Niranjan Shetty closed the file and put it aside. Leaning forward he said, “Preeti, it’s best for you to leave this to the experts. This is no time to think about all this. Let the management handle it. You focus on your tasks.”
“Sir, if I am given this project I’ll be eligible for the promotion. I’ve been working in this department for 3 years. I know I will be able to pull this off. I am well qualified for this promotion and the pre-requisite is being able to carry out a new project,” urged Preeti.
“No!” Niranjan bellowed. He leaned back, exposing his oversized belly and crossed his flabby arms across his chest.
“The pre-requisite is that you focus on your tasks. I don’t see how you will be able to juggle this with your own responsibilities. Don’t you have enough on your plate, already? Why are you sticking your head out? What’s the update on the pending payments? What about that other client, the one due for renewal? Have they responded with the negotiated terms? Why is it taking so long to close the deal?” Niranjan was unrelenting. She stared at him, disappointment and rejection writ large on her face.
Unconcerned, Niranjan averted his gaze and started fidgeting with his phone.
“Send me a report of your completed tasks latest by this evening,” he continued, and dismissed her with a wave of his hand.
“Yes, sir,” she croaked and picked up the blue folder titled “New Markets – Ideas and Suggestions”
Preeti walked back to her cubicle, clutching the file tightly. She could barely manage to see clearly through her tears, and just about managed to avoid walking into the photo copier.
At her desk, Preeti stared at her computer screen. The company logo floated around the screen, in a mindless loop. It made its way to the edge of the screen, then made its way back to the centre only to float back outwards again.
She accessed her mails and saw an unread mail that had just come in. It was from the Country Manager of her company. She quickly clicked it open.
“Congratulations, Preeti. Well done on last month’s figures. You are well on your way to the next level.”
The email was in response to the revenue and sales figures that were circulated by the Bangalore head office a couple of days earlier. She noted that the mail was addressed to her and a copy was marked to her boss.
Preeti stared at the time stamp and noticed that it had been sent just before her meeting with the man who was clearly a boss but not a leader.
Had he already read the mail before he declared her incapable and under-qualified? Was the Country Manager’s mail the real reason he would not even hear her out?
Her jaw set firmly, she purposely pulled herself forward toward her desk. She would do what she did best – power on through challenges and prove her detractors wrong. In this case, even if it meant going against the head of her own department.
She worked diligently on her proposal and 3 hours, 23 minutes later, looked at the completed presentation with satisfaction.
She noticed the time and panicked. Hurriedly, she compiled the information for the weekly review update that she was due to send to Niranjan. She could hear a commotion near the entrance of the floor, and saw people standing up.
She ignored the distractions, attributing the excitement and buzz to the Monthly Birthday & Employee Meet which was to start in a few minutes. Remembering her manager’s words about not being focused enough, she decided to skip the party and instead use the extra time to fine-tune the report.
She would have it ready by the time he got back from gorging on samosas and cake, she thought grimly.
Just as she was about to send the mail, Preeti felt someone approaching her desk.
“Busy as always, Ms. Nair?” rang out a firm but gentle voice.
She looked up to see the Country Manager smiling benevolently. A stunned Preeti stood up hurriedly, knocking her chair back.
“Not at all… No, sir… I was just sending the weekly review report to Mr. Shetty. Sorry, I didn’t notice.” explained a flustered Preeti; as she fumbled with her chair and struggled to regain her composure.
The tall, bespectacled man was now frowning. “Weekly report on the second of the month?! We just got the Consolidated Monthly Reports from Head Office day before. What weekly report is this, on the start of a new month?”
Preeti looked down at her feet as Mr. Arjun Pradhan, the Country Manager stepped forward.
“What’s that?” He pointed to the blue folder on her desk.
With downcast eyes, Preeti admitted to wanting to apply for an internal promotion and handed him the project file. Mr. Pradhan flipped through the file, as he continued asking questions about its contents.
Niranjan rushed out his office. Bowing with folded hands, he exclaimed, “Sir! Welcome, Sir, welcome! When did you arrive, sir? Mumbai office didn’t inform this time. I would have made arrangements to pick you from the Airport.”
“No, this wasn’t a scheduled visit. Shetty, have you seen this?” Mr. Pradhan raised the folder in his hands.
“Yes… yes, sir… it’s nothing, sir. It’s only half-baked plan. I told her to work on it and make it better. Needs proper thought, these things. Then we can look at it again…Next year. No, Preeti?” His mouth took shape of an an excessively upward curve, but his eyes remained blank.
Mr. Pradhan was aghast. “Half-baked?!! Shetty, have you even seen this? It looks quite comprehensive to me. At least, as much as an initial plan can be.” He turned to Preeti. “Let me see the full details before I can give a go ahead on this. The initial proposal is good. Come back to me once you have a detailed working plan in place.”
“Sir, I… have… I have a presentation ready if you could spare a few minutes,” stuttered Preeti.
Alarmed at the apparent turn of events, Niranjan stepped in quickly to stop the situation from going out of his hands. The wheels of his mind whirred furiously to stop her from taking his chair.
“Not now, Preeti. We can do this later. Right now, we need to proceed for the Monthly Review Party.” He glared at Preeti, who immediately recoiled.
A sharp and perceptive Mr. Pradhan picked up the undercurrents and faced Niranjan. “You proceed for this Review Party. I would like to hear what my best sales manager has to say.” He turned to her and smiled his kind, reassuring smile again.
Relieved, Preeti threw Niranjan a triumphant look. She quickly opened the presentation she had been working on all afternoon, as Mr. Pradhan pulled up a vacant chair and settled down.
A dejected Niranjan walked away slowly, knowing fully well that he would lose his best team member by the end of the day.