Anaya punched her attendance in the biometric system at the entrance. She stepped into the corridor and gawked at the bright yellow light bouncing off the freshly painted walls. Four small lights were placed at the bottom corners and a few were placed in the false ceiling overhead. Different variants of “Hello” were printed on both sides along with some eccentric graffiti.
She gawked at the “Hello, beautiful!”, “Bienvenu”, “Wassup?”, “Tea or coffee?” and “Is it Friday yet?”. The first one still made her smile, but the last one was her favourite.
The sparkling corridor opened into a massive reception that was swankier than any other office she had ever seen. The steel grey reception table housed two hosts, Daniel and Myra. The contrasting faded-red wall behind the desk worked its magic on every onlooker.
There was a coffee corner on the left with beautiful red and green chairs and a sofa placed neatly against three mahogany coffee tables. It was a waiting corner for visitors. There was a newspaper and magazine stand next to the sofa.
Every time she walked into that space, Anaya was filled with awe. It had been two weeks that she saw her dream of working with a multinational materialise. She had waited nine years to get hired by an MNC that will have processes and timelines in place, where she will get strategic growth opportunities. A domain where she will get to shine her best.
She grinned at Myra and waved to Daniel whose dimples smiled back at her. She entered the office which accommodated sixty desks. Her seat in the Sales was the end of the aisle and she loved every moment of the long walk. She greeted each one of her colleagues on the journey to her throne.
Anaya’s desk, just like every other desk in the office, was a white curved one that seated two people at either end. Her spot was on the left end. She pulled the chair away from the desk and it glided smoothly on its four wheels without making much noise. She recalled how much she hated the chairs in her previous three jobs. One was old and rickety, one used to tilt to one side every time she sat and one was used to make a screechy noise each time it moved.
She placed her purse on the desk and pulled out the laptop from its sleeve. She turned it on and started browsing through the emails. She had only two, one from Human Resources asking for some more information for their records and the other from the admin about the office party scheduled next week on the sixtieth anniversary of their founding. It was the first time Anaya was to attend a company’s sixtieth Foundation Day. Her previous companies were four, seven and twelve years old.
“That’s why they are so sorted in every aspect. Established multinationals usually are”, she thought to herself, again.
Her laptop pinged. It was an email from her colleague in another city. He had shared the list of clients with her thus giving her a nudge to start working. The city was hers to rule now. She opened the file and glanced through the names. She recognised some of them from her prior experience. They will be the low hanging fruits and easier to get on board.
She was more excited about the new clients she will get to meet. Then she had her personal list of names to add to the database. She started pulling out old contacts from her phone and crafting a nice email to be sent.
She connected with all clients, new and old, introducing her and asking for a convenient time to meet. Her official journey in the organisation had begun.
The day of the company’s sixtieth anniversary had arrived. The organisation had booked a resort on the outskirts of the city for the celebrations. Anaya was waiting for Myra to pick her up from her home. At eight in the evening, Anaya’s phone buzzed. Myra had reached and was waiting for her outside.
Anaya put a dash of mascara and slipped into the steel grey heels. They blended perfectly well in contrast with the white knee-length skater dress she was sporting. Shoving her waist-length black tresses aside, she picked up a matching steel grey clutch purse and closed the door behind her.
Myra was sitting in the driver’s seat of a blue hatchback wearing a turquoise top and white skirt. She spotted Anaya approaching her and waved ecstatically.
“All eyes will be on you, Anaya. You look spectacular!”, she exclaimed.
Anaya grinned and winked at her. They set off for the venue and reached in just over an hour. They entered through the pink and white archway. The entry passage was lined with palm trees on both sides. They stopped at the entrance to the resort and left the car for the valet. Inside, they saw a sign at the entry welcoming them to the Founding Day festivities. They were looking for a familiar face when Anaya’s boss called out to her.
He was standing with the CEO and CFO of the company next to the pool. Anaya left Myra at the reception and approached them with a casual smile. They talked about her first few weeks with the company and Anaya told them the truth. It was blissful, everything she had ever wanted. Her CEO saw great potential in her, while her CFO told her he saw her growing up the ladder rather quickly within the organisation.
She had been pining to hear these words from a senior. For the first time in a decade, even she could see a future within the company.
‘Or is it too early to conclude?’, a thought sprouted in her head. She shoved it away.
The celebrations involved some dance performances by a troop and a stand-up act. Anaya drew a lot of attention herself. She looked divine in white while most people wore darker shades. One of her colleagues approached her. She instantly recognised him as Aaron, her counterpart from another city.
“Enjoying the evening?” he asked.
“Certainly! This is the first time I am attending a sixth decade celebration of a company. All my previous ones were much younger.”, Anaya told him.
“Hmmm, I see. But I bet you had some level of freedom there?”
Anaya froze with the glass of wine a few mere inches from her lips. She took a few seconds to think of an appropriate response,
“Well, yes. That’s the deal with smaller organisations. There is just too much freedom if that’s what you call the absence of procedures!”, she remarked with a wink, grinning.
Aaron snorted but stayed silent. Anaya felt a sudden churn in her stomach. He was holding himself back, fuelling her curiosity further.
‘What is he hiding?’, the thought kept tugging at her.
After a few minutes of small talk, they were joined by a few more colleagues. Any plans Anaya had to pull out any information were put on hold.
The award ceremony had begun. The people who performed exceptionally well in the past one, five and ten years were recognised. A few people who had spent the most time with the company were given special awards. Anaya imagined herself receiving an award next year.
The night ended and Myra gestured at her. They were to leave together. She big adieu to her seniors and her colleagues and approached Aaron to thank him for all the help with the client database.
“Sure, no problem. I hope you find it worth it,” he said, cursorily.
“Oh, it is! I am adding some names of clients I know from before. Have started contacting them for a meeting.”
Aaron’s smile faded, but he recovered quickly,
“Sure. All the best. Let me know if you need any help.”
Anaya left with a lot of doubts about Aaron’s reactions. Seemed like he was not happy in the company and they would hear of his resignation in the coming days.
‘Maybe then I will get his territory too..’, an abrupt smirk erupted on her face, which faded as quickly when she recalled,
‘Why did he react that way when I told him I am adding my old clients to the list?’
A month later, she had met with a couple of clients and started to establish her foothold in the city’s market. The industry and the product were new, but she knew her job well enough and two clients had given her a nod already. She took advantage of the company’s legacy to sell. She was not going to leave any stone unturned to prove her mettle.
Her boss was very happy with her initiatives and performance. One evening, he contacted her with a special request,
“Hey, Ananya! I see you have been taking very good care of the market. Our guy in the south has resigned and will be leaving in a week. Will it be okay if we add another city to your kitty?”
Anaya was overjoyed. This felt like a promotion in the second month of her joining, grander than she could ever imagine. She responded in an overjoyed ”Yes!” accompanied by frantic nods even though her boss couldn’t see her. Her boss chuckled gauging her reaction over the phone.
He asked her to get in touch with the regional in charge of the city who would explain the new market to her. She called him instantly.
“Haven’t you just joined?” the regional in-charge reacted rather quickly. It wasn’t the first time her capabilities were questioned.
Calming her bubbling annoyance, she replied,
“Yes, sir. They decided to give the charge of this market to me based on my performance in the first month.”
Taking the hint, he moved on to briefing her about the dynamics of that market and invited her to visit the city. She flew the next day to meet the clients.
It took her a few days to get accustomed to handling both the cities. The job was keeping her on toes and she loved every bit of it. She enjoyed the fact that everyone knew their work and that everything was well organised. The Fun Fridays organised by Human Resources every month was her favourite. She had only heard of those employee bonding activities.
Everything was going great when, a month later, she was invited to a call to discuss the targets for the next year. Smelling a new set of challenges and opportunities coming towards her, she joined the discussion excitedly, unaware of the approaching storm.
Their targets were increased by twenty-five times for the year approaching in two weeks. Anaya felt her stomach drop. She was at a loss for words when her boss asked for a reaction. In her experience spanning over a decade, she had never seen or heard of such a hike in annual targets. She failed to understand the maths behind it and her boss couldn’t explain it either.
All she knew was that they were in for a tough ride ahead.
In the new year, an unprecedented nightmare was waiting for them. A new virus swarmed the whole planet. Countries were put under lockdown and life came to a standstill. For the first time, employees were forced to work from home. What started as a privilege, soon became a compulsion.
The routine was down and so were the sales. Companies feared closure and employees worldwide dreaded getting pink-slipped. With their workforce not physically approachable, Anaya’s company had started demanding reports of the work done twice daily. These were accompanied by a plethora of calls throughout the day about the progress they made.
After a month, it started to annoy Anaya too. Her colleagues were already talking about the redundancy of such reporting mechanisms. She realised that she held the same opinion.
The news of the global market crashing and companies shutting down leaving their employees stranded had become routine. Sales were meagre too. Anaya was unable to connect with any new clients and all her old clients had put all decisions on hold. The reason cited was the same by everyone,
“We don’t know what is going to happen. We cannot afford to spend any money on any activity besides employee salary and welfare. We must think of our staff first.”
Just like the others, she too was running out of things to talk about in the daily reports. She was used to the pressure of the targets, but the twenty-five times hike seemed impossible to achieve. The only people calling her now were her seniors and colleagues.
Soon, the CEO started attending the daily morning calls to map their progress. He refused to listen to their rants about being unable to connect with their clients who were sitting in their homes. He asked the sales team to approach the clients in their homes for closing the deals.
Another month passed and but the storm didn’t abate. The future of the corporate seemed in the doldrums. They had started requesting the senior management to revise the targets. The times were like no other and the targets set were impossible to be achieved in the current scenario. Their requests landed on deaf ears and they were asked to keep striving for the same goals. Anaya was struggling to get used to the numbing feeling in every call.
A few weeks later in the morning call, the CEO asked their Business Heads if the revised targets had been implemented. The whole team went silent.
‘When were the targets revised? And why weren’t we informed of them same?’ Anaya shared the thought with her colleagues from other cities, but kept quiet.
The Business Head responded to the CEO in affirmative, confirming her worst fears. Anaya had started suffocating. Her dream job had turned hostile. After that call, Anaya had to often remind herself why was she here and the journey that had led her to this place.
‘This is better than all my previous jobs. This is what I longed for. I will be fine.’, she repeated in her head every moment. But the sinking feeling refused to go away.
She was unable to pull out any deals from both the cities combined and had started to feel like a failure. She needed an opportunity to prove herself again.
One of their oldest products was always distributed for free to the clients who came on board. She was speaking to the Product Head one day when an idea struck her. She decided to sell it for a price. It would surely generate some revenue and just might save her face.
She spoke with Aaron who had been in the industry for long. He randomly suggested a price tag along with a caveat that no one will ever pay for that product. Anaya smelled another challenge and an opportunity to prove herself.
She connected with an existing client and informed them of the product. They happened to like it and Anaya quoted a price range for it. Much to her surprise, the client agreed to pay. She waited to get an official confirmation before announcing it to her boss. It was the first time her company was about to earn anything from that product. She had come into the limelight once again.
The accolades lasted for about a week, and then it was time for her to move on to get more clients on board.
“That is what you have been hired for, Anaya”, her boss sniggered.
It pinched, but she recovered quickly. Meanwhile, her company tried to replicate the path she had shown by selling that product, but at five to ten times the cost. They were desperate to recover the losses they had incurred in the year.
While they struggled to sell the product at such high costs, Anaya managed to get more orders from her existing clients. With the orders pouring in, she faced more hurdles. She found that the organisation was not ready with the products they were selling. They ran into major blocks for every order and she started losing face in front of her clients.
‘They are ruining my relationship with my clients! Why did I connect them with the old clients?’, she thought to herself one day.
And that is when it struck her. Aaron’s reaction a few months back when she had told him of her plans to use her existing relationships here. She felt crushed. This was her dream job no more.
The ordeal continued. She was now having nightmares about being a failure at work and could hardly sleep. Her boss called one day to inform her that the new salesperson in another city, who was just three months old in the system, had sold the same product to a huge multinational for ten times the price. She was tagged as a poor salesperson.
Taking the heat dumbstruck, she stuck to her decision of not selling to her past clients, rather stepped up her efforts to connect with new bigger companies. She connected with her new counterpart to congratulate him on the new client who happened to be a big fish.
His response shocked her to the core. He told her it was given to the client for free so they would be lured to sign up. Anaya counted the number of lies that surrounded her. All official, corporate lies that she had never seen before. This was the last nail in the coffin. Her ambition to grow up the ladder here had died.
She knew her journey in this multinational was over. She waited for her salary, and on the first of the next month, she put down her papers. Clicking send on that email felt like freedom to her.
She was blinded by the glitter no more.