Chapter 5 – How Robert Was Promoted (Excerpt from Chicago Time)

This is chapter five of my novel CHICAGO TIME. It will be available for purchase from Amazon.com and Smashwords on Monday April 2. You can read more about the novel here. Previous chapters can be read here: One, Two, Three, and Four.

5 – How Robert Was Promoted

Sitting in a chair just outside the office of Rosalinda (Rose) Santos, the Vice-President of Human Resources, Robert folded one leg over the other, left over right, then right over left. He was wondering what the phrase “At-Will Employment” meant. What was “will” and how much of it was okay? It wasn’t at a whim. This was a bank; there were procedures to be followed that had been agreed upon by the Adminisphere, after having reviewed the recommendations of a committee or task force that had been set up to study a particular area of concern. As far as Robert could tell, nothing at Fourth National happened At-Will. He was in for a reprimand at the least, maybe even a demotion or dismissal from his position. Which Robert thought would be just fine. He was tired of telling Perry all of his ideas for improvement, like buying software to automate the testing processes and instituting a flexible schedule for the department, and having those ideas rejected with Perry’s stock-phrase: “That doesn’t really fit with how we do things here.” Maybe he would need to take that job with Derek.

Robert had taken the day off on Friday to spend the weekend with his friends Derek Jaeger and Mike Farley fishing up in Door County, Wisconsin. Derek had once again told Robert that if he was looking for a career change, his offer still stood. It was tempting to Robert. Working in real estate development in the role Derek wanted for him would eventually push Robert into the gray (and maybe even black) area of ethics in which Robert’s father and two older brothers resided quite comfortably as loyal members of the Chicago Political Machine. Not to mention the pressure, roller coaster intensity, and long hours that Derek’s job entailed.

The door to Rose’s office opened and her head poked out. “Robert, we’re ready for you.”

Robert stood, took a deep breath, and walked towards the door. Rose pulled it open wider and as Robert entered, he saw Ted Allen the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) sitting in a chair to the right of Rose’s desk.

“Hello, Robert,” said Ted with a smile.

“Hello. Good morning,” said Robert. He had not expected to see Ted there. Ted was in his late fifties and black. Robert had had very few interactions with him. He only knew what Perry had told him; Ted had served in the Marines, went to college, then worked at IBM before working in the banking industry. All of that was true. Ted had risen to CTO four months after Perry had been hired. Ted still did not understand why his predecessor had hired Perry to run the QA Department in the first place. He was a nice enough guy, but he lacked knowledge of QA best practices and talked too much. Ted didn’t like people he thought talked a lot, which meant that Sales and Marketing people, along with TV talk show hosts, were among his least favorite kinds of people. He knew Sales and Marketing were necessary to the running of a successful company. He just preferred to limit his interactions with them. Straight shooters like Robert were the people he preferred to be around. Based on his reputation and his actions, Robert seemed like the right person for the job he needed done at that difficult moment in time. There were a lot of changes coming due to the merger. It would not be pretty.

“Go ahead. Sit down,” said Rose motioning Robert toward the empty chair to the left.

Robert sat. “I know I was out of line with Perry–”

“No need to explain,” said Ted.

“It’s all right, Robert. You’re not being disciplined,” said Rose.

Robert looked from Rose to Ted, then back to Rose. “What?”

Rose took her seat behind the desk. “You’ve been promoted to Manager of the QA Department.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No, Robert. We don’t kid about things of this nature,” said Ted.

“You’re joking. No one who mouths off like I did this morning at the department meeting gets promoted.”

“People in other departments speak very highly of you.”

“I thought everyone thought I was the resident curmudgeon.”

Rose, in well over 20 years working in Human Resources, had seen plenty of examples of the wrong person being hired for a job. Perry had been one of them. Robert presented an interesting case to her. She had seen his type before; smart, talented, productive, and full of potential, but lacking diplomacy and tact, the type whose loyalties remained with his co-workers and the people who worked for him, and not the company. They had names for people like Robert: “maverick,” “loose-canon,” and even “black sheep.” Respected (and even loved) by some and hated by others. She understood why, after Perry, Ted wanted someone like Robert. Especially now with the merger, Ted did not have the luxury of time to do an outside search for a candidate for the position. He had to move quickly.

“I don’t know anything about that,” said Rose. “But they like and respect you, two things your predecessor didn’t have going for him. Throw in your long and varied experience, and you were the logical choice to replace him.”

“You’ll be given a significant salary increase, an extra week of vacation, and you’ll be enrolled in the MTP, the Management Training Program,” said Ted.

“I thought I was going to be fired.”

Ted stood and extended a hand toward him. “No. And let me be the first to congratulate you on your promotion.”

Robert looked at Ted’s hand. He was about to shake hands with his new boss, the man who was making him the boss of his department. Robert couldn’t be the boss. No. Not him. This wasn’t possible. He didn’t know how to be a boss. No one had placed him in charge of anything bigger than putting together a software build…Wait!…This was his opportunity to do things his way, the right way. He could apply all the things he had learned through his decade working in QA Departments big and small. He could definitely do this. Now was his chance to run a QA Department better than the many QA Departments in which he had worked. No longer would he be saying to himself, “If I was in charge…” He was now in charge.

“Thank you,” said Robert. He stood and shook hands with Ted.

Then he shook Rose’s hand.

“Congratulations,” she said.

“Thank you. Thank you both very much,” said Robert. “Sorry, but this is a bit overwhelming and shocking.”

“You’re welcome,” said Ted. “This is a big chance for you. I’m especially intrigued by your idea for automating some of the testing processes. I’d like to set up a meeting with you to discuss it.”

“Okay.”

“Meanwhile,” said Rose, “why don’t you take the rest of the day off. And tomorrow morning, when you come in, we’ll introduce you as the new Manager of the QA Department.”

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