The Vicki Chronicles, January 5, 2017, Issue 1, Olivia Gaines
Kelson H.H. Herman
The corporate offices of American Conglomerate in Burbank, California towered above the other offices in the San Fernando Valley as if it were looking down its glass nose at those less worthy. Thirty-five floors of brutish power flexed its muscle while entering almost every home in the world with the braggadocio of 675 billion reasons annually of why consumers should continue to allow it to show up unimpeded. Guided by twelve individuals overseeing every aspect of fiduciary responsibility, the Board of Directors, hand selected, served two terms. The replacements were staggered bi-annually to ensure a smooth transition and the status quo of world dominance would continue unchallenged.
Today, not only did the board begin with a new Chairman, it also began with a new executive assistant. Victoria Lawrence, often called Vicki by her closest friends, was the number one candidate for the job. The salary, commensurate with her experience, was as hefty as the responsibility she held to keep twelve people who represented twelve arms of American Conglomerate from killing each other. It may have been easier said than could be done, especially considering the new Chairman of the Board was as green as a pregnant woman on an elevator ride going down from to the twenty-ninth floor.
“Good morning, Ms. Lawrence,” three people she didn’t know said to her as she entered the building on her first day of work.
“Good morning to you,” she responded, her eyes on the elevator and day ahead. The past week, spent in training with PowerPoint slides and notebooks that tried feebly to prepare for the job at hand, were of little comfort as the weight of her next undertaking pressed into her chest. When she entered the thirty-fifth floor, the air too was weighted with tension thick enough to part the hair on an eighties glam rock singer.
When she’d interviewed for the position, it was on the ninth floor in Human Resources. Per her request, Vicki was shown to the potential work space which consisted of a very large desk, hand carved from an unsuspecting oak tree that died an unpleasant death. The desk sat twenty feet back from double glass doors and was strategically placed outside of a soundproof glass door of the office of the Chairman of the Board Kelson H.H. Herman.
Unlike many boards for corporate entities, these board members came directly from inside of the company. Hot shots in their fields as many labeled them, the up and comers from twelve divisions of American Conglomerate were hand selected to spearhead the company. Outsiders argued that this practice was nepotism at its worst and a guarantee that the company would implode upon itself. For 125 years, the model had worked; no one saw a reason to alter the platform which crushed it’s competitors.
This year, 2017 heralded a changing of the half the guards. Six of the members of the board were scheduled to be replaced, alternating months of fresh blood coming in, while the old blood was surreptitiously transfused into the oncoming replacements.
“Our approach ensures that there are no gaps in the processes and everyone has a clear understanding of their roles on the Board of Directors,” Veruka Monmouth-Stallings, Director of Human Resources informed Vicki. She was also polite in letting Vicki know that she too had been appointed to the board and would be moving into the position in March.
“Congratulations,” Vicki said softly.
In a rare moment of unfettered honesty, Veruka Monmouth-Stallings let her hair down, telling the new hire a very important bit of information.
“I don’t really know if it is congratulations or a death sentence. I am pulled out of my job for two years and moved to the 35th Floor to oversee HR policy and practices for the entire company. I lose all of my power players, my power, and my plays,” she confessed.
“Not really,” Vicki told her. “You now have two years to really take a look at the real issues in the company from a birds-eye view without being in the middle of the fray. Being upstairs almost makes you impervious to the daily politics, giving you a chance to get to the heart of the real HR issues at AC.”
There was no doubt that this response is what had earned her the position that she was starting right now as the doors closed behind her, dinging it’s departure all the while announcing her arrival on the 35th floor. The current person who held the board seat, or rather was warming it for Veruka, was a short pudgy man with a rotund belly which jiggled when he walked. He mentioned his name but Vicki saw no real reason to commit it to memory since he would be the next guard changing his post.
“The Board has convened and is waiting on you,” the little potbellied man said. He was one of the members whom she had not met during the interview process.
“Wonderful,” she replied. “I am going to set my bag down and grab a notepad, and I will be right there.”
A young temp sat at her new desk, bright-eyed, too energetic and overly eager to please. “Good morning, Ms. Lawrence. Here is a notepad, a pen, and a cup of coffee, and the board is waiting to greet you. I am at your disposal today as you get set up. I am Konnie with a K. I was sent up by Ms. Monmouth-Stallings to assist you,” the young woman said with a big smile.
“Hold the coffee, Konnie with a K until after,” she said, handing the girl her lunch bag and purse. “I am off to see the Wizard.”
“What wizard?” Konnie asked.
The one thing which impressed the board members about Vicki was that she was far wiser than her years. The years in which she lived on the planet did not represent themselves as etched lines of experience on her face. At thirty-five years old, she looked twenty-two. The long blond hair also made her look far younger than she was, which worked in her favor. Many people underestimated her and the skills which she possessed. She was qualified for the job in more ways than one.
“Good morning, everyone,” she said, walking into the board room. Twelve pairs of eyes looked her up and down, noticing every detail of the black suit she wore. Mumbled responses were returned as she took a seat at the large mahogany table.
“I gathered everyone this morning so that you could officially see the entire board. Most of us, though based out of this office, have a heavy travel schedule throughout the year to outlying divisions, branches, and facilities. We convene on the second Tuesday of the month here to review, plan, vote, and oversee American Conglomerate,” Kelson H.H. Herman told her.
“I am ready to get to work,” Vicki responded with a smile. The members of the board introduced themselves as she made notes on her pad.
The fifteen minutes spared for her was just enough to get a feel for the members of the team she was charged to support. Her first ward was Kelson. His family were founding members of American Conglomerate. However, this family member had run out of excuses to not be appointed to the board. He didn’t want to be here, everyone knew it, and he made no qualms about giving up two years of his life to babysit overpaid grown people.
“My office, Ms. Lawrence,” he said with a sneer as he walked past her. Looks of sympathy crossed the faces of the other members as Kelson hurriedly moved to his office. Today was his third day as board chairman.
“How may I assist you, Mr. Herman?” Vicki asked politely.
“Maybe you could start by shooting me and putting me out of my misery,” he mumbled under his breath.
“Okay, but my gun is in my other purse. Besides, if I did that, how will others learn how great of a job you are going to do ushering in the new era of American Conglomerate with you at its helm?” she added.
Kelson watched the young lady. There was something about her that didn’t jibe. She eyed him from behind the over-sized black framed glasses, weighing and measuring him. he was one of those types. It would take her only four more sentences to know for certain if he was a passer. Vicki called passers those men of wealth and status who passed through many doors, but never leaving a mark.
“Honey, you can blow smoke up someone else’s ass. There is nothing I can do for you in this job,” he said with a harshness to his tome.
“Good. Maybe there is something I can do for you,” she said to him.
“Like what?” His beady eyes stared at her face. Bonus. He didn’t immediately go for my boobs.
“I can help you appreciate the irony of this situation,” Vicki said with a smile.
“I didn’t think anything could be more ironic than this conversation,” he told her. It was the dismissive way he said it which made her change tactics.
Vicki didn’t have time to listen to a rich middle-aged white man have a pity party. He probably had more money in loose change in his top desk drawer than she currently had in her bank account. She needed him to be successful so she could keep her job. Her whole life she had been waiting for the chance to prove that she wasn’t just another pretty face. She was qualified to do a lot of jobs, but one look at her and others dismissed her. This man was not going to do the same thing.
“I am certain that many members of the Walton family don’t want to work at Wal-Mart, but it is something that has to be done. No one is expecting you to be successful at this, so they have surrounded you with people to make you look good as if you were some incompetent book mark stuck in to press open the pages for others to peer inside the spine. Is this what you want?”
Kelson leaned forward in his chair. “How dare you walk in here and proceed to tell me…,” he started to say but was silenced by her hand.
“Mr. Herman, I am telling you exactly what you need to hear to get you up on your feet and working for American Conglomerate. My first job was at a fried chicken restaurant. Day three on the job I had to clean out the deep fryer. I found unspeakable remnants in that grease, but I couldn’t quit because tuition was due and I needed to eat. I didn’t eat that chicken or anything else they served, but I did take some of the uncooked pieces home to cook it for myself,” Vicki told him.
“How does this relate to me, young lady?”
“Mr. Herman, sometimes we have to do what we must in order to live. You have to do a great job here because your family is counting on you. It is your turn to lead. I need you to lead because I still have to eat. The check for tuition has been replaced by an automatic bank draft for my mortgage. I have every intention of doing a great job here for you and this board. At least give me the bragging rights to say that Kelson H.H. Herman is the greatest boss ever,” she said. “I have loads of things on my list to clarify with St. Peter; please don’t make me add liar to the running tally.”
Kelson began to laugh.
“If that is your pep talk on day one, I am interested to see what else you are bringing to the table,” he said to Vicki.
“I have all kinds of goodies in my other purse,” she said with a smile.
“Welcome aboard, Ms. Lawrence. I look forward to working with you,” Kelson said with a half-smile.
“Likewise,” Vicki said as she stood, leaving his office with a nod of her head and going back to her desk to deal with Connie with a K. Lord, what have I gotten myself into now?
The next year would be life-changing for Vicki as she soon learned that twelve people would connect with her on a level she never imagined. She would become integral to their professional success and necessary for support in their personal struggles. The one thing she never wanted to be she would inadvertently evolved into as the office wife for twelve very unusual people.
“I’m going to make it work,” she said softly as she stood by her desk, anxiously greeted by Konnie. The woman reminded her of a little Pomeranian happy it’s master had returned home.
“Where do you want to start, Ms. Lawrence?” Konnie wanted to know.
“We are already at the the top, let’s start here Konnie,” Vicki told her. It was all she could do to begin to learn her new job as the executive assistant to board of directors at American Conglomerate.
Next Month we continue Victoria’s chronicles at American Conglomerate as she finds a rhythm with her new team and creates bonding relationships.
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