After 22 months of biting my lip as the President of the company I work for screamed (at me…at his receptionist…at the guy who stocks the vending machines), today was the day he didn’t count on.
The day I screamed back.
I should have known it was going to be a rough day when I barely crawled into the shower this morning. My father has been pretty ill, having a major stroke a few months ago which has led the way for several minor strokes, each one reducing his time at home and increasing his time in a hospital bed 2,600 miles away from me. Along with several other comparatively minor annoyances, this was brewing beneath my surface as I pulled into the company’s parking lot.
I had been seated at my desk for maybe ten minutes when the Prez came raging out of his office into mine, literally screaming “WHY IS THE SALES GUY FROM THE COLORADO DAILY CALLING ME AND NOT YOU?!?”
“Golly,” I thought, “fuck if I know, you psychotic little freak.” What I actually said was, “What’s the ‘Colorado Daily?'”
“YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL THE COLORADO DAILY IS? YOU MEAN TO TELL ME YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT THE COLORADO DAILY IS? BOULDER’S LARGEST STUDENT NEWSPAPER? BLAH BLAH BLAH, ETC. ETC.”
Now, this is normal. About my second month at this position, I realized the President of this company was mentally…off. He did not respond well to bad news, and as a result, people tended to hide things from him, which just upset him even more. I spent four years in the Army and was deployed to several different “conflicts”. I don’t hide things, period. If there’s a problem, I tell him. Which results in his yelling for a while, then calming down and apologizing for it later. It’s a sick, twisted little dance we do often, and luckily, I’m being paid well enough to ignore it most of the time.
Today was not one of those times.
Here I sat, first thing in the morning, being screamed at because a sales person from a newspaper we do not even place ad space in dialed the wrong extension.
I stood up. “Stop yelling, NOW, or this will be the final conversation we will ever have! I’m not in the mood today to be yelled at for meaningless, insignificant shit!”
“I’M NOT YELLING! STOP TAKING THINGS SO PERSONAL!” (Not “personally”, and yes, it took all my strength not to correct him.)
‘YOU ARE YELLING AND I DON’T APPRECIATE BEING YELLED AT FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.”
“YOU’RE THE ONE YELLING!”
“AND HOW DOES IT FEEL?”
By this time, other employees began milling about the hallways, pretending to be en route to get coffee, take a piss, whatever, all in an effort to see who was going to win this childish penis sword fight.
“I DO NOT YELL AT PEOPLE!” he screamed, the irony sailing over his grey head.
“You don’t? Well, let’s TAKE A POLL!” I yelled back, pointing to the milling crowd outside my office. Immediately, several sets of eyes looked away and they all dispersed. Cowards, I muttered to myself.
In the years since he started this company, the President has surrounded himself with a great staff of people who unfortunately have grown to accept this type of behavior in their work environment. The vast majority do not have degrees and have never worked for anyone else, so they don’t realize that not every day has to be filled with the stress of a screaming J. Jonah Jameson clone. But they all resented it. And now, all their hopes of peace in the workplace were on my shoulders. Fine. If I have to be the one to open this guy’s eyes, so be it.
I walked over to my office door and closed it behind him. I then looked him in the eyes and said what he has needed to hear for the last 22 months.
“You yell because you think no one respects you. Well, the reason no one respects you is because you yell like a four-year old, jumping to conclusions, not giving others the benefit of the doubt, not letting anyone explain their position, just yelling for the sake of hearing your own voice. If you have to yell at your managers, receptionists, whatever, to get them to produce for you, fine. But you do NOT yell at me ever again. Ever. Or I walk.” It was my calm, Krystal Carrington taking control over Alexis moment. I sat down, feeling victorious.
The Prez glared at me behind beady, aging eyes and hissed, “You’re just upset because YOU’RE. JUST. LIKE. ME.”
Now, that…that hurt.
He must have seen the confusion on my face. “I’ve heard you on the phone to sales reps and designers. I’ve heard how you talk to accounting when they get the billing wrong. I’ve heard you and yes, you’re just like me. That’s why I like you, John.”
Now I’m really upset.
I don’t yell at people. I may not be happy with their performance or with situations, but I never yell. That’s just nasty and unprofessional. So I know he’s full of shit, but it still stung, because a couple of incidents at my old job where I did lose it came surfacing. Was he right? Was I just like him?
“I’m not upset with you, John,” he continued, calmer now. “I just didn’t understand why this guy was calling me instead of you. I’ve had a lot going on this week with the family and I haven’t been in the best mood, so I do apologize for taking it out on you.”
Family issues. Bad mood. Holy crap, I was just like him! No. No, no, no! I wanted to scream like Kirk screaming at Khan. It’s trying to bond with me! Get it off! GET IT OFF!
Before I knew what I was saying, I began, “It’s okay. (What the fuck? No, it’s not.) We’re just both having a bad day. (No, you asshole! You’re like this everyday!) Let’s just try to be a little more civil towards each other, especially in the morning. (I’m talking to YOU, dickcheese!)” And then, I said it:
“I apologize, too.”
Holy fuck, he’s right. I am just like him.