Once upon a time in the City of London…
Somalilandsun – Presenting a careworn, eagle eyed, suspicious and rather diminutive sort of a figure, Mrs. Foss – not her real name – opened the door to my makeshift temporary consultants’ office – a conference room that had been quite regally prepared for my express use – and then knocked while simultaneously appraising me, gawkily, possibly to gauge my reaction.
When I looked towards the door, not expecting the like of Mrs. Foss peering back at me, I said, softly, albeit rather disingenuously – I might add, in retrospect – ah, Mrs. Foss, how are you – I’ve been expecting you – come in, take a seat, won’t you. This seemed to rattle Mrs. Foss somewhat and she seemed to look even more harassed than she had when she stuck her head around the door initially, an action which, to be honest, made me feel slightly guilty.
Read: The Life & Times of a Transition Consultant – Part One
Liz, the Human Resources ‘Business Partner’ – as she was, strangely, known – had sent me an email on the second day of my engagement with her company with a list of seventeen ‘temps’ – as she referred to them – who had been directly contracted by her company without the nagging interference of agencies or other organisations seeking to get people into employment. Mrs. Foss, forty one years’ of age, employed for two-and-a-half-years – until the day she met me – had been an administrative coordinator for the time she’d been at her company. A very keen, professional, upright sort of a lady, Mrs. Foss was, as us millennials might refer to her kind, ‘old-school’ – how she’d made it that far – and for the extent of time she’d been with her company, still beggars belief.
As she pulled out a chair from under the conference table at which I was so gracefully seated, she did so while keeping her eyes set on me and trying – with all her might – not to make a sound. And then Mrs. Foss was seated, in a highly uncharacteristic autocratic manner, stiff necked, head held high so she was looking down at me rather than across, and legs and arms suitably folded in that manner which Victorian headmistresses might have adopted prior to sermonising to some unruly adolescents about the mores of the English.
For a moment, I might confess, I felt I was back at secondary school again, and was about to be on the receiving end of some unwarranted chastisement, before I realised I had in front of me a plate of chocolate Hob Nobs which reminded me of my host’s etiquette, and that I should – for myself as well as for Mrs. Foss – ask her if she’d like some tea.
Following Liz’s initial email to me about the seventeen unsuspecting temps who were due to get the chop, Liz sent a very nice email to all seventeen culprits, copying – or cc’ing – me, to inform the temps about the upcoming organisational ‘transition’, and that Hamid Khan – ‘transition consultant’ – would be meeting with those of you receiving this email in order to apprise you about the changes and how they might affect you. This is the first time I had heard – or seen – the title ‘transition consultant’ anywhere – and I certainly didn’t ever expect it to be a title following my name. So what was I?, I thought, at the time, to myself – I’m the bearer of sad tidings; and what is the fate of such messengers if the going gets tough?, I asked myself, cynically – well, it’s simple, Hamid, I mused: the messenger gets shot.
As it turned out, my first transition meeting with a seemingly quaint – and, at first glance, belligerent – old lady turned out to be not half as bad as I’d initially thought. Mrs. Foss, according to her own testimony, was ‘spiritual’, and having been a resolute follower of Anglicanism, since as far back as she could care to remember, she had never missed a single Sunday service. Mrs. Foss insisted that she saw – or ‘felt’, in her own words – these changes that were now upon her and her unsuspecting colleagues, coming well in advance. Which was a relief to me because, no doubt, Mrs. Foss might have made it a point to share her feelings with her colleagues in the days and weeks preceding this incipient transition so, at least, they’ll have been subconsciously prepared for the transition itself, I thought to myself, in psychological terms.
Mrs. Foss, I said, it might well be the case that your role may be made obsolete – or redundant – sooner rather than later, and it would be an awful shame if you weren’t given sufficient notice of this event in order to make alternative arrangements in terms of your employment. It might be an idea, I continued, to seek out potential employment opportunities now, four or five months prior to the coming transition, so you have a suitable alternative to turn to once it happens, because, Mrs. Foss, I’m sorry to say, your company will – I can’t make this point any more strongly – your company will be downsizing in its drive to economise, to cut costs, and it will be looking to do away with any roles – or resources – it deems to be superfluous to its current – or future – needs. You’re not the only one, Mrs. Foss, as you’ve, no doubt, seen from Liz’s earlier email – many of your friends and colleagues will also be asked to make preparations and to seek out alternative employment opportunities.
Oh you callous, calculating, menacing, cutthroat, Hamid – you’d have put Tamerlane to shame had he been around to witness your unparalleled degree of barbarism. Have mercy, go easy. But what was I to do? I had to be objective – almost clinical, you could say – while, at the same time, being human. I couldn’t for a moment help thinking about the way the poor lady was feeling, seated in front of me, with all her contrived manner of bravado – which was, I might admit – a heartening feat for me to see since it is what impelled me to drive the dagger home with a force that I didn’t believe I had the power to provide. And that’ll be that, Mrs. Foss, we’ll be in touch via email and we’ll ensure your transition is as swift and painless as possible. And as she was out the door: have a nice day, Mrs. Foss. Oh, Hamid, I thought to myself: ‘have a nice day’?
More next week.
Copyright: Somalilandsun, 2016. www.somalilandsun.com
The author Hamid Shahid Khan is Managing Director at INTELIPAK Institute of Leadership, Training & Development