I might have retired twice from the same company.
For a long time, I had what several of colleagues called the most interesting office at work. Because I was a speechwriter, I was expected to (a) read everything the CEO did, (b) read a lot of business books, particularly popular ones, (c) study books about speechwriting, and (d) read books on current issues. All of which meant I was doing a lot of reading. And the CEO likcd to read the novels of John Updike, just about anything by Charles Dickens, and anything published on the subject of Winston Churchill.
For a reader like me, this was a great job.
Think back 25 years (if you’re old enough). It sounds almost quaint today, but email was just beginning to come into its own. At the company where I was working, with more than 40,000 people, some 5,000 had been brought into the email system. Eventually, all would be, but 5,000 was enough to give us critical mass for a new communications venture – an email newsletter for employees. Continue reading “Poetry at Work, Chapter 18: The Poetry of Electronic Work”
Layoffs were coming. The big announcement from the CEO was circulated by email. It was a masterpiece of vagueness. It didn’t say how many people would be affected. It didn’t say when the affected people would know. It did say there would be a severance program, although it included no details.
It happens to most of us, at one time or another in our careers. You’re called into the boss’s office and discover there’s an HR person waiting as well. Yep, you’re being laid off.
It started with a phone call from a friend. “Did you see the job ad in the paper?” he said.
“What job ad?” I said.
“The city school district is looking for a communications director. You’d be perfect.”
“Do you hate me or something?” I said.
A conflict in the workplace is not uncommon. A workplace conflict battled out on Facebook, however, pulling in co-workers and the company, is not something you see every day.
There’s nothing like a good crisis to demonstrate how little control an organization has. There’s also nothing like a good crisis to uncover the poetry in our souls.
It was the days before PowerPoint. Holding our overhead transparencies, three of us sat waiting to be called into the management meeting. We were three public relations people, three poets, working for a chemical company. And it was our job to explain to the people running the company why we had to tell people how much pollution the company was responsible for, and, more to the point, what we thought the company should do about it.
The most solitary job in corporate America is not the position of CEO. It’s the position of the CEO’s speechwriter. It can be the loneliest job as well.