corporate,fist fight,fisticuffs,argument,business,scriptwriting
Fisty-cuffs in the corporate boxing ring?

Have you ever been to a meeting where people get so wound up they come to blows? You wouldn’t expect that in a civilized corporate environment, would you? But it happens.

I was reminded of that recently when three members of a group of distinguished professionals I was working with argued so violently that cappuccino was airmailed across the leather-topped boardroom table … and an entire bottle of expensive naturally carbonated
spring water was emptied over someone’s hand-made suit.

Does this ring any bells with you?

Here’s another experience from my portfolio that might jog your memory…

Years ago I worked on a massive convention for a British computer hardware company. I was employed for the project by one of the large UK event production companies which handled this computer company’s business – my role being that of assistant producer/script editor. The convention was in honor of a major product launch that was set to make the company’s fortunes and transport it into the new generation of computing. Pretty crucial stuff.

British corporate ethos being quirky as it was (and some say still is) the Board of the client corporation had decided that rivalry and competition among departments of the company was good for business – kept everyone on their toes. They vigorously pursued this policy to the point that the departments were so polarized, they wouldn’t talk to each other except by email. Lunchtimes in the canteen were fraught with tension. Heated arguments broke out in the parking lots. Even the ladies’ restrooms echoed with haughty froideur.

Anyway as part of our pre-production process we – understandably – asked for a meeting to be set up including representatives from all relevant departments: marketing, sales, HR/training, technical, etc. We had been advised that such a meeting would be safer if held off-site on neutral territory, so 24 of us sat around an enormous table in a hotel conference suite.

Never mind your corporate rivalry: what about this show?

Surely when discussing an external event these raging bulls could shut up and work together for once, particularly as the event was likely to be pretty crucial to the company’s future and ergo, their jobs?

Alas, no. Before we’d got to #2 on the agenda, we production folks felt like we were watching a singles final at Wimbledon. The insults flew back and forth along and across the table faster than Andy Murray’s first service.

The producer (my boss) tried vainly to keep control but things got worse and worse until eventually four managers from the computer company got up, lurched into a huddle and began thrashing and punching each other. Horn-rimmed spectacles flew up into the air, neckties were wrenched off, Gucci loafers were seen aiming vicious kicks at expensively-socked ankles.

Put up, or shut up

Our producer gestured to us – his team – and we all left the room. He told us to get into our cars and drive home. I never did find out what he said to the CEO of the computer company on the phone that evening, although he hinted that it was along the lines of “want your show to go ahead? Then get your little manager tw*ts to grow up, or we walk…” or words to that effect.

The show being critical to the company’s survival, never mind credibility, company policy suddenly performed a miraculous 180 and within days, inter-departmental relationships were sweetness and light. The show was successful and the company flourished for a while until it got eaten up by a huge Pacific Rim organization and thankfully has now dropped off the IT radar.

What was even more astonishing was the fact that this adversarial derivative of “mushroom management” had been allowed to, well, mushroom for so long.

What experiences have you had with corporate fisty-cuffs and such idiotic management? Please share!

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photo credit: andriux-uk events via photopin cc