How the sales weasel got what he deserved: A fable

August 6, 2007, 2:15 PM UTC
Fortune


longtailedweasel.jpg

Several years ago, a Sales Weasel was up for a promotion to the head of his department at the large media company for which he had labored lo these many years. He went in and pitched the job, but his problem was that he had been closely associated with a former head of the function who had left in rather bad odor not long before. Still, senior management valued the Sales Weasel and wanted him to be happy. So he was given due consideration.

In the end, however, the ambitious weasel did not get the promotion to Vice President of Sales for the company. Instead, he was given a raise, a new four-year deal, a swanky office, and other lovely perks designed to make him feel like a very important weasel indeed, if not the top one in the organization. On the day he was informed of this mixture of both good and bad news, he was called to the office of the Executive Vice President of Human Resources, whose job it often is to impart information that may not be welcome to its recipient.

“Bob,” said the HR executive, “you didn’t get the big job, because Ned thinks Max is better suited to the overall role. You’ll be reporting to him. We do think you’re terrific, however, so we’re going to bump your title a notch, give you a hefty increase, a car, a club membership, an extra five points on your bonus target, and a number of other perks designed to make you feel like a very important sales weasel indeed, if not the top one. I hope that will take some of the sting out of the whole thing.”

“Well!” said the Sales Weasel. “I am quite naturally disappointed. But I am very grateful that all these good things are being heaped upon me. I love this company and want to be a part of its future. Tell Ned I’m proud to have been considered and will be pleased to work for a sales weasel as accomplished, experienced and creative as Max.” With that, both men stood and shook hands with great sincerity and warmth of feeling.

The next day, the Sales Weasel informed the corporation that he was leaving that very afternoon to take a job across town with his former boss, the erstwhile head of the function who had left in rather bad odor not all that long before, and taking his lists, database and half his reportees with him.

“Goodness gracious,” said the Executive Vice President of Human Resources to Ned, the Chairman. “What a lying sack of offal.”

“I’d like to rip his snout off,” said the Chairman, who tended to see things in primary colors.

We now move our story several years into the future, up to the present day, or at least last week. The Executive Vice President of Human Resources, the Chairman, and several other senior staff members were meeting in the small conference room on the 152nd Floor of their building.

“How are we doing on that search for the head of Sales of the Flute Reamer Division?” said the Chairman.

“Having a tough time,” said the Executive Vice President of HR. “It’s not that easy to find a person who can run an operation like that.”

“Nobody out there?” asked the Chairman.

“Well,” said the Executive Vice President of Human Resources. “I hear the Sales Weasel has left that other place and is looking for a new job.”

There was a silence around the room. Then the Chairman spoke. “He left here under rather weird circumstances. Remember?”

“Are you kidding?” said the EVP. “I still remember him standing right in front of me and shaking my hand, saying thanks, we have a deal. Then the next day I’m at home in New Jersey working outside and I get a call saying, Hey, I’m outta here. Do I remember? I never had anybody lie like that right to my face before or since.” Everybody thought about that for a while.

“All right,” said the Chairman after a while. “Let’s move on.”

And so the company continues to look for an applicant that can fill a lucrative, prestigious position. And the Sales Weasel continues to troll the streets, looking for scraps.

Moral: What goes around comes around.