“Hey, I need to talk to you, it’s important. Got a minute?” It was Jay, one of my best customers. Normally a pretty light-hearted guy, he sounded pretty serious.
“Sure, what’s up. Everything OK with the account?” I asked
“Yeah, we’re great. You’re great. Your rep Tracy…not so much.” Tracy, my renegade sales rep from Hell. My Achilles heel, the Red-headed Satan, the turd in my punch bowl. What did she do now? I composed myself and asked what happened with Tracy.
“She just gave me a lengthy seminar on how to beat you out of fees and get a better deal. I feel dirty. You treat me great and my account isn’t in danger. Why did she do that?” He proceeded to tell me how my sales rep, working an account that I brought with me, given to her to maintain it and paid her on it when she didn’t really earn it, had decided to “boost” the account by undermining me and offering him a “better deal” which he didn’t need, didn’t ask for and she wasn’t authorized to offer. I listened intently as he wrapped it up and asked me to see that she never goes into his store again. I agreed and let him get off of the phone. I was beside myself.
Tracy was always a problem. When this auction had recruited me they were interested in my book of business, my proven ability to grow sales and to lead their sales team. What they did not tell me, until my first day, that I was chiefly responsible for reigning in a “renegade” employee who had been dancing on the brink of insubordination for years but they did not have enough to fire her. Tracy. So it was up to me to control her or find a way to cleanly get rid of her. Of course, the Superman in me wanted to save the day so I tried working with her. I was her manager, she would answer to me, but I would give her every opportunity to present her ideas.
For a while, it worked well. She seemed to accept me and followed my direction. As a hands-on manager we would speak several times per day and before long she was calling me with the results of a sales call or for advice. We butted heads a little bit but I was helping her make money. I threw her a few accounts to maintain. They were free money for her. I had brought the accounts with me but I didn’t have time to work on them. It made sense. Then I caught her in her first lie.
After the sale one day she submitted her commission report. I saw that she was submitting to be paid on an account that I knew for a fact she had not earned. This customer had called me the previous Monday asking to do business with me. So I asked her for some backup; notes in the system, the nature of the conversation in which he committed business, his name, and title. She could provide none of it. I drew a line through it on her sheet and warned her to never try that again. She stormed out. It was on. I wrote her up the next day. At this company, three offenses for the same thing and you are out.
I would get her one more time for the same type of infraction. She was so greedy her judgment was compromised. Customers began to complain to me about her, her inability to take no for an answer, her constant visits and phone calls and her poor service. I spent more time with her, to try to help her, to make her see what she was doing wrong. She pushed me away. She was losing customers and the ones she did keep she squeezed for more. Enter Jay, remember Jay?
Jay was the 3rd generation owner of a small Chevy dealer in Central Massachusetts. His family had never used auctions. I visited Jay often, convinced him to try it, took great care of his needs and he became a regular. When I left that auction for another, his business followed me. He was a loyal customer, a solid account, and a friend. What would motivate her, knowing this story because I told her, to take it upon herself and undermine me? Her offer of lower fees was negligible, he was getting a great deal and had no problem with us making a small margin. He was also an old-fashioned guy, he couldn’t understand how my employee would do such a thing. It was a very big deal. It was also the third strike. I wrote her up again.
The next morning I called her to review her game plan but she didn’t answer. When I walked in I saw her in the GM’s office. She made eye contact through the window then looked away. She was in there for a while. I knew something was up but I waited. Not long after, I was summoned to the GM’s office. She was nowhere to be seen. The GM and AGM asked me to sit down.
I was told that Tracy had called corporate HR and filed a harassment claim against me. Professional Harassment. By writing her up, completely by the book I might add, she claimed that I had created a hostile work environment for her. I asked my managers if they read my report. They had. I asked them if they remembered hiring me to do just that…control or get rid of her? They had. I slumped in my chair, exasperated, and asked what is happening.
They were not as committed to the task at hand as I was. I did my job, I cleaned up the department and made everything equitable and honest. And they were bowing down to her. She had demanded that she does not have to interact with me at all, that I was to have no input on her performance. I vehemently objected. I’m her manager, how is that supposed to work? They were firm in their chickenshit resolve, I was given an ultimatum (#JusJoJan)https://lindaghill.com/2017/12/27/what-is-just-jot-it-january-2018-rules/. Accept those terms or resign, turn in my company phone, laptop and car and I will get 6 months salary.
“You mean hush money right?”
“Don’t be like that” said my manager
“You know this is bullshit right?” He tried to keep a stern look, but I knew he agreed.
“We’ll give you an hour to decide.”
“I’ve already decided. Shove your phone, laptop, and car up her ass because I won’t work like that. You may have lost your balls but mine work just fine. I’m going to clean out my office. Which one of you is driving me home?” I walked out.
In many ways, I made a big mistake that day. I would struggle financially for a while and my wife was less than pleased. She didn’t share my righteous indignation and didn’t recognize how hard it is to look wrong in the face every day. It wasn’t about pride. I took a stand. For better or for worse I did what I felt was right.
It took her ten more years, but Tracy was finally caught stealing and was fired. They actually asked me to come back. They even admitted that I was railroaded. I told them that I was not interested in working for people that failed to support me when I needed them the most.
After all, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.