Poor David. He’d just joined our sales team of door to door Book Club salespeople. And he’d just met Marie, our boss, who’d introduced herself with her customary “game on, team!”. Marie was blonde, good looking and very sociable, giving every impression of a reasonable human being, which she was, as long as you made it clear that you realised she was the boss. So, how was David to know that she was not the kind of person you belittled in public, even if you thought you were only joking. Marie had what an unkind observer might call a “loud mouth”, loud for laughing, loud for shouting, loud for even just saying “hello”. It was often the first thing people noticed about her. David certainly noticed it. And he made what was a pretty funny joke, but it was not what you’d call “a first day at work” kind of joke.
“What height are you?”
“Dunno, 5 foot 4, I think.”
“Aye, and what height are you with your mouth shut?”
Rage has many forms. Shouting, furious silence, and, on this occasion, an open mouth gasp that seemed to suck all air from Marie’s body. There were attempts at forming words but nothing audible came out. Marie was driving the car to territory and all we in the back seat could see in the rear view mirror was her face purpling up and what looked like tears forming in her eyes. It was the shock. Us old hands had seen Marie in action. She took no prisoners. And here was David, the new kid on the block, making fun of her like she was an equal of us lowly types. The effrontery of it seemed to mentally paralyse her. Everyone else in the car was frozen, like in a movie freeze frame, some with crisps in hand, mouths open, motionless, as they waiting in expectation of the nuclear explosion from the driver’s seat.
Marie drove to territory, stopping at a bus stop on the street. She had composed herself. David had realised he’d messed up. He was belatedly developing a sense of foreboding. We didn’t dare look at him, in fear of any glance in his direction being taken as a sign of support. No, David was on his own and he knew it.
“Right, plonkers. Here we are.” Marie’s motivational send offs to territory were unorthodox. “Team target today is 25. Game on!”
“What!” we all spluttered. “It’s usually 15!”
“Aye, well thank your new big-mouth pal for the sudden increase in performance demands. Of course, you can always debate it. Any takers?”
Silence said “no”.
“Or you can report me for being unreasonably demanding?”
Raymond sitting next to me started his knee trembling though I doubted it was through choice. David was staring at his feet lest he catch a death stare from Marie, who’s eyes had not left him while she spoke to us, turned round in the seat.
“No? Okay. David?”
The least confident “Yes” ever uttered was just about heard.
“What height are you?”
“...err...6 foot I think?”
“Aye, and what height are you lying on the ground with blood pouring out your nose, ya cheeky bastard!”
“See that bus stop? That’s where you can be if you don’t have at least three sales.”
“But it’s my first day?”
“No, son. Its your ****ing last – if you don’t get target. Now, team, its game on!”
Once we were all dropped off, seemingly to work at our designated doors right away, we hastily found each other, and Raymond gave us a mercy team talk, about how Marie didn’t really mean it and if we all tried our best she’d recognise that. David went to say something but Raymond, who’d apparently assumed some kind of vice captaincy, said, “Shut it, wee man!”
“But I’m six feet?”
“From here on in, you’re wee man. Got it?”
Another awkward “Yes” followed.
Wee man scored two sales on his first day with no field training. Marie howled with laughter when Raymond told her David’s new nickname. Her honour was restored. She’d gotten 7 sales and so the team target she’d set was achieved. Controlled anger can be a real motivator. As our leader and having set the dramatically raised target for the day, she’d had to achieve that target or loss face, and then ultimately authority.
The next day we all reported at the cafe to meet at 8.30am. Marie breezed in like a hurricane and as usual stole the scene with her loud flamboyance, shouting hellos and her coffee order to the world.
“Fair play to you for turning up, wee man. Didnt expect you to be here. The good news is folks...” she said as she gulped her first vitalising caffeine of the day, “... is that our target today is... you’ve guessed it... the same as yesterday! And you can thank wee man here for waking you all up out your complacency.” She tilted the remains of her coffee into her mouth and said, “Game on.”
By Bob Smith who has worked in sales for more than 30 years, works as an experienced recruiter, trainer & motivator and is also a published author of both children’s and adult titles.