Observations and arguments.

Archive for November, 2005

Dear Mr. President

Back in 2002, Gabe Hudson helped edit a series of letters to the President over on McSweeneys, as an extension of his own book Dear Mr. President.

I submitted the following letter for consideration, but it didn’t make the cut.


Dear Mr. President:

I am not a perfectionist (though perhaps I used to be a bit of one), but I do like to bring my best effort to the task at hand. I think: why do something half-assed when there’s an opportunity to do better? This attitude brought me success in school, and early in my career, as I demonstrated intelligence, aptitude, and a willingness to go the extra mile.

Then one day I got new boss who, I was told, would be a “better manager” than my previous boss. All of a sudden it no longer mattered how I did the work, only whether it was done or not done. It appeared that he was incapable of assessing (or, at the very least, unwilling to assess) the quality of work being done by myself or my team. I received the same level of recognition whether the work was outstanding or weak or even embarrassingly inept. As long as he could consider the work “completed”, either on or ahead of schedule, I got a smile and a slap on the back. When I tried to raise questions about complex, interrelating issues, he would always turn my query around into an either-or question, which when I begrudgingly replied he would tell me that I had answered my own question, when really I had only answered *his* question, which wasn’t really applicable at all to the issues that I was raising, but he was done speaking to me anyhow.

Oh, how I hated that boss. I believed that he was an idiot, that he was eroding the company’s fortunes by putting out bad product, and that before long he would be fired. I concocted fantasies of getting a job and then hiring my old company, only to cancel the contract at the last moment saying, “See, I am firing your company because it puts out inferior work, and this witless, overpaid fool is to blame.”

Then one day I was standing in a Kinko’s and picked up a book that they were selling about management techniques, and learned that employees who care about the quality of their work are a business liability (rather than an asset). That they slow down schedules by asking too many questions, or by inserting extra steps to “assure quality.” That they take up too much of their managers’ time with their detailed memos and their emergency meetings and their insistence that you consult some other department that actually might know the answer to the question being asked.

I was crushed. Here I thought I’d been contributing all along to the company’s business goals, by working to make the product better. But in fact according to this book being sold in a Kinko’s I was part of the problem, not part of the solution.

In time I did quit that job, but there was no satisfaction in having quit, and after I left everyone (especially my boss) was relieved.

In my jobs since then, I have slowly been learning how not to care about the quality of my work, but it’s difficult.

During your campaign, Mr. President, I learned that as governor of Texas you would be presented with 20-page reports compiled by really smart people who cared about all of the issues, but that you wouldn’t read them, instead asking the author to summarize the report and to boil it down to an either-or proposition. These aides of yours, I read, then tried to deliver shorter reports, 12 pages, or 5 pages, or even 1, hoping that you might read a single page document outlining the complex web of variables associated with any major policy decision. But no, even then you didn’t read the memos. You were just like my old boss.

Some of those horrid talk show hosts and reactionary liberal-types began tossing out accusations that you were illiterate, but they didn’t understand like I do.

You’re not stupid, you’re just a successful manager! You’ve learned, perhaps better than anyone, how to hold the reins tightly on those earnest, overly intellectual wonks and do-gooders who threaten to bring government to a standstill with their questions and their analyses and their insistence on talking about details or “implications” or decisions you made a week ago. You see the bigger picture, or rather you see that the big picture is a distraction from the real work of sparing yourself and your closest advisors from having to sit through an hour-long meeting because how boring is that.

I fear, Mr. President, that you may not realize, that even though you keep the work environment “collegial”, with your winking and handshaking and all the funny nicknames, that these aides of yours, the ones who would rather be writing the 20-page report instead of asking you to answer “yes” or “no” to a single question, that secretly, deep down, they may hate you.

So fucking much.


Chris Ereneta
San Francisco, CA