It was a struggle to always maintain a professional demeanour, especially when faced with problematic issues. Not the type of crisis where everything goes wrong, but rather those plans that have a way of twisting out of your control and not living up to their potential. People were uncontrollable, she knew that. You could work your ass off to keep someone in the company only for them to turn around the next day and say they have a better offer. Madeline was sick of it. For once she wanted to be the spontaneous, unpredictable one. Perhaps it was this growing dissatisfaction with her prim, proper life that catapulted her into the Director’s office at twelve eighteen on a Wednesday afternoon.
The Director looked up from the documents he had been studying, his frown breaking into a genial smile at the familiar face.
‘Ah, Madeline, how are you?’
‘Good, Thanks.’ She felt that being brief and to the point would be the best option. She took a seat opposite the Director, perching on the end of it, ready to dart away as soon as an opportunity arose.
‘I’d like to talk to you about something.’
Donald leaned back in his chair, fingers pressed together with palms apart. It reminded Madeline of the children’s rhyme, the one with the steeple.
‘What a coincidence, I was hoping to catch up with you today.’
Madeline felt her heart skip a beat. Why did the Director want to see her? Had she done something wrong? Was her department not pulling its weight?
She took a deep breath, realising that if she was intending to quit, it shouldn’t really matter anyway.
‘It’s about my role here, in the company,’ she began, having to stop to clear her suddenly dry throat. She glanced down at her clasped hands; her knuckles were white.
‘Ah, yes’ Donald agreed. ‘About that.’
Madeline snapped her head up to stare at the Director. His tone had changed, less welcoming, more serious and efficient. Madeline’s heart pounded in her chest. The Director leaned forward in his luxurious padded leather chair.
‘I was hoping that we might have a discussion about the possibility of you applying for severance Madeline. Our overall budget has been slashed given the recent economic downturn, and we’re looking to make cuts across the board. Unfortunately, these losses have tobe made within middle management and,’ Donald cleared his own throat, ‘your department has been so well run over the past few years that, well,’ another throat clearance, ‘it appears you are somewhat superfluous.’
Madeline blinked, furiously trying to keep back the tears that she expected to appear. But her eyes remained dry. Donald’s raised eyebrows formed a questioning look, and she realised she was expected to say something.
‘I couldn’t agree more Donald.’ Madeline surprised herself by agreeing. But, if she was going to go why shouldn’t she be paid to do it? It was her turn to lean forward and speak.
‘In fact, that is precisely what I wanted to discuss. Obviously, I would be entitled to a more than fair severance package, given the years I have put on for this company. Not to mention the fact that my department has had ongoing outstanding reviews since I began. As you rightly point out, my instrumental role in supporting the company has been so successful that the department will now run smoothly with very little input from a middle manager, like myself.’
She struggled over the words ‘middle manager’, as she had never liked the term. However, Madeline found that the remainder of this speech came quite naturally, and she was beginning to understand the benefits of leaving, not spontaneously, but in a very planned and proper fashion.
‘Indeed.’ The Director looked a little flushed, but his expression was one of overall relief. He must have been dreading this conversation; having to gently excuse one of his best employees. Actually, Madeline corrected, his best employee, without a doubt.
Madeline stood up abruptly.
‘I’ll await your offer.’ She said smartly. Then with a smile added: ‘but expect there to be a counter offer on my part.’
The Director simply nodded.
‘Oh, and as I have a huge backlog of annual leave to take, and, evidently, I am not required to oversee my department, I’ll be taking some off: starting now.’ She stressed the word ‘evidently’ with harsh pronunciation.
Madeline boldly stepped out of the office before Donald could reply. She couldn’t resist one last peek through the door as she pulled it to, however, and was overjoyed to see the Director ashen faced and blank: as though he couldn’t quite believe what had just happened.
Madeline felt an unashamed grin spread across her entire face, down through her body and eventually her neatly painted toes tingled with delight. She was free.