The new boss called us into his room. We entered single file, in silence, not knowing what to expect. We’d heard all sorts of things about the man, most of it formidable.
The last chap has been there for eons; a quiet man, he had come to us with the reputation of a brilliant academic and thinker and showed much promise initially. But then something happened and he withdrew into himself and left us pretty much to our own devices. The diligent ones kept on toiling for god and country, not asking—or getting—very much in return. A few learnt how to use the computer and started to keep digital records of their work. The rest of us laughed at them, and started cottage industries on the side. It wasn’t a bad life; the extra money that we made in office came in handy during the extra hours of leisure that our non-working gave us.
Now, with the new dispensation, the future was uncertain. Word had it that the new boss was a tough taskmaster; would we still have time for private ventures? I’d long lost respect for the old man; now I suddenly thought of him wistfully.
‘Stay hopeful,’ I told myself; after all, the new boss supposedly loved initiative; perhaps he would see our side businesses as a sign of our go-gettingness and let them stay. It’s not as if we were overloaded with official work.
The meeting started well, with the new boss praising our talent and experience. “I don’t plan to make radical changes. I trust all of you to do the right thing. The communication lines are open. You can approach or mail me with ideas or inputs on any issue that needs urgent resolution,” he said. “Do not worry about red tape. I plan to simplify procedures and encourage you to take strong decisions. I am here to empower you. The fatigue is at an end, now you can start enjoying your work.”
Ah, so that was that. No more nimby-pambiness; decisive leadership was the mood of the moment. We could continue with our side stuff and send him a paper or two every week with ideas. I could do that, I thought. Hadn’t I grown up with report cards filled with complaints about my tendency to ideate instead of work? I could see a glorious career panning out—leadership of a large team, meetings with ministers, puff pieces in the media…
But wait, he hadn’t finished. “Starting next week, I expect all of you to be in office by 8 am every day, and to work till at least 7 pm and longer if needed. Each case that comes to you must be resolved within the hour. I also expect you to write up a one-page report on every assignment you undertake and to email it to my office. I want you to digitise all the files that are cluttering up the office and to shred the old papers. And yes, please switch off your mobiles in the office and refrain from taking personal calls. And do try and avoid taking long weekends off.”
I gaped and gulped, while he continued blithely. “I’m told a lot of you have a host of enterprising projects going on. I would be happy to discuss those with you, once you’ve sent me a report with details of how they benefit the company. That’s all. Thank you for coming,” he ended with a smile.
A groan escaped my lips. He turned back: “Sorry. Was someone saying something?”
No, no one was. Class dismissed. We filed out, once more in silence. I made my way to the VRS desk.