Word Count: 1267Whos The Boss?
A typical relationship between an employee and an employer exists on the acknowledgment of who is in charge; an employee must accept the employer as an authority.A worker should address the employer with a certain amount of respect and professionalism. An employer should have control of their employees and make it clear that they are the boss.
In David Mamets play Glengarry Glen Ross, however the relationship between the employees and the employer is extremely atypical. There is no correlation to what is believed to be the norm. The language Mamet uses in the play makes the peculiar relationship believable. The arguing and resentment can be felt be the reader. The employees in this particular office have forgotten who the boss is; they do not speak to him with any respect or dignity. The employer accepts the way he is treated and does not stand his ground; he allows his employees to walk all over him. This office is not the kind of work place where the boss has the last word; there are numerous times throughout the play where the boss and his employees actually fight.
The relationship between one of the employees, Shelly Levene, and his employer, John Williamson, reflects this abnormal relationship. Williamson is the boss, or manager of this particular branch of a real estate company, he does however have two bosses, Mitch and Murray. The play begins with Williamson making an announcement regarding the jobs of all of the employees in the office. There is a contest beginning to see who could close the most deals. Whoever won would win a car and whoever lost would be fired. In the following conversation between Williamson and Levene, the two are discussing whom the good leads are going to. Levene has told Williamson that without the good leads he will not be able to close, in which case, he will be fired. Williamson has said that he has to give the leads to the closers and that Levene has not been a closer. I pick up the conversation after many pages of arguments, Williamson agreeing to Shellys bribe and right when Shelly is asking for two leads.
WILLIAMSON. Im not sure I have two.
LEVENE. I saw the board. Youve got four
WILLIAMSON. Ive got Roma. Then Ive got Moss
LEVENE. Bullshit. They aint been in he office yet. Give em some stiff. We have a deal or not? Eh? Two sits. The Des Plaines. Both of em, six and ten, you can do itsix and teneight and eleven, I dont give a shit, you set em up? Alright? The two sits in Des Plaines.
LEVENE. Good. Now were talking. (pause)
WILLIAMSON. A hundred bucks. (pause)
LEVENE. Now? (pause) Now?
WILLIAMSON. Now. (pause) YesWhen?
LEVENE. Ah, shit, John. (pause)
WILLIAMSON. I wish I could.
LEVENE. You fucking asshole. (pause) I havent got it. (pause) I havent got it, John. (pause) Ill pay you tomorrow. (pause) Im coming in here with sales, Ill pay you tomorrow. (pause) I havent got it, when I pay, the gas…I get back to the hotel, Ill bring it in tomorrow (act 1, scene1, 13-14).
This does not sound like a conversation somebody would have with his or her boss. Talks of bribery from the employee to the employer are being discussed in this conversation there are. This does not seem to faze Williamson at all. He keeps saying no and Levene still continues to push. Later in the conversation Levene says to Williamson Well, I want to tell you something, fella, wasnt long I could pick up the phone, call Murray and Id have your job. You know that? Not too long ago. For what? For nothing. Mur, this new kid burns my ass. Shelly, hes out. Youre gone before Im back from lunch. I bought him a trip to Bermuda once.(act 1, scene 1, 14.) In a typical office setting Levene would have been fired with the first sign of disrespect and foul language to the boss, however, here, he is not even punished for his action.
In Act 2 Levene actually questions Williamsons business ability. This next conversation between the two takes place after a burglary in the office and after Levene finally closes a deal with a very surprising customer.
Williamson. That if the sale sticks it will be a miracle.
Levene. Why should the sale not stick? Hey, fuck you. Thats what Im saying. You have no idea of your job. A mans his job and youre fucked at yours. You hear what Im saying to you? Your end of the month board You cant run an office. I dont care. You dont know what it is, you dont have the sense, you dont have the balls. You ever been on a sit? Ever? Has this cocksucker ever beenyou ever sit down with a cust
Williamson. I were you, Id calm down, Shelly.
Levene. Would you? Would you? Or you gonna what, fire me?
Williamson. Its not impossible.
Levene. On an eighty-thousand dollar day? And it aint even noon (act 2, 45). In this conversation both people are questioning the others abilities. Typically a boss would not question a sale as big as the one Levene made or if he did he would at least say it with some decency instead of the way he did. An employee would not question the power his boss has; he should always know that he could be fired.
The peculiar relationship between the two men is partially due how long each man has been working at the office and due to the personalities of the men. There are many times when Levene brings up how long he has been there and how Williamson wasnt there. Williamson is feeling pressured by his insecurities to act the way he is supposed to, or the way the former employer did. He does not know how to address Levene when he discusses the past. Williamson is under the authority of Murray and Mitch; he has to do what they tell him to do. Levene doesnt agree with this and believes that it is Williamson giving the orders and that if Williamson were to call up Mitch or Murray they would tell him to follow whatever Levene says.
Williamson is a timid man. He does not like confrontation. Whenever Shelly or anyone began to yell at him he would just walk away. Shelly is an older and somewhat outspoken man; he knows that Williamson is timid and therefore talks the way he does to him. Shelly is feeling the pressure of the younger men taking his role as the best. All of the stress and pressure in the office causes everyone to be on edge. I think that Williamson is a bit more understanding because he realizes that Shellys job is being threatened.
All of these pressures and feelings cause Williamson and Levene to resent each other. The language used by Mamet to portray all of this really makes the reader feel the stress and tension in the office. The reader can hear the arguing and disagreeing. The extreme language helps the reader understand the lack of control in the office as well as the atypical behavior between an employee and employer.
1. Mamet, David. Glengarry Glen Ross. New York: Samuel French, Inc., 1982.