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A FICTIONAL SHORT STORY

Gift BoxAll the rumors about Grady were true. He really was horrible. He used to be disliked by everyone in the company, except the owners. The three brothers who shared ownership of the rural insurance brokerage – each managing one of the company’s three offices – liked and appreciated T.R. Grady for just one reason: he was a producer.

"...they all, personally, all on the same day, received a handwritten letter from Grady, each in an individual hand-addressed, hand-stamped envelope."
“…they all, personally, all on the same day, received a handwritten letter from Grady, each in an individual hand-addressed, hand-stamped envelope.”

T.R. (Thomas-Robert has answered to his last name, or just “T.R.”, since high school) sold more property/casualty and life & health insurance than any of the other eight salespeople across all of the enterprise’s three locations. In fact, some months he sold more policies than all the others, combined.

Then literally everything changed. This autumn T.R. had a near-fatal heart attack and, while recovering from bypass surgery, he was unseen for six weeks, including the twelve days he spent in the hospital.

One day during week three of Grady’s absence, everyone in all three of the company’s offices knew everything had changed when they all, personally, all on the same day, received a handwritten letter from Grady, each in an individual hand-addressed, hand-stamped envelope. Every letter included an earnest, personal, apology for the way he had treated that person over his seven year history as an agent.

ExcellenceThe effort to write to each employee of the company in this way must have taken a couple weeks. Each piece of correspondence was specific, personal and unique. In each letter, he identified many of the rude and/or insensitive remarks he had made over the years, almost as if he had kept a catalogue of the many ways he had offended his colleagues. He wrote to the receptionists, the claims adjuster, both of the bookkeepers, the I.T. person, the eleven customer service/marketing people, the managers, and all of his sales colleagues. Although he had been particularly offensive to the women, Grady had a way of injuring the dignity of all of the men he worked with as well.

There were three or four employees who he had had virtually no interaction with either because they were relatively new or because his activities and their particular job did not intersect in any meaningful way with his. But, to them, he still offered an apology for helping to create, and being a part of, an unnecessary culture of negativity. In all of these letters he expressed his intention to be a better promoter of excellence in the future.

With his fellow agents, for example, he said he would soon be making an announcement that will result in everyone making significantly more money in the new year. In the past, instead of treating the other sales professionals as colleagues and teammates, Grady treated them as the competition. He justified his occasional taunting emails as motivating.

Obviously, the partners had been willing to forbear Grady’s behavior and, in so doing, pacify complaints about his egotistic, puggish, offenses. Instead of confronting him, the partners preferred to remind grumblers that Grady’s production made possible the annual Christmas bonus and would, therefore, disappear if he ever chose to go somewhere else. They were sometimes even told that the brokerage could even disappear – and with it, their jobs – if their top producer ever decided to create his own brokerage and take all of his clients with him… while simultaneously becoming a direct competitor. So, they found it easier to placate.

"Emails quickly carried this bit of gossip to the other offices so that within an hour all company personnel had several messages in their in-boxes with this news ..."
“Emails quickly carried this bit of gossip to the other offices so that within an hour all company personnel had several messages in their in-boxes with this news …”

In short, everyone was afraid of Grady, even the owners. But now there was a new rumor. All three brothers had visited Grady while he was in recovery and one of them made a little comment back at the office about how different their star agent was. They said he had even begun tearing up in describing his remorse for his many offenses over the years. Emails quickly carried this bit of gossip to the other offices so that within an hour all company personnel had several messages in their in-boxes with this news, complete with speculation and theories and jokes about what this could mean.But no one anticipated these letters. It all fueled a great deal of buzz about what was going on with the guy everyone loved to hate. Consequently, no one knew what to expect when Grady announced he would be hosting the company-wide Christmas party in the small ballroom at the new boutique hotel in town.

The day of the party could not come quickly enough. Finally, it did.

To be continued…

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