Ever wondered what it's like to be head-hunted by a large corporation for a very senior position, when you know that the position is horrible and the corporation worse?
A friend relates the following tale. He was targetted by an executive employment agency for a job in technology marketing, and although he suspected that the job was undoable and had a great and hard-won animosity towards the company concerned, his curiosity was sufficiently piqued that he went along with the game.
(I have no way of verifying this story, so I'll leave the company's name out of it. The job, however, was selling that company's open source strategy.)
As protocol dictates, all parties assembled in a posh restaurant for lunch. Said protocol also dictates that you don't pitch before pudding: the arc of the meal starts with delicate flourishes of mutual admiration, moves onto staged revelations on both sides of position, desire and capability, and finally climaxes in the money shot - literally, in this case - with the revelation of The Number.
This is an interesting exercise in psychology, no matter what the job and what the company. If you get to The Number stage, at least in technology companies, it normally means that a degree of mutual respect has been reached and that both sides are in agreement that the job's worth doing, the candidate looks a good bet for doing it, and that this will involve a good amount of involvement in defining how the job is approached. The rules are different in Hollywood, where other factors such as status, power, the amount of BS to swallow and create, and the ability to run a decent vendetta, tend to overshadow the nominal business of employment.
But as the meal progressed, the intended felt that things were more LA than further north. The company had previously discovered some resistance to its open source story, but there was no question of that story being in any way open to question. No, indeed. The job was to overcome that resistance, to help educate the world in the ways of righteousness, to sell without blinking. This was not a job where anything other than obedience was required, nor one where any doubts were appropriate. It was a simple transaction: a soul for worldly wealth. And that soul was to be firmly bought.
His instinct was confirmed when at a late stage, as silvered spoon bit into delicate confectionary, the conversation suddenly veered into unexpected territory.
"Tell me," said the lead exec from the company. "You have a young family, don't you?"
"Think how you would like them educated. A good school's very important, don't you think?"
"Well, yes, of course."
"Mmm. So, what might it take to get you on board?"
My pal was so wrong-footed by this open and undisguised application of pressure to nerve point that he failed to pull off his planned exit strategy, that of setting a price so high that they were sadly unable.
Napkins were folded.
"We can go with that."
He later declined their kind offer. Although he may put it into a novel - if only he can shake the idea that nobody would believe episodes like that.