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Fiction

You know the movies you watch when the main character competing for something that could make or break them? I'm not gonna say that's my situation, but it kind of is.

It all started on a nice fall day. The old assistant manager had just retired, so we were looking for someone to fill the job. My boss had the brilliant idea of giving us little "assignments," similar to those of our assistant manager's tasks, to see how well we could handle them. We all excelled, so he decided he would start up the competition: who could make the most change in the workplace in one week? We were all to take on the role of assistant manager for a week. My boss really enjoys doing things the unconventional way, unfortunately for us.

Meghan Furrows was up first. She did a decent job, but since she didn't have great people skills, she had trouble managing angry employees lower than us and angry customers.

Carl Gordon was next. He did a horrible job. Definitely not a people person, either. Needless to say, my confidence rose a little with watching those two not do so well... Kind of bad to say, I know.

Mark Victor was on the docket for week three, but decided last minute he wasn't interested in the position.

That meant Heather Martin was next. She was the antagonist in our office family... the stiff, never break a rule, and never talk to anyone older sibling, the one we all stayed away from. We all thought she would do a decent job. She was a stickler for the rules, and she was always organized. What we didn't expect was for her to completely change everything we knew about work. She had more structure in our days than a corset in the 19th century. I hated it. I didn't enjoy being told when and for how long to breathe. Everyone else, however, flourished under it. The boss came in on Wednesday and left with an astonished face.

"Everyone's working!" he whispered to me.

"Shouldn't they be?"

"Well, of course. I just thought they would hate Heather."

"I mean, she has us on a more rigid schedule than... Sorry, no analogy for you today."

"Look. I respect Heather. She's a good employee, but I also feel like she could change a lot that shouldn't be changed."

"And?" I ask, swiveling my chair towards him.

"I think that you should be assistant manager."

"Then why the heck did you have the competition?"

"I thought it would break up routine nicely. Also so that people didn't feel like I was playing favorites. The office has benefitted under Heather's leadership, but you're a better leader."

"So, just make me the assistant manager. Pretend I won," I say, my heart silently leaping at his words. Yes! The moment I had been waiting for.

He shook his head. "The thing is, all of you are going to vote at the end of these next few weeks. It'll pretty much be between you and Heather. Walter doesn't really stand a chance, and Jamie said she's not interested in the role either. These people really seem to enjoy her leadership, so it'll be close. But I want you, so if it gets too close..." He made a weird motion with his hands.

"Um?" I ask, raising an eyebrow.

"If things get too close, I'll pull a few strings for you. Sound good?"

"Um, in all honesty, I don't enjoy Heather, but that's not right."

"Veronica, please listen. You are charismatic. You get your work done, albeit in unconventional ways. You encourage creativity and people laugh and smile when you're in charge. I don't know if it's just me, but there's been a lot less chit chat and community right now. And everyone's wearing gray."

"I think you're making up the wearing gray part. Rodney is wearing bright purple."

"Other than him. Listen, I want you in this position. I'll make things happen so you can get it. Deal?"

"Why didn't you decide this before you announced a competition?"

"People started coming forward after Meghan's week. They were all talking about you."

"Just call off the competition, then."

"Where's the fun in that?"

"I'm not going to cheat. If I'm really that good, people will already be voting for me."

"But now people are raving over Heather. And I really don't like the gray feeling she emits."

"Okay. Fine. If it plays out that way. You're the boss."

"Awesome. Thanks."

I turned back to the computer. There stood Heather.

"Time for a bathroom break," she said.

Pursing my lips and turning around, I headed out the door into the bathroom. Doing a little happy dance that my boss thought I deserved the position, I suddenly felt a pang in my heart.

"As much as I don't like Heather," I said to myself, looking in the mirror, "the role should go to whoever is actually the most productive. But I really hate she dictates when I have to go to the bathroom. I'm not in preschool."

After work, I phoned my boss.

"Alfred, I can't let you turn things in my favor. I really want this position to go to whoever benefits the office the most. If we function better being treated like preschoolers, that's the route we take. If my leadership helps us function better, then that's the route we take."

I heard a sigh. "Alright. I understand your logic. Just another reason you should get this position. But if you want to go through with the competition fair and square, I'll let you. Thank you, Veronica."

"No hay problema," I say.

The next day, Heather walked up to my desk.

"You have too many papers on your desk."

"Heather, I understand you're trying to be neat, but I need these out right now."

"Well, why can't you digitalize them?"

"I mean, I can, but I find it easier to have them here, in front of me."

"Veronica, seriously. Sometimes you are the least practical person I know."

"Yeah, I know. But this is the way I work best. Please let me work that way. Not everyone is you," I say, slightly raising my voice.

Heather huffed. "Well maybe everyone should be," she muttered.

I barely heard it, but it was so absurd I burst out laughing. Everyone looked around and started to laugh at me laughing.

"What's so funny?" Walter asked.

"Ju- just something Hea-Heather said," I sighed, wiping a little tear from my eye.

Perhaps that was a big mistake. No, actually. Not even perhaps. Laughing at Heather was a big mistake, as I heard from Heather herself when she pulled me aside. I was told to apologize to the office for disrupting valuable work time, and apologize I did.

"Dear, beloved, office family. I sincerely apologize for the way I disrupted your routine by laughing on someone else's expense. I sincerely regret my decision, and hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me," I read off a notecard filled with Heather's perfect handwriting. Rolling my eyes, I sat down and continued to examine the spreadsheets I had been working on.

"Talk about wasting valuable work time..." I mutter.

The rest of that week didn't go to well for me. Heather saw me as the class-clown, or, more appropriately, the office-clown, and literally didn't give me a second to converse with anyone the next two days.

The next week was my week. Nervous, I made a declaration that morning.

"This week, I want to shake things up a bit in the mornings. Everyone, take thirty minutes to do whatever you want. This is not a break. You can't leave the building, and it still has to be something productive. Take some time to call your parents, maybe. Read a book you've been wanting to start. Just do something that will brighten someone's day and/or help you get on track for today. And no, computer games don't count."

Everyone paused, but got started. The thirty minutes was up shortly, and everyone got to work. I decided structure was a good thing, and told everyone to come up with their own schedules for the day, rather than have one person dictate what they would be doing. They all posted theirs on the office tack board. I periodically came through and checked on them, seeing what I could do to help them. At the end of the day, multiple people came up to me and thanked me. There was a little voice in the back of my mind that told me to worry that Heather would still get more votes than me, but I knew that it wouldn't be right to assume I always knew what was best for the office. Maybe Heather's method would work better. But I really hoped it wouldn't.

After a few more weeks, voting time came. Walter had also done an impressive job, but everyone had admitted it was between Heather and I. Alfred counted the votes, then pulled me into his office.

"It's a tie!"

I cocked my head and smiled. "Wait, really?"

"Yep. I guess I'm the tie breaker. And I vote for you. You showed a lot of integrity by deciding to go through without cheating, even though if Heather got the position, you would have hated working here. I'm sorry I suggested it. It's not just integrity, though. You could have been just as controlling over Heather, always insisting she do things your way, but you let everyone work whichever way was best for them."

I smiled. "Thanks, Alfred. That means a lot."

I guess you can say I wasn't the character who chose to cheat and ended up in a jumbled, complicated mess, and I'm so glad I'm not that character. Otherwise, I'd still be lectured about breathing for too long.

October 30, 2020 16:06

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1 comment

Stormy Meyer
03:12 Nov 08, 2020

I love it! The tone is lighthearted yet it's clear that this could change each character's work life, and each of the characters' personalities are shown really well! Great job!

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