“So what are you working on so diligently?” Joe drapes an elbow over the top of Heather’s cubicle and peers down at the top of her head and further down, into her blouse.
Good grief! Can’t this guy take a hint and back off, already? Heather politely smiles up at her supervisor’s boss’ best friend’s nephew, who was also second in command to the CIO, and answers. “That New National Survey has just been released and I guess I’m the office point person.”
“I heard that. So, how have you been?” he wiggles his eyebrows. “I haven’t gotten any humor emails from you lately.”
“No time–I’m pretty much keeping my sense of humor on Facebook these days. Friends and family, you know.” Of which you are not. You’ve proven that.
“I’ll have to sign up and get on your list,” he holds her gaze for an uncomfortable 8 seconds, then clears his throat, and looks out over the sea of cubicles. “Look, my boss, Mr. Biggie? He wants me to do a presentation on the New National Survey. Can you help me?”
“Of course. Have a seat and tell me a little bit about the request,” Heather pulls out a notepad from underneath a stack of research articles, grabs a black Papermate pen, and turns her back to her computer. This I can handle. This is my job.
Joe plops down into the other chair squeezed into the cubicle and leans forward, elbows on knees. “So how have you been? How are the kids?”
“They’re doing great. They’re both at camp for the next month, and with the house empty, I’ve got great plans for painting and re-tiling the bathroom.” Shoot! Looks like he’s taken THAT the wrong way. “So how’re Mona and the kids?”
“Kids are great. Mona’s a pain—she’s trying to hit me up for more child support, just when the divorce is being finalized.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I guess that’s the downside of a promotion. So tell me about this data request. Who’s your audience and how long is the presentation?”
“Mr. Biggie told me to come down and talk to you about the New National Survey. So, what’s interesting about the survey?”
“A lot of things…it’s all new this time around,” she manages a chuckle. “But I’m pretty sure all the measurement stuff is not what you’re most interested in. What do you want to know about from the survey?”
“Just tell me what’s interesting.”
She begins to list the new methods and questions, but stops after the fifth example when she notices his pointed smirk. Sorry Dude, none of what you’re trolling for is on the table here. “How would you like to use the information?”
“I don’t really know.”
“Are you interested in local or national information? Any county or metro-area data?”
“All of the above.”
“Are there parts of the survey that your customer is going to be more interested in?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you have a deadline? That might help us decide how much…”
“Mr. Biggie wants me to report back to him by noon, the day after tomorrow.”
“And it’s 5:30 now. Are you sure you can’t help me narrow the request? You know, make it the right size for your needs?”
“Nope.” Joe looks at her hopefully. “So…you’ll be working late tonight? How about we go have a couple of drinks?”
“Actually, I have another commitment tonight. But I’ll make your data request my top priority tomorrow.” And I’ll spend all day tomorrow, and half of the next day putting together a package of info about what policy-makers are saying about the New National Survey, and it won’t be what he really wants.
The following week, Heather is called into the office of her supervisor’s boss.
“Close the door,” Mrs. O’Frinkle does not look away from her email. “I got a complaint from Joe Bloughsom about you.”
“I did put together a packet of information for him last week, about the New National Survey. He wasn’t able to give me much information about what data he needed most, so I went wide, so he could have something to work from.”
“A man like Joe Bloughsom doesn’t need a bunch of data!” Mrs. O’Frinkle wheels around in her chair.
“But that’s what he asked for. And that’s what my job is.” Heather tips her head to one side, nervously quirks an eyebrow.
“He’s a busy man! What he needs are bullet points!” she glares at Heather through her cat’s-eye glasses.
“I’d gladly help him out with that, but I’d need to know audience, length of presentation, and what he wants to accomplish. He wasn’t at that point, then.”
“You just need to be nicer to him!” Her fists clench and her breathing is labored. “I brought him into this organization, and he’s an important man.”
“I do try to be nice. And I believe I handled his data request professionally.” Heather’s heart pounded in her throat. Oh my god, is she going to start jumping up and down and throwing feces? “Please…can you tell me what you mean by ‘be nicer’? What behaviors are missing?”
“I shouldn’t have to tell you that. You know what to do, Heather.” The desk chair squeals as Mrs. O’Frinkle turns back to her email.
Liz Husebye Hartmann
Greg Schiller’s Challenge: write about your Dilbert experiences.
Here is your chance to unload.