London’s Man

When he arrived there was some excitement at senior management level. The London office had sent him and the London office was the head office, so he promised to be good. He was an Australian who was coming home and the company wanted to keep him so they allowed him to set up his own research unit while he kept in touch with his English client list. He had a big client list, we were told. His clients loved him. His colleagues had loved him and were very sorry to see him go. His name was Theo and his hair was blonde and his shoulders were broad and he loved a pint, as they said in Soho, and hearts of both genders were said to be broken when he boarded the 747 and flew away out of Heathrow, possibly forever.

It was sad. But it happens.

And London’s loss was our gain.

An office was found for him with a glass wall where he could see the whole floor, all the workers at their desks, all comings and goings, with the staff reporting to him closest of all. If the door was open and you were inside you could hear the private conversations of his new team members. The office had a huge desk and several chairs, enough for meetings with guests and potential clients, and a big chair with a high back and several comfort settings. It was advertised as the last word in office comfort, and it was very important that Theo be comfortable. The first thing he did when he was shown to his office was to close the door and recline as far back as the big chair wold go and make a phone call and turn away so no-one outside could lip-read what he was saying or guess who he was talking to.

Nerves could be detected as his first day approached. The boss wanted to remain in London’s good books, and he was anxious that Theo be made welcome. He was also anxious that Theo had nothing to complain about, as any complaint would be directed to his former colleagues, and it was known that Theo had regularly played squash with the CEO. This only mad the boss more nervous. It was as if a spy would soon be among them. Heads of other divisions, nominally equals with the new guy, had found out that Theo would be on a higher rate of pay than they were (someone had a contact in HR and she spread the whisper). This was an irritant. They all had teams. No team was more important than another. All managers reported to the boss. They should have been equal. On paper they were equal, but there would be preferential treatment. And they had all given up staff to create the new research unit. Working harder with a smaller number of staff and being paid less than the new boy – well, there were grumbles, and a few suggested that they weren’t happy at all. But they all wanted to see what happened when London’s man arrived, and so they waited.

The big day seemed to creep up very slowly indeed. After several postponements – house hunting took time (only certain suburbs and dwellings with a certain number of storeys were deemed appropriate), delays with freight shipping, and then moving in – one morning in walked a tall man with golden curls on his head and a swagger in his stride. He announced himself at reception (“Hey princess, it’s Mr. T. Please tell them I’m here”) and was high-fiving the interns on level one as he waited for his lift to arrive. It was closer to 10 than it was to 9 and the other managers had all been at their desks for two hours.

His first day was taken up with a lot of meetings. He was introduced to the other managers, who he charmed with stories about outwitting London cabbies and playing outstanding rugby for the company team on Saturday mornings, usually with a hangover. He moved his stuff into his office and met his team in the afternoon. He spoke about himself for most of the meeting and demanded that they call him T. Man. He said that his door would always be open and he wanted them to think of him as one of the guys.

The next morning was his first presentation. The boss was there, and the other managers, and the oldest clients were there too. They were all there to listen to Theo talk about his research work and the work of his new unit, and what services he could offer, going forward. He started by talking about himself. His time in London. When he met the Queen. When he snuck into a Premier League match without a ticket. How good it was to be home. How exciting the opportunity was. And then he moved onto specifics.

“Um, and now I’ll move onto the … er … details. You know, the details of what we do. I mean, of what we’re going to do. The details of what the team, I mean, my team, the team of guys who are my guys, and, you know, work for me, the work that they do, and we do, and I do, and I’ll be working on that work too, the work we all do, will be doing that is, the detailed work, as I was saying, er …er. You know, together. The work. As such.”

Throats were cleared as Theo continued in this vain. A yawn could be heard a minute later, from one of the oldest clients. Relieved sighs were sighed and some eyebrows were cocked. He was London’s man but he was not a threat, and he could be contained.

Published in: on August 14, 2012 at 8:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

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