Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Hogan & Hartson Mobbing Complaint: Defensive Response by Coworker -- Part I

I worked as an agency-supplied temporary employee in the Computer Applications Department (CAD) at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson from mid-September 1985 to late February 1988.  In about January 1987 there arose a rumor in the department that I was in love with a male coworker, Craig W. Dye, and that I was trying to woo him. The innuendo grew in intensity beginning in mid-February 1987 after the department supervisor, Sheryl Ferguson, announced her resignation (on February 12, 1987). Sheryl Ferguson was a strict and effective manager; employees curtailed their acting out while she supervised the department. After her departure, the department's data base administrator Espe Rebollar assumed a supervisory role over employees. Espe Rebollar was a less than exemplary employee and an ineffective supervisor.  Further, the employees worked in a suite in an office building on I Street, across the street from the firm's main site at 815 Connecticut Avenue. The employees were isolated and lacked effective supervision. An additional factor that spurred the innuendo about me was the envy I aroused in January 1987 when I announced to several employees that I had earned $1,000 in compensation by working doubletime in late December 1986.  In about January 1987 James Hourihan,Esq., the billing partner for the client Chrysler, directed Sheryl Ferguson to transfer me from Milwaukee Public Schools litigation to work on Chrysler. Thus, an additional factor that aroused jealousy in the Department was that time and again I was chosen to work on special assignments by senior attorneys in the firm.

In May 1987 Miriam Chilton was hired by the firm to manage the CAD. She had no supervisory experience. The innuendo and mobbing behaviors directed at me continued even upon Miriam Chilton's hiring.

I wrote the following memo to Miriam Chilton in exasperation about the mobbing behavior directed at me in the CAD.

The following document is psychologically revealing.  Arguably, the memo contains symbolic references to the Biblical Joseph who aroused the jealousy of his older brothers because Joseph was favored by the father, the Patriarch Jacob.  Jacob had given Joseph a "coat of many colors."  Thus, perhaps, the references to my purchase of clothing and to a "coloring book" may be oblique references to sibling jealousy vis-a-vis an envied brother.

TO: Miriam T. Chilton

FROM: Gary Freedman

RE: Requested Change in Workspace

DATE: July 20, 1987

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me twice on Friday and giving serious consideration to my request for a change in workspace. After thinking about what you said I've decided that, if it meets with your approval, I would like to remain where I am. It is clear to me now that no matter what I do—or its opposite—only one inference will be drawn.   Since in my opinion we are dealing with irrationally-based conclusions, facts and reason hold no sway. For example, significance is attached to the fact that I started jogging last month. The fact is that I have been working out regularly since April of 1986 (there is an exercise room in my apartment building, which I used religiously [Miriam T. Chilton is an observant Reform Jew] before I began jogging—note that Craig [Dye] started at the firm in October of 1986). If memory serves correctly, I chatted with Sheryl on the morning of Saturday June 29th 1986 about my exercising on a rowing machine and sporadic jogging. (She can verify this—it was the morning she honked at me from her car as I was about to cross Connecticut Avenue on the way to work—she may remember). My jogging was only the next step in a long range exercise plan. (These details raise another issue—my memory. A great deal is made of the fact that I notice and recall a great deal about Craig. The fact is that I notice and recall a great deal about everything. Although it has not been verified by a professional, there is strong evidence that I am dyslexic. I school I had to train myself from an early age to listen intently and recall everything teachers said simply because reading was so difficult. Interestingly, recent research indicates that dyslexia is sometimes associated with what is termed “social skills deficit,” which explains a great deal also).

I've concluded that my colleagues simply have poor memories and highly selective perceptions. I'll just have to live with my celebrity status and continue providing entertainment for inquiring minds who need to know.

The attached check is submitted simply to corroborate a statement I made a few weeks back regarding an inheritance I received earlier in the year.

A word of explanation. 

In 1980 my sister and I became intestate heirs of an estate that included an item of personal property. My sister and brother-in-law had possession and use of the item until early this year. In late January/early February (?) my sister informed me that her husband had found a buyer who was willing to pay $600 for the item. She also informed me that she would share the proceeds equally upon sale of the item. It was just after receiving this news that I began to purchase, on credit, items of clothing in early February. (Although it was not until late March that I received the check, I mentioned the inheritance to Matthew [Allender] sometime in February. Also, I jokingly said to Daniel [Cutler] and Cindy [Rodda], in response to comments about my clothes, that I had just inherited “$30 million”--if memory serves correctly, that would have been on the morning of Monday February 16--another reason why people can't stand me!).

Unfortunately, I began to purchase clothes just before James Hourihan directed Sheryl to transfer me from MPS to Chrysler, which brought me into closer contact with an employee with whom I had had little contact previously [i.e., Craig Dye].

You may wish to note another coincidence. It was also in mid-February that Sheryl announced to the group that she was leaving the firm. As you noted yourself in our conversation on Friday, the absence of a supervisor (or simply a “lame duck” supervisor) can lead to serious personnel difficulties.

In fairness to all concerned I have to admit that were the situation reversed I might draw some of the same conclusions (although I don't think I would make a circus of it). Part of the reason for the inference is, as one coder once said, “You attract so much attention simply because you are an enigma,” and of course I give people little cause or opportunity to like me. I am like a page from a coloring book—blank and waiting to be filled in. Perhaps the people I associate with cannot be faulted for coloring the page in bizarre and hideous hues.

I've decided to take Jeannette [Gringo]'s advice and just “chill out.”

Thank you once again for your patience.

I wrote the memo (above) on Saturday July 18, 1987 at the Hogan office.  I was working overtime, as was Daniel Cutler.  I gave a copy of the memo to Daniel Cutler to read; he penned the following note that he gave me a short time later.  What is the psychological meaning of Daniel Cutler's memo? Was it a sympathetic and friendly gesture or was it an admission of a guilty conscience?  Perhaps both.


For the first three months I worked with you I saw you probably a total of three hours. When I did see you some of the things you said made me feel uncomfortable. I don't "understand" you. Yes, you are definitely an enigma.

Moreover, you are the subject of occasional conversation, like everyone else. I don't believe any of these behind the back conversations are malicious or intended to paint anyone in a "hideous hue." People talk and laugh about people and circumstances they don't understand or find unusual.

I think I understand one thing: you feel and see too much sometimes. Sensitivity and strong intellect when taken too far will tear your guts out. That's some free homespun bullshit but while lacking substance it still smells right.

However, your knowledge of this scenario exceeds mine. Personally, psychology depresses me because all summed together everyone consciously or unconsciously puts themselves into positions where they are unhappy, neglected, paranoid, degraded and on and on . . . And most of us lack the will to extricate ourselves from this state of being. We cling to that certain feeling because it is constant and predictable. These big brains we have demand it.

Anyway, rest assured that myths are exaggerated and distorted, including yours. Nevertheless, the dull Daniel or plain Jane rarely have myths written or spoken in their name.


Gary Freedman said...

The item of personal property that my sister and I inherited from our mother's estate was a Dodge Dart -- coincidentally (or uncannily), a Chrysler vehicle. The Computer Applications Department was engaged in a massive document production task for the Hogan client, Chrysler.

Gary Freedman said...

The reference to a "coloring book" perhaps has multiple meanings: the Biblical Joseph (and his coat of many colors); a projective psychological test--like the Rorschach inkblot test; and the feelings of emotional emptiness typical of the schizoid individual.

Gary Freedman said...

The reference to Dyslexia is partly BS. I've never been diagnosed with dyslexia. But it is true that I had difficulty learning to read. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Yeagley, called my mother to school to consult about my reading difficulties.

This is surprising since my verbal IQ was measured at 139 (99th percentile).

Maybe I am dyslexic; but I can't say for sure.