Seldom in the annals of corporate life has there been a more pitiful case than that of Jasper Oatman, fired at thirty-one. It didn’t take Olympian vision to grasp the obvious: the former assistant acquisitions manager at Cleveland Works & Tool had no clue. Told that he was insufficiently profit driven and lacked a sense of urgency, his idea of a useful defense was to say, “I’m sorry, I just thought it was best not to make any big mistakes that could hurt the business.”

The company was not without compassion, however, and extended to this reject a modest severance package. Any normal simpleton would have grasped that his compelling duty was to find his next employment. But Oatman, showing the same pluperfect naïveté that had gotten him fired in the first place, put everything aside in favor of a fool’s errand.

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