8 February 2010


I read that the use of pig lungs in transplants into humans has moved a step closer with a medical breakthrough. Scientists in Melbourne, Australia, used a ventilator and pump to keep pig lungs alive and "breathing" while human blood flowed in them. Experts estimated that the work could lead to the first animal-human transplants within five years.

I should phone them and tell them about a sales guy I had working for me in BT (he shall remain nameless) who had a heart bypass operation and they used a pig valve to replace one of his faulty ones.

When I took over the sales unit and inherited this guy (let’s call him Fred), almost immediately I recognized that Fred was NOT a salesman. Month after month, there were no sales and even worse, no sales prospects despite the fact that his ‘entertaining’ expenses were the highest in the unit. Eventually, at one of our formal reviews I informed him that I thought we should look at other opportunities within the company because he was never going to make any money in sales. I suggested that we explore a marketing role because whilst Fred was good at capturing the client’s initial interest, he was no good at closing.

Well – talk about a reaction. He started taping every discussion we had, consulted the union and started talking to HR on a regular basis. Unfortunately Fred thought he was God’s gift to the sales profession and my suggestion of a move was abhorrent to him.

Fast forward a couple of months and Fred was unfortunately diagnosed with heart problems and was whisked into hospital. With no previous experience of sick employees I ‘read the HR manual’ and thereafter duly called his wife every couple of days to see how Fred was and after his operation asked whether he’d prefer the company flowers or the company fruit basket. His wife’s reply that she’d consulted Fred and he’d stated that he would prefer a case of wine did not go down too well. He got a fruit basket!

Anyway, it was during one of my pastoral phone calls that his wife said that Fred had received a pig’s valve and at my next sales meeting I updated my guys on Fred’s improving condition but probably unwisely, said that he’d received a pig’s valve.

Well, the next thing I hear from the comedians who worked for me is that Fred has been rechristened ‘Babe’ after the talking pig in the film of that name.

Fred eventually returned to work and in addition to his ongoing issue about being relocated within BT, he was apoplectic when the guys started calling him ‘Babe’. I personally thought it was all a bit of fun ….. until HR contacted me, after a formal complaint from Fred, and demanded that I receive counseling to help me improve my employee relationship skills.

Needless to say, I told HR where to go, got rid of Fred into Marketing and the rest of the unit worked happily ever after. Fred had never been ‘one of the boys’.

Postscript – several months after Fred left for his new job, we bumped into each other and he said, which I think was very gracious of him, that his move to Marketing was, in retrospect, the best move he could have made. He was incredibly satisfied with his new job.


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