"So, Al, I've been reviewing your file, and there are several changes I think we might make to help you get re-employed. First of all, take the name for instance. You need to change it from 'Chainsaw' to...oh, let's say, 'Smiling Al' or 'Al the Benevolent,' something to appeal to the public. Something to help them see your softer side. What's that? Well, you might have a point there, but we have to find a way to distinguish you from the flock of wannabes you have created.
"And Al, in those television interviews, play down that notion that even the people who lost their jobs got rich because of your downsizing efforts. Remember, not all of them had as many shares as you had...their parachutes were more like little umbrellas. Now, now, Al, don't get upset. I'm sure you are worth every penny. Yes, yes. I'm sure you're a bargain at any price. But to the people who lost their jobs and are a little concerned about mortgage payments and putting their kids through college, it might seem a tiny bit insensitive.
"Al, maybe it's time to show the world there are some alternatives to your approach. You know, like maybe you could come up with something different. What's that? You don't know any other approach? Hmmm, that makes it tougher.
"We also need to work on your timing. It's not a big problem...even the great Houdini miscalculated on one escape. What? Oh, that's just a little joke we in the executive outplacement game use from time to time to add a little levity. What's that? You don't think it's funny? Yeah, everybody says that.
"But, seriously, you've always been able to get away before the results of your efforts caught up to you. Maybe you're a bit out of shape...maybe you should start running a few laps to improve your speed. Maybe chase a chicken around your estate like Rocky did that time. What? Rocky Balboa...the boxer in the movies. He got in shape by chasing a chicken...oh, never mind.
"What do I think of your prospects for getting another job? Don't worry, Al. As long as the marketplace remains enamored with the slash-and-burn mentality, you will always be in demand...by someone. There will always be a board somewhere interested in making a quick buck.
Your only concern should be that, some day, the stockholders will begin to realize once again that real wealth can only come as the result of growth. And that only managers with vision and the capacity to lead people and build strong organizations are worth the money you've been getting. When that day comes, Al, old buddy, you will have a lot more time to work on your golf game."
Bill Armstrong, a management consultant for nearly 30 years, is president of Armstrong/Associates, a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm. The second edition of his book, Catalytic Management: Success by Design (McGraw-Hill), is now available at Barnes & Noble, Borders and WaldenBooks stores.