Toxic workplace

3. Master Sun, part 1

I test out the new candidates… are any of them worthy of a part-time position with no benefits?

            “You come from far and wide and passed our rigorous screening process,” I say to the six candidates in the kitchenette. “Now, I will evaluate you on the qualities of a successful hire.”

            My fingernail runs through the stack of paper and separates out a chunk. “We will start with these problem-solving tests. Then, I will look at cultural aptitude, creativity, and long-term potential. One of you will be eliminated each round.”

            The redhead takes the stack. An Asian man in a collared shirt frowns at his test. His neighbor, a stretched-out Melanie, scratches her head. Behind her sit two others: one with an afro and another with a braid. Their neighbor is a dark-haired man: handsome, maybe Middle-Eastern or South American. Or Indian. One of those.

            “Let the second round of interviews begin!” I say.

            When the ex-admin left, she brought a storm to my tight ship of an operation. Thanks to my managerial expertise, I grabbed the situation by the mast and steered us through muddled waters to the rain clouds’ silver lining. Over those fateful welcome-back donuts, I promised gentle Allison and meditative Melanie that I would not only rectify her departure but improve the company’s processes. I would start by identifying gaps in our recruitment strategy.

            “Five more minutes!” I announce. “And I would like to remind any slackers that PEUC benefits end in September.”

            My tea tastes like frustrated water; its bitterness is a reminder of the ex-admin. I knew upon her application that she was a chance to hire that I would have to invest my time and resources in training her. All of it was wasted: She made her low culture apparent by refusing to come in on days off, and when she negotiated benefits, I knew attitude would be a problem. While no one could have foreseen her final tantrum, I can only blame my easy-going nature for welcoming her on board in the first place.

            But what really hurt was her quitting last week. Until then, I thought that she liked me!

            It is better to be feared than loved, but a true leader is a fox as well as a lion. Much as the lioness’s roars are felt throughout the Sahara Desert, I make my influence known throughout the company. But today, I will embody the clever fox when selecting the next admin. Ostensibly, the candidates are demonstrating their abilities, but secretly I am eliminating them on their predecessor’s characteristics: fickleness, hypocrisy, and greediness of gain.

            “Time!” I say to the motley crew, who slam their pencils onto the table.

            “No.” I thumb through the packets. “Absolutely not.” I slash a page with red ink. “I will be with you in a second,” I say to Allison and Melanie when they show up at the door. I turn to the candidate with the big hair. “Young woman, what is your name?”

            She mumbles. “What?” I say.

            “My name is Maddy,” she says.

            “Well, Maddy, I’m going to need you to be more calm-y.” I flip to a random page. “You are in a cabin. Every direction around you is south. A bear shows up. What color is its fur?”

            “I don’t know,” she says.

            “White! The bear is white! You are at the North Pole—where else would your compass point south everywhere?” My head shakes. Unbelievable.

            She flinches and is saved by the idiot in front of her. Stretched-out Melanie says, “What do bears have to do with the job description?”

            I point to the door as the mysterious man stands up.

            “Do you want to grow stagnant at your role?” he says. “We lateral thinkers welcome the challenge.”

            The poets describe love as a softness you fall into: blankets, fresh from the dryer; a scented bath; the ball pit at McDonald’s. In truth, it’s a more violent experience, like stubbing your toe in the dark. And right now, watching this candidate recite facts like song, I am hit HARD. But I am a boss babe, a company woman, and once the tingling retreats from my appendages and is replaced by warmth, I return to reason—company first. Always put the company first. I have business to take care of, and I tell stretched-out Melanie and Maddy.

            Allison and Melanie step up as the two women step out. “Could we go home now?” Allison says.

            “What she meant to say,” Melanie began. “Is that we know that you must be embarrassed about what was said to you last week-“

            “Ah yes, the quitting,” I say. “As you can see, I am taking care of that now. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. I loved her little exhibit on my leadership.”

            Allison’s mouth dropped open. “She told you to suck it.”

            I am confused. “Of course she did. We were experiencing a Jolly Rancher together. It was an allegory, sweet like me.”

            Allison and Melanie glance at each other before Melanie continues, “It’s after 5 on a Friday. We need to leave to make it to an… appointment.”

            “Absolutely not,” I say, watching the two failed candidates leave the office from the conference room window. “I might need backup.” My two employees mope their way back to their desks.

            I face the rest of the group, now thinned out. “Based on these results, I shouldn’t be keeping any of you. However, there are three more tests, and I am ready to be impressed.” I lean back in my chair. “So dazzle me.”


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