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The Silence of the Wolves
A Case Study of Modern Business as a Degenerate Hierarchy
I was consulting with a man who asked my advice on doing charity work in association with a corrupt government agency. During the course of advising him, I was reminded of my own attempt, some 9 years gone, to train my own replacement to run a grocery store.
His real name was Kevin, an intelligent, hardworking man.
He was number three among my management staff, training under all of us to be my successor. He had the energy and the ability to learn that the other two assistants did not. In seniority, at that place of business, he was ahead of both these men, but was being brought along slowly in rank for the sake of his development, for the other two were critically flawed in terms of human resources potential.
It then came to my attention that Kevin was spending a lot of time speaking against my management style and specific staffing decisions to the owners, two gullible bimbos. I was not concerned with keeping my job at this point, as I had overstayed my contract and was seeking an exit within 6 months. Since Kevin was the only member of the management team with the inclination or ability to train clerks, his elevation was crucial to the continued health of the operation after I left, as I had personally trained the staff to stave off an imminent business failure.
The other two managers had talked Kevin into doing something against company policy which hurt his standing with the owners, then they filled his head with the idea that I was lying about retiring at 47, that no man heading into six figures of salary while approaching his economic decline would do such a thing.
Kevin made his play.
I was pulled into a conference with the owners and the two co-managers in which a vote was taken to terminate Kevin. I was the only vote against the measure. I was then directed by the CFO to fill out the termination documentation as I was her assistant in that manner. It would appear to Kevin that I terminated him. As I filled out the work, Kevin was brought in and fired. Kevin was apprised by the owners, who were not dishonest folk and could not believe the depths to which the co-managers had gone to achieve this end, that I was the only declining vote for his termination.
It was clear by the conduct what had happened. Kevin had been talked into his foolish attempt to replace the very man who was trying to replace himself with Kevin, by the two co-managers, who saw him as the only threat to their manipulation of the owners once I had left.
It fell to me to walk Kevin out as I waved off the security manager and the other Co- so that they would not have the chance to make Kevin look like he had been caught stealing down there on the floor with the people he had supervised. We talked in the stockroom. His wife was sick and out of work and Kevin was near to tears. Kevin asked if I could speak for him and I told him that had and that it was a done deal, that he had been tricked about me and that I had lost the balance of my credit in the eyes of the owners by defending him. I appeared weak for not going to bat for myself and trying to fend off his attacks on me. What was worse, I seemed not to hold my position in high regard in the eyes of those who had elevated me—which was an insult to them.
I promised him a good job reference and gave him what was left in my wallet—$60 I think.
That was my toughest leadership lesson, namely that leading in a manipulative matrix is doomed to an ugly end, and that henceforth I would only assist such people as a consultant, an outsider, where one can see the wolves circling more easily than when one is leading them, for consulting brings an observational vantage that is denied the leader.
Bro, do not join the team. Advise them from the sidelines.
Let the World Fend for Itself
Big Ron's Baltimore: A Working Man's View of Urban Blight
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