AMES, IAThe Oct. 22 office going-away party for Karl Roberts, manager for the past five years at Ames Farm Products Wholesalers, Inc., was "a little too jubilant," the 38-year-old former boss reported Monday.
"This staff has been working directly under me for a long time, so it's only natural that they'd want to show their appreciation by throwing a little shindig on my last day," said Roberts, who recently accepted a job as regional director of Quad-State Shipping in Rockford, IL. "And it's only natural that the employees would want to blow off a little steam at the end of the week. Even so, I really wasn't expecting much more than cake, punch, a couple of warm wishes, and maybe a card. Frankly, I was surprised when I found out they'd hired a band."
Known for his "by the book" management style, Roberts said he worked much more closely with Ames Farm Products' 23 staff members than their previous manager. While he said he was aware that he had a reputation for being "something of a hard-ass" in his first months on the job, he had always assumed that the staff appreciated his contributions to increased productivity and professionalism in the workplace.
"After the party, though, I'm not sure what to think," Roberts said. "It was nice of them to sign a card for me. I'm not sure why it had to be a three-foot-tall card emblazoned with a huge smiley face and the message 'Good Luck, Boss! Don't Let The Door Hit Your Ass On The Way Out!'"
"I know they were only joking about wanting me to go," Roberts added. "But everyone sure was getting into the joke."
The party, which was announced with photocopied flyers taped to nearly every wall in the office, was scheduled to last from "5:30 p.m. til ???"
"When our old receptionist Janice left last year, we had a party that lasted maybe an hour," Roberts said. "There were maybe 10 people left by the end. You'd figure that on a Friday, people would want to go home and get a head start on their weekend. I didn't leave my party until 10:30, and it was still going strong. If anything, it seemed to be picking up speed."
"I had to go," Roberts added. "I'd already heard that 'Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey' song about 30 times."
On the way out to his car, Roberts said he was surprised to meet two former Ames Farm Products sales representatives making their way to the party with a keg of beer.
"I was surprised to see Jim and Travis, both of whom quit last May. They said some of the other employees called them and told them I was finally leaving and so they came back to see me off," Roberts said. "I thought that 'finally' was a little strange, since I only announced I was leaving two weeks ago."
According to employees who attended it, the going-away party was a smashing success.
"Everyone was in a great mood," inventory clerk Jim Fulton said. "I can't remember everything that happened, because I was pretty drunk by the end of the night, but I do recall leading the conga line through Karl's empty office."
Fulton's coworker Sheila Wuronski, Roberts' former assistant, agreed that the party was a hit.
"Wow, what a super night!" Wuronski said. "I'd say it was the single best day Ames Farm Products has had in five years."
Roberts said he would have preferred a cordial and sincere send-off to the raucous one that he received.
"I guess people were too busy enjoying themselves to get sentimental," Roberts said. "I wasn't expecting sobs, but I don't think anyone even got misty. People gave me goodbye hugs, but they weren't 'we'll miss you'-type hugs. Twice, I was lifted off the ground and swung around in circles. It was nice to see such a strong outpouring of emotion, I guess, but I wasn't expecting so much whooping and hollering."
"I heard they eventually got a call from the retirement center across the street because of all the noise," Roberts added.
In spite of his uneasy feelings about the office-wide blowout, Roberts said he is looking forward to continuing his career at Quad-State Shipping.
"I'm excited by the challenges facing me at Quad-State," Roberts said. "They need a new dress code and lunch policy. Somebody has to crack down on the time-clock violations. And sick days and personal days seem to be overlapping in an unacceptable way. But, with a little discipline and attention to detail, I'll whip the place into shape."
"Ames was great," Roberts added. "But I admit that I'm looking forward to a change. The new environment will provide a chance to not only move on in my career, but also make new friends."