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Corporate Communication 
When Bad Gets Worse

The President of the company I work for is basically a nice guy.

His name is Dick.

Dick is a genius - high IQ and all - a real techno-genius with a perfectly balanced life including work, health, family and and love for the environment. Dick dresses true to the corporate cazzz' style of pressed khakis, oxford or polo shirt, leather belt, no socks in the summer.

Dick is not afraid to wear a melon or mauve colored polo.

Dick jogs daily, has a perfect tan, attends most of his two blond children's sporting events, drinks bottled water and recycles. His wife is a perfect size 2, adores him and always has enough room in her Lexus RX for another child - always has enough room at the gourmet dinner table for a golfing buddy Dick may bring home.

Dick is not too ostentatious. Though he is the President of a technology company, he drives a Toyota Avalon (not a BMW) and is willing to wear Ralph Lauren polo shirts purchased at Marshall's.  His down-to-earth nature emerges when he greets employees by name - usually the right name, but that karma quickly dissolves after the two seconds of eye contact that compliment the personal greeting.

Dick wants to know about you - but not that much about you. He's secretly a compulsive introvert, happiest with his head in sand when it comes to issues that deal with humans.

Dick's best friend at work is his computer monitor which always delivers exactly what he requests - nice, neat little pieces of data that don't have feelings, don't talk back and always deliver the right answers (and only the answers he asks for).

Dick feels most uncomfortable when he is forced to interact with Humans. If there is ever a human conflict at the company that warrants his attention, he almost always defers the to the VP of Human Resources, Lester Goldberg, a megalomaniac with a secret desire is plant a car bomb in Dick's Avalon leaving an open path for Lester to assume Dick's position in the corner office.   Lester detests hates humans, but walks around in the disguise of the 'caring, compassionate, interested' leader who sees to it
that all the human needs are met.

Those who cross Lester, always end up taking the 'long walk' to the conference room, which ends with the HR Manager escorting the unlucky sap to the elevator after the receptionist gathers personal belongings from his or her cube.... Which is immediately followed by a corporate-wide email stating : " _____ no longer works here. Please
remove them from your address book."

Back to Dick:

Dick doesn't believe in paper which works nicely with his tree-hugging image.

We have a policy of NO PAPER MEMOS at our company which is listed just under the policy that states LIMIT VERBAL COMMUNICATION WHEN POSSIBLE in our CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS guidebook.

Verbal communication wastes far too much time and only encourages gossip and
undesirable interruptions thus leading to a reduction in overall productivity.

We maximize our use of electronic mail for corporate communication. It's more efficient, less waste, and is an excellent tracking tool.

Of course, the most common two phrases heard at the company are "I don't have
time" and "Put that in an e-mail". Coming in a close second behind those two phrases are: "You didn't answer my e-mail" and "I sent you an e-mail on that, but got no response".    Which is often superseded by "I'm so swamped, I spent hours today just plowing through my e-mail"

Dick is so efficient with his own work that he doesn't need an administrative assistant. In fact, he believes we should all administrate ourselves. Most people believe that Dick doesn't have an Admin Assistant because he doesn't want to have to talk to one, or have the Assistant talk to him. But... since Dick is President, there are a few occasions when he does need a little assistance so his administrative tasks are rotated weekly throughout the HR team whose cubes are conveniently located just outside his corner office door.

I'm on the HR Team. At our Friday afternoon HR meetings we vote on who will be assigned to "Dick support" the next week.   At the end of the meeting, whoever was on "Dick support" the previous week passes the HR jock strap to next week's "Dick supporter."

Our HR Friday meetings are grueling because we focus on how we will unsuccessfully add some value to the "human" experience in our anti-human corporate environment. So in an effort to end our meeting on a light note we share "Dick support" stories from previous weeks. At the end of the month we vote on the most ridiculous story and issue the monthly "Dick Support Award."

This is my latest "Dick support" story; though I'm disappointed it didn't win the prize.

The chair in my cube lies exactly 14 feet from Dick's chair, which also works out to eighteen paces ... which also works out to approximately 6 seconds when you endeavor to walk from his chair to my chair. As part of my job as Corporate Trainer, I recently sent out a company wide email warmly (though electronically) welcoming the four new hires joining our staff that particular week, introducing them to the other corporate humans with a shot bio on each new hire. Dick replied to my email. At the time we were both sitting at our computers 14 feet away from each other.

Dick's reply read .... Mindie, don't I meet with these new hires? I can't remember if I'm supposed to come to the Orientation and give my talk on the Corporate Strategy or if I meet with a bunch of them monthly.

My response back: Dick, you told me you didn't want to come to the Orientation due to your schedule. You wanted to meet with new hires once we had at least ten so we created "Breakfast with the President" (coffee, juice and fruit - no Danish or muffins). These four new hires make up a total of eight since your last Breakfast with the President meeting.

(15 minutes later .... We're still at our desks)

Dick: Mindie, when will we have at least ten?

My reply: In two weeks we have six new hires coming aboard. That will make 14 new hires for the meeting.

(20 minutes later .... Still at our desks.)

Dick's reply:    I think 14 is too many. It won't feel as personal for them.

My reply:       Would you like me to schedule a meeting then for these eight?

Dick's reply:    What do you think? 

My reply:        I think now would be fine. Eight is a good number around the conference table and you'll be able to have a more personal feel. The new hires won't feel so lost in the crowd. Do you want me to schedule the meeting and reserve the conference room?

(2 hours later)

Dick's reply:      Actually, I'm swamped for the next three weeks. I can't fit a meeting in until next month.

My reply:      In three weeks we will have a total of nine new hires. Adding them to the existing eight will give you a total of seventeen. You won't have that 'personal feeling' that you're looking for.

Dick's reply: Well, that's okay. Stop by my office when I don't look too busy and we'll see if we can't get a date for this thing on the calendar sometime next month. At least if it's on the calendar, it will remind me that I have to do it. I may have to change it. If all else fails, I'll have Lester (the VP of Human Resources) stand in for me.

This prompts a vision in my mind where Lester subs for Dick and we have to
rename the meeting, "Let's Meet the VP of Human Resources" but we start the newbies out right by putting all the chairs against the wall and reminding them to bring a concealed weapon.

10 emails and three hours after Dick's initial reply to my email, I look into his office to see him pensively pondering a spreadsheet. I internally try to discern if this is a time when he "looks busy."   I try to estimate how much of Dick's time I will take finding a date on his already full calendar for him to pencil in a Breakfast that will affirm new hires that he knows he will cancel and will assign the affirming responsibility to a VP whose controlling, anti-social behavior rivals the likes of Mussolini and Stalin.

I entered his office.

He was annoyed, but we scheduled the appointment.

He cancelled the appointment and deferred the responsibility to Lester who resceduled it again when all eighteen could attend at once so we didn't have to repeat the event and take more of Dick's time.

Wilma is the Site Manager. Davina is the Benefits Manager. Wilma is a
nice, supportive, good-natured person who always tries to help but often
feels like a doormat. Wilma strives to please, is ultra-sensitive and
prone to tears. Davina is sweet, but just a tad more insightful than Wilma. The
following conversation takes place between these two helpful, sensitive
HR staff members.

Davina: Wilma, Dick is upset that you haven't removed the
plastic water bottles from the end of his desk.

Wilma: What are you talking about?

Davina: Dick drinks two or three bottled waters each day. You know
how he is about recycling. At the end of the day, he neatly arranges all of his empty bottles at the edge of his desk. He wants whomever is on support that week to collect them and carry them down to the recycling barrel in the kitchen

Wilma: How was I supposed to know that?

Davina: I don't know.

Wilma: How did you find out he wanted the cans moved? Did he tell you?

Davina: No, I just saw the bottles all over his office one week when I was on support and asked him if he'd like me to take them down to the recycling bin. He said yes, and for the rest of the week he stacked them at the end of his desk. Each day I collected them and took them down.

Wilma: Did he tell you that he was mad at me?

Davina: Well, not exactly. He said that HR, particularly Wilma, needed a little more training on how to be more supportive and when I asked him why, he pointed to about 12 bottles stacked up on the floor next to his desk. Then I figured it out. This is your week for Dick support.

Wilma can't seem to do anything right.

Wilma also handles all of Dick's travel arrangements. He had to attend a conference in Detroit and meet the new CEO. He emailed Wilma and asked her to make the travel arrangements. In the email, he specifically asked Wilma to include directions FROM the hotel TO the airport. Wilma, not being a total dummy, wondered why he would need directions to go from the hotel to airport when clearly he needed to first get from the airport to the hotel. However, the email said what the email said. She secretly reminded herself that Dick is a data-freak that values the precise and exact above all else - even money, power or success. Should she dare ask him if he really meant "directions from the airport to the hotel - not vice versa? Nooooo. The repercussions would be intolerable. He would never admit he was wrong. Wilma decided that she would not think for herself - she would simply follow the directive given by Dick, even if it was mistakenly written.

The week after Dick's trip to Detroit, Gigi, the Director of Coporate Services (and Wilma's boss) called Wilma into her
office and informed her that Dick was most displeased with the directions provided for his trip to Detroit. Gigi said that Dick tried to follow Wilma's directions but ended up in a "less than desirable" neighborhood in Detroit for several hours. Then he had to explain the new CEO why he was several hours late for their first meeting. Dick was stuck offering the lame excuse that he has less than adequate admin support at the office but will rectify the situation as soon as he returns home. He'd have Gigi dispense the proper disciplinary actions for this major offense.

Wilma explained her side of the story to Gigi and showed Dick's email with the request for directions from the hotel to the airport. Gigi told her wrote a disciplinary referral for Wilma's Personnel file stating that she should have thought "outside of the box" and considered that Dick probably needed both sets of directions and provided them accordingly.

Then Wilma cried. Gigi felt sorry for Wilma so she took her to lunch.

Though Wilma got written up for not reading Dick's mind, she shared the story at the Friday afternoon HR meeting and was rewarded by her HR team (including Gigi) by getting the prize for "Dick Support Story of the Month." What's the reward?

The jock strap skips you next month.

Mindie Burgoyne - 2005

2005- 2006 by Padua House, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
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