Albert was livid. Absolutely livid.
"How could they?" he said to himself. "How could they ask me, how could they ask anyone with any intelligence whatsoever, to put up with this kind of treatment?"
The young man was seething as he slammed into his chair and assaulted his computer. If the mouse had been a live one, it surely would have suffered whiplash from Albert's jerking as he whipped it back and forth across the mouse pad to disengage his computer's screen saver and cause the menu display to pop onto the screen.
Albert quickly scrolled the cursor to his Internet browser icon and double clicked. He tapped his right heel up and down and glared off into the opposite side of his office cubicle, fuming as he waited for the computer to bring up his designated home page.
His anger slowly gave way to fear and a deep, gut-wrenching anxiety as he continued to reflect on what had just happened. His stomach began to tie up in knots as he realized that his second experience in working with groups had quickly become worse than his first.
The first "Tiger Team" they had assigned him to had been bad enough. But fortunately - both for Albert and the other team members - the assignment had been a short one. The work was for the most part completed by the time Albert joined the group. Albert's contribution wasn't critical to the outcome, but was important to the project's overall success. The good news was that although Albert's piece was indeed challenging, it didn't require too much collaboration with the others on the team.
From the beginning Albert felt that the other Tiger Team members weren't very friendly. They were congenial to each other, but never really warmed up to him. Even more important, though, he felt they didn't show enough respect for his intellect or his ideas. Deep down inside he knew he was smarter than all but one, and he could certainly hold his own with her. Worse yet, they were almost arrogant about the work they had already accomplished, even though Albert was confident he could have done a better job.
However, strained feelings and underlying tensions aside, the team and Albert finished the project before anyone's emotions festered to the boiling point. Albert went back to his own work, relieved the project was over. He was thankful he could work alone without having to worry about all the hassles, frustrations, and endless, time-consuming delays of dealing with a bunch of groupies who were more interested in what everybody else was doing than they were in getting the job done.
Then came this second Tiger Team.
Even the term Tiger Team rubbed him the wrong way. What was it supposed to mean? Albert suspected it was just a form of manipulation to get people to think they were special if they did something with a bunch of other people.
Well, Albert didn't feel special. In fact, working in a group just gave him a headache.
Why couldn't they just tell people what was needed, divvy up the work, and then let them go do it?
No, that'd be too easy, he reflected.
Albert's frustration with this second team had set in early. The team had started off in what Albert considered to be the wrong direction. He thought they were trying to satisfy too many people with the design, thereby making the finished product much too complicated.
When they told him they had to follow that approach because it was specifically spelled out in the team's charter, he clammed up. Have it your way, he thought smugly to himself. You'll see.
The next uncomfortable moment was triggered in the team's second meeting when Albert told the team leader his name was "Albert - not Al. Two syllables, not one." He momentarily felt a little guilty that the team leader had been embarrassed when Albert corrected him in front of everyone. But only a little guilty. He thought it insulting that the guy couldn't even refer to him by his correct name.
Reprinted from Winning Ways by Dick Lyles by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by Dick Lyles. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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