I was looking over the state highway map of our middle Midwestern state, when I chanced upon the name of a particular town. The name is not important for this story, rather that it was the home town of a previous co-worker. This co-worker was a manager in one of the many offices, of which I was ultimately responsible. We were at a time of transitioning our communications from paper and telephones to computers and T-1 lines. I must also explain that I had a “come-up-through the ranks boss, who always knew more than the rest of us, because he had “CONTACTS” amongst the ranks. Some of us called “them” squealers, rats, informants, etc. The problem with it was, that rather than keep their direct superiors informed, they’d wait and squeal to the big boss, those rats! That left a knowledge gap in middle management. This particular co-worker, who by the way was subordinate to me, and a favorite squealer to the boss, needed a favor, she wanted to be promoted. So my boss recommended that she be promoted as a supervisor over all of my offices. I had the position, and it WAS vacant, but it required sufficient knowledge to train others in new computer techniques and programs. This particular co-worker couldn’t turn on the computer without assistance, morning after morning after morning!
Time passed and I successfully avoided promoting the co-worker. Yet, she would make “regular” visits, driving the 70 some miles each way to “share” with the boss. Oh, how I despised those sharing visits, which usually meant that I would soon be called in for a quizzing session after she had left. On one such visit the co-worker, on her way out, stopped by for a (gloating) visit with me. The light bulb in the head came on and I said “Say, the boss’s Executive Assistant is planning to leave, I would think he will begin looking for a new person.” I don’t believe I had placed the period on the statement until she was up, racing toward the bosses office again. Nor was it long before MY phone rang and I was called into a quizzing session, but this time it was all about my telling of his assistant leaving. I must admit, I did leave that meeting with an inward grin.
More time passed and the boss’s assistant left, but the position remained vacant for weeks, then months. The boss had conducted interviews, but delayed the final determination, as he ascertained how to choose the competent over the incompetent. One day I was called to his office. (Why did I always feel like I was being called to the principal’s office?) The boss sat behind the desk, slightly turned nearly 90 degrees, so as not to look directly at me. He says, “I’ve got to make a decision about my assistant.” I waited…….. He says, “Since she (the co-worker) works for you can you honestly recommend her for this job?”
He had me! We had gone round and round about this lady, in the past. He, stating how qualified she was to be promoted, me indicating her total degree of incompetence.
I sat there, quietly, thinking. Thinking, boy has he got me cornered. He knows, that I know she’s incompetent, and he knows that I know, that he knows she’s incompetent.
A thought came to mind. Without breaking a smile, I looked at him and said, “Truly, based upon MY boss’s recommendation, I can recommend her for the job.”
He sat there, letting the words sink in, realizing that I had circumnavigated his approach. He turned to me, with a grin on his face, and said, “You son of a ………!” I sat there a moment, then left.
He did hire that co-worker as his assistant. Her incompetence was glaring. The boss missed many meetings, many of which were scheduled for 2AM rather than the 2PM requested. I almost felt sorry for him, but he could have just been honest her and said no.