Pam popped up like a prairie dog from its burrow at the sound of a loud commotion coming from the end of our row of cubicles. With her nose appearing to rest on the top of the cubicle partition and her hands griping it on either side she reminded me of that old iconic graffiti cartoon “Kilroy was here.”
Pam was new to our cubicle farm and unaccustomed to these regular disturbances which the rest of have learned to ignore.
“What’s happening,” she asked in a near whisper.
Looking up into her wide brown eyes I replied, “It’s just another firing.”
“But it looks like Don has gotten into a physical altercation with someone, they are screaming at each other and there are a couple of big security guys—”
“Yeah, security is there to escort Jim out of the office by force if necessary. The best advice around here is to maintain a low profile unless you want to be next. I’ll fill you in later if you want to meet for lunch.”
“Okay,” Pam said as she slid back down into her chair.
A couple of stress filled hours later I met Pam at the nearby cafeteria style restaurant which had been adopted as the favored lunchtime hangout for us “cube dolts” as I liked to refer to us.
“So what’s with Don and what just happened this morning?” Pam asked as we seated ourselves and set down our trays of food at an open table for two.
“Ya see, Don thrives on chaos,” I began. “His management style is to keep his employees off balance and to pit them against each other thinking that the competition will result in better performance.”
“But that seems to go against modern management practices that talk of teamwork and collaboration as the path to success. Is that all just BS?”
“Yeah, in Don’s department it is. I don’t think that Don has ever received or been exposed to any kind of management training except maybe how to fill out performance reviews which you will soon find out are never good.”
“But he seemed so nice when I interviewed for the job.”
“Don is a chameleon and can come across as charming and receptive but in essence he is a tough street fighter or at least that is how he thinks of himself. He’s probably never been in a real street fight in his life.”
“So, how did he become a department manager?” Pam asked.
“Quite simple,” I replied. “He’s married to the founder’s daughter and he thinks that his job is demeaning and that he is destined for a higher position.”
“I don’t know how you can tolerate such an oppressive work environment. The turn over must be quite high,” said Pam.
“I’ve been here for two years and I’ve seen it all, the frequent firings, people getting a whole rash of medical problems from stomach ulcers to nervous breakdowns to taking anti-anxiety drugs and yes, the turnover is unusually high with people either quitting or being fired every couple of weeks.
“Why have you stayed on for so long?”
“When you have obligations and a family to support you have little choice but to hang in there hoping that something better will come along, perhaps a job in another department.”
Pam looked down at her lunch tray. I wasn’t sure if she was trying to decide what to do with her lunch leftovers, contemplating what we had just discussed or perhaps wondering what she had gotten herself into.
“Whaddaya say we make a pact,” I said, “to work together in the face of any effort on the part of toxic Don to force us into a nasty competitive situation?”
“Sounds good to me,” she said as we touched our plastic cups of iced tea together in a silent toast to our agreement.
This story was submitted to Writers Digest contest #91 in response to the photo prompt. It did not win. Any constructive criticism is welcome.