Tom pressed the button on his remote and the car doors locked with an upbeat “pip.” Kate heard the noise as she opened her car door and looked to see who’d arrived at the office this early.
Morning Tom! Tom lifted his hand wearily in acknowledgement and joined her as they headed for the elevator. “You’re not usually this early to work Tom; did Sue throw you out?” She giggled.
The look on Tom’s face warned her not to pursue the matter humorously. “Oops, Sorry! You want to talk about it?”
Tom had been desperate to find someone to vent his feelings on but warning bells flashed as he considered Kate’s invitation. He’d lots of friends both at the office and within his circle outside, but this were discussing private family matters and you normally don’t share these kind of things with strangers. He didn’t know much about Kate apart from the fact she was Director of Human Resources. He was aware she’d taken Counseling at University, but dropped this in the final year and went on to take her degree in Human Resources Management instead. Maybe she could help him reason this out in a professional way?
In a guarded way we mentioned Sue was pregnant and being difficult, but hastened to add they were working it out.
“This is your lucky day,” said Kate. “Today is my last day at the office and I was coming in early to pack up and leave instructions for Claire. She’ll be in at 9.00 am to take over.”
“I didn’t know you were leaving.” Tom turned to face Kate as the elevator door opened to rows of empty desks in the outer office. “Did you say Claire was taking over from you? Is that the Claire married to Jake our board member?”
“The very one,” laughed Kate. “Now you’re coming to my office for a free counseling session. I’m feeling benevolent seeing it’s my last day at the office.” Kate took Tom by the arm and steered him into her office. He hesitated for a moment, but Kate firmly pushed him down into a chair and drew another up directly in front of him. Tom began to fidget nervously.
Secretly Kate had nursed a crush on Tom for a long time. She’d noted his obvious devotion to Sue and it irritated her so much she’d decided to seek other employment. She did a quick appraisal of the situation and began to unpack those lessons on psychology she’d learned in her University years. How could she add to his dissatisfaction and bring him slowly into her orbit? Slowly and methodically she drew the story out of him, carefully showing a professional face, but asking questions in such a way as to reinforce Sue’s weak points. She was beginning to enjoy the chase when Jake appeared at the door.
“Sorry Kate, I need to talk with Tom urgently. Do you mind?
“Not at all Jake, be my guest, but Tom you and I need to get together over lunch today and finish our conversation.” Kate smoldered with resentment at being interrupted, but Jake had a lot of clout in this city and she didn’t want to make an enemy of him.
“I’ll call on you at lunch time and we’ll go to a restaurant where you can feel free to carry on our business without being interrupted. If you weren’t so popular with staff you’d have more privacy here.” Kate laughed as he left her office.
Jake got straight down to business. “Tom I need to have your response urgently. The board will meet this morning to make an appointment and they want you to take over as CEO. You’ve proved yourself and are the unanimous choice. You’ve that balance needed to pursue our business aggressively while keeping a happy worker force and an ethical position in business. The other possibility of course is Bert. He’s brilliant but untried.
“Why the rush?” Tom was reeling from the suddenness of the decision to be made. “Actually I was going to ask for another day’s grace so I could discuss this with Sue.”
“You haven’t discussed this with Sue?” There was a hint of irritation in Jake’s voice as he studied Tom’s face. “I thought you’d do that last evening after you returned home from the restaurant?”
Tom nodded unhappily. “Well Sue was not well, so we had to put that on hold.” We could discuss it this evening,” Tom said hopefully.
“Too late I’m afraid, I need to report to the board this morning one way or another.”
Tom sighed. “I guess I’ll have to give this opportunity a pass. Sue is going to need some extra help from me in the next few months, and I’m afraid this job will not make that possible. Sorry Jake, I’d have loved the opportunity to show what I’m capable of.”
Jake glanced at his watch. “Guess we have to go with Bert, though I’m not really convinced he’s the man for the job.
“But what about the usual search committee and a careful analysis as to who’d contribute the most to the company?” Tom and Bert were always clashing in the office and Bert’s appointment would be a further disaster for him.
“Your CEO is near death Tom, and the company needs urgent direction with all those projects in the making.”
“Couldn’t you make a temporary appointment and watch for results while you did a search.” This was Tom’s last attempt as he knew his job was at stake.
“Good idea; bad timing! The other board members want an instant solution though I’ve warned them it may not be in their best interests in the long run.”
Jake sighed and gripped Tom’s shoulders. “I’m disappointed, but it won’t affect our friendship. You’ve a bright future if you’re prepared to grasp opportunities coming your way.”
No sooner had Jake headed for the boardroom than Kate was at Tom’s side. “Are congratulations in order, did they ask you to be the next CEO?”
“No, and yes!” Tom said with a shrug
“See you at lunch time, it looks like we’ve a lot more to discuss,” Kate responded.
At the conclusion of the board meeting the Chairman requested staff to meet in the company auditorium. As Tom entered staff nudged him and whispered congratulations. He was well liked, and had the overwhelming vote of staff when board members circulated a survey inviting staff comment on their preference should the board choose someone internally. Apart from a few of Bert’s friends Tom was the overwhelming choice of staff. Tom felt wretched and went to sit in a quiet part of the hall. A few discerning staff noticed Bert sitting up front with the Chairman of the board, and turned to look at Tom in disbelief. Bert was everyone’s nightmare, brilliant as he was. Surely it was not Bert?
Then it was Bert’s turn. He brilliantly outlined his vision for the company, carefully sidestepping potentially controversial issues. At the end of his speech it was emphasized there would be changes, and the new direction would be apparent within the week. At the end of his speech he strode over to where Tom was sitting and asked him to meet with him immediately. Staff looked on too stunned at the outcome to know what to think. Tom had let them down!
Burt issued orders to transfer his office files into the CEO office and took his place behind the big desk.
“Sorry about the results Tom, but they looked at both our performances and obviously felt I’d be better for the company future. That does leave us with a dilemma. I mentioned changes would be made, and they need to be made rapidly. The first change will have to be in work assignments. As your project is important to the company I’ll take it over immediately. If you’d leave your files on my desk this morning with appropriate notes I’d be grateful. Then there’s the question of your office. Jake’s wife Claire will be replacing Kate and will be in this morning to take over Human Resources. I feel your office would be better for her as she’s a board members wife and we want to keep him on our side. I’ll arrange for you to transfer to the spare office near the mail room. Bit cramped, but it’ll be OK for the present until we can downsize and free up some more offices. Were you thinking of changing your job by any chance, that could solve some problems and free up a budget for my reengineering program.
“What assignment would you like me to take on,” said Tom wearily ignoring the invitation to quit.
“Have to think about it Tom,” but you can take it easy while we figure out who gets what in my new vision plan. Spend some time with Sue, and check in once in a while to see what progress is being made on assignments. It may take a week. You’ll probably need a day to settle in to your new work location.
Claire and Kate looked up in surprise as Bert suddenly appeared in their room. Claire had just contacted Sue by phone and was surprised to find she was home sick for the day. She’d looked forward to an outing with Sue after work.
Welcome to our staff Claire. We want you to feel at home, and to show how much you’re valued we’re moving you to another office. Come and check out where you’ll be sitting from today on. Claire followed Bert with a curious Kate in tow, Claire had just heard from Kate Bert was the new CEO and was beginning to wish she’d not agreed to do this job. They stopped in front of Tom’s office and found Tom busy packing his personal effects into cardboard boxes. It was at that point Sue phoned and got her cold response.
“OK Where’s this new office, said Claire apprehensively.
“This is it,” Bert responded happily, “You’ll be very comfortable here, look at that view!”
Claire looked at Tom’s face and burst into tears. Bert, Kate and Tom looked at her in amazement. Claire recovered quickly, took a deep breath and said, “Bert, I’ve taken a look at the HR job the company offered me and decided it’s something I don’t want to do. Sorry to mess you round like this but I haven’t filled in any papers yet so guess a resignation letter isn’t needed. She marched briskly to Kate’s office, picked up her purse and headed for the elevator. For the first time that morning Tom smiled. Someone was on his side!
Bert stood watching Claire leave with his mouth open, then turned to Tom. “I guess you can stay in this office until I sort this out. I don’t know what put a burr in her saddle. Kate, can you stay on a bit longer while we search for your replacement?”
“Probably can, I’ll let you know tomorrow!” This was a chance to work on Tom while he was in a depressed state of mind, and she was prepared to sacrifice her new job for that opportunity. The lunch time appointment would help her decide what she should do next.
To be continued.
“© Ian Grice 2011 All rights reserved”