Ahhmmm…….that is me! Let me explain.
The executive assistant to the chief executive officer (CEO) arrived in Kolkata on a tour around India, explaining the new organisation structure to the management team.
The organisation chart included a hitherto non-existent box – manager- marketing.
I asked what the manager marketing was going to do.
“Well,” came the answer “, after we find a manager marketing, we are going to ask him what he wants to do.”
While absorbing this lucid explanation, I had no idea that the vacant box would have my name in it!
My cabin in Mumbai was a 6 foot by 8-foot cubby-hole, in which chairs had to be moved around before you could move in or out, a far cry from the 500 sq ft chamber with teak-panelled walls that was my domain in Kolkata. But never mind, an office is an office.
I plunged into my job, drawing up plans for launching new products, and a marketing campaign and presented them to the powers that be. They liked my plans but made two unexpected decisions:
- These ambitious plans needed an expert marketeer, not a banker like me, and
- I was too valuable to the bank to be deployed in marketing – I was needed elsewhere, in a banking function.
The outcome was the recruitment of RK, the quintessential marketing whiz-kid – IIM, 18 years in hardcore marketing and product development, the whole she-bang. I was to show him the ropes in banking and then move on.
Unfortunately, RK did not click at all with anyone in the bank. He had the air of “I am going to show you old ninnies how a bank should be marketed,” which instantly put everyone’s back up.
Negative comments about RK’s attitude began to float around.
Nevertheless, he did have a sound marketing sense. We made a good team – I knew our banking products, and he knew how to position them. Together we drew up a marketing plan and presented it to the senior management. Everyone liked it.
After the presentation, the CEO took me aside and said, “Look, I like your ideas. But I don’t think RK will be able to make them work. Bit of a rough diamond, you know.”
After a pregnant pause, the CEO said, “I want you to stay on in marketing and make all these things happen. I cannot leave it to RK.”
I was stunned. I was expecting to move on to some new and exciting job, and instead, I was going to work with RK, who would certainly hate the idea.
I was right. RK did hate it.
He had been hired as manager for marketing, reporting directly to the CEO. Suddenly he became marketing manager, writing to manager marketing, who reported to the deputy CEO. A huge fall in status!
A quick word of explanation.
In our bank, the highest position in any function was named ‘manager xyz’ and his subordinates were ‘xyz managers’, e.g. manager audit was the head of audit, and he had several audit managers reporting to him. Yes, a bit weird, I agree, but after all, this nomenclature was invented by a Brit, no less.
Then came a very stressful and (often) frustrating period in my working life.
I had a subordinate whose skills I needed but who resented my being his boss. He knew, of course, that his ‘demotion’ was not my doing, and that I had no idea that it was coming.
Nevertheless, I was the only person at hand on whom to vent his anger and frustration, and so he did everything he could to make me miserable.
- When we went for any external meeting, he introduced me as his ‘colleague’, not ‘boss’.
- He picked up tiffs with people in the bank, which required me to mollify the aggrieved person in order to ensure that he continued to co-operate with us.
- He would go behind my back to my boss, the deputy CEO, and sell him some unworkable idea, after which I had to ‘un-sell’ the idea without sounding negative.
RK persisted in being as annoying as possible, but I focused on the bigger picture. I had to get the marketing plan executed, and executed well, so that I could get out of marketing and move on to a better role in banking. For this to happen, I needed RK.
So I treated his rather childish acts as flea bites and got on with the work. Happily, for all concerned, the marketing plan was largely successful and I did move on to a better position.
Almost three decades later, when RK’s machinations were but a very distant memory, I received an email………..from RK.
It turned out that he had emigrated to a far-off country, done a PhD in marketing, and was now a professor at some college. He had put in some effort to get my email address, solely to write this (his exact words):
“I badly need to affirm what a lovely friend you were of mine, how comfortable you made me feel (at the bank) and seek reparation from you for the way I botched it up by treating your friendship in the shoddiest manner. I have been plagued by my misdemeanour for a long time now and hope that you will give me your indulgence for at least one more time. Thank you.”
Well, I am not a saint. I can forget but not forgive.
I ignored the email and blocked RK’s email address.
What would you have done in the past and/or in the present?
(Deserting engineering after a year in a factory, Amitabha Banerjee did an MBA in the US and returned to India. Choosing work-to-live over live-to-work, he joined banking and worked for various banks in India and the Middle East. Post-retirement, he returned to his hometown Kolkata and is now spending his golden years travelling the world (until Covid, that is), playing bridge, befriending Netflix & Prime Video and writing in his wife’s travel blog.)