By September 12, 2012 13 Comments Read More →

Appraising: A Short Play About Selling Out at Work

 

An employer/employee appraisal turns argumentative and asks the character defining question of whether or not you would remain in hell if the devil paid you enough.

Small office setting. Two employees talking.

 

Employee 1

I just don’t see why I have to go through this. It’s totally depressing and it won’t change anything.

Employee 2

It’s a requirement, office procedure, it’s not going to hurt.

Employee 1

It’ll hurt me. That asshole hates me, you know that.

Employee 2

Just sit there, listen to the spiel and it’ll be over.

Employee 1

Spiel is right. Business jargon bullshitter. Screw that. I’m not lying, I’m telling it straight, what I think.

Employee 2

That’s not a good idea and do you think everyone in this place doesn’t already know what you think of this company, of the boss? Walking out halfway through last month’s sales meeting to have a cigarette kind of gave it away.

Employee 1

That’s why I know I’m going to get shat on during this appraisal.

Employee 2

Be like me, I keep telling you. Do your job and shut the fuck up. This is an easy gig.

Employee 1

No it’s not and I don’t know why you think that. We should be getting paid a lot more for the work we do. It’s bullshit.

Employee 2

Then leave and find a better paid job or quit complaining.

Employee 1

It’s just not that easy to go out and find a great job, you know that. And do you think I’m going to get a great reference from here, no chance.

Employee 2

So you hate being here and you’re putting the blame on not leaving because of the reference you might get? The path you choose in life has nothing to do with your employer, that’s your responsibility. I don’t know why you make it so hard for yourself, live with it, plenty do.

Employee 1

I think I’m depressed.

Employee 2

You’re not depressed, you’re just pissed off, there’s a big difference. Believe me, I know.

Employee 1

I feel trapped. Just seeing this building every morning makes me depressed. I feel my stomach sinking every single day, knowing I have to spend another eight hours here.

Employee 2

And yet you come in every single day, just like I do, just like everyone here does. You’ve been here two years already, if you really wanted to leave…. well.

Employee 1

Even hell will give you an incentive not to reach for heaven.

Another office. Employer and employee 1 sit across from each other.

Employer

You know, out of all my employees I feel you are the one I am least in simpatico with and I realise that some of that might be my fault. I don’t think we’ve ever really talked at all except in an employer employee manner.

Employee 1

Well you are my boss.

Employer

That doesn’t mean we can’t have friendly conversation now and again.

Employee 1

It’s just work, it’s nothing personal.

Employer

Good employer employee relationships are the foundation of a harmonious workplace, wouldn’t you agree?

Employee 1

I think there are also other important considerations.

Employer

Good, get me up to speed on your thoughts. I’d like to hear them. Maybe I can take them on board and implement them into the system. We are all about robust system processes.

Employee 1

(whispers)

Good grief.

Employer

Excuse me?

Employee 1

I’ve been here two years and never had a pay rise although I was promised that I would get one after being here six months.

Employer

Straight to the point, money.

Employee 1

You can’t expect good employer employee relationships if you don’t keep promises or pay workers a decent salary.

Employer

You don’t think you are paid a decent salary?

Employee 1

I take a bus to work you’ve just bought a new Mercedes, what do you think?

Employer

I’ve helped built this business up in the last ten years, you’ve only worked here for two. But really, how you spend your salary is your business.

Employee 1

I’ve worked here two years and never had the promised salary increase.

Employer

I’m sure you’ll find in your contract that it states the salary increase wasn’t a guarantee, only that your salary would be reviewed before a decision was made on an increase.

Employee 1

So you reviewed it and decided I didn’t deserve an increase?

Employer

Well you know there are a lot of variables to be considered.

Employee 1

Variables?

Employer

Yes, such as how much profit the company has made in the previous year and how your work in particular is a benefit towards increasing the company’s profits.

Employee 1

And you feel my work has not been of any benefit to the company?

Employer

You told a customer last week that they wouldn’t need our product, that it was unnecessary and that it really wouldn’t help them in any way whatsoever. You basically told them to save their money.

Employee 1

What?

Employer

Isn’t it true that this is what you told a customer during a sales call?

Employee 1

How do you know that?

Employer

Customer service satisfaction checks. Someone we hire calls the workplace to gauge employee service levels, to find out if they are giving customers the service they deserve. We do it regularly. Like a secret shopper.

Employee 1

But that’s spying.

Employer

 It’s not spying, I regard it as staff training and this method is outlined in the staff handbook. This procedure helps me to locate a problem, if I think there is a problem, and then I can work out how to fix that problem. I pay you to do a job, part of which is to sell our products to customers. A customer phones wanting to buy one of our products and you persuade them otherwise? Would you call that a benefit to our company?

Employee 1

Would you rather I lied and told them we could help them? I consider what I did to be better customer service than lying to the customer.

Employer

It’s not lying to point out how our products could be of benefit to the customer.

Employee 1

Customers aren’t stupid. If that had been a real customer and I’d sold them something that would have been of absolutely no use to them then don’t you think that would have given this company a bad reputation?

Employer

You know our products, you know that they can be of use to everyone. You should have pointed that out.

Employee 1

Only because our products are the type where there is no comeback for us if it’s of no use to the customer. We can sell them this advice, if that’s even what it even is, but it doesn’t mean they need it or can use it. It’s like life coaching, if it works then fine, if it doesn’t then it’s not our fault but some people simply don’t need it and to tell them they do is a lie.

Employer

So you don’t value our product, is that what you are trying to tell me?

Employee 1

I value it in the same way as I value a horoscope. It’s pretty much on that level. People can read whatever they want into it.

Employer

Whether you value it or not doesn’t really make any difference to me. Whether you do your job, which is to sell it, does make a difference.

Employee 1

So you’re basically telling me to lie to the customers?

Employer

It’s not lying if you point out the benefits instead focussing on how the product would be of no use. Everyone can benefit from it at some point or other.

Employee 1

Omitting the negatives is as bad as lying if you ask me.

Employer

That’s maybe the way you do things but it’s not the way we do things. This is work, it’s not ethics one on one. We’re here to make money, to be profitable. If we’re not profitable then who do you think has to answer to the owners?

Employee 1

You?

Employer

That’s right.

Employee 1

Well that’s why you get the big bucks right? To handle the problems, to keep staff in line, to make sure your employees lie to the best of their ability.

Employer

You think you have to lie for a living? That’s what I’m getting here. I’m deducing from this that you therefore think that as sales manager I am lying on a grander scale.

Employee 1

You’re paid more to make sure your sales team keep lying to the customers, that’s why you make the big money. You’re the one who stands at the monthly sales meeting and gets the employees to believe those lies in the first place. Your bosses pay you to ignore the fact that you’re telling lies to sell crap.

Employer

If that’s the case then why have none of the other employees complained about the situation? Why do I only have this problem with you?

Employee 1

Believe me not everyone is as patriotic about this company as you think they are. There are many out there who know they are selling crap, they just put up with it. Fuck, half the employees here are on anti-depressants.

Employer

And just how, tell me, do I get these employees to swallow your line of thinking, that we are selling the customers a lie.

Employee 1

That’s an easy one to answer.

Employer

Tell me, I’d like to know. I’ve been doing this job for nearly a decade and I’d like to know how you think I’ve been getting employees to completely buy into my lies.

Employee 1

That’s simple, two words – business jargon.

Employer

Business jargon?

Employee 1

Absolutely. You make it sound, using business jargon, plausible, and for many employees that’s enough. They don’t understand half of what you are talking about at a sales meeting because of the nonsensical business jargon you spout but it sounds plausible and it sounds professional and for many that’s all it takes.

Employer

And you are the only employee who is smart enough to see through the business jargon right? Every other employee is too stupid to see what’s really going on – but not you.

Employee 1

I told you, not everyone believes it but many have too much to lose. They have families, mortgages, debts to be paid, they are scared to lose their jobs. Many have been here longer than you and would rather just swallow it and do their jobs.

Employer

Okay. You know why you haven’t had a pay rise in the past, if we’re being honest here?

Employee 1

I’d like to know.

Employer

Because you’re a fuck up. You’re not a benefit to this company but you’re not a loss either. You’re just simply here making up the numbers, doing the dog work. I should get rid of you but it would cost me more to hire and train someone else to do your job. You do the minimum amount of work with the minimum amount of effort and I pay you the minimum amount of money I can and you still put up with it. You hate this job, I know it, I can see it in your attitude but you won’t make the effort to do anything else. You’re one of the cogs who will sit and do their job and complain about it, but in ten years time you’ll still be here stuck in the same place you were when you first joined this company.

Employer 1

I still won’t lie for you. At least I have that.

Employer

But you won’t try to change anything either. You talk about the others who swallow it and do the job, you talk about them as if you’re above them. But you know what, you are in exactly the same place as them, the same place that all of us are here, you’re no different at all. And if I wanted to, I could make you fall into line and buy my business jargon and sell our products exactly the way I want you to.

Employee 1

How?

Employer

That’s simple – two words.

Employee 1

Which are?

Employer

Pay rise.

Appraising is part of a set of six plays/conversations called And When the Arguing’s Over available on Amazon

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Appraising: A Short Play About Selling Out at Work, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
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About the Author:

Garry Crystal is a freelance writer living in the UK. His short stories and articles have appeared in print and online including Expats Post, The Andirondack Review, Turnrow Journal, Roadside Fiction and Orato. His first book Leaving London is available on Amazon and other retailers now. View My Profile

  • http://castlehearttimes.blogspot.com Dani Heart

    Wow. A whole lot of truth in this piece. I think we have all known someone like this. Well done. :)

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    • http://www.garrycrystal.blogspot.com/ Garry Crystal

      Thank you Dani. You think?

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  • http://www.firkroy.blogspot.com/ Dan LaFollette

    Garry, that was a lot of fun to read. I think most employers would only call someone a “Fuck up” (at least here) in their minds. Doing so out loud would be a bad career move. I’ve experienced both ends of a conversation like that I know they aren’t fun for anyone :)

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    • http://www.garrycrystal.blogspot.com/ Garry Crystal

      Dan, I’ve sat through a few appraisals in my time. One that comes to mind lasted well over an hour and the appraiser was so passive/aggressive that it really wasn’t too hard to read between the lines of what was really being said. The line above “That’s maybe the way you do things but it’s not the way we do things” was lifted from that specific appraisal. I’ve also know a few bosses who had no problem addressing their employees using descriptive swear words…times have changed though and you are right, that wouldn’t go down well now for sure.

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      • http://www.firkroy.blogspot.com/ Dan LaFollette

        Garry, I once worked for a company that would start giving people bad reviews before they started laying people off, just so they had some sort of paper trail to cover their butts in case they were sued. I remember getting a review that was so full of bull shit and lies that I told my boss there was no way in hell that I would sign it. I gave him an earful in that small room with the closed door. I felt like beating his weasely little butt, but of course I didn’t :)

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        • http://www.garrycrystal.blogspot.com/ Garry Crystal

          It’s amazing what companies will do or rather the people in the companies will do and then be able to justify their actions because there are not many who will stand up to them or disagree with them. Some employers think that because they are paying you a wage they own you. I took it as a compliment once that a company I worked for, when they were applying for a ‘business award’ and the company was being appraised by this outside institution, they kept me well out of the way and I wasn’t allowed to give my opinion. Kind of back-fired because even the employees they put forward, who they thought would give them glowing feedback, had had enough..the award sank without a trace. The boss was might unhappy :-)

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  • http://tjlubrano.blogspot.com/ TJ Lubrano

    Ah brutal honesty right there! Haha.

    I’ve always disliked lots of business jargon. When I worked for a company, I often just stared at the documents and got annoyed at the complex sentences one used to explain a simple strategy. Same for meetings, sometimes it just seems like a battle of who uses the most expensive words. I’ve heard sales men talk and I really think that business jargon has a hidden hypnosis element in it. One starts talking…the other one spaces out and think “ohhh I’ve now clue what he’s saying I definitely know that I need it!!”

    Great piece again!

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    • http://www.garrycrystal.blogspot.com/ Garry Crystal

      TJ business jargon sucks, especially when it makes no sense whatsoever and is used to mask the incompetence of the person who is spouting it. Sat in plenty of meetings that even before they started I was thinking, “Here we go again, more nonsense, just speak normally.” I like your hypnosis theory, I think that does make sense, definitely. Wish i’d thought of that before writing this :-)

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  • http://www.momsarefrommars.com/moms-blog.html Janene

    Very engaging, Gary. I kept flipping back and forth between which person I felt sympathy for. Plus there is a lot of truth to what they both said. Great job.

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    • http://www.garrycrystal.blogspot.com/ Garry Crystal

      Thanks for reading Janene, glad you enjoyed it.

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  • Anya Pham

    The ending made me laugh. :) And this piece made working for IR seem fun!

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    • http://www.garrycrystal.blogspot.com/ Garry Crystal

      I think you are probably the only person who has ever lived who has said that working at the IR was fun.

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  • Anya Pham

    Well, one of the division directors liked to host wine tastings during office hours. Often. Your tax dollars at work!

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