Roberta was way out of her depth. She had been put in charge of the entire clerical department a few days after Barbara went home with a headache that turned out to be a stroke. (Barbara recovered and came back to work a few months later.)
Those of us in the staple pit from clerical didn’t have all that much to do with clerical anymore. We were all the way on the opposite side of the floor, so we didn’t even see anyone from clerical unless we went looking for them. Nonetheless, we were still technically working under Barbara, so now Roberta.
Roberta started showing up in the staple pit with cakes and other things she had made. None of us knew what to make of it. Those of us from clerical had resigned ourselves to our status as expendable and accepted that we were now staple people, so this attention was unexpected and a little suspicious. The rest of the staple people quickly decided that Roberta was just awesome and kind.
The cake turned out to be Roberta’s version of leadership. She would show up with some kind of offering, and we were supposed to be stellar employees because we loved her. I assume there was a similar sugar-shower happening on the other side of the floor in clerical.
I was never a fan of Roberta. I had seen her go out of her way to exclude people from office potlucks or other office gatherings. It was mean and utterly pointless. You were either her friend, or a potential target. I was not her friend.
Those of us in the staple pit from clerical were still required to attend the occasional meeting of the clerical staff. Roberta had taken these over in Barbara’s absence. I guess the cakes didn’t have the desired effect because some people in clerical had apparently become a bit cavalier about getting back from their breaks on time. Roberta explained that the breaks were supposed to be 15 minutes, but we had always been allowed 20 as a courtesy (to allow time for the elevator ride).
Then the meeting took a theatrical turn. After calmly explaining that some people had been abusing the break policy, Roberta took a deep breath and then shrieked, “SO NO MORE 20-MINUTE BREAKS!” I swear Roberta looked as surprised as the rest of us at the yelling.
So the take-aways from Roberta’s School of Leadership would be: Bribe subjects with cake. In the event of cake-failure, yell.
The rest of the staple people didn’t understand why Roberta stopped bringing cake. Those of us from clerical could never figure out why she brought it in the first place.