Another update from the Jungle….
Jack was an honors student in graduate school and he’s possibly the smartest person ever hired by his company. On paper he looks fantastic. That’s why his boss, Mitch, was so anxious to hire him. Acting in haste means that Mitch is now regretting at his leisure.
Jack is actually a pretty decent person, but he is a socially inept basket case. He misses every nuance of human behavior. By the time he understands a joke, everyone else has stopped laughing.
At his first staff meeting, Jack sits staring at his co-workers. At the second staff meeting, when Mitch calls on him, Jack describes a magazine article he is reading about a new management theory. Mitch’s jaw drops. His question was about the draft budget for the following year. Worse is to come.
Mitch’s staff is invited to join the semi-annual client appreciation event. Jack shows up early before the caterer has finished setting out the food and drinks. He explains that he wanted to be on time. He gobbles up food as if it’s his last meal for a week.
After banishing his hunger, Jack stands in a corner near the refreshments table and stares at everyone as they arrive, much as a zoo keeper might study an exotic animal. Anne, senior vice president of procurement for a key client, smiles at Jack while waiting for her drink and makes the mistake of engaging him in conversation.
Fifteen minutes later, Mitch spots Anne sidling away from Jack, her face frozen in a smile. He gallops across the room. Jack is describing the mating habits of sperm whales, based on a National Geographic show he’d watched last night on TV. Mitch is aghast. He kicks Jack in the shin and shoulders him aside, preparatory to ushering Anne away from the scene of the crime.
The next morning, Mitch invites Jack in for a quiet conversation on appropriate small talk during a client shindig. Jack is hurt; he thought he was being friendly. Mitch stares at him, helplessly.
What are Mitch’s options?
- He can join Jack’s co-workers in teasing Jack for his social awkwardness.
- He can build a reality show around Jack and sell the concept to a cable TV channel.
- He can try to teach basic social skills to Jack while limiting his contact with real people, like clients.
In the actual situation, the inept employee was a good employee in all other respects, so co-workers took turns looking after him at client events. Clients eventually grew used to the employee.
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