Tough Love….


The word was grunted from the doorway of my office today by one of my co-workers. There is no punctuation here, because that’s exactly how it was stated.  Not in the form of a question, or with any additional information that might help to decipher it’s context….and totally lacking in the niceties of normal, peer-to-peer communication….but I’ve worked with this woman for some time now and I’ve come to translate the language that is Regina….or Mamma Fratelli, as I like to call her.  Behind her back of course….I’m in HR after-all.


Essentially, she was asking me if I was available to have lunch.

This is a rare occurrence.  Mama Fratelli and I are not friends.  We’re not even frenemies.  In fact, we routinely keep up a steady flow of veiled jabs lobbed at one another over the most idiotic of things.

I didn’t start the feud, but I have done nothing to end it either….in part, because I admittedly enjoy passive aggressive squabbles….and in part, because I’m stubborn and in this case, have utterly refused to take the high road.

When I first started at The Really Big Company, Mama Fratelli was oddly frigid right from the start.  It didn’t make sense to me that she would take such an immediate disliking to a new co-worker….especially since I hadn’t been around long enough to have done anything to piss her off.

Later, I learned it was because she’d been passed over for the role I was hired to take….and to add insult to injury….I came from “the outside” to boot.  To be fair, it was a role she was nowhere near qualified to take.  Not because I’m so special or specialized, but because she lacks the qualifications and skill set necessary for the job.

Similarly, I lack the qualifications and skill set necessary to perform her current work function.  Our jobs are nowhere close to being aligned and so it should not have come as a shock to her when they hired someone else.  A decision that was nowhere near my fault, regardless.

Nevertheless, Mama Fratelli has wasted no time or opportunity pointing out exactly how she could and would perform my job better than me….and I waste no time or opportunity pointing out that it’s a good thing she wasn’t hired then, because The Really Big Ass Company would probably be bankrupt and half our leadership in a white collar prison.

You would think then, that I would be the last person on the planet Mama Fratelli would have any interest breaking bread with and for the most part, you’re right.  Her request to have lunch with me is not because she really wants to, or because she will ultimately value anything I might have to say, but because I’m among the few who are actually paid to listen to her bitch….I mean, discuss her frustrations and long term goals.

A few weeks back, she was passed over for a promotion that, based solely on her current career track, should have been a no-brainer.  Instead, it went to one of her peers with less tenure by about 10 years and the reason is quite simple….it’s because Mama Fratelli is a douche in sheep’s clothing.

Outside of the office, when engaging with her customers, she’s generally pleasant.  She knows her business, but when it comes to her relationships with peers and the small team of associates she manages, she’s about as beloved as a bad case of hemorrhoids.

So, when I agreed to have lunch today, I knew she wanted to discuss the latest in the long list of promotions that went to someone else.

To be clear, I in no way, direct these decisions.  I will typically sit in on the interviews to ensure that the process and nature of the interviewing questions remain consistent with standards, but rarely do I interject with a question of my own.

I may be asked, after the fact, for my opinion regarding the interview or the candidate overall, however my thoughts weigh but a small amount when it comes to making the final decision.

Often, I’ll be asked by someone who has just interviewed for some feedback regarding how she performed….“Did I seem too nervous?”  “Was I clear in my answers?”  “Did I say too much/too little?”  “Do you think they noticed my zipper was down the entire time?”  True story, I’ve been asked that more than once.

This is where my role takes on the feel of a therapist.  I listen, sometimes there are tears, sometimes there is anger….I offer suggestions and I try to be encouraging without establishing unrealistic expectations.

Such is the tone and purpose of the conversation between Mama Fratelli and me as we sit across from one another at a local TGI Friday’s.

Please note….I will be paraphrasing….a lot….because in order to have accurately reported the conversation in its entirety, I would have needed a recorder and about a month of time to transcribe it.  Think Fidel Castro’s 50th anniversary address back in 2010 when he spoke for four hours and 16 minutes straight.

Mama Fratelli:  I want to discuss my interview.  Blah, blah, blah, blah.  

I was the most qualified.  Blah, blah, blah.  

I have a bajillion years of experience.  Blah, blah, blah to infinity and beyond.

Is it because I have tits?  I’m beginning to believe it’s because I have tits!”  

Me:  Mama Fratelli, I think you and I both know that biology did not play a role in the hiring decision here.  It was simply determined, after weighing the experiences of all the candidates who applied, that Jennifer (the owner of a set of tits herself) was simply the right choice for this particular position at this particular time.  Also, it didn’t help that you dropped 11 separate F-Bombs during your interview.

Mama Fratelli:  (Totally ignoring the F-Bomb faux pas)  That’s just another canned response in a long line of canned responses!  Blah, blah, blah.  

I have a successful track record here!  Blah-bitty, blah, blah, blah.  

I demand to know why I keep getting passed up!  Blah, blah, Wah-Burgers and french cries, BLAH!

The only conclusion that makes any sense to me is the fact that I have a vagina!

Me:  Ok.  (In my most quiet, calm and steady voice)  I’m going to level with you now.  I’m going to tell you something you probably don’t want to hear.  

It’s also something I will steadfastly deny ever saying should you repeat it and you and I both know, everyone will believe me….because we both have certain track records here.  

So….I suggest you just take in what I’m about to say.  Consider it and then figure out what you want to do with it in order to change your course here.  

You aren’t being passed up for new opportunities because you have a vagina.  You’re being passed up, because you are a dick.  

Moral of the Story:  The truth hurts….but feedback is a gift.

Gift Giving.jpg






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