Henry Cavanaugh’s mind was swirling, caught in a riptide of uncertainty, grasping for a life preserver, a decision, that was just out of reach.
Henry was a simple-but-not-stupid, 40s-ish man with a semi-receding hairline and a slight beer gut. He had developed a nervous tic a few years ago where he would never look anyone but his own family directly in the eye, caused by having to play God with people’s careers one too many times. That was the case again that day.
At his desk, sitting in his comfy chair, Henry was studying an employee’s folder. Frowning, he mentally read off the assortment of information under the Misdemeanors section:
Damaging company merchandise
Dissuading customer consumption
Sleeping during job hours
Lackluster sales performance
Even without looking at the name on the folder, Henry could have figured out who the portfolio depicted. The scoundrel in question, Jimmy Scott, was about 17 years old, with floppy jet-black hair that would occasionally part to reveal his piercing green eyes. This was his first job, and though he had great energy, he had quite a lot of…imagination, as Henry would put it. The damaged merchandise had been caused by a bored Jimmy’s shopping cart race that got a little too out of hand. The time he “dissuaded customer consumption” was when he became a little too helpful and naively told a customer the same item was on sale elsewhere. Henry also remembered the time when a customer was shopping for tents and found Jimmy sleeping inside one of his potential purchases. Eventually, disorderly conduct was put into his file as a catch-all to describe numerous more incidences, one being his commandeering of the store’s loudspeaker.
However, the last two really weren’t Jimmy’s fault. No teenager like Jimmy really had a professional appearance, and it wasn’t fair to Jimmy that customers flocked to older, more mature-seeming employees. But since Jimmy had already had a record, a fed-up coworker had inserted those two complaints into Jimmy’s file as well.
Considering all of this, Henry read the file over and over and over until the words swam in front of his eyes. The logical decision, the sensible decision, would be to fire him, but there was something stopping Henry, an obstacle that prevented him from grabbing the life preserver. Finally, Henry stood up, sighed, and started walking to Jimmy’s station. Henry attempted to practice what he would say in his head.
“I’m sorry, but here at Wild Man Outdoor Stores, we value… no, too robotic. Jimmy, I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to fire you. No, too blunt.” As Henry was walking, a very bright, very visible poster caught his eye, and his brain relished the distraction. The poster read, We Promote a Healthy, Happy Workplace! At that, Henry finally realized what had been stopping him. He remembered how Jimmy always had a bright, happy smile coming into work each day, how he always was the first to start a conversation in the break room, and how he always had looked so guilty every time he was caught. Confronted with this new information, Henry stopped for a second, then started walking again with a livelier, brisker pace. As Jimmy saw Henry approaching, his eager smile fell, and his shoulders sagged noticeably.
Before Henry could get a word out, Jimmy blurted, “I know I’ve been kinda crazy in the past, but could I please keep my job? I was thinking about it last night, and I promise I’ll work hard and be mature and stuff. Please?”
Half-smiling, Henry said, “Well, Jimmy, you have an extensive disciplinary record, so something has to be done.” As the smile crept wider, Henry continued, “Therefore, I am demoting you to a warehouse job, and cutting your pay slightly, but you will be given an opportunity to work your way back up if you so choose.”
Looking like a child on Christmas Day, Jimmy asked, “So you’re not firing me?”
“Nope,” Henry said, shaking his head as the smile expanded to full size.
With a grin to rival Henry’s, Jimmy practically skipped off to receive his new job details and warehouse uniform as Henry laughed and shook his head at Jimmy’s antics.