Phil’s boss wanted me to “fix” him, but what that really meant wasn’t clear.
Phil had been there going on 18 years, had outlasted several management makeovers, and an ownership change. Even though there were no barriers to firing him, like a union or strict seniority policies, there was no stomach for it either.
The real concern was the persistent, low-level grumbling from his employees that Phil was getting harder to deal with, that he made it all about him, didn’t listen, seemed to be on automatic and slightly agitated all the time. Sure he was outwardly gregarious, but it covered a more arbitrary “just do it” piece just beneath the surface – and he wasn’t as sharp as he used to be. He didn’t always remember totally what he’d said yesterday, but mostly denied or minimized any problem.
The women found him annoying because he was so unapologetically a “guy” who assumed you’d watched the Patriots game yesterday, or wanted to banter with him about the point spread, car engines, or how “kids these days” don’t know how to get a job done.
Truth to tell, Phil wasn’t messing up that badly in the day-to-day performance of his duties. Yes, his style was a turnoff to the younger, more diverse staff, but it was uncanny how he never quite stepped across the line, or served up a concrete incident that might trigger a harassment claim, or could be highlighted as a performance problem. He actually knew the job cold, and had done surprisingly well at learning the updated information systems recently put in.
I received a few compliments because Phil had actually gone back to see me a second time, and supposedly seemed “slightly better.” I wasn’t buying it. Now that I’d eyeballed Phil on the job I could see the situation was going no place good.