A Question of Credit

by Bruce Kasanoff on November 10, 2011

It’s time, thought Tom, to lock in my bonus for the year. This is going to be like taking candy from a baby. He cleared his throat and began to address the other members of the executive committee at Prindle Industries.

“The way I see it,” he began, “A volatile marketplace doesn’t just present risks, it also creates opportunities. That’s why I developed this unique way to use options theory to virtually guarantee we can increase sales by 15% over the next year. You’ve all seen the overview I sent out last week, which outlines my thinking on the subject.”

Phil Reed, the CEO, interrupted.”Tom, I don’t see any of your staff here. Who worked with you on this?”

Tom shook his head. “This is pretty much all me, Phil. I had a few members of my team work out details here and there, but this was my pet project and I wanted to make sure all the details fit together perfectly.”

Phil raised an eyebrow. That was not a good sign, but Tom missed it.

“What about Margaret Ansen? She spoke to me about options theory a few times over the past year.

“Bright kid, that Margaret,” said Tom. “She totally gets the benefits we can reap from this approach.”

Phil paused. You could almost see the last piece of a puzzle dropping into place inside his head. “This is her idea, Tom.”

Tom narrowed his eyes. “Excuse me? She’s smart and talented, but she couldn’t have come up with this herself.”

The CEO glanced at the AV guy at the back of the room, and nodded. Mary’s voice came out of the room’s speakers.

“Tom, this is the third time I sent you my risk options initiative brief. This has the potential to change the course of the company’s revenues for years to come. Have you had time to take a look at it?”

“Yeah, yeah, I looked through it last night.” It was Tom’s voice. “Not sure the timing is right though, Margaret. I’m gonna have to think…”

Phil had signaled to cut the audio. “You stole her idea, and presented it as your own.”

Tom pushed back a bit from the table. He was thinking, time to blast a little righteous indignation at this little weasel. “Phil, did you put a tape machine in my office?”

People in the room started giggling. They couldn’t help it.

“What?” said Tom, growing confused.

“You honestly don’t know that we now tape every conversation in every office in the building, do you Tom?”

“Since when?”

“Three months ago. I’ve sent out five notes about it, we had numerous group meetings to explain why we’re doing it. We told everyone how they could turn off the recording if everyone present in a room pressed the ‘confidential’ button.”

“No shit?”

“You’re fired, Tom.”

“You’re firing me because I took a half-baked idea from a 26-year-old kid and polished it into something special?” exclaimed Tom.

Phil shook his head sadly. “No, Tom. I’m firing you because you are a self-absorbed jerk who doesn’t notice what’s happening around him, and we’re competing in a world in which we have to notice everything that happens around us.”

Written by Bruce Kasanoff of Now Possible, where science fiction meets business.

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