Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Farm

(with an appreciative nod towards George Orwell)

The pork roll was sitting a little heavy in my stomach as we were lying in bed reading.  I had just finished “Animal Farm”.  My wife rolled over and started snoring softly.  I turned off the light, and drifted off into a fitful sleep.

They found the book lying in some cave. 

Up to that year, the corporations were growing bigger and bigger, and the regulations on businesses became fewer and fewer.  Monopolies multiplied.  The unemployment rate had reached 11.5%.  The average age for employee layoffs was 50 years-old.  Congressional support for industry and trade agreements had grown.

The book contained documents called “Articles of Incorporation” and “Partnership Agreement”, which hadn’t been used in years in the corporate world.  Papers called “By-Laws” listed duties and proper treatment of employees, and even terms such as “401K” and “compensation”.  Those who found the book were astounded and confused.  There was a concern that if the local Chief Executives located the book it would be confiscated or worse…destroyed.  So the small group of blue-collar workers took it to a private residence and poured over its contents.  Many were moved by strong emotions to form a company that would be guided by the same rules and regulations of the “model company” referred to in the book.  A president was elected, along with a secretary and treasurer.  

They decided to manufacture and sell plastic products.  The company was called XYZ (they tried to be original...their advertising division switched department heads later on).  Soon the company was growing.  Retirement packages included a $10,000 contribution to the retiree’s 401K plan and a letter from the president in a nice frame.  Many employees chose to work until 70 years old. A child care center was opened at each branch, and the company offered one of the best benefits packages in the state.  The president arrived each morning at 5 a.m. in his Ford Focus, and was one of the last to leave at 7 p.m.  And when there was a question regarding the company’s Articles of Incorporation, the original book was referenced.

Soon XYZ was creating sister companies outside the state.  Work grew to the point where more department heads were added, as well as more executives.  The president, Bob Rhodes, eventually retired and was given a very generous retirement gift in which all the employees pitched in for.  With Mr. Rhodes gone, there was a reorganization that took place at the executive level and more privileges were added.

Problems accrued. Employee benefits seemed to shrink.  And the executives seemed a little less accessible.

“Why are we paying so much in benefits?” asked CFO Tom Whittleworth.  “We’re getting in the red!”

“Right now, you have more full-time employees than you can afford.  Why not set the hours at 31.5 maximum per week?” his managers asked.  It was a good suggestion, and soon they found they were able to hire more employees without the additional costs.  Adam Kissover exclaimed, “Power to the exec…I mean…authority to the executives!”

“Now, now.  Out innovation and progress are as a result of the hard work of our employees and dedication of the consumers.”  Tom responded.  But he flashed a white, toothy grin.

The next day, Mr. Whittleworth pulled up to work in a new Camry.

Time passed…

“I want my dispute answered and resolved!” Mrs. Peacock.  She stood in the large conference room with her garden handbag and brown cane, pointing a finger at the executives.  “I was docked twice the number of hours for being sick!”

“Have you brought the dispute to your supervisor?” Doris Saggyberg asked pleasantly.

“Yes, but I heard that the old book says I can bring my dispute before the board members and executives at the annual stock meeting, and I want my time!”  The nodding of her quail feathered hat seemed to punctuate her words.

The executives conferred with each other.  “We can’t have every dispute brought to the annual meeting…we’d never get through it.  Curse that book!  There must be a way around this.”

“We actually represent the stock holders and executives required during the annual meeting,” Mr. Metalhead told her.  “Feel free to present your case to us.”

“But what if my dispute is against one of you?  And what about the CEO?” Mrs. Peacock replied.

“Well, we would just ask that individual to leave the room while we discussed the issue.  And we all share the responsibilities of the CEO.  We dissolved that position a while back.”  Mr. Metalhead flashed a white, toothy smile.

“That doesn’t seem right.”

Charles Newtman leaned forward and spoke into an intercom.  “Security, please.”  Mr. Sanderful appeared at the door.  “Please escort Ms. Peacock outside the building.”  Mr. Sanderful led Ms. Peacock out of the room.

“Good call, Mr. CEO!” Doris said to Charles.

“It’s a pleasure to work with you, Ms. CEO,” he replied.

“I think you both make very competent and sensitive CEO’s,” Tom said.

A few days later…

Tara Gentemaker showed up surrounded by four children and holding her one year-old in her arms.  “Why did you cut my hours?!” she demanded.  “I have to work a double shift since that no-good, smoking, drinking low-life left me!”

“Is that his full name?  I’m sorry.  Regulations prevent us from employing you for more than 31.9 hours.” Doris Saggyberg replied pleasantly.

“But that should be against the law!” Tara exclaimed.

“Mr. Sanderful, please escort our former employee out.  And make sure her child gets a complimentary Binky.”  The board quickly dissolved all child-care facilities at the company over concern that germs would spread and reduce productivity.

The next annual meeting didn’t fair too well.  Alina Plainspeak of the Diversity Department approached the board.  “Why has my committee been reduced to four people?!  Why have there been cut-backs in my budget?  Our department serves the needs of the employees!”

Brad Sternum leaned forward.  “We’ve decided that those duties and concerns can best be addressed by distributing those responsibilities to the department heads.”

“What about providing people a safe environment to excel and grow and succeed?”

“Their supervisors can help them accomplish that.  We’ll make sure they receive the appropriate training.”  Mr. Sanderful escorted Ms. Plainspeak out of the building.  “All authority to the executives!”  the stock holders chanted.  The executives all flashed white, toothy smiles, and then left the meeting in their new Bentleys.

The executives left for a few weeks on a “business venture” and left Mr. Sanderful in charge.  Lines extended from his door and meandered around the hallways.  Suggestion boxes were overturned, and people erupted in angry spouts in spite of the toothy grins he displayed.  When the executive returned, Mr. Sanderful confronted them.  “I don’t know anything about resolving disputes!  Why did you leave me like that?  I never took a course on conflict resolution!”  Mr. Sanderful was escorted out the building.

Soon, the retirement packages were reduced to a warm blanket that reflected the company’s logo (500 blankets cost only $1500, so money was saved).  Employees were encouraged to retire at 50 years of age.  Younger workers had more zeal than the older employees. The executives looked around and found that the policies of the surrounding companies were fiscally beneficial, and XYZ soon revised their Articles to reflect profitable changes.

On an outing one year, Charles Newtman felt his backpack was a little too heavy, and found an old book weighing him down.  He quickly tossed it into an old cave and continued on the day hike.

I woke up groggy.  “Ugh!  Only one helping of pork from now on.”  I shook my head, trying to get the ugly images out of my mind.  Shower. Breakfast.  Paper.  Then I hopped in my Focus and headed off to work.  Pulled into Wylord, Xavier and Zenith at 7:30 a.m., parking next to a shiny, spanking-new BMW.  “Geez,” I thought, “Someone’s working overtime!”  Approaching my desk, I heard my phone ringing and ran to pick it up.

“Ryson Plastics Incorporated.  Products for a changing world.” I spoke into the receiver.

“All power to the executives!” a voice answered.


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