Maryanne Mitchell
is the office manager for the Koch, James and Hightower law firm. She is
meeting with Martin Koch. It is not unusual for Martin to ask her to stop by,
but still she gets up tight and nervous whenever he does.


“I am just a
born pessimist,” she frets to herself, waiting for Martin to start.


He gets
immediately down to business. “We seem to have some problems, Maryanne.
Generally, things are going smoothly. The snag seems to be with some of the
typing and some of the filing along with the billing. What do you think you can
do to clean things up a little?”


Maryanne sighs but
does not respond.


“What do you
think? Is there any hope for it, Maryanne?” Martin asks, trying to relax
the discussion.


Finally, the
office manager says, “I’m worn out from trying. It is exhausting, trying
everything there is to try and people are still not satisfied. I will try to
straighten it out, but don’t have much hope.”


Martin leans
toward Maryanne and says, “Maryanne, you have been with me from the beginning.
To tell you the truth, I’m beginning to get some heat about you, about your
performance. There is some question about whether you can handle things anymore
with the computers and all. I don’t know. I think you can do it, but you need
to tell me what has to happen to get things straightened up.”


Maryanne sits
motionless, not saying anything until Martin settles back to outwait her. In a
small voice, she reluctantly says, “You’ll have to decide for yourself
about me. I am working as hard as I can. I’ve given this firm all I have.
Things are a mess around here. I’m a nervous wreck from trying to straighten
out everything that goes wrong. Everyone thinks it’s all my fault. I suppose
they are right. I’m just one person and can’t do it all. It must all be my fault.
Even you think it is all me, now.”


Martin can feel
his ambivalence. Part of him wants to hang tough with the office manager and
the part that has known Maryanne for years wants to straighten things out for
her. As he tries to get control of his feelings, Maryanne says, “It’s no
wonder I get so nervous and upset. Things keep changing. About the time I get
one thing straightened out, it’s something else. It’s like riding a roller
coaster. It is more than anyone can be expected to handle. I guess someone
needs to be the scapegoat, though.”


Martin does not
know what to say now. Maryanne has been with the firm too long just to fire.
Anyway, that is not his style. When good people are not getting the job done,
pointing the finger at them is not the way to go.


“People
around here care about you and want things to be comfortable for you,
Maryanne.”


Maryanne looks
down at her hands as she says, “I need this job but it’s not my life. I
work because I need to work, but it’s not the center of my life. The things and
people who are important to me are not at this office. When I’m here – which is
a lot more than I am getting paid for – I give it 100 percent. I think my
seventeen years prove that. I don’t know what you’re going to do about the
problem you have. It’s for sure I can’t work any harder.”


The conversation
does not end so much as it dies. Maryanne leaves without saying anything more.
Martin is at a complete loss. He takes a deep breath, rubs his chin, reaches
for his phone and asks his secretary about his next appointment.