I remember when I was working in Brooklyn during the late 80s after I ran CitiPhone for almost 5 years out on Long Island.
I got a new boss, Joe Barbara, VP, a wonderful, distinguished gentleman who always wanted to make sure that everything was just right.
Fine. Not a problem.
Besides, I was a neurotic perfectionist myself so this shouldn’t present any problem, right?
Ever since I was hired, I was always writing my own stuff…as well as much of my boss’s stuff, especially with regard to monthly executive summaries, proposals, presentations & the like.
And I never, ever passed a single memo by anyone for their review &/or approval. Never.
Well, when I first started working for Joe B (as he was known), I knew how he wanted to get his hands into everything.
He did have an advanced degree of busybody in him, but he was a good soul & always well-intentioned.
So I write this 2-page memo on whatever (it was going out to a wide distribution list) & drop it off with him for review.
Yeah, it was a little ass-kissing on my part, I guess. Gotta build those bridges!
Anyway, I go & retrieve my memo out of my mail box later…and it was covered in RED INK!!!
Upon closer examination, he didn’t change or question any of the actual facts or major points that I raised in my memorandum.
Rather, he made all these “stylistic changes”.
I used the word “several”…he changed it to “many”.
I said “seldom”…he said “rarely”.
I used “organization”…he changed it to “division”.
Not real “corrections” or fixing wrong stuff or “errors” by any stretch of the imagination..there were no mistakes!
Maybe he felt like he needed to do something, or flex his muscles, or think that he was “adding value” when, in reality, he really wasn’t!
(Note: When it comes to writing styles & the definition of “perfection”, just about everything is pretty subjective. Unless here’s an obviously-glaring error, it’s always in the eyes of the observer (and the author, for that matter!) as to what’s “right”, what’s “perfect” & what “needs to be changed/tweaked/rewritten”.
One of the first things Joe ever said to me is that I write exactly how I speak.
Look. My brain comes up with an idea that I need to communicate. I’d rather not muddy the waters & make this whole thinking thingie even more difficult than it already is.
I don’t wanna hafta (< < that’s an example right there!!!) decide if that thought is coming’ outta my mouth or via my fingers & then tailor my communication according.
I think Brooklyn. I speak Brooklyn. I write Brooklyn.
And although I was personally embarrassed & pretty pissed off at what he did, he was my boss after all & I didn’t want to burn any bridges..at least not this early on!
And, again, he was generally a really nice guy & a gentleman & I’m sure he meant well.
So, I made EVERY SINGLE CHANGE he recommended…and there were many…and dropped off the revised version at his office. They were all “grammatical changes”, NOT corrections of any kind!
Again, I get my memo back…again with all this red ink crap!
Nothing but more stylistic changes. Was he using a thesaurus?
And then I saw it.
He had changed several of his own recommended words back to the original ones I used in the first place!!!
💥 🔥 💣 ⚡️ 🌊 🎇 🧨 ! ! !
I originally wrote “seldom” & he wanted “rarely”. I changed it to “rarely”. Now, he recommended “seldom”!!!
Similar story with “organization”. He changed it to “division”, but now he wanted “business”!!!
That’s it, I said to myself. No more of this nonsense.
He feels that, somehow, he must make changes no matter what the situation calls for. To feel in charge? To act fatherly? (I had a Dad.) Maybe his other direct reports (now &/or over the years) were really shitty writers?
What do I say? What do I do?
Confronting one’s boss…early on in the relationship…to show him what he’s doing that’s just simply wrong/useless/counterproductive can be quite suicidal to one’s career.
And when you have the “ol’ bull in the China shop” tendencies…
😱 😱 😱 ☠️
I simply send out the ORIGINAL version of the memo!!! I incorporate none of his “suggestions”. (In those days, pre-email, you printed off hard copies & sent them out via inter-office mail, received by the next business day.)
And I left a hard copy for Joe, with a note attached that I already sent it to all parties.
So what do I find in my mail slot the next day?
A memo telling me to pack my bags?
A declaration of war?
A recipe for Chicken Cacciatore?
A note written at the top of my memorandum…in BLUE INK, this time!
“Mike, Great communication! You expressed your points extremely well! Joe B”
Never again in my career did I ever pass anything I wrote by Joe B or any other boss for that matter!
“Yes, you. The lady with the fruit tree in her hair. Do you have a question for me?”
“Mike, did you happen to pass any of these stories by anyone before you published them in this blog of yours?”
“Oh, do you mean anyone besides my parole officer???”
Once again, thank you so much for listening!
Oh,BTW, did I ever tell you how Chicken Cacciatore actually got its name?
I’m sure many of you may have heard of Joe Torre, manager of the/my NY Yankees baseball team (1996-2007) who captured 4 World Championship during his tenure there.
Before he started his managerial career (Mets ’77-’81, Braves ’82-’84, Cardinals ’90-’95), he was an outstanding player himself for the Braves, then the Cardinals, then the Mets.
In fact, he was a 9-time All Star & in 1971, was selected as the National League MVP/Most Valuable Player when he led the league in batting average (.363), hits (230) and RBIs/Runs Batted In (137)!
He actually began his career as a catcher for the Braves (a teammate of the immortal Hank Aaron) & later switched to playing third base.
As the story goes, one of the major reasons that his second team, the St. Louis Cardinals, made the move to 3B was not only his advancing age & bad knees, but his ever-annoying habit of avoiding any type of collision whatsoever with the runners trying to score at home plate.
Back in those days, catchers were allowed (heck, they were strongly ENCOURAGED!) to always “block the plate” with their bodies to try & prevent runners from scoring!
This tactic was usually pretty successful in preventing runners from scoring on close plays, but would often result in horrific collisions! Several runners & catchers suffered injuries over the course of the 162-game season.
As Joe got older & his knees worsened, he was more & more reluctant to put his body on the line! He actively avoided any sort of contact with the runner, except a simple slide & tag play, and began to actually cost his team runs!!!
His manager & teammates were disappointed (angry?) with his obvious & constant show of cowardice. He wouldn’t risk his own safety for the good of the team!
Soon, he became known around the entire league as…
…Chicken Catcher Torre! 🤣🤣🤣