“We need to talk about Louise,” Julius says to me as he settles into the chair opposite mine. “I know she is your preferred candidate to replace you but we really need to open up the recruiting process to the best candidates possible.”
“I understand,” I nod. I am confident that Louise can beat anyone hands down – but Julius is right. “So let’s get the interview process up and running,” I tell him.
“Heh,” he chuckles, “I thought this was going to be harder than it turned out. I know you are both very close.”
“We are,” I smile, “but I will not be the one to topple ethical practices.”
He smiles back as he stands up to leave, and just before he crosses the threshold, he turns back to me: “Oh, and congratulations on your appointment.” He waves his hand at the newspaper in front of me, indicating the newspaper piece that Jo congratulated me for a few hours ago.
“Well, it’s only an acting position… I might go back to marketing in a few days when you find the right candidate,” I laugh, trying very hard to mask the severe case of imposter syndrome that I am fighting with my flippant, self-deprecating comment.
But Julius doesn’t laugh. Instead, he puts his hands in his pockets and looks at me thoughtfully. “I can’t think of anyone better for the job, Liz, and if the Board had any reservations about you, I can assure you that they have now been rested. You have saved us the scandal of Frank’s affairs publically embarrassing us. I think you should take that to the bank. I don’t know why women who are so exceptional at their job have such little confidence in their abilities. But it’s something I see and hear reported very often in my HR circles.”
And then he turns around and walks out of the office, leaving me to reflect on his words.
And somehow, despite the reassuring tone of his words, I am still left feeling like a fraud... and I can’t figure out how to turn myself into that person that Julius seems to have so much faith in. My eyes alight on the newspaper announcement in front of me; for some reason, the joy I felt when Jo brought it to my attention has now been subsumed by the feeling of utter panic engulfing me. It’s like I am drowning and I don’t know what to do…
My thoughts are interrupted by a swift knock on the door, and then it opens and Louise bursts in. “Julius just passed by and asked me for my CV,” she says. She sounds harried, and she looks as panicky as I feel. “What do I do, Liz? I don’t have the qualifications!”
“Don’t worry about that,” I wave my hand in her direction. “You’re more than qualified to do this job. It’s dead simple – you read a few market reports, you hand them over to our ad agency, you sit back and wait for the agency to come back with ads that address the issues that the market reports raised.” I laugh… and then, when I notice that I am laughing all by myself while Louise holds her hands up to her face in horror, I quickly stop. “Ok, what’s the problem?”
“The ad agency!” she gasps. “Fatma!”
Ah, yes. Fatma, who still thinks Louise ‘stole’ her man and wants nothing to do with Louise. Fatma, who currently handles our account at her ad agency. Fatma, one of my best friends. Fatma.
“Liz, she won’t work with me,” Louise wrings her hands in her lap agitatedly. “She hates me.” When she looks up at me, I can see tears balancing on her lids.
“I wouldn’t worry about that,” I say, trying to infuse some confidence in my tone of voice. “Fatma is an adult. She can handle it. Besides, our account brings them a lot of money – I don’t think they would sacrifice that over a little domestic tiff.” …except, having known Fatma all these years and knowing how petty she can be, I really don’t have any confidence in what I am saying. “But listen, Louise, let’s just focus on you passing your interview first, okay?”
“Yes,” she says softly, and then stands up and walks out, leaving me enough time to pick up the phone and initiate a difficult conversation with Fatma.