Once upon a time, a new employee was hired fresh from college. In the training program, he neither performed exceptionally well nor exceptionally poorly. That’s how he became a Junior Operations Analyst.

Years passed and he rose to become a full Operations Analyst. The position suited him fine − until the day he realized that there wasn’t much upward movement for anyone in Operations.

No one takes Operations seriously, he told his wife. There’s no way to move up.

There’s always a way, she said. Don’t undersell yourself.

So the Operations Analyst began to work harder. But the pace of his advancement didn’t improve.

What gives? asked the Operations Analyst at his next bi-annual performance review.

Listen, sighed his Supervisor, to advance from Operations is impossible. But extra projects may catch the eyes of the Executives.

So the Operations Analyst took on extra projects. Still, no luck.

Truly, he said to his wife, our dream of owning an overpriced vacation home in Florida is quashed.

Isn’t there anyone at the firm who can guide you? his wife asked.

There are whisperings, mused the Operations Analyst, of an Ageless Secretary who holds court on the Executive’s floor. She’s said to be the wisest employee in the corporation.

So good was his wife that she turned the volume down on The Hills and held his hand and convinced him to seek audience with that Ageless Secretary.

Encouraged, he did. Surreptitiously donning a coat and tie on his lunch break the next day, the Operations Analyst took the elevator to the Executive floor, bluffed his way passed the Front Secretary, and wandered the mazy halls of power before coming to the paneled office of the CEO − before which sat the Ageless Secretary. She was knitting a sweater for her granddaughter, which seemed to the Operations Analyst as a metaphor for nothing less than the patterned, linked coils of all corporate existence. He cast himself on the nearby Corinthian leather couch and asked the Secretary for her advice. Seeing how far he’d traveled and how desperate he was, she listened to his story and gave him counsel. This is the advice she gave:

As is whispered in the dark quarters of the employee cafeteria, a Monster lives on the 37th floor of this office tower. The Monster has the massive trunk of a grizzly bear, the beastly arms of an orangutan, and the soul-destroying outlook of a career middle manager. He was the terror of the trading floor, crushing many loyal and efficient employees, and causing many more to leave the corporation, until HR Officers sent by direct order from the CEO subdued him. For legal reasons the Monster was not canned − but forced into the cavernous Server Room, where he has lurked ever since.

The Ageless Secretary then turned, reaffixed her telephone headpiece, and resumed her knitting.

The man or woman who can succeed in terminating this monster will surely be endowed with an impressive-sounding title on his or her business card, thought the Operations Analyst, in addition to a generous year-end bonus.

Thus he embarked on a quest to slay the 37th Floor Monster.

He girded himself, straightened his tie, made for the elevator banks, and hit the 37th floor button. Minutes later he stepped out to the floor and entered the massive, wind-tossed Server Room, silent save for the disquieting rumble of ten thousand fans cooling ten thousand servers all mounted on a labyrinth of identical, standing server racks. With no weapon to brandish, the Operations Analyst cautiously snuck through the mazy, numbered corridors. Hoping to come across one of the many small-framed IT associates said to scurry about in dread of the hidden Monster, the Operations Analyst peeked about every corner. But the floor was empty of techs. The blinds were drawn. The only light was from the unwavering florescent lights above.

After walking for what seemed like an eternity, now completely lost in the tangle of server racks, the Operations Analyst heard a rumble nearby. Frightened, he tried to retrace his steps back to the elevator well − before being hoisted off his feet by the collar of his jacket and dragged screaming by the hairy arm of the Monster − into the heart of its filthy, chicken bone-strewn lair. He was unceremoniously tossed onto a seat across from a massive desk. He was face-to-face with the Monster, a creature exactly described by the Secretary − but somehow more ghastly due to its fetid breath, ketchup stains on its left lapel, and piercing, intelligent eyes.

The only reason I haven’t killed you already, growled the Monster, is because you’re wearing a tie. Are you an Executive?

The Monster was one of very few people − but many career middle managers − whose gaze carries with it the unhappy power to make one sink in one’s chair and cast wonder on the dismal nature of humanity and yearn for nothing but the solace of a quiet suicide. In this state, the victim of that gaze is often helpless to speak without abject honesty.

No, admitted the Operations Analyst piteously, I’m looking for a promotion from Operations.

The Monster laughed viciously, slamming his fist against his desk, scattering the mound of white bones and inventory reports before him.

And you dare come to the 37th floor Server Room − my very bailiwick − to waste my precious time? it thundered. I’ll kill you! Or worse: I’ll have you canned for snooping outside of your department!

The Monster stood. The Operations Analyst quailed under its terrible presence.

Having caught the Operations Analyst at the threshold of unemployment, a breath away from destruction, the Monster smiled wryly and asked his prey if he’d like to be given a chance to spare his career.

If you can answer a riddle, whispered the monster sickeningly, I’ll let you keep your job and tender my resignation. Do you accept to the challenge?

Without seeing that he had much choice in the matter, the Operations Analyst agreed.

The Monster spoke his riddle:

I’m the salaryman’s treasure, taken from the fields,
the rivers, and the hedges, since commerce began;
As water, I’ve quenched the dreams of galley slaves;
As oil, I’ve greased the great locks of civilization;
I’m the binder and the breaker of humanity, felling
the young, snaring the bold, making tolerable the world…

Who am I with whom no merger could be completed?

The Operations Analyst paused for a moment before, by some great blessing, the dour god of analysts e-faxed the answer off his tongue:

Booze! blurted the Operations Analyst.

The Monster clutched what was left of his hair and shrieked in fury. Ah, he wailed, I’ve had enough of this godforsaken corporation anyway!

So the Monster stayed true to its word and left the company to open a mildly profitable second-hand bookstore in Poughkeepsie. In his exit interview, when asked why he was leaving after so many years of service, the Monster pointed to the wily Operations Analyst as the source of its discontent. Impressed, HR passed along this message and the Operation Analyst’s employee file to the CEO. After a careful review of the file, seeing the hard work he’d done and the special projects he’d taken in addition to his slaying of the Monster, the CEO called the Operations Analyst to her office for a promotion to Vice President.

Thus the Operations Analyst became a Vice President, and he took up residence on the executive floor, and burned all his business casual slacks and Brooks Brothers shirts and swapped them for bespoke suits and leather briefcases, and divorced his wife for a younger, prettier woman that matched his new Italian ties and massive yearly performance bonuses, and lived happily ever after, until he was laid off just a few months before retirement and died weeks later in a questionable motorcycle accident.