When I posted my ‘Christmas Party’ story a lot of people wanted to know what happened next. This is the follow-up.
Make sure you read the previous blog first, although hopefully this short story will stand up on its own.
(I had intended to post this earlier, but with the sad news of the passing of David Bowie, a friend from my teens, my personal tribute took priority.)
Friday 9th January 4.15 p.m.
My meeting with Steve and the day my fate would be decided.
I couldn’t sleep for worrying on the night before my appointment, apprehensive about what the day would bring. Friday morning I was up before the alarm and trying on every outfit in my wardrobe. None of them seemed quite right. I wanted to project an efficient, office look but at the same time show there was a real woman underneath.
‘Mr Holden will see you now.’
Plastering a smile on my face I entered the room, only to be greeted not by Steve, but by a much older man. ‘Good afternoon Ms, er… Richardson,’ he said, glancing down at the file on his desk. ‘Please take a seat.‘
I rather inelegantly slumped into the chair facing him across the desk. What on earth was going on? If this was the new M.D. why was Steve’s photo on the e-mail, and who was this guy?
As if he had read my thoughts he went on ‘Perhaps it would be as well if I gave you a quick run-down on the events that led up to this discussion. I started the ABC-D Corporation when I was not much older than you are now. Of course, at that time it was only a very small business, but we worked hard and had some luck along the way.
‘In recent years we have concentrated on expansion, and the company you were working for attracted our attention. I am pleased to say the negotiations over the Christmas and New Year period were successful, and your former employers became part of our group.
‘Of course, such a major take-over will result in disruption for a while until the company becomes totally integrated. It’s an ideal opportunity to weed out the trouble-makers and dead wood, and identify those with the best interest of their employers at heart. We always offer a healthy redundancy package to those who feel they don’t fit into our ethos, in recognition of their previous contributions.‘
My heart sank, but at the same time I felt anger bubbling up inside me. After all I had done for the old company, one simple misjudgement and I was for the chop. OK the money would be useful but how long would it last, and what were the chances of getting another decent job in the current climate?
‘Now my dear, I understand you have some interesting thoughts about how things could be improved. Would you like to tell me about them?‘
I was beginning to understand. After being accused of gossiping I was sure Steve had somehow passed on my comments to the new big cheese, and I felt used. How to handle it?
Should I keep my cool to try to salvage something and get the best possible pay-out, or should I let rip and risk being dismissed with nothing to show for it?
Taking a deep breath I faced the new M.D. squarely. ‘With all due respect Sir,’ I began, ‘I think you have already been made aware of my ideas, and there seems little point in repeating them. May I ask you a question?’
‘Of course. Feel free to ask anything you like. I’ll do my best to answer honestly, as long as it’s not confidential information.’
‘What is Steve Holden’s position in the company?’
The look on the old man’s face showed it was the last question he was expecting.
‘He’s the M.D. I passed over the reins to him some years back, and just keep my hand in by helping out at busy times like this. I’m very much a ‘people-person’ so getting to know the staff suits me down to the ground, and I’m not so ancient that my opinions aren’t valued. He might be my son but he’s not too old to have his butt whipped if he gets too uppity. Do you know him?’
‘We met at the Christmas party,’ I stuttered, totally out of my depth.
‘And what did you think of him?’ Mr Holden asked, with a smile on his face. ‘Don’t worry, it won’t go any further, but I think sometimes he spends too much time on the business, and not enough time enjoying life while he can.’
By now I could feel my face turning an unattractive shade of puce. ‘A gentleman and a good listener,’ was the best I could come up with.
The old man’s face lit up with understanding as he smiled. ‘You are not by any chance the young lady my son met when he played the knight in shining armour? The one he didn’t stop talking about all over our family celebrations at Christmas?
‘Anyway, back to business. The reason for me asking to see you was to offer you a promotion within the group.
‘I’ve been going through your record and like what I see. You’ve got fire in your belly and are not afraid to stand up for what you think is right. I hate brown-nosers and have already recommended a few who might be better off in a different field. It’s different when someone is honest and points out things the Ivory tower is not aware of.
‘I want you to attend some board meetings and act as liaison between what is actually happening, and what the management think is happening. It’s not an easy job but I believe you are strong enough to handle it. Think it over for a few days and then let me know if you accept the challenge. Here’s my personal e-mail and telephone number. Just tell my secretary, or should I say my poor hard-working wife that it’s you, and I’ll get back to you straight away if I’m not available immediately.
‘It was delightful to meet you my dear. Part of the job will involve keeping my son in check. I’m sure you will handle it admirably. Welcome to the family, I mean the business one of course.’
I didn’t miss the wink as his assistant showed me out.