and he wanted it yesterday! I felt my job would be forfeit and I would be on the unemployment line by lunch.
I asked around to see if anyone could give me any information about the subject of my report. No one could give me facts, only thoughts and ideas. I tried to glean information from annual sales reports and profit reports, but they included too many mixed figures with nothing directly pertaining to the report I was to create. I tried to seek assistance from my boss’s assistant, but he was too busy flirting with my boss’s secretary to give me any information. I tried once more to ask my boss for the facts.
The circle turns faster and I am getting nowhere fast.
“Well?” he asked gruffly as I caught him on his way to a meeting.
“Sir, may I enter your office to acquire the forms I need to complete my report?” I asked.
“No, I locked it up,” he said. “I’ll be gone most of the afternoon. I want that report on my desk waiting for me when I get back, understand?”
“Ah, yes sir,” I said, “but how am I to get it onto your desk if your office is locked?”
“Details!” he shouted raising his arms in frustration as he stomped off towards the elevator. I heard his voice filter back with “how am I supposed to run an efficient office with the likes of THAT to work with?”
I looked at my notes.
I might just as well go home right now and save my boss the trouble of firing me.
I sat at my desk and sighed. I looked at the notes I had managed to gather and my eyes strayed to the title of the report: "What the company has accomplished so far in the way of reaching goals that were created at the beginning of the quarter" . I didn’t have the goals and I didn’t have the reports of sales and/or profits. I didn’t have competency reports, and I didn’t have payroll figures. This is what I did have:
We’re doing great!- from the HR rep.
We sold a lot!- from the payroll manager’s secretary
Our goals were pretty high.- from the boss’s assistant
What goals?- from the Vice President of the company
He said we didn’t need the goals and he threw them away.- from the secretary of the Vice President of the company
Man I’m glad I don’t have your job!- from the mailroom clerk
What was I going to do? I knew the boss didn't like me, but was he really trying to make me fail so he could fire me? I wondered if he had read the work ethic book that HR had passed around. Probably not since he was the boss and knew it all.
I looked at my computer screen and began to type, erase, type, correct, delete, and then just type.
I waited for him to unlock the door.
Well, I guess I needed to be very creative.
I took a deep breath and slowly let it out. I needed to have the report ready when my boss came back and I needed to be prepared to race into his office the moment he opened his door so that it would be sitting on his desk when he reached it. I had a lot of work to do in just a few short hours.
I typed the first few words into my computer and then hit 'delete'. I tried again, and again. I deleted them. I began for a third time, this was a bit better. I kept typing. It was a bunch of 'running around the bush' jargon, but it was all I had. When my boss arrived a few hours later, I had the report printed and ready to go. I raced to his door, waited for him to open it and entered behind him. Then I raced past him to his desk and dropped the report in the center. Then I smiled, said goodnight to the boss and left his office. I stayed long enough to see him pick up the report and then I dashed out of the building before he could call me back.
This is what he read:
“The goals for the first quarter of this year were rather high and difficult to obtain. Required sales were based on business that did not manifest itself during that difficult time. The second quarter goals were closer to the attainable, with lower requirements and broader effects. Sales have been high and business has been steady during this period of time which has helped the company draw closer to its required goals. Payroll has been even across the board and so has had little effect on the goal achievement. Goals for the coming quarter have been filed away as inadequate in light of the soaring sales since the profits are assumed to surpass the levels indicated. With these results in mind, the management staff has begun to review the facts and figures so as to assess the situation and possibly create better attainable goals for the future. New goals are possibly expected for the new quarter from the managers’ quarterly meeting scheduled for later this year.”
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As I raced away in my car, the boss calls my cell.....
I answered with fear in my heart because I was sure he would fire me.
“This is the best report you have ever done!” he shouted into the phone. “I love it! It will make me the hit of the manger’s quarterly meeting! Now, tomorrow I want you to write a report on the effects of the break room supplies on the costs of running the company. You have a great night!”
I hung up. Seriously? The report had nothing, absolutely nothing in it. It was just a bunch of words that beat around the subject and said nothing about it. I seriously contemplated running through the guard rails. How was I going to do another one just like that? And I guarantee that he will not give me anything with which to work. I hated my job even more. Now what?
A sad comedy
I wrote this short story as a sort of sad comedy because sometimes we feel we are in such a “Catch 22” that we can never get out. It is bad enough that those around you aren't always cooperative, but when your boss outright sets you up to fail, where do you go for help? How do you keep your job? What would you do? Thus the circle is born.
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