St-St-St-Struggle

“Robert, Carrie, you know why I’ve called you in here?”

“No, Ms. Nickleson,” Carrie said. “Though I’m hoping it’s about a promotion!”

“It is not.” Nickleson said.

Rob sighed. “Is it about the e-mail I sent? Are you going to do something about Mr. Ullrich?”

“It is about the e-mail, yes. What exactly is the issue with Mr. Ullrich?”

Rob looked at Carrie, who looked back at Rob. He shrugged, and she turned to Ms. Nickleson. “It’s his stutter.”

“Excuse me?” Nickleson’s eyes widened.

“His stutter. It makes meeting super slow, and any time you talk to him, it’s just this constant st-st-st-struggle. You know? Like he’s purposely keeping you from doing anything else.”

“Yeah,” Rob said, “And he has meetings with clients sometimes, and just know that he’s driving business away.”

“How do you know that?” Nickleson asked.

“Well, how could he not? That stutter is so damned annoying.”

“Hm.” Nickleson looked down at her desk for a moment. “Are you two privy to company metrics? Do you know how we’re doing overall? How each department is doing? What the general outlook is?”

“Well, no ma’am, but when people leave Mr. Ullrich’s office, they always look, I don’t know, strained in their smiles and handshakes and stuff,” Rob said.

“Then let me educate you. Mr. Ullrich has the fourth-highest numbers in the country, well above average. I’ve checked with HR, and most of his employees are among the happiest in the whole company. They report feeling valued, respected, and well-placed in their careers. Indeed, the only problems have been with you two. A series of complaints about everyone around you.”

“With all due respect, that’s because we’re surrounded by idiots, ma’am,” Carrie said.

“And have you ever stopped to consider that, if every single other person around you is an idiot, maybe they aren’t the problem?”

Carrie took a breath in, sat a little taller, readying for a fight, when Rob stepped in.

“Ms. Nickleson, I know that Carrie here isn’t an idiot. Obviously you are not. But the people we work with just don’t seem to get it. They’re always dickering around, talking about inane things, just being doofs.”

“Are they productive?”

“Excuse me?”

“Productive. Are they getting work done?”

“Well, yeah, I guess.”

“Are you in charge?”

“No, not – ”

“Do you understand management principles and practices?”

“No as such, but I can tell what’s good.”

“Can you? Robert, one of your complaints is about how a co-worker types too fast. You assume he must be making mistakes, without checking the work. You’ve even complained about Carrie’s gum chewing.”

Carrie looked at Robert, shocked. He looked back and said, “What? It’s too loud.”

“You two are causing problems in the office, and in the company in general. Consider this a formal warning. Learn to work with others, to operate in the office environment, or you will be let go.”

“But ma’am – ” Carrie started.

“That’s all. Goodbye.” Nickleson turned to her computer. Rob and Carrie stood and made their way out, annoyed and preparing to write a formal complaint.

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