“Now how do you expect work to get done when you are so full of attitude? Wanawake wa siku hizi, heh!” Frank says to me on the phone. I am full blown angry and I can’t control myself. “Listen. I don’t care what you think about women but right here, right now, you will respect me and my position otherwise I will see to it that you are replaced.”
“Madam, just know that you will leave before me if you anyone is to leave,” Frank says, and then he hangs up.
I am still stewing in my anger when there is a knock on my door. I look up and am pleasantly surprised to see Chris peeking into my office. All my anger is temporarily dropped. “Do you have a minute?”
“Of course,” I chirp brightly. I have no intention of letting our personal fight get in the way of work.
“Step into my office please, there is something I need to tell you.” I nod as crisply and professionally as I can – if there is any way to modify a nod into a professional one – and pick up a notebook and pen, then stand up to follow Chris who, in a series of long strides, has disappeared into his office. Then I follow, shutting his door behind me and sitting in one of the guest chairs without waiting for his invitation – I mean, it’s not like I need an invitation to sit down in my office, do I? Hehe.
“Congratulations, Liz,” he says unexpectedly.
“What?” I frown. Nothing significant has happened to me today. What am I being congratulated for?
“You are now the new head of our Kenya business?”
“Eh?” I ask. I still don’t understand what he means.
“I have asked the Board to fast track my service period – I don’t mind paying the associated penalties. But I feel my time here has conclusively come to an end and I don’t want to wait for anything else.”
My heart shatters into a thousand pieces. For some reason, this feels like we are breaking up! I forget all pretense of professionalism as I lay my book and pen on the table and stare at him.
“What?! You’re leaving just like that?” I yelp.
“Erm… I was under the impression you would be just fine.”
“But you can’t go!” My palms start to sweat. My heart is racing so fast I fear it will jump out of my chest. He can’t just abandon me – I know nothing about running this business! “You said you would be here to hold my hand for the next few weeks!” I feel heartbroken.
“You of all people have been like my right-hand person all through. If anyone has a shot at this, it’s you. And remember, you have the support of the rest of the Board. I have full confidence in you.”
“But… But…” now tears are welling up in my eyes. I reach for a tissue from a box on the desk and dab my eyes. “But I just had a fight with Frank!”
Chris leans forward in his chair. “What happened?” I tell him everything that has just transpired. When I am done, Chris sucks his teeth, weighing the magnitude of my problem. “Hmm, I can see why you are panicky. I sympathise, but you realise that if I fix this Frank problem for you then I will be paving the way for his further insubordination when I leave because he will no longer have me to fear. You have to let him know that you are in charge.
“But what do I do?” I ask him tearfully.
“What would you do if this was a supplier who was being this difficult?”
“If I thought their work was the best in market I would manage his tantrums, but if it affected our work relation I would fire him.”
“Precisely,” says Chris. “The fact that he is not taking your instructions on the basis of gender is means for dismissal following due HR process. Frank is excellent at his job but if he can’t be managed then you will have to find a replacement – or at least let him know that you can find one if he continues apace.”
“And what am I going to do without you being around here?”
“Liz…” Chris sighs and leans back in his chair. “After our fight last night, I had a long think.”
“And…?” I ask tentatively, bracing myself for the worst. What he says next surprises me.