When will the Legendary Seagull finally disappear into the Sunset?

Like the tales and sagas of seafaring nations, every office or company has its lore. Here’s the story of a curious bird whose departure seems long overdue.

The division had been reorganized three or four times during the last ten years. Most of the employees were new or had been transferred in from other units. The latest iteration of the division occurred four years ago and, as usual, it was extremely top heavy with a plethora of vice presidents and their retinues but with very few employees to perform the actual tasks. Jim was part of that bevy of heavy artillery.

No one seemed to know where Jim had come from or how he came about his title and authority. Jim had been with the corporation for several years and had served in a variety of roles at various business units. How he found himself at this division seemed unclear. He never really appeared to do anything. Although his departmental staff seemed confused and dysfunctional, Jim never showed any leadership or gave any direction. It was as if all of Jim’s new subordinates were expected to just know about everything through osmosis or find things out on their own. Jim kept everything to himself. He had two extremely loyal assistants that he had brought along with him but they were a tightly knit group and didn’t seem to want to get involved or share information with the rest of the staff. The three appeared aloof and disconnected.

During the ensuing three years, Jim picked up the nickname of “the seagull”. This moniker, known to all at the middle and lower levels, had been bestowed upon Jim due to his penchant for flitting into meetings, “crapping” over everything and then flitting out. Everyone dreaded his intrusions into ad hoc sessions and conference calls. The pest would suddenly appear from nowhere, plop comfortably down and screech a few criticisms (usually while crunching on a mint or a handful of peanuts). I personally found that habit very rude and annoying.

He never had anything good to say and always seemed smug, critical and disgusted. One thing could always be counted upon; his mere presence was guaranteed to result in additional workload. Jim was one of those guys who must have believed that the value of an executive is measured by the amount of non-value added work that they create. Jim was the master of dreaming up detailed schedules of minutiae and analysis upon analysis of the analysis. But the results of all of this “make work” never seemed to go anywhere or prove anything. There was not enough staff to get the required work of the department completed on time, let alone comply with Jim’s whims but the seagull’s two loyalists continuously pestered the staff to conform to Jim’s demands and arbitrary timetables.

About a year ago, the CEO of the corporation announced another major shake-up and canned the division’s president as well as several vice presidents including Jim. We all got the memo and breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps now we’d see some real leadership and get new direction (or maybe just direction). We anxiously waited for the next shoe to drop. There were plenty of good veteran middle managers around who could fill the void.

About a week after the memo, the newly appointed interim president of the division decided to hold a “going away party” for the departing executives. Punch and cookies would be served during an hour long gathering in the cafeteria on Friday. Although most of us didn’t even know what many of these characters even looked like, we decided to drop by for the free food. We also wanted to see how Jim would act. We stuck around for forty five minutes or so. There was quite a crowd with each now ex-vice president surrounded by their own cohorts. There was a lot of laughing and back slapping – but no seagull. Where was he? Had he already flown the coop? No. About five minutes later, my coworker spotted him standing near the doorway. Jim had already raided the candy tray and was popping nuggets into his beak from a fistful that he had grabbed. Someone finally approached him and they began a brief conversation that we could not overhear. All we could see was the usual smug expression on Jim’s face and his eyes rolling as he conversed with the employee. Then, as suddenly as he appeared, Jim rubbed his hands together to remove the crumbs and disappeared out the doorway.

Later that afternoon, my coworker grabbed me by the arm in the hall. “He’s not leaving!” he shrieked. “Who?” I asked. “The seagull!” He replied. My chum then told me that he had spoken with an employee named Bret from Engineering. Bret was the fellow we’d seen with Jim in the cafeteria. Bret had approached Jim to wish him luck but Jim simply ignored Bret’s well intentioned bon voyage and stated that he wasn’t going anywhere. “That’s impossible,” I said, “The guy got canned by the CEO himself. You read the memo.”

But it was true. On Monday morning, the bird was back in his roost. He seemed a bit subdued but it was evident that he was NOT cleaning out his nest. Over the next few months, the seagull returned to circling the department looking for a landing site and a place to poop – and more critical and negative than ever. Rumors flew about how he had simply “refused” to leave after being fired or had pleaded with corporate HQ to allow him to stay. We all knew of his perceived self-importance but I had never (and still have not to this day) seen anyone defy the public commands of a corporate CEO. Two month’s later, a memo from HQ reported that Jim’s title had changed and now included the prefix “acting”. However, all reporting relationships remained intact. What did this all mean?

A few more months passed and yet another memo from corporate headquarters revealed that a search was being conducted for a replacement for the position of vice president that Jim had originally held with the division. Jim was mentioned in the memo with a slightly different title that was no longer prefixed with “acting”. Again, all reporting relationships remained the same. The memo did indicate that he would soon be departing. There was no specific date mentioned.

It’s now been almost eight months since the last memo. I’ve left the corporation but still stay in touch with one of my co-workers. I called my friend the other day. He didn’t even wait for me to ask the question but just started making a squawking noise into the telephone. “He’s still there?” I asked in disbelief. “I thought geese were bad about crapping all over the place,” answered my friend, “Seagulls are worse and apparently they don’t migrate.”

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One Response to “When will the Legendary Seagull finally disappear into the Sunset?”

  1. David Says:

    Regarding top-heavy organizations after a re-org, our business side was unhappy with the IT division and ordered it to evaluate processes and also do a head-count reduction.

    Details were left to the managers and after nine months of meetings, the managers determined that management was not the problem, and was actually pretty darn good. So the only people who got laid off were workers. It even resulted in situations were a manager who only one direct report. But at least we were taking action.

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