Rood Boyz

There is an odd phenomenon in corporate environments whereby extreme rudeness and impolite behaviour is perfectly acceptable provided it is of a certain form, while others are very much frowned upon.  Here is an example.

A project I was managing required a specific type of insurance document to be drawn up on behalf of one of the contractors.  For this, I had to go to a chap who called himself Head of Legal Affairs.  I explained to him what was required, the importance of it to the contractor and hence the execution of our work, and he assured me that this would be done in good time.  Without this document, the contractor – who had acted thus far in completely good faith – could not mobilise.  A week passed and still no document.  I emailed the Head of Legal Affairs, who I’ll call Mr Weepy for reasons that will become apparent, to ask him when this document would be ready.  I never got a reply.  Meanwhile, my contractor was understandably getting agitated as their schedule was in danger of slipping.  I called Mr Weepy’s desk, but he was on holiday.  I eventually found his replacement and forwarded the earlier email to him, and asked him to issue the document.  No reply.  So I called him up, spoke to him, and he said he’d get on with it.  Another week or two went by, the insurance document was still not issued, and my contractor’s schedule was in tatters and his costs increasing.  I’d had nothing but silence from the Legal Affairs department.

I decided to wait until Mr Weepy was back from holiday, and then sent him another email.  No response.  I sent him several more emails.  No response.  In each case I copied in the chap who had replaced him when he was on holiday.  No response from him either.  This went on for about 2-3 months, and the noises from my contractor were getting more and more desperate.  I contacted Mr Weepy’s manager, to no avail.  Eventually I got Mr Weepy on the phone.  The conversation went like this:

Me: “Hello, it’s Jake Barnes.  Have you issued the insurance document yet?”

Him: “Sorry, what’s this about?”

Me: “The insurance document for the contractor.  I’ve sent you a dozen emails on the subject.  Is the document ready?”

Him: “Oh, you need to speak to Mr X (the chap who had replaced him on holiday and been in copy of all correspondence since).”

Me: “He’s been in the loop since the beginning, and hasn’t done anything: you’re his manager, so YOU go and tell him.”

Him: “I am sorry but…”

Me, in a ferocious growl concealing a murderous anger: “No, you listen here.  And you listen damn good.  You will go to your desk and you will prepare that damned document and you will send it to the contractor right now.  I am not interested in your “buts” you will do your damned job and issue that document.”

Him, in a voice revealing extreme shock “You will not speak…”

Me: “I’ll speak to you how I damned well like.  For three months I’ve been asking you to do this and not once have you bothered replying.  You have utterly failed to do a simple task and so I am taking it upon myself to make sure you do it.  So you will stop whining and go to your desk and prepare that document as soon as we are done talking.  And we are done talking.”

With that, I slammed the phone down.

A few minutes later my phone rang and his trembling voice demanded to know who my manager was.  He was actually crying.

Me: “You damn well find the organisation chart and look it up.  Now I instructed you to prepare that document and I expect you to do it, right now!”

And I slammed the phone down again.

Within a couple of hours I got a phone call from one of the senior managers who wanted to speak to me about “an incident”.  No prizes for guessing which one.  He admonished me for being rude, unprofessional and used phases such as “there is no need for that” and “there are ways of asking nicely”.  My response, delivered in monologue (my preferred method of communicating with managers) was roughly as follows:

“Oh, so I was being rude, was I?  And three months of having my emails ignored, phone calls ignored, and being fobbed off with excuses on what was obviously a seriously important and sensitive matter isn’t rude and unprofessional, I suppose?  And yes, there are ways of asking nicely and indeed I did just that for three months and found myself getting nowhere.  So I kicked his arse and made him cry, and do you know what?  The contractor got his document yesterday.  So if by asking nicely I get fobbed off and ignored, and if by bawling at him and making him cry he finally does the job he is paid to do, what do you think I’ll be doing in future?  What’s the lesson learned here?  The lesson he needs to learn, and others like him, is that if he does his job and is courteous then people won’t be rude to him; but if he is discourteous and unreliable in his dealings with others, he will be made to cry again.  And the lesson you need to learn is that rudeness and unprofessionalism comes in many forms and you seemed quite uninterested in them when I was on the receiving end for three months.  In fact, I came to see you about this very problem and you just shrugged and told me “I have to manage it” so you know what?  I did.  I dealt with it my way.  What was I supposed to do, keep asking nicely for another three months?”

To which the manager – having learned not a damned thing – just weakly repeated what he’d said about “there being ways of talking to people”.

But you know what?  The document was issued that very day.  The lesson I took away from this is not to refrain from being rude to somebody, but that if somebody doesn’t respond to being asked nicely more than three times then give him a kick up the arse that will make him think his sphincter has eloped with his tonsils.

“Allow me to be polite!”

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One Response to Rood Boyz

  1. will says:

    You could transpose it to almost any industry. No one anywhere wants to be responsible.