toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

June 05, 2012

a spaniard in the works

Louise, a mid-level manager, maintains that the social fabric of the workplace is far more important to women than it is for men and that's why she is so careful to select compatible people for her team - and get rid quickly of any Spaniards in the works!

"A team can put up with no end of stressful deadlines and long hours if their workplace relationships are friendly," says Louise, "so, when there's a problem person around, it's like having a spanner in the works."

"In my case, when I took over this team, the spanner was a Spaniard," laughs Louise, "but for all I know he could have been English - he just looked like a spunky Spaniard - but he sure didn't smell like an English rose."

"I called him Funky Fred and no matter what my team did to get him to use deodorant, he just flatly refused to budge."

"Funky Fred had been with the company longer than any of us," explains Louise. "He was held in awe by everyone. He was a large man with Spanish good looks and was in his late 20s, maybe older, but nobody ever got to know him well enough to find out much about him."

"Actually, nobody wanted to get to know him. You see, he had a problem with body odor."

"His real name, of course, wasn't Fred," laughs Louise. "I gave him that nickname because his favorite expression was "Right!" and at the time Right Said Fred was a popular band."

"There was talk, too, that he was a musician," says Louise. "He certainly affected the look of someone who played gigs at night - crumpled clothes, dark-circled eyes and long, black greasy hair that he wore pulled back with an elastic band that he probably pinched from the stationery cupboard."

"But he was far too well-endowed in the adipose tissue department to be a real musician," laughs Louise.

"OK, that's a sweeping statement that has no basis in fact, but suffice to say that the musicians I know - and yes, I know a few - all look like they could do with a good feed. And Fred most certainly did not!"

"Anyway, Fred definitely had an air of mystique and mustique about him," explains Louise.

"His problem with body odor prevented anyone from getting to know him, so he was often the butt of rumors, innuendo and malicious slander. Poor Fred!"

"Also," explains Louise, "because of his body odor problem nobody wanted to sit anywhere near him and when you're managing a team that sort of thing becomes a problem."

"He chose to sit in the best area of the office, right next to windows that bathed him in sunlight for most of the morning and that, I suppose, was the only bathing he ever got."

"Every time new people joined the team I would seat them next to Fred, hoping someone would grow to like him," explains Louise, "but within a few days they were begging me to moved them."

"Actually, some of them actually resigned," sighs Louise, "and that made me look like a bad manager."

"Fred wasn't nasty to them, or anyone. He just had a problem with body odor."

"As a result of his body odor problem Fred ended up having one area of the office all to himself," explains Louise. "The rest of the team were huddled in the far end of the office without any natural light and without much space to work."

"Fed up with this situation I decided to make Funky Fred my special project," says Louise. "I was determined to shape him up or ship him out."

"I tried everything from leaving deodorants on his desk - which he would throw in the rubbish bin and I would fish out later, to having a private talk to him about the importance of smelling good within a team environment.

"When that didn't work I then placed air-fresheners in his area which he would root out and also throw in the rubbish bin!"

"Finally, it dawned on me that Fred was deliberately being a spanner in the works," says Louise, "Either he was a selfish oaf who wanted to keep the best part of the office to himself, or he had a problem mixing with people and used body odor to keep them away. Or both."

"My final solution was to move Fred to a small inner office on his own - one without natural light - and move the rest of the team into the light and bright space that he had previously hogged."

"Soon after I instituted this move, Fred quit."

"I have no idea where he went, or whether he changed his slovenly habits," says Louise, "but it just goes to show that when a team member is offensive in one way or another and does not respond to reasonable requests to change whatever it is about themselves that offends, it is often the case that he or she is enjoying a pay-off from being offensive."

"I still don't know whether it was being deprived of his daily private sunshine bath - or being deprived of his power to offend us with his smell - that caused Fred to leave us," says Louise, "but I'm glad he moved on and it was an very positive management experience for me."

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