By: Don Tassone
Michael Chapman set the template on his desktop computer to five copies and pressed print. He stepped over to the printer, pulled off the five sheets of paper and returned to his desk.
He surveyed the writing instruments sticking out of a coffee mug on his desk, poked at a few of them and plucked out a black one with a thin, felt tip. Pulling off the cap, he signed his name on the first copy of the letter. Then he slid that copy aside and signed the second. Then the third, fourth and fifth.
He spread all five copies out on the desk and scanned his signatures. One stood out as most pleasing to his eye. He slid that one aside, gathered together the other four and inserted them into the paper shredder next to his desk.
For Michael Chapman, this was efficient. Sometimes he signed 10 or 15 copies of a letter before selecting one he felt was just right.
He knew it would be faster and easier to print and sign a single copy, but any letter which bore his name had to look its best. It was, after all, a reflection of him.
Michael had been a perfectionist for as long as he could remember. For the most part, striving for perfection had served him well. He had earned straight A’s from kindergarten through college. His peerless GPA got him interviews with all the biggest accounting firms and landed him a job with the prestigious CY.
He did a great job on his assignments. No one was more thorough or precise. When he was still in his mid-20s, the executives at CY had tagged Michael as partner material.
But by the time he turned 30, his fortunes had begun to change. His clients appreciated his attention to detail, but more and more they complained about his turnaround time. The quality of his work might have been superb, but it took too long for him to deliver it.
One morning, his boss called Michael to his office.
“Good morning, Jim. You wanted to see me?”
“Yes, Michael,” said Jim, sitting behind his desk. “Please have a seat.”
Michael sat down in a chair across from Jim. He had never had a high regard for Jim because his clothes were usually mismatched. Today he was wearing a striped shirt and a striped tie. The stripes on his shirt were vertical. The stripes on his tie were horizontal. He looks Cubist, Michael thought.
“Michael, let me get straight to the point,” Jim said. “You can’t keep missing deadlines. I’ll give you one more chance, but if you’re late again—”
“I won’t be late again,” Michael said.
Two days later, Michael owed a client a recommendation on a tax-saving plan. It was a complex assignment. He had done extensive research, including consulting with CY’s tax attorneys, and identified several different strategic options.
Although he was leaning toward one of those options, Michael didn’t feel he had worked through the implications sufficiently to make a recommendation to his client.
His proposal was due by the close of business that day. He thought about asking for an extension, but he knew what Jim would say, what he would do, and for Michael, being let go was simply out of the question.
Yet he was unwilling to advance a recommendation to his client until he could stand fully behind it.
There was only one thing to do. He sat down at his computer and composed a letter to Jim.
I hereby resign from CY.
Then he set his template for five copies and pressed print.