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The Greasy Pole (standard:other, 3254 words)
Author: red1holsAdded: Jun 12 2002Views/Reads: 2486/1580Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Life on the corporate ladder can spring the odd surprise. It's amazing the memories a face from the past brings and how you react.

The Greasy Pole. 

Stuck for the appropriate phrase to complete the email, I paused,
stretched my legs, arched my back and glanced out of the window. I 
started to turn back but did a second take. The man with the jet-black 
hair and beard, the highly polished shoes and the aluminium briefcase 
disappeared into reception. I tried to return to the troublesome email, 
but the right words would not come. 

Instead, a face and the memories of four years ago barged their way into
my brain. In response my fists clenched and my throat tightened. Four 
years ago, we had been colleagues and I thought friends. Four years ago 
we had been asked to work on a project together. Four years ago, I 
thought that the project would lead to the position of Senior Manager. 
Four years ago he had told me that he felt I would make great boss. 

God, how I worked on preparing for that project. For a month, my life
was on hold, my wife and children secondary to the project. I spent 
almost every waking hour making sure that the definition was clear, the 
business case watertight and the right people were "on board". Together 
we had drawn up the outline plan that would see our two teams work 
together to deliver the upgrade. We had drawn up the budget and then 
reviewed it repeatedly. Together we drew up the presentation to the 
board, I would concentrate on the business case and the financials, and 
he would present the technical overview. We ran through our 
presentations together, making sure that our 20 minutes in front of the 
board would unlock the four million pounds needed to make the project a 

The day of the presentation is scarred on my memory. He had come to my
house for breakfast and a last run through on the possible questions 
the board may have. He sat there eating my food, drinking my coffee, 
smiling and confident. As we left together, I kissed my wife and 
children goodbye. At the front door, he suddenly realised that he left 
his keys somewhere again and dashed back to the kitchen. As he came 
back, he had the nerve to kiss my wife goodbye! 

That project meant a lot to me. For the previous three years, I had been
trying to get the money for the upgrade. I had taken the case to the 
old head of department time after time. Time after time he had turned 
it down saying that there were higher priorities. Consequently we had 
to make do and mend. I admit the results were not pretty, but we had 
kept everything running and been innovative about the way we used the 
limited space and the old, chunky equipment. 

When we were called into the boardroom, we shook hands and wished each
other good luck. As I stood before the board I was faced with a lot of 
familiar faces, most of whom I knew by their first names, the benefit 
of being with the company for six years as it grew quickly into being 
the market leader. My presentation went well and the questions were 
much as predicted. I sat down feeling calm and confident. Then he got 

His presentation style was cold and businesslike. Being relatively new
to the company, he didn't use the board members first names when 
responding to questions, but he handled them well enough. I watched the 
board rather than the presentation; the gently nodding heads as he 
raised the various details filled me with a growing sense of confidence 
as we headed towards the wrap up. Then he departed from our agreed 
script. Pictures of some of our efforts to fit extra equipment and 
cables into cramped cupboards. To add to the effect I swear he had 
added a few pieces of litter and paper. His commentary spoke of fire 
risks, neglect, under investment and of poor staff morale. Although he 
didn't explicitly blame me for the problems, the implications were 
there. I was totally stunned. The chairman thanked us and we turned to 
leave. I was determined to challenge him as soon as we were out of the 
room, but at the door he was called back and I returned alone. 

The next day he wasn't in the office. The day after I was out at a
satellite office. The day after that was the worst day in my career. 

As soon as I arrived, I was called into a meeting with the head of
department. He told me that the project and budget had been approved. 
However, the board wanted someone to pay for letting everything get 
into the mess that they had seen. That someone was me. The offer was 

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