The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Allow me to introduce John Morse.  He was the owner of our employment agency.  He had pulled himself up by his bootstraps.  Mr. Morse rarely came in the office because he was now working on mergers and acquisitions and had turned over the day to day operations to his son Ray.  But when he did come in it was because he was displeased with either his son or his son’s staff’s performance – and ultimately that filtered down to us.

It was my fourth week with the agency when Mr. Morse made his first arrival.  He was in time for the morning degradation.  That day I got to be one of the degraded.  So after Bill Richards had chastised us in his usual manner, Mr. Morse took over the reins.  Mr. Richards was a pussycat by comparison to the rant that ensued.

I can’t say that my home environment was puritanical, but I don’t recall ever hearing my parents swear – and they taught me in that way as well.  Obviously, Mr. Morse’s background was different

As he began his diatribe I discovered that he would have been unable to speak had it not been for the word f*ck – in all its multiple forms.  The word appeared in every sentence he spoke – often a few times in the same sentence.  I figured he liked that word – a lot.

I didn’t like Mr. Morse very much.  What was worse – he scared me.

Apparently the reason for this visit was that Mr. Morse was not happy about the productivity of the firm’s employment counselors.  We were collectively behind on the amount of business that he had set forth in his business plan.  According to Mr. Morse, “We were low life f*cking scum and he was there to kick our asses.”  On hearing that statement I involuntarily put my hand on mine to guard it from his abuse.

Well, the rant ended after about ten minutes.  I’m still not sure if I breathed at all while it was going on.  I was too startled.  This was my introduction to what I presumed was the real world of business – and I thought to myself, “What in the name of all that is holy are you doing here?”

My employment agency was one of the largest in Chicago with over seventy personnel consultants.  To our minds large generally implies good.  So I couldn’t help thinking, “If this is the way that a good agency is run, what must it be like to work at a bad one?”  That thought also frightened me.

Well, as I’ve said earlier in this series, I was young and foolish.  After the rant ended I thought about how my father conducted his business and how he respected his employees.  The contrast between these two management styles was cosmic.

On the one hand you had a tyrant – on the other a compassionate soul.  I decided, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, I would try to emulate dad rather than Mr. Morse if I ever owned my own business.

I didn’t make any placements that week but I had a few things going which I hoped might close the following one.  I have to admit to a bit of childish confliction as I realized that three quarters of the revenue I would generate would go to Mr. Morse.

But then I thought that I was doing this to help people improve their careers – and I was doing this to make a living.  As I focused on those two things it made it all seem okay to me.  Well, at least it made it seem better.

About ten years later I had established my own firm and we were doing well.  I heard from one of my colleagues in the industry that Mr. Morse had died.  As he put it, “No one other than some of his immediate family came to the funeral.”

I didn’t like Mr. Morse.  But I felt sorry for him when I heard that.  What a sad and lonely way to live – and die.

Comments on: "THE SWEAT SHOP (PART THREE)" (6)

  1. Yes, I’ve had the misfortune of having encountered these types. We can see it coming – but not them, perhaps until it is too late.

    • I think of it as as the “unfulfilled life”. I’m not sure how people who live it consider it – and that is probably the basis for the tragedy.

  2. Mr Morse sounds like some of the army officers I was unfortunate enough to serve under during the time of my army national service. From their point of view the bullying was to toughen you up in the event you had to defend the country some day and they took pride in their work to that end with all the interesting language additives you mentioned in your post. However I found over all the years I was an administrator you don’t develop a team spirit by bullying, and you certainly don’t easily reach goals when you make people under you feel like they are losers.

    • And then there are some people who are just mean. They are unahppy with themselves and take their dispiritedness out on any and all. The fact that several of Mr. Morse’s children didn’t attend his funeral says a great deal. I am still sorry for him and for all people who go through life with his attitude.

  3. This was a good story. What’s interesting is that you used each roadblock & humiliation to your favor both in absorbing the lessons & toughing it out, and in starting your own such company. As I was reading, I couldn’t help wonder how people today would respond to such “motivational” methods as used by that company…

    • I think the answer is that they would sue for some kind of “workplace harassment”. And probably win. Back then, we just dealt with it and moved on.

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