#84 Isolation

“Why is Jeremy still here?”, snarled Tom.

“I know, the little creep should have left months ago”, Sandra replied.

Jeremy Smith, a junior-level data analyst at Strategic Data Initiatives Inc. was not well liked by his co-workers. A natural loaner, Jeremy came into the office when he chose, left when he felt like it, and management never raised an eyebrow. And why should they? Jeremy was the fastest worker they had – he often completed work 2-3 times faster than his senior colleagues. He was in line for a promotion, in a few months he’d pass Tom & Sandra, both veterans of the firm.

They had taken upon themselves the job of trying to get Jeremy to quit. They instructed none of their friends to speak to him, something that none of them were doing regularly anyway. Jeremy was to be treated like a pariah. He didn’t seem to notice. It was normal for no one to speak to him, for his phone to not ring all day, etc.

Then they started spreading the rumors around. Everything they could think of. The nastier the better. Jeremy just ignored all of it.

Sandra & Tom were at a loss of what to do. They dared not put anything about him in writing, via email or somewhere in the office, as management could easily track that back to them. Suddenly it came to them.

“Ya know, he always wears that stupid hoodie”, Tom told Sandra.

“Yea, so what?”, Sandra replied.

“I bet he wears headphones underneath it!”, Tom said with glee.

“Ah, so he doesn’t hear anything… that would explain it”, Sandra said with a smile.

So they started on a new petition – to make a dress code change at the office. No hoods, no headphones. They coached it as some way to improve employee relations – people would feel more connected to each other, and junk like that. They got some supervisor in another part of the office to go with it, and he got it implemented site wide. On Day 1, they saw Jeremy walk in, no hood, no headphones.

They started their rumor mill up, and before long people were blushing at the things Sandra, Tom, and their followers were ‘accidentally’ saying about Jeremy. Jeremy just sat there, a blank expression on his face as he worked away.

Sandra & Tom couldn’t figure out what they were doing wrong. To their dismay, Jeremy was promoted. Not to management, but to a senior analyst position on a higher floor. They were happy he was gone. He didn’t fit in anyway.

Several months passed until one day a peculiar email arrived in both Sandra & Tom’s inbox. They had a meeting with their boss’s boss on a higher floor. They went up and gleefully thought about what this might mean. They’d both been looking to move into management, maybe this was literally the call up.

They were a bit shocked when they entered the room and saw Jeremy sitting in one of the chairs before the desk.

“Sandra, Tom, come in and sit down”, the boss beckoned. They sat down next to Jeremy.

“I believe you know Jeremy, although I gather you two weren’t close when he worked near you. So you should probably know that Jeremy is legally deaf – so speak up!”, the boss said as they peered over at Jeremy. That’s why the kid hadn’t ever noticed their venomous spew!

“Jeremy has worked on employee statistics here, and he’s brought me some interesting findings about both of you”, the boss began. Sandra and Tom began to get nervous.

“It seems that, for some time now, you’ve both been failing to meet performance standards. Normally you would have been coached on this and we could have fixed the problem – but it seems as though floor management has been a bit behind with silly things like dress code changes and enforcement. I’m really sorry to tell both of you this, but I don’t think we can keep you at the analyst level any longer”.

Sandra and Tom were shocked. Sure, they’d slacked off a bit since they figured Jeremy did and was rewarded for it.

“Uh, what are our options?”, Tom asked, a bit taken aback.

“Well, unfortunately you only have 2. You can become Jeremy’s assistants as he starts a new group here, or you can resign”, the boss said matter-of-factly.

“We’re not sure that would work well”, Sandra said.

“Yea, Jeremy honestly doesn’t seem like he needs assistants”, Tom added. “Perhaps we could work in another division, or have another chance?”.

The boss raised one eyebrow and glanced at Jeremy. Jeremy, for the first time Tom or Sandra had ever seen, let out a curled smile. Perhaps more of a smirk. His hearing aide turned up to high had given him Tom’s answer, and he knew the intent behind it.

“I’ll have security escort you both out”, the boss said.


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