Dangers of the Rumor Mill

Aug 27, 2001

Doug Pocketprotectus sat in the high-backed leather chair in the executive conference room and desperately tried to stay awake. It was hard to do. The meeting was so boring, and he was sleep deprived as it was. Why did he have to be here? Life was too short to hear one more report about utilization (it was running 1% behind last month), one more description of a deadbeat client who wasn’t paying as he was supposed to, or one more 10-minute conversation between two managers over who was going to use Sue Specwritus on their jobs this week. Now the best part of the day was shot, and it was time for lunch. Where to go? Who to go with? While Pocketprotectus would have loved to ask the new administrative assistant (who he felt was being ignored by the rest of the office) to join him, he was afraid of running into his jealous wife. So instead, he asked Bob Detailius, the firm’s most diligent electrical engineer. Detailius said “sure,” so off they went to the local BBQ shack for some ribs, chicken, beans, and cornbread. It turned out that the lunch meeting was well timed. Pocketprotectus hadn’t spent much time with his old friend Detailius since Pocketprotectus had been made a principal a year a half ago. They just didn’t see each other as much now that Pocketprotectus had moved his office upstairs. But the bottom line was that Detailius had some questions that were gnawing at him and hurting his morale, questions that Pocketprotectus was able to address. “How come the bonuses are so far down this year?” Detailius asked. “Is it because Bill and Greg Giantegoius each pay themselves a half million a year in salary that we don’t have any money at the end of the month?” “Where did you hear that?” asked Pocketprotectus, knowing full well that this was a misconception. “You can’t let it get back to her that I told you this, but I heard it one sunny day out front in the smoking area from Sherry Blabbermouth, the woman who works in accounting,” said Detailius. “She told us about these crazy salaries and how all of you get your taxes and legal work done at company expense. It’s demotivating as hell. I need that money. You know I have four kids in college all at the same time,” he said. “I’m glad you said something to me because that Blabbermouth woman is spreading some incorrect information,” said Pocketprotectus. “Here are the facts: Last year, each of the Giantegoius brothers took a 50% pay cut, and all that is happening now is that their pay has been restored. They are each getting back what they should have gotten last year. We aren’t even counting this extra pay against the bonus pool because they didn’t want to demotivate anyone. Second, although our accountants do prepare each of our personal tax returns, that is all part of our risk reduction efforts. The fact is that if any shareholder gets audited, then the company will probably get audited. So by paying about $300 a piece for each of our owners to get their taxes done, we think we’re saving tens of thousands of dollars in penalties and aggravation. It’s all good stuff that needs to be done. So the next time you’re out there plugged in to the ‘smokers’ network,’ straighten everyone out if this subject comes up, please.” “Thanks for telling me,” said Detailius. “I was really getting upset, and I shouldn’t have been.” “No problem,” said Pocketprotectus. “Please let me know if something like this comes up in the future. We value you and everyone else here, and it’s terrible for you or anyone to be thinking that we’re doing anything that’s not totally above board. I know how rumors spread, and the best way to combat them is with the truth!” “Will do. Umm, mmm,” said Detailus as he rubbed his belly and threw the last of his bones onto the plate in the center of the table. ‘That was good!” “Yep, sure was,” agreed Pocketprotectus. And with that, the pair went back to the office and finished off their day. Originally published 8/27/2001.

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