My Dealings with Mr. Garr

The first possible career that I thought I had going for myself turned out to come with some very high stress. It was a clerical job in which I was a cog in an overmanned machine. My duties were not too burdensome, but the constant office politics and culture were extremely draining. The issue was that I had no fear of a person who could replace me, but rather the technology of the time. When software became more efficient people like me were payroll collateral damage, and I knew it. This is where Mr. Garr came into play. He was a third-party human resource specialist, whose sole purpose was to find an excuse to fire the staff in order to break their union contracts. This is what became of my experience with him.

While working one day and feeling like a not so vital part of a team to pull together the fourth-quarter financial reports with a superior, he let slip that the company was looking into serious downsizing. His context was fear for his own position within the company as he did not have the required education level the new mandates of the company had listed with our updated employment expectations. In other words, even my boss was sweating that he was on the corporate chopping block. Until that point, I knew that jobs like mine were becoming more and competitive, but I did not know that it was outright brutal. When all was done and our successful efforts on the financial reports were sent up to the next phase, I temporarily felt that I was secure and irreplaceable. The actuality was that by the following Monday every staff member received an email from the main office informing us that a man named Mr. Garr would be in the office for the entirety of the upcoming month to prevent "nonsustainable workplace activity." Initially, when I read that email, I assumed that it had more to do with the supply recorders than employee layoffs.

On Mr. Garr's first day he was cold and disengaged from those who spoke to him in the office. He kept mostly near the human resource representative Dana* who herself was no pocket full of sunshine as she made a point to be as belittling as possible toward anyone she felt offended her hysterical emotional senses. Dana had once asked me to explain the plot of a popular television series during a company luncheon and when I did she accused me of secretly using the series explanation as a disguised insult toward her, the show was about dress shopping. Mr. Garr and Dana seemed to hit things right off. They were a close odd couple in those first few days of his tour of our workspace. Him being in his late 30s, stocky, and constantly scowling. Her being in her mid-50s, rail-thin, and bitter. All the while the union rep was MIA and probably was let go too before all this even started.

No kind word or well-done deed was enough to please those two. It was as if they had both committed to their anger and given up on pleasantries simultaneously. The first hit Mr. Garr took out on the staff was poor Gina a new employee for the most part. She was using the printer and it jammed. Mr. Garr walked over to her when she was throwing away the smudged inked paper that she had pulled out of the ancient machine in order to fix it. Mr. Garr asked her how often she threw away office supplies so recklessly. She showed him how the printer had left wet ink all over the pages and that the paper was no longer of use. He wrote something on a sheet of paper attached to his clipboard and walked away. Dana came into the room after and very formally told Gina that in the future she would have to pay for the supplies that she "destroys" in the future and would receive her official warning via email. Gina was both defeated and confused. It didn't matter anyway, she was fired for office supply misuse. Apparently, she also threw away a pen that she thought was out of ink, when according to Dana, Gina just needed to shake it more.

The next victim of Mr. Garr was the night time call-in line operator, Jim. He was beginning his shift at 6 pm as he always did when Mr. Garr called the line from his own cell phone. The signal was weak and when Jim asked "are you there?" "Hello?" Mr. Garr scolded him for not using the company greeting to answer the call, even though Jim had, Mr. Garr just did not respond to it. Dana gave Jim, as she did with Gina an official warning too both in person in front of everyone at work and via email. Jim too was fired after that for "not following company call etiquette protocol." The position of evening shift night call service was eliminated as well.

With Gina and Jim gone, I was the most junior member of the office staff and starting to feel some panic every time Dana and Mr. Garr passed by me in the hallway. My reasoning was that if I could just avoid Mr. Garr and Dana for the rest of the time that Mr. Garr was there that I could prevent my own employment termination, unlike my friends had. My tactic was to be as invisible as I could be. If I saw them walking my way, I would dodge them by escaping their sight by any means that I could use. This backfired, however when they were practically on my shadow all morning and I gave up when they called an office meeting in which Mr. Garr sat right next to me. He was talking to me about the personal feeling of satisfaction he felt from when he fired a man who had a sloppy appearance of matted hair and bushy eyebrows. I held back telling from Mr. Garr that he reeked of microwaved fish and that his belly hung so far over his belt that the buckle was facing the floor. After the meeting, I was putting the projector away when Mr. Garr and Dana came back into the conference room. Trying to slide out unnoticed I attempted to crawl under a console table that had a package slot which was the size of a medium doggy door. I made it through until I realized that my hips were too wide to allow me to pass through completely. Regretting my plan, I attempted to go back from under the table. Behind me though, I found Mr. Garr and Dana watching my act of desperation. Even I knew I looked ridiculous. There I was on my hands and knees under a table, with them looking directly at my rear end as I was crawling butt-first out of a package slot. Knowing that my effort had failed, I stood up, excused myself, and went home early after lunch.

The fallout of that stunt was that I got the dreaded termination email that evening for "lack of formal baring befitting to an office environment." It hurt more than the day before when Dana publicly humiliated me by telling my peers all about it as an official announcement. I had tried to impress Dana and Mr. Garr and ended up looking like a loon. It was clear that no matter what I did was going to save my job, but it hurt all the same. I felt so bad that I blushed for the entirety of the afternoon and had anxiety about it that night so much so that I didn't sleep at all. It was months later that I found out that the office had downsized just about all of the staff and the few who were left had to do the jobs of 20 people each. It also came out later the company owner gave himself a 600% salary increase. Why go through all of the effort to hire Mr. Garr to terrify the staff and not just explain that the company was making changes to those who were let go? Contract protections and loopholes I guess.

Reflecting back on it now, when I was mortified with myself for being found stuck in a package shoot by the two people I wanted to look the best for, I know that I didn't have a chance, to begin with. It was their job to end my job. Mr. Garr did not just get paid to fire people he relished it. His whole focus in life was to find anything he could point out as a fault and use it as a means to terminate an employee. Maybe in life, we are reacting to those who bring out our worst selves, maybe we are trying to impress a Mr. Garr of our own and losing our dignity doing it. The thing is though that Mr. Garr was never going to be impressed, his only function was to find faults in others. Mr. Garr was truly happy with this task, no matter what he was there to find a problem where there was none. Sometimes I have to reality check myself and think "are I trying to impress a Mr. Garr?" The answer if yes means that I have to walk away because a person like Mr. Garr is only there to downsize me in every way possible. Do you have a Mr. Garr of your own? A critical friend, a browbeating partner, or the like? Say so in the site forums and as always, Let Your Inner Shut In Totally Wig Out!

*names changed to protect privacy