Ask Bob

BossIt’s the stuff of nightmares.

On the first day of a new job, there are things you can expect to not know.

You won’t know the people, and you might not understand the job – but when your boss is just as clueless as you, that’s a real bad sign.

“Who are you again?” she asks.

You tell her.

“What position were you hired for?”

You tell her that also.

In a panic, she rummages around her desk. “I vaguely remember something like that…”

Finally, she locates a fresh legal pad that looks like a child scrawled on it.

“Here is something!” she says triumphantly. She then studies her own handwriting but cannot make out what it says.

“I tell you what,” she says at last. “ask Bob.”

You cast your next question like a lure across water, hoping for a bite. “Who is Bob?”

She is crushed. Clearly, she does not know who Bob is. To help her save face, you rise from your chair, saying, “You can count on me,” and quickly exit her office.

Now all you have to do is find someone in authority named Bob. This is easier than it seems.

In most organizations, authority flows from the corners.  The more authority, the more windows and the better the view. So you check out the corner offices. No luck. Those belong to Sarah, Mitch, Lyle and Dwight. Not Bob.

You circle the floor reading nameplates on every office with a window.

No Bob there either.

Next you wade into the cube farm looking for the largest cube.

Nothing.

Finally, you run the aisles like a lab rat, vainly searching for a Bob, any Bob. Unbelievably, you work for the only organization in the English speaking world that does not employ someone named Bob.

Not a Robert or even a Roberta.

So you ask around. “Hi!” you say, “I am looking for Bob, can you tell me where he sits?”

Your workmates blink back at you. They stammer. They stumble over their words. They point in vague directions across the cube farm.

You wander where they point and ask again, “Say, can you tell me where I can find Bob?”

More stunned expressions. More empty gazes. More vague gestures.

You try another tactic. You will find the most capable person in the office and ask if they know who Bob is. It’s not long until you find him. He sits in a small, quiet cube against the back wall. There are several frightened and confused people forming a line to his desk. You join them – but he motions you forward.

“You are looking for Bob, right?”

“Yes, is that you?” you say after checking for a nameplate and not finding one.

“No,” he says, “there is no Bob. Never was one either.”

You begin to catch on.

“Our boss, Marie, is a dolt,” he says, “whenever she gets confused, we simply ask her, ‘should we talk to Bob?’ then we do what we want.”

“Great,” you say, “now all I need is something to do, or more accurately, something I want to do.”

“I can help you there,” he says, extending his hand, “my name is Walt, I sort of run this place.”