My favorite corporate saga that I've recounted over the past decade was when I became a highly paid executive in the risk division at the corporate head office of a top company. The risk division consisted of top notch professionals in various disciplines: engineering, research, legal, systems, corporate psychology and me, credit. It was our combined think tank that ensured the company mitigated risk at every conceivable level. I felt honored to be considered at top of my field with such esteemed colleagues.
That honor dissipated rather fast.
It became evident during my first week at the job that everyone knew my salary. I was the highest paid in my department. After they groused at me, individually and collectively, I approached my immediate boss.
"Why does everyone here know how much money I make?"
He groaned. "Damn, I gave my secretary your contract to fax to you. She must've shown it to everyone."
That was the first warning bell.
The second came when the secretary, Lenore, entered my office, swinging the door shut behind her. Startled, I looked up. "May I help you?"
"You took my job away from me," she screamed.
"This was supposed to be my job!" she thundered.
Intrigued, I said, "Really now. What are your qualifications?"
She glared down her nose. "I've an associates' degree in marketing and worked for AT&T in customer service for ten years before I came here."
I laughed. "So tell me how many years have you analyzed financial statements?"
"None." She stood in front of my desk, defiant, challenging me.
"You're telling me that you're qualified for this position which requires at least two decades of working in financial institutions focusing on extensive in-depth knowledge of trading, lending and regulatory experience not to mention an MBA?"
"Yes." She paused, and then came the zinger, "I didn't get it because you're all racists."
WHOA. That blind-sided me for a moment. To defuse the situation, I applied tact and diplomacy. "Listen, I know how it feels to be a woman working in a man's world. Hell, I'm the only woman on the risk team. Evidently, you're qualified to do more than what you're doing. Insofar as this job, no, you're not. But, how about this?"
She gazed at me.
I plugged on. "I know you're not happy. How about I help you with your resume so you can find a job better suited for you?"
Appeased, she left me alone. Moments later, she sent me an email with her attached resume. I kept my word and spent my free hours writing a stellar one. In return, I got no response. Not even a thank you.
A few days later, one of my colleagues entered my office. He was a young guy, an engineering specialist and looked like a prettier version of Chewbacca. There was a lot of resentment in the department that I, a new employee, not only was the highest paid, I got my own office whereas a group of specialists had to share one.
He smiled and said, "I know how much you make and you don't deserve it. You also don't deserve this office - I do!" With that, he flipped open his wallet and pulled out two pictures that he flung onto my desk. "And this is why!"
I leant over and saw pictures of mongrel children who resembled throwbacks. Morbidly obese, tusked, cross-eyed.
"So, what you're telling me is that because you didn't zip your pecker, I'm obligated to subsidize your life?"
Not anticipating such a response, he recoiled in horror. Narrowing his eyes, he threatened me, "You made yourself an enemy here, bitch."
Disgusted, I met with the head of the division, the boss of my boss, the alpha dog. "Listen, I don't know what's going on with these people, but I'm not even here two weeks and been at the receiving end of shit. First off, everyone knows my salary. Secondly, I've been approached by two people, one calling me a racist, the other threatening my job for my office."
He sighed. "I'm sorry. We caused this rift, not you. Those two are troublemakers. Once they get to know you, they'll quiet down."
"I sincerely hope so. You guys moved me cross country and spent considerable coin. I don't want to see my job imperiled because of jealousy."
As predicted, things quieted down over the following two weeks. Then, something happened in one of the subsidiaries in another state and the team hunkered down. The top boss pointed at me and two others in the team. "You guys have to fly down tomorrow morning. Get Lenore to book you flights stat."
The three of us walked over to Lenore and made the request, following the verbal with the appropriate emails. None of us got our flights booked and she snuck off without warning us. We stayed late at night to do it ourselves. I had to wake up the following morning at 3am to catch a 6am flight to Houston. And returned late the following evening. By Friday, I was worn down, but early to work.
The top boss flew into my office, slamming my door shut. "What did you say to Lenore?"
"When was the last time you spoke to her?"
"When I was with Tom and Mercer. They asked her to book three round trip flights for early the next morning and to return in 2 days. I didn't say a word as they did all the talking. Why?"
"She went to Human Resources and filed a complaint against you."
"She said you called her racist names!"
"WHAT?" My heart nearly escaped my rib cage. "I never said a word. Check with Ted and Mercer, they'll tell you. Wait-" I remembered that the head of the legal department was present because he had files to give to her for the top dog. "You might as well ask the head of the legal department. He was standing there the entire time."
The top dog shook his head. "I can't believe this!"
"Hey, remember what I told you two weeks ago? She believes this is the job I took away from her."
He shook his head. "She might very well get it. The company'll do anything to resolve this kind of issue."
That's when I finally blew up. "Well, fuck the people here. I'm done with you guys. I've been insulted the moment I walked into this place. And to be called a racist? Now, I'm livid. She has no idea my background, my life, hell, my genetics." I spluttered and picked up a framed photo from my desk. It was a picture taken from my good-bye party filled with my friends, a veritable rainbow of races, colors, age, sex and gender preferences. "I guess if I were racist, then the people in my life should be white!"
He backed off and calmed down. "Thank God, she didn't accuse me of racism. Although that may not stick because I'm not white. However, she'd scream sexism which would've been the death knell of my career." He barked a bitter, sardonic laugh. "Let me tell you, I'm glad it's you and not me." Prior to exiting, he turned around. "Listen, I'm going to talk to the guys and get statements this weekend. If what you're telling me is true, I'll call in my chips and squash this once and for all. Just hold tight."
That weekend, I phoned my mother and told her of my dissatisfaction. "They're idiots out here. They can't handle my New York accent. I feel like Marco Polo, the first Jew some of them have ever met. At least they found out we don't have horns, but they're still on the fence about the cloven hooves."
"Hold out, dear. You'll see."
"I hate it here. I want to come back home."
Monday morning, I barely got one foot in my office when alpha dog barreled in. "I spoke to all the guys this weekend and what you said was the truth. She made it up."
I stared at him.
"She did an injustice to you and we're gonna have to fire her. She can't retaliate otherwise she'll be sued."
Needless to say, my colleagues blamed me for the termination of her employment. Turns out they liked her. She, at least, didn't earn more than them and didn't have her own office.
Several months later, alpha dog suffered at the hands of a corporate maniac, a woman intent on destroying his career so she could take over his job. He must've aged a decade during those months. Then, one day, he took the entire department out for lunch at a beautiful harbor-side restaurant and stood up, glass in hand, preparing a toast.
"I owe an apology to Maura for everything she underwent. She's a true lady." Everyone stared first at him, then at me with no comprehension at all. But I understood. Too little too late.
Soon thereafter, I quit my job in a spectacular way, a giant FUCK YOU to all of them. My colleagues were thrilled; they got to shred each other into pieces vying for my office.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, character, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.