Sharon always tried to made sure she was the centre of attention. She was rarely the first to acknowledge her colleagues, mainly men, who looked like lap dogs waiting for an affectionate sign from their mistress. “Oh hello, I didn’t see you there,” she would say pretending to be surprised. It was not clear why she felt she should be on a slightly higher level or even how she had got there. She had always had a need to make others feel inferior and that they had to grovel before they could be considered as worthy of her attention.
Occasionally she showed a little self-deprecation before anyone else could try anything, but she still wanted to have a special place in the office. There was nothing extraordinary in her background or in her dyed, straw-like hair and a smoker’s rasping voice. She also worked on Saturdays as her aspirations lived through her son’s attendance at private school. Sharon had once been in charge of her own small office and was now a cog in wheel of an only slightly larger one.
Change, however, was in the air in the form of district manager Brad Taylor’s arrival. Tall and balding with an abrasive manner, he had worked in a big city in a big office. As the newly-appointed managing director, he was one who moved with the times and his objective was to bring the twenty-first century to this town office. “We need to be dynamic and bold,” he said. Dynamism was to be introduced, mysteriously, through centralisation, cheaper software and job cuts.
The staff responded as staff tend to; muttering behind his back and their screens while smiling obligingly. “I’ve been in the business for thirty years,” protested Sharon from behind her screen. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s changing things just for the sake of it.” Courses were mentioned. Brad Taylor had attended many courses and had even devised a few for others to attend. He knew no one liked change but he also knew it was a case of either adapt or die. “We’re going to introduce new formats,” he said, “Bring in new ideas and give things new lease of life.” The staff nodded their assent and made appropriate comments punctuated with questions to show their interest. They had few new ideas of their own, thought Brad Taylor with one eye on the balance sheet, as he began to implement his strategy. Money had to be saved in order to survive in the market and products had to compete even if dynamism and boldness meant brash and cheap. “The new software will be installed in the central system downstairs on Saturday,” he continued. “Then on Monday morning IT will go round each person’s desk to reconfigure.”
Monday morning brought more than the usual quiet and slow start to the week. IT had installed the new software but something had gone terribly, terribly wrong. Incompatibility, IT said. Sabotage, Brad Taylor had thought. There were rumours of a virus spreading, computers crashing, and heads rolling as all eyes turned on Brad Taylor. It was only a brief matter of time before the old system had been restored and Brad Taylor’s chair became empty.
“His dynamism blew up in his face,” declared Sharon as they all laughed. With the old hierarchy restored life continued as before until some months later when the old manager suddenly announced that he would be leaving. There was no time to be surprised or ask questions.
A new manager arrived dressed in a sharper suit and accompanied by his PA. Walking behind was a tall, balding man with an abrasive manner. Brad Taylor was once more managing director bringing dynamism, boldness and this time reinforcements. The office staff looked at each other, except Sharon, whose chair was empty.