Friday, March 13, 2009

Living in a half-assed world, Part Deux

I told a commenter on my original "Living in a half-assed world" post that shaking your fist at the system is not productive. Well, color me hypocritical because I am shaking my fist. Not at the publishing world mind you, but at a different kind of half-asser...the kind who can't hear criticism. Let me tell you a story.

A person I am close to... for the sake of the story, let's call him in a profession akin to sales. He is good at his job, bringing new clients to the business. His department is responsible for 33% of the company's business, and he brings in more new clients than anyone. In recent weeks, Bob has been concerned about some renovation going on in his building. Like many businesses, Bob's company has had some financial difficulties. He wondered why, in these hard times, the company was spending money on sprucing up the lobby. The decor was actually quite appropriate to Bob's business. No one had informed anyone in Bob's department of the changes, and he found himself apologizing for the mess each time he brought a prospective client to the office.

Today, the painters arrived. Most of Bob's department was out of the office...on the road. Bob watched in horror as the painters prepared to paint over the logo and original artwork in the lobby in colors that could only be described as unattractive. Mud brown ("mud" was not the first word that came to Bob's mind when he saw this particular shade of brown, but it is the kindest) and pea green were replacing a commissioned mural. Naturally, Bob was distraught. He called the person in charge of maintaining the building. They referred him to someone higher up in the company's administration. Bob was certain the highest members of the company's administration could not possibly be aware of the impending design disaster in the lobby. So he emailed them and outlined the problem, hoping to find someone who could stop the madness.

Oh. My. God. A plague of locusts that can only be described in biblical proportions descended on Bob's head. The CEO of the company emailed Bob that he had never received a more disrespectful email, and he couldn't even talk to him now because he was so angry. The head of Bob's division requested a meeting with Bob and his immediate supervisor at 8am Monday morning. Bob's immediate supervisor raced into Bob's office and demanded to know what the hell he was doing insulting the CEO.

Bob was flummoxed. All he had done was say that the paint was "awful" and did not represent the company in the same way as the logo and highly popular mural. He was concerned that business would be affected as the lobby is the FIRST impression new clients had of the company. He had reminded the administration that his department was the most productive in bringing in new business. Bob's supervisor dropped his head into his hands.

Turns out the CEO had hired high-priced designers to tell him "mud" brown and pea green were more aesthetically pleasing than the mural. Bob simply looked at the new scheme and said, "The emperor has no clothes." The emperor took it personally, and Bob will defend his honesty on Monday. Because of Bob's impressive sales record, he will not lose his job, but he will have to say his mea culpas.

Some folks just can't hear criticism, even when it's not mean-spirited and in their best interest. One wonders how they've managed as long as they have with such thin skin. It's a mutation of the same disease we saw after #queryfail. In the times we live in, improvement is imperative, and sometimes we have to hear unpleasant truths. Anything else is just half-assed.


  1. Good grief. Poor Bob. I hope things worked out well for him...

  2. He got a "stern talking to" on Monday, and life goes on. It's a shame though. The mural is mud brown now.