Old Joe P. Checks in from the “Incredible Shrinking Company”

Post publication note from The Corporate Cynic: I’ve decided to categorize this post under “Real Leadership”. Joe P. really showed a lot of gumption by sticking up for himself and his operation. Instead of cowtowing to the elites and letting them steal the show, he came prepared for battle. Joe always impressed me as a good honest man. It’s time that Joe and others of his ilk get the recognition that they deserve.

Well, well, well! Joe P. gave me a call last week. Here’s a voice from the past. You’ll remember Joe from the post Honey, We’ve Shrunk the Company! (July 20, 2007, categorized under Never fail to Amaze). You’ll also recall that Joe is still a plant manager for a pretty poorly run corporation where we once worked together a few years ago. Joe may not be highly educated or a smooth corporate type but he’s a standup guy, a damn fine manager and an expert at working with what he’s handed to get the job done. So what’s new at the zoo?

Well it seems that the majority bloc of investors has appointed a new “overseer” to keep on an eye on the CEO. The CEO, in turn, hired a new Chief Financial Officer. Joe reports that this new finance guy is another perfect “fit” for the executive culture at that company. You know the type – a cocky know-it-all and mile-a-minute talker. A young slicked back hair accountant wearing small eyeglasses that refuses to listen to anyone other than the CEO and can’t ever seem to get his head out of his laptop. Boy, I’m glad that I’m not there any longer!

Joe reports that the new “overseer” decided to hold meetings last month at each of the remaining plants to get acquainted with the local management and get a bird’s eye view of what was going on and why. Those present for the meeting at Joe’s operation were the characters mentioned above. Joe, of course, was immediately put on the hot seat.

At first the CEO did all of the talking taking full credit for anything good that had ever occurred there. Then the CFO chimed in. Neither seemed to want to let Joe to get in a word edgewise. But when the CFO began rattling off a litany of poor efficiency and productivity metrics for the plant, Joe decided to defend his operation. Now Joe is most definitely not the most political character one would ever meet. He can be exceedingly blunt, especially when attacked. Joe has a refreshingly honest concept of what’s right and wrong. In this case, he told me that had been prepared for such a crucifixion and brought along a stack of reports that contradicted many of the metrics that the CFO was spouting. He dared to interrupt and take issue with several of the statistics being cited by this new wunderkind. According to Joe, the new CFO reddened with anger and looked to the CEO for support. Sensing a major confrontation on the horizon, the “overseer” decided that a ten-minute break was in order. Joe left to check on the plant. When he returned the meeting reconvened but the subject had changed.

It was now time to discuss opportunities for improvement. The CEO began to read from a list of all the improvements that Joe was now being assigned. Joe interrupted again and this time read from copies of memo’s he had also brought with him to the meeting. A majority of Joe’s new assignments were actually HIS suggestions that he had written in the form of memos to the CEO weeks and months prior to the meeting. Since he’d never received replies, Joe thought it odd that HIS ideas were now being treated as assignments without any credit being given for their original suggestion. As new storm clouds began to form over the proceedings, the “overseer” called for another ten-minute break. When the meeting reconvened, there was no further mention of the subject.

The meeting’s agenda progressed to the subject of capital improvements for the plant and Joe was assigned the task of preparing various requests for capital funds to replace and upgrade worn out machinery and equipment. Joe was prepared again. This time he produced copies of formal requests for the very same items that he had prepared and submitted over the last five or six years (some I had even helped prepare years ago). The CEO had previously rejected all of them. The only comment from the new wunderkind was that Joe’s previous requests had been written on “the old forms”. Joe told me that he was not going to let the “overseer” believe that he was a complete dunderhead. It was time for another break.

According to Joe, the rest of the meeting was rather cordial and mundane. Near the end, as the conversation between the new three amigos turned to college sports and high-end restaurants, Joe, feeling like the “odd man out”, skulked back to the plant to keep things going as best as he could.

Should Joe be worried about losing his job because he lost his cool and put the honchos on the spot? I think not. Joe knows that they know as I know (and as the “overseer” will soon know) that they’ll never find anyone else willing to try and run that goofy operation and put up with their guff. They’ve tried before and failed miserably.

The more things change….

Here’s to sticking up for yourself. Hang in there Joe!

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