He got his start laying pipe for the Atlas Water and Sewer company. Eventually, he climbed the ranks, becoming responsible for a staff of 800 and annual revenue exceeding $120 million. His name is Victor Kipling. This is his weekly column.
I confess. I have been sneeringly called ‘Mr. October’ by my baseball buddies. They say that I only care about the final outcome, the proverbial bottom line, and they’re right. Why wouldn’t I want to see the very vetted, the best of the best, compete against each other in the World Series? If this means that I forfeit the privilege of being considered a true-blue, all-American baseball fan, well then the hell with it.
Now, you may well ask what, if anything at all, has this to do with the Cubicle Continuum? Just consider the Joe Torre story. There’s some mighty meaty stuff to think about here. Stuff that certainly transcends Torre, the New York Yankees, or even baseball in general. Because, in the end, Torre found himself in the kind of situation that all of us may confront, one day. Hopefully, much later rather than sooner…
Just to recap, Joe Torre, after a very long, successful and honorable career as the Yankee manager, was – in essence – fired. Well, actually he wasn’t just terminated. No, he was made an offer, an offer that any self-respecting person, which Joe Torre certainly is, would have to refuse.
You see, his new contract for next year featured both a pay cut and a deliberately insulting incentive clause. In other words, management (aka The Front Office) wanted to show the fans that this 67-year-old icon needed financial incentives to make him do his job better. It’s sort of like tipping the mail clerk at Christmas time, so he doesn’t ‘lose’ any of your letters…Their ploy worked. Torre predictably rejected the contract, and the team is now free to hire whomever.
Many people, and not just baseball fans, are really furious about the lack of both class and loyalty that management showed to its former hero. Yet, others argue that ‘hey; this guy Torre was making seven million bucks a year, and he couldn’t deliver a World Series championship for a long time. That’s a lotta money to pay a failure, a has-been. Ooh, no holiday bonus for the servants at the Torre estate this year’, they mock.
Whether you’re a Torre partisan or simply someone who believes that the Yankees didn’t (or for that matter did) do the right thing, the whole situation is really very universal. Think about it.
Because the reality is that we are, after all, only as good as our latest success. We’ve seen it in movies like Glengarry Glenross. The tired veteran, after many years of honorable service, is deemed by management not to have ‘it’ anymore. And, if lucky, the old timer gets a Timex watch, or some such trinket before being sent into oblivion. On the other hand, what’s a company to do? Retain the old, the weak and the has-beens? Leave them to struggle after successes that will always elude them? Even the most humane of organizations have to face the same dilemma. They need to decide whether to continue cluttering the workscape, or make room for the younger, the stronger, to move up the food chain.
So, the bottom line (or the final score) is that what’s really at play here is corporate Darwinism – in other words, the survival of the fittest. And, while a little sentiment is okay, sentimentality is a sure loser. It’s really about perspective, because after all, while your ass belongs to the company store, your heart and soul had better not. And that holds true whether you’re a Yankee or not. Just ask Mr. Torre.