(Continued from Part One)
Even though this company provides a large private meeting room for employee reviews, Danny insisted on conducting reviews in his personal office space. This was partly to show to everyone else that he was in charge and partly so others in the cubicles surrounding his would be able to hear that he was in charge. One at a time, each of my coworkers filtered into Danny's little space for their 20 minute employee review. Like clockwork, we followed the schedule he had pinned to the employee bulletin board.
Initially, it did not matter to me at all where we met. It's not like we needed the extra room to stretch out. Danny's space had the exact same dimensions as my space. Except, as I entered, I noticed that the walls on his cubicle seemed a little higher than mine. I couldn’t tell for sure, but before I sat down, I noticed that the walls appeared to go up to my chin. From what I could remember, the walls in my cubicle were about even with my shoulder. That little difference stood out and struck me as odd. I struggled to focus my attention on anything else in that moment.
As I sat down, Danny began immediately talking about the philosophy of employee reviews. I did my best. With all the energy and focus I could muster, I listened to Danny as he used all the words he plucked from his manager review script: Goals. Obstacles. Metrics. Rubrics. Like I said, from what I remember I was ready to listen and ready to work together to grow and help the company grow. Even so, I found that it took every last ounce of effort to listen, because the distractions of his wall height was too overwhelming.
Why would Danny’s walls be taller? These are pieced together cubicles. I am certain the company purchased them in bulk from some online office supply company. Surely they are all the same? Why would his be any higher? That is when I noticed it. Down on the floor, behind the trash can over in the corner, There was a stack of books propping up his cubicle wall creating a 4 inch gap at the bottom of his cubicle. I bent over to adjust my chair, so I could take a quick peek at the wall I was sitting against. Sure enough, there was also a stack of books holding up the wall behind me as well.
What the hell is going on here? Had there been a problem with inadequate air flow into and out of his cubicle? I don’t think so. Why then would he take the time to lift the walls in his cubicle? What is the point?
Amused at the success of my amateur sleuthing, I couldn’t help but smile. This caused Danny to pause and ask, “Are you tracking with what I am saying?” When you are caught not paying attention during an employee review, the only answer you can really give at that moment is, “Yes.” Which is exactly what I said to Danny. But the truth of the matter: I wasn’t tracking him at all. I wasn't even paying any attention to this guy. This newly minted wannabe manager who had taken the time to jack up his walls. The only thing that mattered to me right now was the fact that he had actually taken the time to raise the walls like it was his own personal castle.
Then, as if a self-lifted cubicle walls was not enough, I noticed the one thing that would get my mind off his hovering cubicle. The entire shelf above Danny's computer screen was covered in figurines. Collectible figurines of all shapes and sizes were positioned on his shelf. I know this seems odd. That is because It is. I had not spent enough time in his cubicle to notice this world that he had created.
I would have been fine with one or two figurines. The company allows us to personalize our space, but Danny had taken this to a new level. He had created a damn village of intermingling creatures and toys. There were way too many of them for me to count at a quick glance. Which, of course, required me to focus my attention even more intently on his collection of dolls and ignore even less of what Danny was saying. Before I could devote any attention to this review, I was going to need to take a full accounting for every character included in Danny's little village.
I might have been able to let it go, if they would have all been from the same genre, but apparently Danny did not mind if the worlds of fantasy and reality collided. My eyes were immediately drawn to the main character. Front and center was Superwoman. She stood tall with her golden lasso right between Han Solo and Chewbacca. Then, off to the side it appeared there were several Hobbits arranged in deep thought around a multifaceted crystal orb mounted in a mound of orange PlayDoh.
Above it all, perched on book spines along the back wall of the shelf, Danny had several troll dolls peering down. Wait, not several trolls. He had all the trolls. There were big trolls and little trolls. There they stood in every color of the rainbow, with their crazy cotton candy hair sticking up and their giant eyes looking down.
As I looked back down to the shelf it was then I noticed a group huddled at the center of Danny's Little Nerd Town. It was the entire cast from McDonalds. Ronald, Mayor McCheese, Hamburglar, and Grimace seemed like they were posed in conversation. They seemed so out of place and I couldn't help but think that these characters were horribly embarrassed to be included amongst heroes, aliens, elves and trolls.
Then, as if this wasn't enough, there were several miniature blue figurines descending or maybe ascending along a chain of paper clips that Danny had taken the time to tape and hang from the top shelf. It was the Smurfs. Danny had actually taken the time to create the chain and then attach each Smurf along the chain.
"Do you think this is a reasonable time frame for you to accomplish these three transition goals I have just outlined?" Danny asked and then paused, waiting for me to reply.
Three transition goals? Are you kidding me? He wanted me to consider three transition goals? I can't focus on transition goals right now. My only goal at this moment was taking a full census for Danny's community of members from Middle Earth, Star Wars and the land of Big Macs. His transition goals were going to need to wait.
Danny waited for a response.
"Of course. That is more than enough time for me to accomplish those three transition goals,” I said, not knowing which goals I had agreed to or how much time Danny had given me to accomplish those goals. My only goal in this moment was wondering where Danny had also found the Jolly Green Giant and Bob’s Big Boy figurines he had guarding either side of his bookshelf.
Danny picked up where he left off and I returned to the virtual game of mental ping-pong going on in my mind between his propped up cubicle space and the plastic invasion of toys surrounding him everyday when he worked.
It was only then that I began to feel the pressure of neglecting everything in my review up to this point. I had to focus and I had to get back on track, so I glanced at the clock on the wall to see if I had any chance to redeem the remaining time in my review.
That turned out to be the biggest mistake yet. Not only was I almost out of time, but I noticed the clock above Danny’s head was barely dislodged and pulling away from his cubicle wall. It just needed a little push to make it flush with the wall.
I was screwed. I had wasted my whole review. I hadn’t listened to a word that had been said and now I just could not contain myself. Danny was startled when I stood up abruptly to adjust the clock.
“What are you doing?” he asked as I covered him with my frame reaching with both hands to secure his clock back against the wall. I could feel Danny push against my ribs and belly. I backed up and evaluated my work. Perfectly flush. I smiled knowing that I had made things right.
“There,” I said. “All better.”
Danny swung around in his chair and we both stared at the clock.
“It was leaning away from the wall, “ I said. “I thought it was going to fall, so I put it back into place for you.”
“I hadn’t noticed,” Danny replied as he swiveled back toward me. “Now, do you think you can sit back down so we can finish this review.”
What did he mean, 'I hadn’t noticed.' How could he not notice a clock that was ready to fall with the slightest bump of the wall? If one thing was clear, Danny was not a guy to notice a lot of things that mattered. As I sat back down, I realized I needed to listen to anything remaining in my review.
That’s when the clock moved.
Then it moved again.
As quickly as I had put it to place, it slipped down on the nail that was suppose to hold it in place. The clock was back in it’s original dislodged position. “Damn,” I thought. It simply needs a better nail or screw or something to fix that in position. I wrestled with the plans in my head to design an entirely new mounting device. One that would not fall from the wall, but I knew I had to focus.
To help myself, I decided it would be best to get some physical control of my body. I sat on my hands and I must have looked odd as I flexed my eyes wide and focused intently on Danny.
“So that’s it. Those are your goals.” Danny said as he stood up and fixed a paperclip to my employee review. “Let’s get started right away. Work on that first goal this weekend and report back to me and the rest of the team with your top three ideas Monday morning at our Unit meeting.” Danny signed my review, slipped it into a hanging file folder with my name on the tab and rolled the file door close.
I took the cue that I was supposed to stand up and leave. “Okay. First thing Monday morning sounds good to me. I’ll work on those three ideas this weekend,” I said, not knowing anything at all about what I was supposed to do in the next two days. As I turned to leave, I quickly reached over and adjusted the clock one more time. It immediately fell away from the wall again. I walked out of his cubicle and wandered around the office until plopping back at my own desk wondering how I would figure out a solution to my problem.
I grabbed some bland paper and for my remaining three hours I did my best to remember or piece together any parts of the review that I could. It was hopeless. I just couldn’t remember a thing. At the end, all I had done was sketch a new design for a mounted clock in Danny's cubicle.
I knew it was company protocol for your review and goals to filter up the management tree. Once senior management approved the review, they would return a copy, including all notes and goals, back to the employee. Eventually, I’d get a printout, but that didn’t help me out this weekend when I was supposed to work on strategy for the first goal.
That is why I actually looked forward to the crawl of traffic and a quiet weekend at home. I finished reflecting on my lousy day and walked out to my car. I concluded that it would be best if I just went home and returned on Monday admitting to everything and accepting the fact that I was a huge failure. I got in the car, turned the key in the ignition, adjusted my chair, looked in my rear-view mirror and started to back my car out. That’s when I noticed something in my mirror. Something that would change my weekend.