Subject: Eli in trouble?
J, what happened yesterday? Had a concerned call from Eli’s partner that he’d come home in severe shock, hasn’t slept well, is hiding in the bedroom refusing to talk or come out. She’s asking if he’s been fired, or been in a fight. V. worried.
Subject: re: Eli in trouble?
no, not really.
best over coffee.
get it brewing and I’ll be over in 5.
In the one meeting room, door quietly closed, coffee mugs in hand.
Chel, “I saw Eli went off to a mtg in the uncle’s room, but then didn’t see him again.”
Jen, looking downcast, sad. “I’m really annoyed with myself. I handled the whole situation badly.”
Chel, “What situation? I know Eli’s been edgy for a while. I mentioned the last outburst at the WIT session.”
Jen, “Yes, well, it appears that, since then, he’s been building up beserk levels of preparation and emotion on the whole NPC thing. Requested an uncle meeting at short notice, without really making it clear what he was after, stormed in and was very aggressive in putting his case.”
Chel, “Ooh. Bad. I should have been able to catch that. Really sorry.”
Jen, “No, can’t see how this is your fault. Anyway, I tried to defuse the situation by agreeing with him, pretty much immediately and totally, because, well, I did in fact agree, with most of what he had said. I tried to take the heat out of the situation, but Eli had the red mist going on, didn’t realise or care that he’d already won, and kept pushing. He went totally over the top, far away from his normal character. If he’d been drunk it would have been one thing, but this was premeditated. This was Jekyll and Hyde time. The Hulk smash. Really let rip.”
Chel, “But he seemed more or less fine all day. Not angry at all. Fidgity, maybe. Not his usual sassy self.”
Jen, “The uncles were quite taken aback. Afterwards, when Eli had left. Actually, I say left. He backed out, holding his hands up. Didn’t even stay to hear any responses. He just unloaded, and then wasn’t prepared or able to deal with anything after that.
I had to do a lot of talking. I said much of this was obviously my fault, allowing the situation to arise, especially since we/I had already been thinking about arranging the exact thing Eli was demanding. A simple enough case of mis-timing, and lack of awareness of a member of staff’s needs and drives.
Now our main worry is that we are about to lose one of our prize developers.”
Chel, “Sheesh. I feel awful about this. If anyone should have been on top of this its me. So much for my project managerly wiles. I should have been more clued in to his mental state and nipped it in the bud. Sounds like he was nervous before an upcoming fight, rather than angry. I’m kind of peeved that he didn’t discuss this with me first, though. He has every other time he’s felt the urge to whinge.”
Jen, “Perhaps, he was being pro-active like you wanted.
This wasn’t a whinge. This was a good day to die. This was into the breach dear friends.
You know he didn’t realise I was one of the founders of this company until after he’d accepted the offer two years ago? Nearly rejected it out of hand. Sigh. Been tiptoing around him ever since. A sulky bear with a sore head and a long-held grudge.
Its been worth it though, since he is by far the best developer we have. Works well with everyone except me. I guess this is my chance to become more hands-off, let new blood in to the NPCs.
You know I tried to work with him on the Elisa thing. After tweaking his initial model for the competition, I saw it had a good chance as it was, but with Eli on board it would have blown everyone else away. He stuck to his guns on his idea though, refused to let it go, even though, I think, he’d over-reached himself in terms of what he could get done in the competition timescales. Once I won and his idea had flamed out, he seemed to blame me both for winning and the failure of his own hack, which was a bit harsh.
I offered to collaborate, again, on the Turing Test competition, but he wouldn’t even contemplate it. Worked out well for me, but set up an enemy for life.”
Chel, “You’re keeping him on?”
Jen. “Oh, yes, definitely, if we can. He’d stopped short of personal abuse which, had he not, really would have been totally not him, and would have been extremely awkward HR-wise. Eli kept it to the facts, to the current and historical capabilities and future potentials of the NPCs, never even specifically naming me as the reason for the missed opportunities.
But, oh boy, you could see the fear in his eyes. The panic. He couldn’t stop himself. A runaway train. I’m not worried about my ego or position. The uncles were happy with my take on things. It has, however, been agreed that my task now is to keep him with us and back on an even keel. Fair enough, I guess.
Chel, “I’d start with his partner, Rachel. She sounded solid, no nonsense. If we let her know the situation, she might be able to give us the nod when its a good time to have a chat.”
Jen, “Other work colleagues? How about Eric?”
Chel, “I’ll ask around. From what Rachel said, though, he won’t want to talk with anyone from work.”
Jen, “I’ve not had any experience of this. The fear in his eyes. This is outside the experience of HR Ben, too. I think he was half-hoping Eli would tip over into sackable offence territory. It would have made things a lot easier, clearer.
Right, she, Rachel, made contact with you. How did she know to call you, by the way?”
Chel, “Got my number off his phone. He had his phone, but no bag. Left it at work, she thinks. He certainly never stopped off at the desk afterwards. In fact I can’t see how he got out of the building without coming past us. But, not important. Rachel said she recognised my name from Eli’s conversations, and anyway we’ve met a couple of times. She’s a fitness instructor, not that that makes any difference. Seems really nice.”
Jen, “Ok, so can you call her back and let her know that Eli is not in any trouble, that there isn’t a world of hate after him, and there’s no question of us wanting him to leave, and we’d like to have a chat and sort out what to do next?”
Chel, “So, is this project manager-ing, or mother hen-ing, or what?”
Jen, “This is disaster management. This is helping me fix a mistake I made that could have hurt a colleague. This is me owing you one.”
Chel, “Ah, no, was just kidding. I’ll call her. She’ll be at the gym.”
The fear in his eyes
(from Emus All The Way Down)
by Chris Gathercole
published: 16 April 2015
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.