Raymond J. Posthaste, the Vice President for Productivity, eyed the assembled Crampidge Industries employees over the top of his wire-rimmed glasses. Though he had only done a single peacetime tour as an enlisted soldier and then had passed the bulk of his career in business, he still saw himself as a military man. He carried himself stiffly and wore his steel colored hair cropped short. He talked frequently of brotherhood and the service.
As he took the lectern, the VPP faintly glowed with brisk self-importance. He dampened a little as he passed over the scratched-out portion of his notes. Word had come down that his only mildly off-color warm-up jokes were not viewed with a favorable eye by Mr. Crampidge.
Amid scattered muttering, Posthaste grabbed the edges of the lectern and prepared to launch his monthly assault on potential employee slack.
“All right people, listen up! We’ve got a lot of ground to cover this morning, so let’s use the time efficiently.”
Some faces turned to him with rapt expressions – those who wished to be observed aggressively listening. Toward the back, the young workers and malcontents skulked, probably spreading their malaise.
“This month’s numbers were troubling, guys. While there was not a positive decline in productivity growth, there was certainly some leveling off from our previous months’ gains.” Here, Raymond pulled out his pointer and pointed to significant spots on the productivity graphs. “Though Crampidge workers are out-performing our competitors, we cannot get complacent. Markets are fickle, and high productivity could save your job.”
He moved in front of the lectern and assumed a wide-legged stance.
“What we have right now is a confluence of the holiday season and the worldwide recession. However, my models indicate that there is no reason Crampidge Industries cannot continue to see growth in employee productivity. You should all be aware that holiday overeating can seriously damage your job performance.” He glared over the rims of his glasses, daring anyone to accuse him of that crime.
Posthaste drew back when a hand rose practically nearly under him. Furthermore, the hand belonged to one of the energetic twenty-somethings that he had classified as a malcontent based on his persistence in wearing indifferently pressed khakis to work.
“Isn’t it possible that there is a limit to employee productivity, and we are all doing our best?” the young man asked.
Posthaste straightened up his spine and squinted the way his drill sergeant had glared at recruits lo, those many years ago. “Son,” he intoned in his nasally baritone, “do you honestly think you don’t waste any time? I’d be glad to prepare a thorough report on your performance next month as a model for your peers, if so. I’m sure the rest of management would be happy to see such a report.”
The question was withdrawn, and Posthaste left the field a victor once again.
That afternoon, the younger Mr. Crampidge of Crampidge Industries moved down the hall like a steamship puffing up the Mississippi. Banners flying, full steam, and brassy fanfare. It was a red letter day when one of the Mr. Crampidges showed up unexpectedly at the office, and a hint of a holiday atmosphere crept around in his wake.
Employees clustered in doorways, hoping to be recognized.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Pomfret. Hello there, Ms. Winkler. Good to see you, Mrs. Landsdowne.”
Those named glowed as if they had received a benediction.
In his office on the fifth floor, the Vice President of Productivity fretted.
He turned to his executive assistant. “William, you find me in a bit of a quandary today.”
William was a smart looking young man who nearly snapped to attention when his boss spoke.
“Yes sir! What can I help you with?”
“William, I am due for the quarterly managers’ productivity meeting at 1400 hours, but Mr. Crampidge has asked to see me at that time.”
William was too disciplined to hop about, but his demeanor suggested that he wanted to. “Sir, I’ve worked with you on these reports. I’d be glad to fill in for you at the meeting.”
Posthaste looked at him under one lifted eyebrow. He was proud of his assistant, who had been handpicked and meticulously groomed for the position.
“Are you certain you can handle the graphs?”
“Yes sir! I’ve already familiarized myself with them in order to prepare for the productivity newsletter we discussed sending out.”
“Well then, this could be your big chance.”
“Yes sir!” The young man beamed at his supervisor with earnestness and likability oozing out of him. Posthaste despised him. Damned brown-noser.
Raymond J. Posthaste watched Mr. Crampidge’s pendulous jowls wobble in time to the sound of the words “You are being made redundant.” The fleshy pockets connected to a crinkled neck in a drooping skin parody of crepe paper streamers.
The sound of Mr. Crampidge’s condolences was background noise, receding behind the wet smack of his tongue against the back of gleaming dentures.
Although for once words failed him, Posthaste was able to draw on months of army training in his youth to bolster his fortitude under fire.
“Yes, sir,” he said. “I understand.” Though of course he didn’t.
“Well the truth is, Posthaste, that you worked yourself out of a job.”
“Right, sir. How’s that, again?”
“Posthaste, we appreciate your service to the company, but productivity has leveled off. And with the economy…well you know, we just think you’ve done all you can here.” And also they wanted his office.
“Have I any recourse? Sir.”
“Well, no, not really. We’ve prepared a generous package, and you are welcome to simply retire. Now that the company is at peak performance, we simply need to move ahead.”
“In the direction I’ve charted.”
“Well yes, I suppose so. Look, Posthaste, you aren’t going to make this difficult, are you?”
With a stiff, angry spine, Raymond stood. “Sir, I believe you are making a mistake. Good afternoon.”
Though it made him feel like a radical, he marched out into the hallway without further pleasantries. For a moment, the frosted glass hallway that was so similar to every other hallway in the building confused him. Which hallway? Ah yes.
At sixty, he had not thought to retire. What sort of package did Mr. Crampidge intend? Was he destined for an irrelevant future, full of leisure time and grandfatherly activities? Would he, desperate for purpose, take a series of thankless old person jobs at places like Wal-Mart?
He would not go softly, he decided during the ignominious walk toward the dreary purpose of packing up his office.
His was not a constitution for cardigans and hard candy.