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Workplace Interpersonal Skills

by Kate Gladstone


As I was heading homeward on the bus at 6:03,
I overheard two people, and they were discussing me:
My workplace supervisor, Ann, complaining to her boss
That, though I did my job quite well, I was a social loss.

“She does not like the office parties our department throws:
She comes, she tries to be polite — it’s _trying_. Well, that shows.
She’s helpful, kind, she stays on task. Subordinates and I
Depend on her for research … still, we wish she’d quit or die.”

Her boss asked questions. Then she said: “Yes, Ann, that type I know.
I cannot put my finger on just why they ought to go.
I do not care how well they do: when folks like that are hired,
If we can’t make them want to quit, it’s best to have them fired.”

Ann said: “Oh, yes, she’s got to go. I sure agree that’s true.
I’ve planned a little accident. I’ll share the news with you.
You know the First Aid training all our staffers have to pass?
Her name’s been dropped discreetly from the roster for the class.”

(I’d heard no hint of this before. In fact, I had been told
By Ann, that very afternoon: “Tomorrow you’re enrolled
To take the First Aid session. Please be here by half-past eight —
The first floor auditorium: no credit if you’re late.”)

So I spoke up (in terror at how rude I must appear) —
“Why, Ann! And Mrs. Sánchez! What a pleasure meeting here!”
They turned and glared and frowned because they knew I knew they knew
I’d overheard each single word of what they aimed to do.

I kept that job — because by eight I’d memoed Personnel,
And “cc”ed several advocates the tale I had to tell.
(But other times I’ve lost a job, I’ve wondered: “Was it me,
Or was it conversation on the bus at 6:03?”)

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