Lessons Learned from an Axe Man

I want to tell you a story about Tommy the Torch. That's just his nickname -- I won't give you his real one -- but he was notorious at this telecom company.

Tommy was a cost-cutter par excellence. If you needed to fire people, you called Tommy. If you needed to fire a lot of people, you called Tommy. If you needed to combine departments and butt egos, you called Tommy.

People who knew him tell me he seemed to relish it.

Just like he relished cutting costs -- from pencils to paper clips -- Tommy policed office supply rooms like nobody's business. One year, he whacked that expense 90 percent. 90 percent!

One story has it, he walked into a cafeteria, fetched himself a cup of coffee, and as he was putting in the cream, told the four staffers sitting at a nearby table that they should pack up and get out -- their department was being shut down, immediately.

Here's the kicker though, he sipped his coffee on the way out and didn't give them a backward glance.

Tommy, they said, was a cost-cutter's dream. A hatchet man who not only did the dirty work for the boss, but apparently did it with gusto.

I caught up with some of these people the other night and guess what? Tommy was torched. Fired, just like that. He had become dead weight.

And after all that cost-cutting, all that firing, all that making the boss happy, something about Tommy -- I don't know what -- made his boss unhappy.

Now Tommy the Torch is on the street and so far, no takers. Word is he was in a state of shock.

"I did so much for this company," he muttered. "And now this."

"I know how he feels," said one of my friends who worked for the same company. "I felt the exact same way, before Tommy torched me."

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