kay hurried to her desk, sat down and stared blankly into the wall. there was something amiss in the air that morning and her unusual entry into the design department just made things feel even more unsettling. a few moments later, she turned towards me. she had that burdened, conflicted look in her face, like the expression one would have when you have witnessed something and you don't know whether or not you should tell. she was hesitant, her breathing paced, her body tensed. we stared at each other, after which, she spoke.
"jame... i have to tell you something." her opening statement.
"what is it kay? what happened?" my calm reply.
"umm, GM? he just fired someone TL (our indian marketing head) a few minutes ago. she was told to leave the building immediately and things got messy! i was caught in the crossfire!" her juicy disclosure.
"NO WAAAAY!!!!!!". my flabbergasted reaction.
in a very heated argument that involved lots of demands, derogatory name calling and threats to be dragged out of the building by security, TL, was disgracefully dismissed by our fuming GM. the details of the incident i believe are no longer important. the things that transpired after though, because of this incident, i deem more significant since they are laden with many lessons, the greatest one of them all.... never underestimate a lady who wears a tweed suit and has curry for dessert!
later that afternoon, rather expectedly (news travels fast in the office since we were all in just one room), an emergency meeting was called by GM. he had us sit down and calmly explained his case. he told us that we must have now known that TL is "no longer a member of the team", that she has been terminated due to low productivity, yada, yada, yada. he expressed how diplomatic he was in handling her dismissal (contrary to my first-hand accounts, of which i definitely believe more than his sanctimonious monologue), yet was forced take rougher measures since TL gave a fight (who wouldn't?). he then jested in tagalog about TL and how she reeked of spices, "ang baho kasi nya, palibhasa di ata naliligo!", he said. that statement had pushed GM's image beyond disgust for me, he was now bedfellows with pond scum and that icky grime you gather between your toes after a long day of walking wearing open toe sandals on really dusty ground. TL, however did have the last laugh. GM continued. he said that a complaint was escalated to the vice president by TL and that he was questioned for his decision. GM never liked his authority being challenged (me and 2 other colleagues were considered for termination once for raising an argument on his rather stupid policy during an open forum). feeling disrespected by the VICE PRESIDENT of the company, he resigned, effective immediately!
o the drama... please don't stop the drama! the little men who live in my head were practically doing somersaults (basta na) from his bomb he dropped on us. i have been made so calloused by my moments with GM that i accidentally gave out a sarcastic snort, a gesture he immediately caught. he couldn't react to it however since the members of the staff were already showering him with pleas, imploring him to change his mind. this was the ultimate ego trip i assure you, his grin said it all. but he remained adamant. he "cannot take it anymore!" he said he could not handle the stress, nor could he handle how the bosses were undermining him any longer. he then played the sympathy card by saying all the work he has been doing has taken a toll on his health and family. with the entire company now playing to his tune and having his memory immortalized as the martyred hero in our impressionable minds, he passed the baton to my senior and left us, some in tears, some in shock, some just playing along so as not to stand out.
the days following GM's exit were very tensed days indeed since our arab bosses now became regular fixtures in the office. they "descended" from their lofty abodes up in our office building and loom over us, sending workplace anxiety levels through the roof. despite being a total ass, GM was still one of us and it gave us still a sense of comfort that he could sympathize with his fellow "expats". our arab lords on the other hand were different. they were gods and we, dispensable mortals, always ready to be replaced by more desperate mortals who are more than willing to do our work... for a fraction of the salary (and our salaries weren't even that high). pressure was mounting and things were not looking good, not at all. since the company was the grand scheme of our GM and the dream that is to be our success, his creation, his absence definitely had an effect on our already shaky operations. didi unfortunately inherited the titanic task of managing a headless chicken that was going bezerk and it ultimately drained her dry.
GM visited a couple of weeks after he resigned, apparently to discuss terms with the arab bosses. probably still relishing his influence over them, he boasted of maybe taking back the position he so eagerly relinquished, and thus, left us in our current dismal state. he said his resignation was revoked and so, he will talk with the arabs to negotiate. seems like the curse of TL was still in effect for GM very soon learned greatest lesson number two, never underestimate the arabs, especially those who drive rolls royce phantoms and lamborghinis and go to italy to buy their yachts and have swiss bank accounts whose interests alone is enough to pay the salary of their company of 4000 strong, for that money apparently, also pays for their education in harvard business school. GM's apparent negotiation meeting was actually a "thank you for your service but we found out that you were a maniacal a-hole who took advantage of our trust and ignorance, so dream on if you think we still need you here (belat!)" meeting. GM left with his strained smile and his broken pride dragging behind him.... TL was probably laughing somewhere in dubai.
being now the captain, didi became privy to many details about the company that used to be for GM's eyes only. being didi's gurl-friend and trusty shoulder-to-cry-on/ shopping buddy/ buffet buddy/ personal jester extraordinaire, i eventually too became aware of many secrets. the company was in worse shape than we thought. previous suggested policies during meetings were never considered, despite their brilliance; unqualified people were constantly being hired for redundant positions; non-hiring of people for required positions and disproportionate staffing hierarchy; weak policies and poorly enforced procedures; and unrealistic expectations have cost us dearly and our books showed it. GM's megalomania had seen that he kept with his ideal delusion and his power had kept him in full control of the course we were in. now that he was out of the picture, the illusion that we were all riding on started to fizzle and fade. realizing the inevitable, people from the company started resigning one after the other.
honoring our friendship with didi, me and a few stayed on for "the ride", despite the ensuing turbulence. we tried to save the ship but the powers that be simply would not to see things our way. considering we were already in the red, our bosses still decided to open 2 more branches, hire more people at higher salaries (higher than ours, even if most of them cannot draw, more so, design to save their lives) and appoint their inexperienced 18 year old brother to be deputy CEO of the firm. in the end, and no surprise, we found ourselves in even deeper "shit". at this point, even the most idealistic looses hope and even loyalties reach their limits. despite promises of better working conditions, better pay and a promotion, i tendered in my resignation 16 months after i first stepped onto desert sand. i have had enough of this company and believed i have had already enough life lessons in me to last me another lifetime. it was time to move on, time to leave. didi was obviously saddened but understood my concerns and supported my decision. she stayed on with the company for half a year more after my last day, and eventually resigned as well. didi was the last of the pioneer staff that saw the days of calm. from the 8 ppl in my batch who came in from manila, only 1 remains.