At the End of the Day

It’s 5:59 and your staff pounds on your office door, demanding you make the decisions you’ve been promising since the morning check-in meeting. “At the end of the day, we’ll do what needs to be done.” “At the end of the day, there’s just one course of action.” “At the end of the day, I, as CEO, will make the call.”

Your six senior vice presidents punch the door; they mush their noses into the window and scream, begging you to execute on a game plan to handle the health and PR crisis unfolding in real time, after the plant in Ohio discovered lethal amounts of roach poison were mixed into hundreds of thousands of packages of Milk Chocolate Toffee Almond Chunk Cookies. “At the end of the day, we’ll do what’s right for our customers and partners,” you told the team at the 10:00 meeting before racing out, dripping sweat. “At the end of the day, it’ll be clear what we need to do,” you said at 11, then sprinted out of the conference room and into a bathroom stall to hyperventilate between your knees.

Monica Toro screeches into the glass of your window, flicking blood from her lips, “Hundreds of people are dying every minute. Make the call, god damn it.”

You shut the blinds and try to catch your breath. Pepperidge Farm was supposed to be an easy job. It’s bags of cookies, for god’s sake. You didn’t sign up to deal with messes like this.

But you went to business school. You’ve read the case studies. You know a solution to this rapidly escalating crisis exists; you just need time to locate it.

You straighten your tie, smooth your jacket, and open the door. Your executive team glares at you, waiting for leadership during this time of crisis.

“At the end of the day,” you say, “it’s clear that first thing in the morning we’ll do what needs to be done.” Someone says our cookies are shredding the stomach linings of kids all over the country, making them drown in their own blood. “That’s not ideal,” you say, “and first thing in the morning, I, as CEO, will make the call.” Someone tells you to do something now, because if you wait all night thousands of elderly customers will eat the cookies and die violent, painful deaths. You sigh and look back at the team. They have no idea what it’s like to be CEO, to have all this weight on your shoulders. “First thing in the morning, it’s my decision. I’ll see you all then.”

You take your briefcase and walk outside, drive yourself to Dave & Buster’s, drink beer and play games alone all night, taking your busy mind off all that work stress. At home, drunk, you open a package of Milk Chocolate Toffee Almond Chunk Cookies and enjoy a midnight snack, knowing that at the end of the day, you’ll know what to do first thing in the morning.