Lion Heart - Part III
“Jackson really is a cheap bastard. You know that?” Mr. Dominick said aloud, ignoring the fact that I didn’t personally know this ‘Jackson’ he kept speaking of.
“Well, it’s time to apologize. Look Sweetie, I need you to draft an email apologizing to Jackson and the rest of his team, but here’s what I want you do: acknowledge my bad behavior, but shift the blame to something that was beyond my control. When you do that, emphasize that I’m still owning up to bad behavior and apologizing.”
“Wait, what? I’m sorry Mr. Dominick, I don’t think I understand.”
Mr. Dominick huffed and rubbed his face between his hands in annoyance. He looked up at the ceiling and sighed in exasperation, then he managed to muster a little patience, and sat next to me.
“Remember that Hail Mary the other day?” he asked.
“Being a professional jackass? Yes, I remember,” I said, thinking to myself, “How could I forget?”
“Well, the deal fell through, and now I have to apologize for my bad behavior.” he said.
It was obvious to Mr. Dominick that I still wasn’t following his line of reasoning, so again, he miraculously deigned to explain himself.
“Jackson tried to play me for a fool, and I let him know that wasn’t going to happen. Now I have to let him save face. Have you read The Art of War?”
“Not yet, Mr. Dominick. I’ve read The Prince, but I haven’t read The Art of War yet.” I answered.
“I acted like a big shot, and now I need to show a little humility. I was never going to obliterate Jackson. I don’t need to be on his sh*t list, just because I wouldn’t let him screw me on a deal. The apology isn’t for him, it’s for me—to cover my own @$$. People are petty in business; they’ll spend decades buying up your stock so that they can takeover your company, because you slighted them back in 1976.” Mr. Dominick ranted.
“Sweetie, so much of business is ego stroking. I’ll pretend like I’m embarrassed by my bad behavior, and Jackson will laugh. It’s better that he laugh and forget about me, than spend time thinking about how he’s going to get back at me.” he explained.
“Before you go giving me that wide-eyed innocent look, no I’m not a bad guy. I was willing to be fair about the whole thing, but Jackson just had to try to screw me! I have every right to use whatever tactics I see fit from here on out. He lost the right to call ‘foul play’ when he turned our negotiations into a joke,” Mr. Dominick asserted.
He had a very strong personality, and he was a tough negotiator, but I had to admit, I’d never known him to be unfair or unethical when the chips were down.
“When you apologize, go over the top. Tell him something embarrassing—something so absurd he won’t doubt it’s the truth. You’re an honest girl, so I’m sure you’ll put a grain of truth in it!” he said, patting me on the knee as he went back to his desk.
I began to go through my mental file of what I knew about Mr. Dominick…Mr. Dominick enjoyed vicodin, fine wine, and the touch of silky/satiny fabrics—I’ve noticed he has a habit of stroking his tie, particularly when he’s deep in thought. What the heck kind of apology was I supposed to spin all of that into? I had to figure something out, it was my job. I put down the research for the business proposal I was writing for him, and started drafting his apology.
“Over the top…he’s kind of inappropriate, but I don’t want to make the story disgusting. He likes to be macho…maybe I can work with that,” I thought to myself, and the ideas started to flow.
I presented Mr. Dominick with two (2) options: 1. Was that he acted out because he mixed vicodin with vino, and Mr. Jackson was ‘harshing his mellow.’ He knew he wasn’t supposed to imbibe whilst on the prescription, but his good friend Peter opened a bottle of Château Margaux during lunch, and insisted everyone have a glass. Option 2 took the story to the next level; Mr. Dominick drank the wine not only to be polite, but because if he declined, he would have to explain to everyone why he was on vicodin. He got too amorous with his significant other, slid off some satin sheets, and landed square on his shoulder.
“Option 2! Option 2!” Mr. Dominick shouted through his laughter, on the brink of tears, “I like that it doesn’t make me sound like a lightweight; throw in a line about how a gentleman doesn’t normally kiss and tell, but…” he trailed off.
Mr. Dominick continued to laugh even as he walked over to me. He stood over me, and gave me a kiss on the forehead. “Sweetie you’re a genius!” he praised me; he started back toward his desk, but instead, grabbed an autographed baseball and tossed it in the air.
“Not only did I get to act like a jackass, but now I get to brag about my sex life and bottles of Château Margaux? F*ckin’ brilliant!” he said, still laughing. “I like that you didn’t make it Rothschild—that actually might’ve been over the top; Margaux strikes the perfect balance. Well, this’ll either bring Jackson back to the negotiation table, or it’ll give him a laugh. Either way, I’m good.”
Part of me was ambivalent about whether or not I should proceed with the next phase of my research. Could I play these games, and still retain my integrity? Then I thought back to how I had been praised and lowballed at the same time—the paradox of working in finance and qualifying for low-income housing again crossing my mind. Mr. Dominick was correct, they deserved no mercy. I was going to stress-test them, and walk away from this experience with as much knowledge as I possibly could.
I had no choice but to continue with my experiment; research aside, I was going to have to apologize for my own good. Because I had irrefutably proven that they were behaving unfairly, and that this offer was legitimately subpar, I had made it very difficult for them to save face.
As Billy Joel said in “Big Shot”:
“Well it’s no big sin to stick your two cents in, if you know when to leave it alone. But you went over the line, you couldn’t see it was time to go home.”
Mr. Dominick was again correct, and I proceeded to give my enemy the opportunity to regain some composure for my own long-term benefit. Factoring in the company’s industry and age range, I continued to follow Mr. Dominick’s formula, and crafted a semi-true embarrassing story that no man would want to hear, and no businesswoman would tell if it weren’t necessary. Without going into detail, I’ll just say that it involved female biological issues, and hormone-based medication. Any woman would’ve seen right through it, and said, “So, you mean, you switched pills? That’s your excuse for being such a b*tch? Please!”
Businessmen in the Pacific Northwest are so sensitive, so I made sure to lay it on a bit thick. I drove home the point that my behavior was regrettable, and that I really had missed out on a great opportunity. I respected them as businessman, and knew that it was important to woman up and take ownership of my screw up. It all read as sufficiently deferential.
Alone in my flat, I rolled my eyes. For a moment, I thought about not apologizing. Still enjoying the high of not rolling over for their lousy offer, I questioned whether or not I wanted to undo my new image with some coddling apology. Then Mr. Dominick’s voice echoed through my mind…
“You were a big shot; you acted like an @$$, and you put them in their place. Now, you need to make sure that you live to fight another day. Don’t let your ego be so big that you’re unable to admit when you’ve done wrong—that won’t win you any allies, and you never know when you’ll need an ally.”
I hit ‘send.’
We’ll wrap this story up by ensuring that the mess we’ve intentionally made, is indeed sufficiently cleaned up. An artist may paint on a canvas, but they still put down a drop cloth—just in case.
-Hesper Rose, The Skulking Glamazon