Downtown Working

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November 24, 2003 // UPDATED 11:07 am - April 30, 2007
By: Elana Centor
Elana Centor

Lame duck exec rides the wave . . . but takes notes

Tyler is a corporate lame duck. When a major competitor bought his company a year ago, Tyler knew the odds of keeping his job were slim to none. But he doesn't care.

After almost 20 years of climbing the corporate ladder, Tyler's had enough. When this executive's tour of duty is complete (he has one more year to go, per the merger agreement, Tyler plans to go back to school for his teaching certification.

This may seem like taking a few steps backward to some, but Tyler can't wait to be rid of the executive position he now holds. He's not ditching corporate life because of long hours or too much work -- far from it.

A day in the life of a lame duck executive, Tyler deadpanned, "doesn't involve a lot of work -- I take long lunches and spend a couple of hours each afternoon working out in the exercise facilities in our building."

While you might think someone would notice when a top-wrung-position-holder slacks, Tyler said his supervisor is clueless.

"My direct boss keeps giving me these projects that he thinks are important and will take up time -- they're not important; and they take no time," Tyler said.

Tyler has taken on his own project. "I am keeping a journal of all the stupid things that have happened since the merger. So far, I have 72 entries," he said. "My hope is that Harvard Business Review will be interested once I'm out of here."

With that, Tyler shared "Entry 58: The future's so bright, we gotta wear shades":

"Shortly after the merger, it occurred to the new management that they might be having some cultural issues. To employees it had been abundantly clear for several months that the two cultures were as compatible as the Palestinians and Israelis. But, to make sure, management spent thousands of dollars having an outside consultant confirm that, yes, culturally, the two organizations were not compatible."

The company devised a solution that could have come straight from a "Dilbert" strip. Management, Tyler explained, decided to create a culture program -- basically, an internal promotions campaign. By promoting the concept of a great corporate future, Tyler figured, the company thought it could convince employees that they have a great future with the corporation.

The program was called, no kidding, "The future's so bright, we gotta wear shades." Inspired by the one hit of the now-defunct '80s rock group Timbuk3, the promotion including handing out sunglasses to all employees.

It wasn't well received.

"The CEO told me he was really frustrated that employees weren't responding to the sunglasses message," explained Tyler. "He said, 'I'm psyched about it. It's great, and I think if I could come to your team personally and hand out the sunglasses, they'll think it's a great message, too.'"

A member of Tyler's team tried to dissuade him, reminding the CEO that 95 percent of team members were scheduled to lose their jobs by November 2004. In addition, thanks to a new calculation, their compensation package had been reduced 15-20 percent.

Even Tyler himself tried to tell the CEO that his team doesn't care about the corporation's future.

Not that the top gun listened. Now, Tyler said, "[He's] like a governor going around to people on death row and asking, 'What can I do for your vote? I know you're going to die three days after the election, and I'm not going to pardon you, but I really need your vote.'"

In the end, the CEO came to the meeting and presented his schpiel while handing out sunglasses. When the meeting was over, Tyler said, the CEO asked why people had fallen asleep during his presentation.

Tyler said he got out of responding by excusing himself to take care of "a project" -- then he returned to his journal to write "Entry 58. . ."

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