at Spanx Industries, we believe in the future." Helen Spanx,
great-granddaughter of the company's founder told the new group of
interns. "You are the future. We believe in the very latest in
management and leadership techniques and are willing to work with
young and eager minds open to new ideas."
"We are a traditional
company as well, and are proud of our code of ethics and high quality
standards. We take innovative ways to deal with traditional problems
and apply traditional ways to solve new problems."
"You will be paired
off with one of our staff members to learn how things are done in
industry, especially the unique approach we take at Spanx. You have
your complete schedule before you. Each week, you will work in a
different section to get exposure to all areas of our operations.
We will start you off with Ms. Madison, our HR director."
Ms. Madison stepped forward.
"Thank you Helen." Turning to the group she said, "All
of you are here because of your applications and how you conducted
yourself during the interview. It takes a special kind of person
to make the cut at Spanx and you young women and men show that promise.
Before we go much further, why don't we introduce ourselves to the
group." She pointed to the first girl and said, "Let's
start with you."
"I'm Linda, and
I want to go into marketing. I'm a cheerleader at my high school,
and captain of the debate team."
"I'm Paul and I
haven't made a career choice yet. I'm on the football team."
"I'm Jenny, and
my specialty is computer programming, I'm also captain of the soccer
Ms. Madison replied. She had them spend the next 30 minutes or so
filling out the necessary forms for employment. The W-4s, the corporate
policy statements, EEO statements, computer usage policies, and
enough legalese to blind a lawyer."
Linda raised her hand,
"What does it mean here when it says, 'appropriate disciplinary
measures may be taken at the discretion of the supervisor?'"
"That means that
we believe in delegation
solving problems at the lowest level.
Each manager has control over her or his charges."
"Oh, I understand,"
replied Linda even though the answer wasn't totally sufficient.
"Now let me go over
some important company policies concerning drug use, attendance,
dress code and sexual harassment." She shuffled through the
interns' folders. "Linda, Jenny, I can see you've had your
drug tests. Paul, I don't see a drug test for you."
"Nobody told me
I needed one," Paul replied.
"I'm sorry, but
it's a necessary part of employment. Fortunately, we can start the
process now. All we need is a urine sample that we can expedite
over to the lab. Let me show you where you can do that." Ms.
Madison led Paul down the hall to a private bathroom. She took out
a key, unlocked the door, and opened it. Paul entered, followed
by Ms. Madison who closed the door behind her.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm going to witness
"You can't do that!"
"No only can I do
it, I am required by law to do it. The sample must be witnessed
or the drug test is invalid. I didn't make this up, the state did.
And without a valid drug test, Spanx can't hire you. If we selectively
enforce this policy, we open ourselves up to all kinds of discrimination
charges. Now you don't want to start your first day on the job trying
to violate company policy, do you?"
Paul shook his head.
Ms. Madison tried to
calm him down, "Paul, don't worry. I've seen lots of men and
boys. You probably don't have anything I haven't seen before."
Her frank admission of her worldliness didn't comfort him
He closed his eyes as
if that would make the woman go away, but it was not use. He keenly
felt her presence in the room with him. He unzipped his pants, took
out his penis and held it over the toilet. Ms. Madison poked him
and he popped his eyes open.
"Here, you'll need
this," she explained, handing him a specimen cup.
Paul didn't particularly
have to go when he entered the bathroom. Now with an audience his
bladder was more than bashful and refused to cooperate. He was keenly
aware of his penis hanging out there waiting. He was keenly aware
of Ms. Madison's gaze upon his organ. Slowly and against his will,
he was having an erection.
Ms. Madison laughed at
it, "We need a urine sample, not a sperm sample, although if
that what it takes to get you going, have at it. I've seen that
before too." Paul blushed.
Eventually, he was able
to get a dribble going, and then a stream. It could not have been
more humiliating if he had been hooked up to a machine. The last
time he did this with a female watching, they were both 7 years
old. Then he was proud to show what he could do. Now all he felt
They got the sample they
needed and Ms. Madison said, "Good boy. Now zip up and join
the girls in the room. I'll get a runner to take this over to the
lab, and we should have the results by lunchtime."
When Paul got back in
the room, he found Linda and Jenny whispering to each other and
giggling. Linda had her hand cupped up to Jenny's ear and the latter
found what she was saying amusing, if reading her wide eyes and
bitten lower lip was any indicator.
"Why do girls do
that," Paul questioned in his mind. He put it aside, all the
girls he had ever known traded secrets with each other at all ages.
He wondered if that trait ever went away.
Ms. Madison returned
shortly. "Now that that little task is taken care of
Did Paul imagine it, or did she linger, just a little bit on the
"Now let's get back
to the orientation, shall we? Proper business attire is required
at all times. Exposing body parts not mean to be exposed in public
is cause for discipline and correction. And Paul, having an erection
is considered exposure and sexually harassing. So let's not have
a repeat of that little performance you gave in the bathroom."
Paul gasped. Not only
did he have to live through the humiliation of having Ms. Madison
watch him make pee, now she broadcast it, and the fact that he had
an erection in front of her, to his two female workmates. Once again,
she seemed to linger on "little." For their part, the
girls were at least courteous enough to put their hands in front
of their mouths while laughing.
"Since we brought
up the topic of sexual harassment, let me explain what the company
policy is on this. Quite simply, it will not be tolerated in the
least. Sexually harassing acts will be dealt with severely, and
Jenny raised her hand.
"Yes Jenny, what
"What do you consider
to be a sexually harassing act?"
"I can't give you
a complete list of activities, but basically it is inappropriate
language, sexually suggestive gestures including erections (casting
a glance at Paul), making remarks about employees that they find
offensive, and other activities that imply a lack of proper respect
for the opposite gender."
Paul was subdued by lunchtime.
He sat quietly nibbling at his lunch as his co-interns talked gaily
and laughed throughout the meal. He was thinking of quitting, but
his aunt had pulled a number of strings to get him this internship.
His mom was so proud of him for getting it. He couldn't let the
He looked at his schedule
and at the organizational chart. Over the course of the next several
months, he would be visiting with the VPs of Engineering, Quality,
Finance, Logistics, Information Technology, Legal, Marketing and
Sales. The one thing he noted was, just like Helen Spanx, all of
them were women! Even the head of the shipping department and warehouse
were women although these areas seemed to have a number of men working
At the end of each day,
the manager who conducted the mentor program for the day would hold
feedback sessions with the interns to go over lessons learned and
to critique the intern's performance. Although comments about Linda
and Jenny were usually favorable to the point of warm and glowing,
comments on his performance were at best cool. He was criticized
for not exhibiting an enthusiastic enough attitude. After a couple
weeks of this, he gave up even trying to pretend he was cheerful.
Paul just didn't seem
to understand the dynamics of the management system at Spanx. Why
were the girls catching on, and why wasn't he?
It was when they got
to the IT department that he ran into his first serious problem.
Jenny took to this department naturally as it was her planned course
of study. Linda showed a surprising aptitude for it too. The VP
in charge was a woman named Mary Ann. She was demanding in the exactness
and attention to detail that each operation in her department required.
She was almost draconian
in her management of the data entry staff into which it was Paul's
lot to fall. The girls were teamed with software developers and
seemed to enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere of that end of the business.
The application with which Paul had to work was complex and unforgiving.
A wrong entry could be corrected, but it meant filling out a form
indicating the mistake, and having a programmer correct it.
These forms were reviewed
and employees not meeting the quality standard had to explain why
they were having problems to Mary Ann.
Paul was having problems.
She called him in on after his first day and said, "Paul, your
work is not acceptable. Your error rate is way too high. This costs
us in time and productivity. You will have to do better tomorrow
or I will have to take action."
Paul's stomach sank.
Being fired from this job would send him home in disgrace, he couldn't
face his aunt or mother again. "I'll try to do better tomorrow,"
he managed to eek out.
"You better do more
than try," Mary Ann replied, "You better succeed."
His next day was not
any better. By noon he had already made more than half the mistakes
he had the day before. As soon as he got back from lunch, he had
a note to see Mary Ann. When he got to her office, Linda and Jenny
were already there. He saw a slight glimmer of hope. Perhaps this
was just some sort of "intern thing" and not a reprimand
That hope was soon dashed
as Mary Ann said, "Paul, I probably don't have to tell you
why you are here, but for the record, I will state it anyway. Your
performance is substandard. As a result your error rates are too
high, and this causes us to pull programmers off development tasks
to undo your mistakes. Also while you are busy filling out the paperwork
and re-entering data you should have gotten right in the first place,
you are not entering new data. This puts us even further behind."
Paul swallowed hard,
but said nothing.
"You know what the
company policy on this is. It is my prerogative as the manager of
this department to administer the proper discipline. Linda and Jenny
are interns too. They need how to learn to discipline miscreant
employees. So I invited them to observe your punishment. Since punishment
is bad for the morale of the other employees, I prefer to do it
in private. I find the storage room ideal for this purpose. It has
the room, it's private, and you can't hear anything from the outside."