Elsie was seated opposite her boss, ‘Big Dog’, in his office the next day at 10am on the dot. He had beckoned for her to sit down on one of the chairs opposite him whilst he continued a conversation on his mobile phone.
The room looked and smelled expensive, with luxurious brown leather chairs, a bookshelf with leather-bound books and a large window which overlooked Abuja’s Central Business District. Elsie resisted the urge to remove her feet from her flat shoes so that she could sink them into the grey rug.
‘Yes, sorry about that, Elsie’ Big Dog said in his jovial deep voice as he dropped his phone on his desk. ‘I had to give my driver specific instructions on how to service my car’.
‘Oh. That’s alright, Sir’. Elsie still had no idea why her boss requested for this meeting, and she tried her best not to fidget in her seat. Despite wearing a blazer over her blue floral dress, she was starting to feel the chill of the airconditioner in the office.
‘Right. I’ll get straight to the point’. Big Dog cleared his throat. ‘I am fully aware of the bullying and harrassment you have endured whilst working with Bilkisu’.
Elsie opened her mouth, and Big Dog held up his hand, so she closed it right back. She actually did not know what she would have said, anyway.
Big Dog removed his glasses and rubbed his beard. ‘Don’t worry about how I found out or who told me. You’re not in any kind of trouble, okay? In fact, I’m impressed with the maturity you’ve displayed in handling the situation’.
‘Thank you Sir’, Elsie said, not knowing what else to say.
‘Have you heard of Axis Consultants?’ Elsie nodded. They were a startup company which was in the news regularly.
‘Good, good. They’re currently in the process of overhauling their activities. I met their MD last week at a conference and she asked me if I could recommend someone to be their new PR and Social Media Manager. I told her about you and she would like to discuss the job with you. Are you interested?’
Duhhh, yessssssss!!!! Elsie thought.
However, she sat up straight, cleared her throat and said, ‘Yes, Sir. I am very interested’.
Big Dog’s face lit up. ‘Good! Good!’. Their pay is comparable to what we earn in this organization. I have asked Ms. Ashione, the Axis MD, to to expect your call this morning’. He handed Elsie a business card. ‘They are looking for someone to take the position in 2 weeks’.
Elsie examined the expensive-looking business card which had ‘Axis’ emblazoned on it in black letters over a yellow background. Big Dog continued to speak. ‘I know your capabilities, so it would be a shame to lose you, but I know you will thrive over there’.
‘Thank you so much Sir!’ Elsie was no longer able to suppress her smile.
She walked out of the office moments later, resisting the urge to dance as she did so.
‘Thank God that’s been sorted out’, Big Dog mused.
He would have preferred to get rid of Bilkisu instead of Elsie. He regretted hiring Bilkisu (she was a nuisance), but his wife had harrassed him into hiring her younger sister to the point that his sanity had almost been at stake.
Big Dog stood up, smoothed down the wrinkles on his grey trousers and adjusted the sleeves on his long-sleeved white shirt as he walked to the window. He had not told his wife that Bilkisu had made a pass at him the previous year, and that her bullying of Elsie was probably a way of trying to get his attention.
Or maybe she was simply just a mean person.
Sighing heavily, he returned to his desk, put on his glasses and pressed a button on his intercom.
‘Mrs Onuorah? Please ask the Head of Human Resources to see me immediately. Thank you’.
He needed to know what his options were if he decided to fire Bilkisu at some point in the future. He put on his glasses and picked up the sheaf of papers in front of him.
He had an organization to run, after all.
‘I heard you’re leaving soon’.
It was two days after her meeting with the MD, and Elsie looked up to find Bilkisu standing in front of her desk.
‘Yes, I am’, Elsie replied. She had met with the MD of Axis Consultants for lunch the day before, who had offered Elsie the job on the spot. She had received the email with the offer of employment letter that morning. ‘I wanted everything to be confirmed before I told you in person’.
Bilkisu said nothing for a moment, as she tapped her long nails on Elsie’s desk. ‘Please make sure that you leave a detailed handing-over note before you leave. You can start working on it now’.
Actually, I’ve been working on my handing over note for almost a year, Elsie thought. It will take me only 10 minutes to review it.
Instead, she smiled and said, ‘Alright, I will start working on it now’.
Bilkisu nodded and walked into her office, her shoes making a clicking sound on the tiles, before she closed the door behind her.
Shit. Shit Shit.
Bilkisu rained silent curses on her Brother-In-Law. And on Elsie.
She had discarded her orange high heeled shoes in the middle of the office and was pacing angrily like a trapped wild animal. Her perfectly arched eyebrows where screwed up as she frowned.
What was the point of having the MD as your Brother-In-Law if he kept giving you work to do? He had reported her treatment of Elsie to his wife, her big sister, who had surprsingly taken her husband’s side.
‘Either step up your game, or you look for work elsewhere’, her sister had told her.
Bilkisu conceded that she may have taken things too far with Elsie…and maybe she should not have tried to kiss Big Dog last year at the office barbeque…but surely, none of this was her fault, she reasoned. She was the last of 4 daughters of a wealthy Senator, as a result she was overindulged and carried an air of self-entitlement. She usually got away with doing the barest-minumum of work in any given situation.
But now the Elsie-Bitch was leaving, which meant that she would have to do actual work.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
Bilkisu flung off her blazer which she wore over a multi-coloured Ankara print fitted dress. The blazer missed the chair and slid down to the floor, but she did not notice.
Why was life so unfair?
Stepping over her shoes, she walked barefoot to her desk, sat down and stared at her computer’s screen without actually seeing anything. She would go through the handing over note that the Elsie-bitch was writing…maybe that would remind her of what work she was supposed to be doing in this office.
Bilkisu reached into her top drawer, ignoring the files in front of her, and brought out a bottle of red nail polish. She began to paint her finger nails, an activity which always put her in a better mood.
Work would just have to wait.
Two weeks later, Elsie lay on her sofa wearing black shorts and a grey ‘Sesame Street’ T-shirt, reliving the going-away party her colleages had thrown for her that Friday. It was a simple but colourful affair, and she enjoyed it more because Bilkisu had taken the day off.
Tunji was out of the country for a conference in London, but he had called her to wish her good luck on her new job, which was nice.
As she thought about what life held in store for her, Elsie’s phone beeped. A message from a UK number.
‘E., I will wait for you to work for a month in your new office before I ask you out again. I hope I’m observing the right protocol. T’.
Elsie laughed, her first real laughter in weeks. She alreay knew that she would say yes when he asked, but for now, her mind was only on her new job.
©Ivie M. Eke 2017.
(Thanks for reading! I know a lot of people can relate to being in toxic work environments, which is why I decided to come up with this story. Best wishes).
Mary J. Blige is an American RnB singer whose first albulm, ‘What’s The 411?’ was released in 1992.
5 Reasons Why I’m A Mary J. Blige Fan:
- Her vocals are top-notch and could put you in either an upbeat mood or a melancholy state of mind (which are quintisential effects of RnB music).
- The video for her song, ‘Family Affair’ featured Dr. Dre (the hardcore and generally angry-looking Rapper) dancing…and even smiling. Miracles do happen.
3. She was the queen of blonde and red wigs long before Beyonce made her presence known on the music scene.
4. I remember watching a very candid interview of hers years ago where she said that she’d had to make a deliberate effort to change her circle of friends and acquiantances because they were toxic and encouraged negativity in her life. This has resonated deeply with me up till this day.
5. Even though I generally enjoy her music from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, Mary J. Blige’s music from any era embodies the core of rhythm and blues which shape classic RnB songs.
My favourite Mary J. Blige songs are:
-I’m going Down.
-Not Gonna Cry.
-No More Drama.
-As (with George Michael).
-Be Without You.
-All That I Can Say.
Are there any Mary J. Blige fans out there? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading.
***All videos are from Youtube***
Bilkisu was the Head of Public Relations, and Elsie was a mere Assistant Manager. No other department had an Assistant Manager present at those meetings.
The MD was making such a fuss because Elsie had written a few good reports. Bilkisu seethed every time she thought about it…and also felt very uneasy. She did not feel so secure in her position in the firm anymore. She had only gotten the job anyway because Big Dog’s wife, Binta was her elder sister.
Bilkisu therefore went out of her way to play down Elsie’s achievements, even though she secretly coveted her creativity in coming up with pitches for clients and the ease with which she wrote reports.
Much to her annoyance, Elsie seemed unaffected by her schemes, and always had a serene look on her face, which Bilkisu really wanted to scratch off with her long nails. She could feel her resentment for Elsie growing every day inside her, and she did not know how to quell it.
Even the mere sight of her was enough to put Bilkisu in a bad mood.
Bilkisu was a self-proclaimed fashionista, and it irked her that the men in their office seemed drawn to Elsie with her simple outfits, barely-there makeup and unimaginative braided hairstyles.
Now she just sat there, staring at her, even smiling.
‘What could be making her smile?’ Bilkisu wondered.
She found herself fidgeting from the intensity of Elsie’s steady gaze. The power had come back on, and the air conditioners were doing a good job of rapidly cooling the conference room, and yet she still felt sweat dripping down her back.
Just as Bilkisu was thinking of an excuse to leave the conference room, Mr. Bala, the MD bustled in.
‘Sorry I’m late guys, let’s start the meeting!’ he said jovially. ‘Big Dog’ had the cuddly physique of a bear and the harmless features of a puppy, but was very astute and shrewd as a boss. No staff member ever thought to underestimate him.
He took his seat at the head of the table.
Bilkisu and Elsie continued to stare at each other, their mutual dislike simmering in the air.
‘They say that imitation is the best form of flattery’.
‘I knew that you wouldn’t take this seriously’ Elsie chided Tunji. It was 7:43pm, and they were replaying the events of the work day.
‘I really don’t know why she told me the pitch was her idea’ Tunji mused.
Elsie adjusted her phone, cradling it on her right shoulder as she dished left-over jollof rice from the pot on to a small plate. Her sister Ella had prepared the meal and it looked and smelled delicious, but she only had an appetite for a small portion of food.
‘You know that she really likes you’ Elsie said. Tunji remained silent, and Elsie sensed that he was smiling.
Tunji had wanted to date Elsie since her first week at the firm, but dating a colleague just felt wrong to her. They became friends nonetheless and were very professional with each other at work, but he made it a routine to ask her to be his girlfriend once a month, which amused her.
‘So, what do you advise me to do?’ she asked him. ‘Should I start looking for a new job?’
Tunji thought for a moment. ‘Honestly, it wouldn’t be a bad idea. You are a great PR professional, but I know that as long as Bilkisu works at our firm, you will not see considerable growth in your role’.
‘It also helps that she’s Big Dog’s in-law’. Elsie laughed, even though she did not find the situation very funny.
‘Don’t worry about that. Big Dog isn’t stupid. He knows your value, which is why he insisted you attend management meetings’.
‘Well…I will update my CV and begin my job search again’.
‘Be very shrewd about it-you wouldn’t want Bilkisu walking in on you when you browsing for jobs on nigerianjobs.com’ Tunji warned.
‘I’ll keep that in mind’ Elsie answered. They said their goodbyes and ended the call.
Just as she was leaving the kitchen, a text message from Tunji appeared on her screen.
‘The good thing is that you would finally say yes to becoming my girlfriend if you worked somewhere else. T.’
Elsie shook her head and smiled at her phone. She did not send a reply, and she knew that he did not expect her to do so.
She suddenly had no appetite, and she covered the plate of rice and placed it in the fridge.
Elsie walked back to her living room and sat down heavily on the sofa, suddenly feeling very tired. Ella was out on a date with her new boyfriend, so Elsie had the flat to herself. The sultry vocals of Corinne Bailey Rae’s ‘Put your records on’ played on the radio, helping to put her in a meditative state of mind.
‘I need to protect myself’ she thought. Elsie understood that office politics was to be expected at the workplace, but she knew that she would not win a battle of wills against Bilkisu. She rubbed her eyes, and ran her hands over her face.
A sudden thought came into Elsie’s mind, and she stood up abruptly and walked into her bedroom. She opened her jewelry box which was on top of her dressing table. Nestled among her colourful earrings and necklaces lay her silver ‘believe’ bracelet. She slipped in on her left wrist and stretched out her arm to admire it.
Elsie noted wryly that she was long overdue for a manicure-she had started to bite her nails again and they were in an atrocious state.
She closed her eyes and envisioned herself somewhere peaceful, where the copycats could not get to her.
Just as she started to drift off, her phone beeped with the text message alert.
Elsie picked up her phone and read: ‘Please see the MD by 10am tomorrow. Thanks. Mrs Onuorah, PA to the MD’.
‘What have I done now?’ She thought.
Elsie rubbed her eyes, not looking forward to work the next day.
©Ivie M. Eke 2017
(Thanks for reading! Part 3 will be posted soon!).
I’ve spent most of this week feeling like I was walking in slow motion, or heavily medicated with mind-numbing drugs.
The death of a loved one (especially someone who was such a joyful soul) hits you in waves.
I’ve felt numb and helpless, and it took the poor service provided by a Nigerian retailer to wake me up and remind me to use my words (you can find my mini-rant on my Twitter page, @ivysoclassy).
I’m back to writing, scheduling posts, reading books for pleasure, and reading books about writing.
I have almost filled three journals with written magic 😄 Here’s to more writing (new posts from Monday) 😊 Rest In Peace, dear cousin ✌
Thanks for reading.
In today’s newsletter, I daydream about what it would be like to be super-rich. You can read it here.
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