Words and Silences

One day, it was decided that I and CEO would travel to the factory and interact with the staff there for a couple of days. I was not clear why I should be visiting the factory. I did not particularly ask the question and just decided to go with him.

On the way to the factory, CEO was on a very preachy mood and started emphasising the need to stay cool irrespective of any situation. He also said keeping one’s emotions under control is vital for success. To me, it looked as if his tone concealed more than it wanted to show. Many times, I have noticed he switches into preaching mood either when he wants to demonstrate his domination on the listener or when he wants subtly to push the listener to agree to something.

On reaching the factory, the first meeting went off without any incident. I did notice that VP was avoiding eye contact with me. He did not address me even once during the conversation. Then CEO suddenly addressed B and asked him if he could use his usual charm demeanour and talk so that these two guys (indicating me and VP) become friends. This was not expected.

There was an air uncomfortability inside the chamber. When CEO exited the chamber, it seemed B did not know how to start the conversation. poor B, what does he have to do with VP’s hate towards me? I think it was a dumb move by CEO. Both I and VP was taken by surprise by this. I also did know for a while how to handle the situation in which I was thrown in through the designs of CEO. is he trying to prove that he is a master strategist? or is he hinting at me to sort of my issues with VP myself? what happened to his repeated requests earlier to find some replacement for VP? has his efforts to get rid of VP have met with the resistance of the Director?

I grinned and started talking to VP – “we had no major incidents in our interaction so far, except for the heated argument we had over the fast food client (“The Rough Weather”). Our differences of opinion may have sparked emotions in both of us. Then when you mentioned something which I thought was unparliamentary, I also retorted back. If you think I had insulted you or something, then let me apologise unconditionally. I hold you in respect for you are elder to me and also my senior in this company. what more I can say….”

VP’s response was rather muted and evasive. Instead of being authentic, he went into avoidance mode. He asked irrelevant questions – “are you not getting answers to all your emails from the factory managers? are you not getting all the samples you are requesting?….I really do not know whats happening here”…he was incohesive…was keeping his face rather stiff…. The conversation was uncomfortable. In order to put this to an end, I made an overture….”come on sir, let us shake hands”…..I extended my hand to him…but he did not give his hands. He said  “I cannot shake hands with you”. Lamely, I pulled back my hand. then the uneasy silence continued for a few minutes….then I stood up, went towards the sofa kept for visitors and sat on it. I took out my laptop from my bag and tried to check my mails. Wi-Fi was not connecting.

Then VP asked “what is your agenda for coming here?”. I shook my head to indicate I do not know. He sarcastically said “so you have come without an agenda”. I did not respond back.

@@@@@

The next day, the CEO chaired a meeting consisting of all Factory departmental heads. When the meeting took up things that I was working on, I was asked to list the issues I am facing. I complained about high cost structure which is not enabling me to get some breakthroughs. Then the meeting discussed the individual product costings and VP took the lead. In the meeting, it was decided that I should try to finalize some trial businesses at low prices just to get started on my side of things. It was not that I agreed everything with what the team members in the meeting were saying. Mostly I kept quiet.

Then when I asked if I can send out the quotes now itself, one by one conditionality got added : (1) The pricing will be valid only for three days. Any orders confirmed within three days will be executed at these “low” prices. (2) The “trial” business has to be for minimum order of two container loads each (3) a margin of at least 5-8% will have to be added to the suggested low “prices”.

After the meeting, CEO was proudly asking me in private – “see how VP has changed his attitude and co-operating by agreeing for low prices” I nodded my head fakely.

While I was typing out the quotations to the target customers, my mind was asking me – “am I getting into the web spinned by the VP? is he challenging me silently that I wont be able to finalize even if we cut the prices drastically?….what if there was no results after this “historic agreement” to work at the realistic low-level pricing?…….”

Then there is over-powering voice within me which sounded saner than the logical and suspecting mind – “If no desired results come about, even if VP thinks he has defeated you, how does it matter? are you here to prove anything to anyone? If you think you are thrust in an unwanted power struggle between VP and CEO, what can you do about it? If CEO tries to show off to people in the factory that you are his chum…so be it. You were never his chum. You are neither with CEO nor with VP. You are pursuing your own path and are on your journey. Just stay in the process as long as you are here. Process is about doing what you think is right. Getting the results is not your responsibility”

While the saner voice was speaking to me inside, my phone rang – A customer from Hyderabad was on the line. He had confirmed a truck load of goods a week back. I had not received the agreed 25% advance. He was apologetic and said he had finally remitted the funds now. He was asking me to check with our bankers if the funds had hit us.

On the same day evening, I received a mail from a  Canadian client asking if they can confirm a business at prices 10% below our quoted price. 10% was only a negotiation margin which I had kept. I knew what my reply is going to be.

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