Wednesday, December 10, 2014

25 Stories About Work - the Henpecked Guy

I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)...

Chicago, Illinois, early 1990's

One of the clients that I had was a (rare) financial services firm in down town Chicago. This was a great client because I didn't have to travel or do anything strange like audit a maximum security prison.

The job was also interesting because the firm we were auditing took in investor funds and turned around and invested in myriad hedge funds. As a result, during audit time (year end) we had a lot of work to do because in order to complete OUR audit, we had to receive reports from all the individual hedge funds that the firms' clients invested in. Back then we were barely computerized and used lots of paper, and all the audited financials came in at the last minute, so we worked non-stop to attempt to meet customer deadlines.

At lunch we went out as a group and they brought the auditors along. Most of the time it was just me since I was fairly competent by that time so my manager usually left me on site to do all the work and just checked in on the results periodically. I was a workhorse, charging in hours from early morning to late night every day and on weekends during busy season. Since this firm made a lot of money, they didn't care much how many hours we billed, they just wanted to complete the audit on time so that their clients felt confident in investing with them.

The manager from the client was interested in hiring me. This is typically how you got a job as an auditor - you impressed the client with your intelligence and work ethic, and then they hired you to join their internal audit staff. Since most of my clients were in government or distant utilities in undesirable (at the time) cities, this was an unusual circumstance for me.

As a guy you generally talk about a few topics - there's sports on TV, sports that you do yourself (golfing), cars, gadgets, attractive women, work related items, and stories about going out and having a good time. Given that most of the clients at that time were predominantly male, these topics were the ones I heard all the time and had no trouble contributing to.

When I went to lunch with the (male) manager and his team, I noticed that his team were all women. He was a slight man and quiet, and didn't impose his will on the conversation. As a result, the meals at lunch were on topics that I NEVER discussed nor even had a concept of mentioning. Typical topics included fashion, childbirth, colors, how long you went after having a child before you had marital relations, and myriad topics relating to kids and families. At the time (a kid right out of college) I had absolutely ZERO to add to the conversation, and was stunned into silence by the topics.

This was a good experience for me because I could understand how women felt when guys talked about sports or cars for hours on end and they had little or no interest in the topic nor the desire to even learn about it (I was particularly un-interested and squeamish about the childbirth and related stories). The tables were turned and now I was outnumbered (severely - they were a tough bunch too) and just sat silently during lunch, throwing in an occasional comment and then shutting up.

In the end I figured that the reason he was offering me a job is because he needed someone to talk to. I didn't take the job and held out for another year in public accounting. Looking back it probably was a mistake to turn down that job because the firm boomed with the rise of hedge funds and is a major downtown company today. I ended up becoming a management consultant and traveling all around the USA for another ten years (and lots more stories like this) which probably was a much harder life than working downtown and commuting to the suburbs like most everyone else in the world. This wasn't my last bad career miss, not by a longshot...

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would feel extremely uncomfortable discussing childbirth, let alone "how long you went after having a child before you had marital relations" during lunch (!) with coworkers (!) and a stranger/business associate.
In fact, I wouldn't discuss it at all.
Colors, then - oh, that is a different story. Colors is an universally-interesting topic, no?