Mary Jane and the Toxic Waste Dump
Mary Jane Ramirez lived in Southern California with her husband Dan and their two
children, Stacy and Brad. Everything was good. Then one day Dan came home with a
dream job offer from Microrule, a Seattle-based company. Soon thereafter, the family
moved to Seattle. Dan settled into his new position and Mary Jane went out to fi nd work.
Shelanded a pretty good job herself. She was a supervisor at First Guarantee Financial.
Even the kids were happy.
One day while at work, Mary Jane got a phone call that Dan had been rushed to the
hospital with a burst aneurysm. Dan died before Mary Jane had a chance to get to the
hospital. The family had been in Seattle less than a year.
Mary Jane settled back into work but she still thought ofDan and the life they were going
to have together in Seattle. Even two years after his death, she still felt a surge of emotion
whenever she thought about him. She knew that it was important to move on, but she
couldn’t help think that life shouldn’t be this hard.
Luckily, Mary Jane’s work life was good. She was a respected supervisor and her team’s
reputation was excellent. People knewthey could count on her employees. Mary Jane
thought about her team when she had to go down to the third fl oor. The third fl oor was
known as the “toxic waste dump,” because it seemed so devoid of life. The employees
there were known as unresponsive, unpleasant, slow and negative.
Mary Jane was taken by complete surprise when her boss told her she was being promoted
to manager of theoperations group on the third fl oor. After the initial shock wore off, a sense of dread swelled inside of her. She knew that she was the third person to have been
“promoted” to that job in two years.
The Third Floor
The fi rst fi ve weeks Mary Jane spent on the third fl oor were diffi cult. She became
convinced that the fl oor earned its reputation. She compiled an inventory of the obvious“zombie” activities carried out by her staff. She saw Bob let the phone ring seven times
before unplugging it. Martha placed requests for expedited processing under her out
basket by “mistake.” Employees slept in the break room and the customer service phones
rang unanswered as late as 9:30 a.m. because staff members came in late. This was just
a sample of the behavior of the 30employees she managed.
Mary Jane knew that the employees she managed were similar to her in one major respect.
Most of them needed the job. She then thought even more deeply about their motives.
Most of them, she thought, were there for three reasons: salary, security, and benefi ts.
She scoffed at the idea of security in the workplace. She asked herself several questions
about her employees. Dothey “know that the security they cherish might be just an
illusion? Do they realize the extent to which market forces are reshaping the industry?
Do they understand that we all need to change in order for this company to compete in a
rapidly consolidating fi nancial services market?” Sadly, she thought, no. But even more
importantly she knew that she had no idea how to make themunderstand.
Mary Jane was about to go out to lunch when her new boss, Bill, called her on the phone.
He had just returned from a leadership group meeting where the third fl oor was singled
out as the company’s biggest management problem. The big boss himself called it a
“toxic energy dump.” Bill wanted to know if she had solved the problem yet? He asked
her to come up to his offi ce at 2:30 p.m.to discuss the problem.
She had no idea what she would say at her meeting with her boss. The only thing Mary
Jane could think about were the words “toxic energy dump.” Her own job was clearly on
the line. She decided the only reasonable thing to do at that moment was go to lunch.
The Pike Place Fish Market
Mary Jane decided to forgo the cafeteria and instead go for a walk down Pike...