Rosie Smiley was the most unlikely name in the world for this person. At nearly six foot tall, wearing sportswear in a corporate environment, my new line manager for my six-week placement on the graduate scheme introduced herself as, “I’m Rosie. Don’t fuck me around, and I won’t fuck you around. And I fucking mean it.”
Rosie was difficult to work with. She’d fail to set me any work. I’d schedule a meeting with her in Outlook to address this. She wouldn’t turn up. “I was fuckin’ workin’ from home that day, wasn’t I?”
“Oh, sorry. It wasn’t in your Outlook calendar though.”
“Nah, I don’t use that shit.” (Everyone else in the bank did.)
“I emailed you as well…”
“I don’t do email.”
“I also mentioned it to you on Wednesday.”
“That was like two fucking days ago.”
“Could we do it now?”
“Nah, mate, I’ve got a meeting.”
“There’s nothing in your diary this afternoon…”
“Yeah, I don’t use that shit.”
Lucky, lucky me, I was selected to interview the “leadership team” (three male middle-aged middle-managers with varying hair problems) at our Christmas away day in front of the department of about 150 people. This didn’t actually bother me very much. I have never been particularly intimidated by public speaking.
“Nah,” Rosie said. “I’m not letting you do that. It’s putting you at risk. We’ll do a video instead, so we can edit it if there’s a problem.”
“The thing is,” I said, “it’s an hour slot. As fascinating as Bad Hair 1, 2 and 3 are, nobody is going to want to watch a video for an hour with them. I think a live interview would work better.”
“Nah,” said Rosie. “We’re doing it my way.”
Fast forward about a week and Rosie and I were meeting with Bad Hair 1.
Bad Hair 1 did not like the idea of a video. “It’s an hour-long slot,” he said. “It’s going to be dull to watch. Let’s keep it a live interview.”
“I agree,” I said. “I said to Rosie that I didn’t think a full hour of video would make particularly interesting viewing.”
Rosie stormed out of the room. I didn’t see her for the rest of the week. Even when she was in the office, she took her work down to the canteen. I bumped into her, and asked if I could speak to her. “No, I’m fucking avoiding you,” she said. I asked her why, and it was because, “You fucking stabbed me in the back to make yourself look good in front of Bad Hair 1.”
Naive as I was, this hadn’t even occurred to me. I had been thinking only of how the hour-long slot could best be used, and hadn’t considered how it might make her feel as though I was siding with her superior over her head. (Even though I had privately expressed this opinion to her before.)
This was the first, but not the last time that I put the success of a project before a personal relationship, and failed to understand the political ramifications.
I explained what had happened (albeit still failing really to understand her viewpoint), as best as I could and apologised for any misunderstanding, but she literally didn’t speak to me again for the rest of the 4-week placement. “You see, Laura, part of working with someone is trusting them, and I don’t fucking trust you, so I ain’t gonna speak to you.” This was my line manager. She didn’t even turn up for my end-of-placement review.
The hour-long live-question session at the Christmas away day was fine, albeit the Bad Hair of the leadership team was distracting.
It is only with the experience of fifteen years of corporate bullshit under my belt that I am even able to understand Rosie’s perspective on this situation. Politics makes the world go round, and most of the time you’re rewarded not for doing a great job, but for networking with the right people in the right way. As far as Rosie was concerned, she and I had agreed something and then I had undermined her in front of her boss. Despite the fact I hadn’t actually previously agreed with her. Following? No? Neither did I really; one more reason why that greasy pole was so hard for me to climb and I am glad to be out of the rat race!