By Kit Goldman, President of Workplace Training Network, Inc.
Roger: a supervisor at a fictional company
Margo: his employee
SCENE: Roger’s office. He’s on the phone.
R: (In the middle of phone conversation)… Are you saying I’m a bigot? Benny, I can’t believe you of all people… no, I’m not a homophobe… All I said to the fruit of the loom was “go home & change”… (Margo, an employee, peeks in. He motions her to come in and sit. She enters, remains standing.) … Fine… you’re right. I shouldn’t refer to him that way… listen, this guy is 6’ 4”, 250 pounds and he was wearing harem pants and twinkle toe shoes… we have a dress code around here! He looked like “I Dream of Jeannie”!… of course it’s not an anti-gay thing. You know me better than that. The other gay guy in my group freaked out too! (Laughs, notices Margo.)… hey gotta go… yeah, we’re on for the game… later. (Hangs up. Sees Margo looking at photo on desk.) That’s right. You’re a photographer… (Picks up photo, shows Margo.) My lovely bride on the beach in San Juan Puerto Rico. Who but the supreme being could create a mamasota like that?
M: Dow Chemical?
R: Bitter, table for 1. (returns photo to desk)
M: Sorry. I get sarcastic when I’m embarrassed.
R: Embarrassed? By what?
M: I’d die if my husband had a picture like that of me on his desk… you know, with everything… (stops, embarrassed)
R: (teasing) That’s understandable, Margo. But Tina’s a work of art. You… you’re a piece of work. (laughs) Uh oh. That funky vest again. You’re going to get us raided by the fashion police SWAT team.
M: Sorry. You hate this vest. I shouldn’t have worn it.
R: Forget about it. Just giving you the male perspective. Look, I’m no one to talk about hair (refers to his shaved head), but when it’s humid… the frizz… like a chia-pet! Everyone thinks you’re a great looking lady, if you got the make-up thing going, stopped shopping at the swap meet.
M: Okay. Thank you.
R: It’s a compliment, Margo. Coffee?
M: No thanks. I’m off caffeine.
R: There’s half a donut left.
M: No thanks. Off refined sugar.
R: How about a shot of white out? (he chuckles, she doesn’t) I’m kidding, Margo. No caffeine. No sugar. You’re a vegan. Don’t drink. Don’t smoke. Don’t laugh at my jokes. I know what the problem is. Catholic school, right? Hey Tina was tortured by the nuns too, but school’s out. Look at her. She’s liberated.
M: I’m sorry, Roger. Is this what you wanted to talk about? We’re struggling to close out the quarter. Know you hate delays, so…
R: No, no. I’ve got a 10:00. We’ll make this a quickie. Ooops. Didn’t mean it like that. You know Lonnie’s leaving?
M: Leaving? No. When? Why?
R: Immediately. Going over to __________. I’ve got to replace him. Needs to be internal. You’ve been wanting to move into that area, right? In terms of skills and experience… technically speaking… I guess… you’d be a logical choice.
M: Me? My gosh, Roger… I’m… I’m stunned. That’s fantastic… I didn’t even know you were considering me… it’s exactly what I’ve wanted… thank you…
R: … Whoa girl! Slow down. You need to listen, Margo. I said I’m considering you. Your work is great. But there are other considerations besides skills and experience. In fact, there’s something that really concerns me…
M. … What? The vest? Hey, I’ll shred it before I leave tonight. This is really important to me.
R: Not the vest — but do us a favor, burn that ugly thing. It’s the feeling everyone has – me included — that we need too watch everything we say or do around you. It hasn’t been a big deal for me because we don’t interact that much. But in Lonnie’s spot, you’re basically my right-hand man… person. We’d be spending major hours together… during crunch, weekends, evenings…
M: I’ve got no problem with that…
R: … Yes, but sweetheart, I might have a problem with it. To be honest, you remind me of my ajuelita Ruffina. She’s 82. Very traditional. Look, I won’t waste any more time being diplomatic. You’re uptight. Distant. It’s tough connecting with you. That worries me.
M: I’m sorry I come across like that. I don’t mean to. I’m not real warm & fuzzy. I don’t think I’m distant. Maybe I’m more conservative than the rest of the group. I’m older….
R: Yeah, you’re older but that’s not your fault…
M: Right. Well, just tell me exactly what I need to do and I’ll do it. I really want this promotion.
R: … Margo, I can’t give you a list. It’s about synchcronicity. Rhythm. I need to know the person behind that white bread Betty Crocker thing you have going. You need to know who I am. You never come to the parties, happy hour… Tell you what. I’m having a get-together this Sunday… you heard I got a new place in Mountain View, right?… anyway, the crew’s coming, some people in the industry you should meet. Why don’t you come? Bring Mr. Margo…
M: … Okay… sure…
R: Bring a swimsuit. Jump in the pool, we’ve got a great jacuzzi….
M: (panics)… Oh, gosh I… Roger. I… can’t… I’m sorry. I’m… extremely phobic about water. I… I’m hyperventilating just… I can’t be around it. I almost drowned. It was very traumatic. I can’t even puddle jump…
R: (Teasing) It’s okay, Margo. (laughs) We’ll put floaties on you. Call Bay Watch! Stick to the jacuzzi. You can’t drown unless you put your head under! I thought you wanted this promotion. You’re going to let three feet of water stop you?
M: I know. It sounds ridiculous to you, but… (rises)… Roger, I know you don’t want delays, so I should… maybe we could finish talking about the job… Lonnie’s job… what I think you said is I’m the most qualified, but there’s other issues. I’m not exactly sure what they are… Not socializing? Getting offended by some of the jokes, the banter, the physical stuff? I’m just not sure what that has to do with the job. I don’t say anything anymore….
R: … and don’t people go to the other side of the room if they’re going to say something that might bother you? I told them to do that…
M: … yes. They do. I mean, I still hear it. I don’t say anything anymore. But if what you’re saying is… I need to pretend I like it… or be more of a… good old girl… I don’t think I can…
R: … Whoa, whoa, whoa, Did I say that?
M: No, not exactly, but you…
R: … Did I say that? No I didn’t. Don’t put words in my mouth, Margo. That upsets me. Sit down. (they sit) Please. Let me ask you something. Isn’t life about compromise?
M: Yes, I’m not….
R: (interrupts)… Yes. Don’t we all have a right to be ourselves?…
M: Of course, I …
R: (interrupts) …Yes. This is who I am. Pop-Eye the Sailor Man. What you see is what you get. Maybe we don’t know each other and that’s part of the problem. So, I’m going to tell you who I am in 25 words or less, you do the same, okay? Okay. I grew up in a big family. Came here from Puerto Rico when I was 10, grew up in New York City, Lower East Side. It was the ’70s. My parents were some of the first Puerto Rican hippies. Schlepped us to rallies, marches, love-ins, demonstrations, hugging people we didn’t even know. You know what the ’70s were like. Shoot, Margo, you remember the ’50s. You’re no spring chicken… and you know I mean that in a good way. Anyway, that’s who I am. I say it like it is.
M: Okay, well, I’m… uh… from a small town in the Midwest. Very straight. Very conventional. We thought love-ins were satanic rituals… uh, Roger… you just brought something up you’ve brought up before. My age. I just don’t know what that has to do with my work.
R: I’m sorry. Did that offend you? Look, I’m the first one to say society doesn’t respect its older women. The fact is you’re the oldest living person on our staff and that is great! We get the benefit of your years… and years… let’s face it, decades of experience. You’re like the history channel… in a very good way… this is still not coming out right, but you get the point. See this could be part of the problem…
M: What problem are we talking about?
R: You’re upset. I’m sorry. You’re blaming me for evolution.
R: We get older, we get less… flexible…
R: Flexibility, Margo….
M: … Flexible? You don’t think I’m flexible?
R: As a steel pipe.
N: With all due respect, Roger, I’m very flexible! I have to be flexible to come to work every day! The environment here is… touchie feelie. That’s very uncomfortable for me, Roger. Things people say…including you sometimes. You see it, you hear it! Flexible? What about last week for Sandy’s birthday they brought in that cake that, excuse me for saying this, was shaped very much like a part of the male anatomy. I ate a piece, Roger. It was incredibly embarrassing.
R: Embarrassing? Why?
M: Everyone knew I didn’t want any cake…
R: How did we know?
M: Because I said so. Everyone pressured me. So I did it. Everyone stopped what they were doing to watch me and have a real good laugh at my expense…
R: … We were laughing with you!
M: … No, Roger. At me. I’m pretty much a joke around here…
R: … that’s not true…
M: Yes it is! I don’t know why. I do good work! I’m never late! Never call in sick! But I’m a joke! I swear, if I didn’t have two girls in college, apparently for life… I’d go into human resources and… oh, my gosh. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have said that…
R: (interrupts)….No, Margo, that’s good. Let it out! Come on, breathe. Find your center. Cleanse your chi. (rises) Inhale! Exhale! (they do so in unison) Inhale. Exhale. Now sit down (she does). Don’t have a heart attack in my office — I don’t know if the new HMO will cover it! (Laughs, she doesn’t — he gets serious.) To be honest, I don’t particularly like what you’re implying, Margo. Accusations like that could sound like insubordination. I don’t think you meant it like that, so I won’t take it like that. But I’m giving you a heads-up.
M: Sure. Sorry.
R: What’s going to help you get this promotion isn’t getting HR involved, Margo. I mean, you’re welcome to. It wouldn’t be my choice. Think about what I’ve said and if you can do what’s required. I’m on your side. Okay?
M: Right. Sure. Thanks. (to audience) Help me out. What would you do in my place?
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