A short story about hopes, aspirations and favoritism in management hierarchy and multinational corporations
by A. Thiagarajan
John was shocked that he was not the one selected for what goes by the popularly known Paris Programme. It is actually a management development program and is rated very high within the organization.
“Yes, sir. That’s what I understand from Clara. She said that the fax to the Head Office was sent last late evening. I believe that David was discussing with Andrew yesterday in the afternoon and I am told that the discussion lasted over an hour. They have called for the personal files of some people from the HR department. Andy asked if you would be home or if you could be reached by phone or your cell. He wanted to know if you were in station. I told him that you must be in transit and that you were expected from Hong Kong only this morning,” said John’s secretary. She has always been the one to give him the first dope on many things in the company. What is mentionable about her was her ability to get to know without giving out any to any body as to what is going on inside John’s office.
“Okay, let me know as soon as Andy comes in. Please tell Clara to let Andy know that I want to see him before he gets into his daily routine. Tell her it is very important and urgent. Call me even if I am in the midst of something. Or just buzz me on the internal line. Please do not bother me nor put through any calls until I see Andy,” John dismissed his secretary who quietly slipped out of his room. She knew when not to stay back and chat or exchange notes about the family.
The Paris Programme is organized in the company once every three years; it would be for three months. It is a very strenuous one and put together by the MIT staff on an exclusive basis for this company for the senior executives. Most of the case studies and strategy-linked issues are drawn out the situations from the workplace of the company. Attending it was considered great prestige and a very sure indication that elevation in the corporate ladder was in the offing.
“How can Andy do this to me?” John fumed sipping his coffee. The canteen guy knows how his coffee is to be made — should be very hot, slightly blackish and a bit less sugar in a Garfield-mug. “This is the second time it has happened within a span of six months. I never thought that Andrew could be so nepotistic as to choose David for this.”
Andrew was John’s boss. David was his peer level colleague and Andrew’s nephew. This is the regional headquarters of a very large multinational multi business company from the UK. It is well known within the company and Andrew had never made a secret of his preference for John. It was always only John whom he wanted to take along whenever there was any important meeting with any governmental officials or ministers — even for any talks with the employees unions or trade associations; and John was always introduced as the de facto Chief Executive Officer for the region. Even at the in-company meetings, Andrew, during his speeches, would somehow manage to bring in the name of John for something or the other. All his colleagues called John the blue-eyed-boy of the firm.
John always thought that he was rated very highly — definitely much higher than David was. Though one or two of his colleagues told him occasionally that when the actual reckoning comes, blood would prove thicker than water, he could never bring himself to accept it. He dismissed these with great contempt. Andy was head and shoulders above such pettiness — he was always certain about it. Such a possibility even as a remote probability never crossed his mind. How wrong he was! How right and realistic were the guys who said that quarter inch below the surface you could trace the blood.
The first salvo came about six months ago. When Andy had recommended David for the Chief Executive vacancy of the proposed regional office in Australia. And now, this was the second.
“I am really a fool. Not seeing what was clearly coming.” he muttered to himself, when his wife’s call was put through.
“What happened, John dear? You had asked not to be disturbed! Is anything wrong?” she asked.
“Liz, I think I have to think of getting out of this place. I have to look out for another employer. Andy, I believe, has recommended David for the Paris Programme. And that when I was not here… yes, the same one…. Yeah he asked for me no doubt…. But listen, Liz, he could have waited for one day. No. No I don’t see the same way…. No. Liz it is timed…. I think I will let him know how I feel about him. …. No. I don’t see any point in postponing it… what is the great idea… ” He ended the conversation as his secretary gently tapped on the door.
Andrew was just in, but had someone from head office with him.
It was a second after John had finished his call to the president of another large multinational corporation that there was a tap on his door. It was Andrew. There was the guy from head office with him. The head office guy was the head of the human resources department globally. After the brief introductions were over, the human resources guy plunged straight to the point without any preliminaries or background-preparation.
“Congratulations! It was so nice to hear Andy commending you so much. John. He told us that the Australian region would be too small for you. You must have deserved his rating; he is not the one to commend like that. Andy is reverting back to head office. He is going to take my place. I am going to join my son in Egypt. You will be taking over from him. Hope to see you in London next 15th for the global CEO’s meeting — yes, you will accompany Andy and the announcement will be made during the meeting. Good luck”. He started to leave John’s room. giving him no time to thank him.
Andy peeped in again for a second to say before rushing to catch up with his colleague, “Hey, Johnny boy, you richly deserve it. Congrats… tell Liz to call me over for another delicious dinner soon.”
This short story was first published in Meghdutam.com (between 1999 to 2002).
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