I found out about him on Sunday night from a former co-worker. Scott*, our group manager, had died of a heart attack on Saturday morning. He was 54.
I couldn’t believe it. It’s even still difficult for me to accept now.
I guess you simply would have to see Scott to see where I was coming from. Peppered hair. Square jaw. Broad shoulders. Always walked tall and with purpose. Looked healthy. Very healthy. This was a man on a perpetual mission. He had things to do continuously. Sometimes he’d get sidetracked and do other things, but he always kept his eye on what had to be done.
It was extremely clear that Scott enjoyed action. Activity. The guy was in very good shape physically. He spent his weekends serving as a football referee. He certainly didn’t live the sedentary lifestyle. Yet sometimes it just happens: dead at 54 from a heart attack. It’s not always about physical fitness (although it certainly does help). Some people die after living a long life; others’ have their lives cut short sooner than expected.
Scott’s memorial service is going to be tomorrow during the business day. We were told by our current management to check in with them if we wanted to go — to ensure that we have enough coverage at work. I won’t be going, however, so it’s really not a huge issue for me.
Come to think of it — I really wasn’t a huge fan of Scott’s in the workplace. I vaguely remember when he took over our department. He was a loose cannon with his words, trying to make an impact and often seeing the results backfire in his face. I think he was trying to scare people into submission when, several years back, he gave his “I don’t give a shit about morale” speech. To his credit, he changed his philosophy soon after.
This was a man who loved to talk. About himself and his own thoughts. If there was an opportunity to bring people together for a meeting where he could shine, he would do so. And throw in his own personal anecdotes about how he had rubbed shoulders with the high level executives of our company on the golf course. Or how he had the foresight during the dot com bubble to buy stock in some of the faster climbing properties. I recall a training class I was orchestrating where he came in to say hello — and ended up monopolizing the opportunity to tell everyone about the misfortune he had, moving to a new, exclusive community and not having his DirecTV hooked up yet.
I know that he wanted to give the impression that he was buddy-buddy with his employees. There were certain things he remembered, but he made sure to let us know that he remembered it. He made a big deal once about how he knew I wouldn’t be working on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. He knew which co-workers loved the Cowboys so he could trash talk with them during football season. It turns out that one of his kids was born exactly a week after Av was; after some reminding he figured out that we had that in common. He even solicited suggestions for Av’s birthday party (which were way out of our budget). I think he may have started to invite Av over for a playdate once, but he was sidetracked and started talking about his 57 inch HDTV instead.
But he did know me as an employee. Keep in mind that this was my boss’s boss. (And, for a while, my boss’s boss’s boss.) I had proven myself pretty early on that I could do my job exceptionally and be a go-to guy for special projects. When I received a promotion a few years back, it was actually done via a phone conversation by his boss who works at a different location. But he wanted to be the one to tell me, so he called me into a meeting the next day to surprise me with it. It was a nice feeling.
Overall, I wasn’t so impressed with him as a manager. I’m sure that he had an incredible load of responsibilities on his plate — including people yelling at him from all different directions seven days a week. He would, in some cases, simply do his own yelling down the chain until something would get done. Sometimes he would get involved in an issue; sometimes not. There was one recent issue that he and I worked together — on a conference call late on a Saturday night until 8:00am Sunday morning. Well, kind of. I was on the call the entire time as I was doing some diagnostic work around the clock. He turned in a few hours into it. I was the one who called to wake him up at 6:00 to rejoin the call. But the way he told it — it was quite the rough night for him.
But he did say thank you to me. And some of my co-workers. Not everyone, though. He played favorites and non-favorites. He would poke fun at people light-heartedly just a little too long for it to be comfortable, but not quite long enough to make a strong case to HR. He would speak with absolute certainty about the future plans for our organization — and then change the story an hour later. He certainly had his place in the organization — one where he made things happen — but there were many other aspects of the job where we secretly hoped that we would slip under the radar so things would progress as they should without his interference.
I’ve had many supervisors in my employed years. Many of them have been mentors and guides. People to whom I’ve looked up and emulated. Some of whom I continue to share a relationship to this day.
Scott was not one of them.
Look — I’m sorry. There really isn’t much which I can say about the guy. I’ve come home from work angry because of things that he’s said or done. For work where credit wasn’t given as it should have been. For moves he made which simply wasted time and energy on my part or the part of co-workers. I’m certainly not happy that he’s dead. Nor am I rejoicing that he’s no longer leading our organization. But professionally for me, he didn’t fit the role of someone who took me under his wing. Or taught me how to advance in my career goals.
He is survived by a wife (whom I haven’t met), a young son (whom I haven’t met) and a young daughter (whom I haven’t met). It sounds like he was a man surrounded by a wonderful family and a wonderful community. At least I’d like to think so from the way he spoke of the people he held dear. I honestly hope that they will be there at the memorial service tomorrow, supporting his wife and kids through this difficult time for them.
I’d really like to believe that Scott was a stand-up guy. That the limited slice of what I saw of him wasn’t the full story. That it was the exception to the rule: a tarnished role for someone who, outside of this environment, could shine far more brightly.
Rest in peace, Scott. Peace, blessings and comfort to your family.
* Not his real name.