Can’t Refuse

When Don Corleone is talking to you, sometimes what follows is an offer that you just can’t refuse.  Often the smart money says to take it. Otherwise you could end up like Luca Brasi. You know, swimming with the fishes! 

Opportunity Knocks

This is true even in Corporate America.  A Godfather-like opportunity came my way about a year and a half ago.  It was truly an offer I couldn’t refuse. Fortunately it was in a corporate setting and didn’t carry with it the full and final existential impact of a mafia movie plot.  It was much more subtle, but a top company official took the time to call me several times to provide counsel and input on a job opportunity that had rather suddenly come my way within the company.

It was clear that I should take the job, but it wasn’t very clear as to why I should take it or what would happen if I didn’t.  Despite rumors, rumblings, and other innuendo on the corporate street corners, information was sketchy out there in the land of organizational ambiguity. Clearly others knew more about the situation than I did, but perhaps an organizational omerta kept them from talking.

After I had accepted the new job and after the passage of some time with little to no action to fill my prior position, I realized that I had indeed accepted one of those offers you really just can’t refuse.  Rather suddenly or so it seemed, I now had two jobs!

Two Jobs & Quick Math

When confronted with confusion, chaos, and/or crisis, most people naturally revert back to their innate strengths.  For me – a guy who has demonstrated some facility with numbers over the years – this meant that situational clarity would be attained via some quick math.  As it turned out, I didn’t really need excel to perform the arithmetic functions to yield the result that having two jobs was considerably better than having no job.

You see… sometimes out there in Corporate America, top executives see opportunities for cost savings. Often the people who get to be high-ranking corporate executives are really good at this.   It’s almost like a golfer who can hit a wedge that lends on the green and backspins to the hole not taking that club out of the bag when they need a good shot to keep pace or exceed the competition.  It’s an everyday go-to must-do can’t-pass it by kind of thing.

So by now we all should see it very clearly.  Having two jobs really was an opportunity.  The organization and its leaders had expressed considerable confidence in me or had concluded that the downside risks were manageable.  You know, how much damage could this guy with two jobs do in a year’s time?  So, it was with great enthusiasm and gusto that I moved forward with this new dual role gig.

First Responders & Roadside Assistance

Because people not positions make up organizations, boxes on an organizational chart are simply empty shapes until someone breathes life into them.  Enter the human and organizational aspects that became so much a part of what developed into a great learning experience. The dual role assignment became nothing short of a fantastic vantage point in the human behavior laboratory.  As is the case at most accident scenes, first responders are the ones who get there first. Unlike most accident scenes, first responders in Corporate America aren’t necessarily there to provide roadside assistance.

“Boy, you really got screwed.”, was the commentary vocalized by several first responders. Interestingly, several of these folks later (through no action of mine) became cost savings. Others said, “Wow, how are you going to do all that work?”… “You’re going to have to sleep here.”…  Also interrogatively whispered from the shadows on more than one occasion was, “Now, what are you going to do?”.

Get the picture? It was definitely a “good luck with that, buddy” kind of vibe.

Rugged Individualism is Human Nature

True to human nature and the rugged individualism that often governs survival in Corporate America, not offering to help is actually not about wishing ill will on a colleague.  It is also a huge difference from people who thrive on throwing others under buses.  Not offering to help is about self-interest . From a very early age, people are conditioned to take care of number one because no one else will.  This starts as children. Children eventually grow up to become coworkers.  It’s life’s natural order.

No one really ever assigned me hero status or knighted me for agreeing to take on the dual role challenge.  Nor were they willing to cut the guy with two jobs any slack. It really was at times very cold and thankless. Not to mention lonely when the building routinely cleared out at night and was otherwise empty on weekends.  Everyone still expected all of the previous deliverables from both positions even though it was now only one person fulfilling them.

I’m sure someone somewhere wanted to me fail or at least struggle mightily, but I must say indifference and/or self-absorption were the most prevalent themes. There are a lot worse parts of human nature that could have surfaced but didn’t. For this, we give thanks.

Opportunities & Rewards

The dual role situation became an excellent opportunity to improve processes.  Necessity became of the mother of invention. Financial positions offer very little latitude on meeting deadlines.  You either meet them, or you’re gone.  Controllers keep the trains running on time and get their passengers from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible.  To do this in dual role mode required new approaches and fresh thinking.  And not just on my part.

This again brings us back to that inescapable factor in organizations -people.  The dual role situation required that people change what they were doing if the collective was to succeed.  This may not have been initially comfortable for all. However, embracing new ways of doing things and actually doing more and different things became SOP within the work group. Moving beyond comfort zones brought with it accelerated employee development.

In the final analysis, my single biggest reward from the dual assignment was seeing an employee who knew they would be exiting the company through related organizational change get a very good next position with a new employer. Accountant II easily moves to Accounting Manager in new position – in good part the result of experience gained from….well….an offer I just couldn’t refuse.

Sometimes when you pick up the phone it just may be an offer you just can’t refuse.  You don’t ever really know, do you?



About Thomas W. Smith
Bizsinc - Bringing Business to Life

4 Responses to Can’t Refuse

  1. Just a Mets Fan. says:

    The same thing happened to me. I was hired for one thing and when I got there, the game plan sort of changed.

    There was an admin there, also, who he let go about a week after I got there.

    I wound up more or less assimilating her role, too. Boss would keep me after 5 pm and have me do all the admin work! It was clear he was not going to pop an ad into the local paper and hire a replacement for Cheryl.

    I was supposed to be the head of his division for widgets and also project manager for his company. I was learning my job — this job literally was round the clock. I’d report at 8 and not go home until 7pm and it was also an hour’s commute home, even at that hour.

    And when I got home, I had take home assignments from the boss; the assignments were related to my daytime position! Ha!

    I was getting no sleep. There was no time to do anything on my own.

    There were also problems with the owner of the company. He was a pushover for everyone. When I arrived for work one morning, one of the guys in the shop was being screamed at and reamed out by one of the employees in our division. Owner was right there, watching all of this and saying nothing.

    How horrible; not only did he never have this gent’s back, he also saw nothing wrong with having a plain ole employee scream at one of his shop guys.

    And this screaming was all about a pen or 2 that the guys were taking from the supply room! How idiotic, uncalled for and how petty is this? You scream blue murder at someone over a pen??

    That’ll give you an idea what a pushover and how inept he was.

    He fired me after I told him that that woman (and the deskmate next to her) were out of control and needed to be reeled in. How is that for poetic justice?

    All in all I was there 6 weeks. I also was never paid enough for the job I was hired for.

  2. Just a Mets Fan. says:

    Since I cannot edit — at the start of the screamfest, Owner needed to say to her, “Janice, sit down. I will take care of this.” but he did not. That woman was not a supervisor and she had zero to do with the shop guys! He let her scream away and did not do anything to reel her in or tell her to cut it out.

    • Wow that’s one terrible experience and set of circumstances. Has some common threads with what’s
      almost pretty much standard operating procedure;however the hostility and lack of leadership really
      takes it over the top.

  3. Just a Mets Fan. says:

    He is still in business. How I do not know; the division I was “head of” took a hit with the housing market going belly up — but yet, he is still in business.

    Lots of nonsense over there. What I mentioned was the tip of the iceberg.

    When this was happening, I was looking for advice —- I had a long talk with my cousin who is a pretty no-nonsense kind of guy and who will give your butt a good kicking if you need it. He strongly advised me to ask this dude for a 20K a year raise, IF I was going to be kept so many long hours and do so much work that was in the house. I chickened out and did not do it.

    A boss who doesn’t stand up for his people, who is a pushover, who can’t remember jack squat (he would never remember who was coming in at what time to meet with him — wow, guy, get a date book and WRITE IT DOWN!!!) loses things (he would lose an elephant in an elevator), can’t manage his time efficiently, can’t manage a work flow, keeps the wrong people on the job (I heard him screaming blue murder at this guy who was supposed to be a graphic artist; I couldn’t even figure out what it was this chap did on a day to day basis — and later on he admitted to me “Jim is not the best worker that I have…” WHY IS HE HERE THEN????) and oh yeah, who does not have a first aid kit or a contingency plan available in case there is an employee hurt on the job….guess who the employee was who got hurt.

    On my first day, he told me to be there at 11 am. On a Friday, mind you. Everybody was leaving at 5 pm and Boss turned around to me and said “We are staying late.”

    Really??? Minus even ASKING ME “can you stay late.” I should have run like hell even then.

    To this day, I cannot figure out why I even bothered staying; I should have been out that door at the end of a week. I saw plenty there in a week and not all of it was positive.

    I guess I do not have a strong enough spine or stomach. To this day, I still feel bad about my experience there and I feel like I was the one who was taken for a ride.

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