“Alright, alright. I’m going to need you to cool your jets, son.”
“Excuse me?” The conference room table was a bit superfluous for just three people, but I had already filled about half of its shining mahogany surface with charts, illustrations, and financial projections, and I still had a small stack of papers left to discuss. I was doing my best to dazzle the new bosses, to show them that I not only had good ideas, but that I was thorough and a hard worker. It was my first big meeting since taking the job, and I was hell bent on making an impact.
Donna Wells, the founder of Build Tomorrow, wore a smile on her fleshy face as she said, “This is all very impressive. There are a lot of good ideas here.”
“Very good,” C.F.O Arthur Wagner echoed while nodding repeatedly.
“Okay,” I said. “Good, so I’m thinking—”
“But there are some things you have to understand,” Donna interrupted. I had felt like there was something hidden in their comments, and Donna was now looking at me with a steely look in her eyes.
Arthur looked over at Donna, who nodded. Arthur turned back to me. His eyes were difficult to read, hidden behind eyebrows that seemed to be getting bushier as his hairline receded. However, he was still smiling and said, “We have a lot of programs in place already.”
Apparently, that was all the explanation they thought I needed since they both sat there grinning, but saying nothing more. “I’m familiar with your programs,” I said hesitantly, “but like I said at the beginning, those initiatives haven’t been generating many significant results. The mission of this organization—”
“I know the mission, son,” Donna said. I came up with it myself.”
“Yes,” I said, feeling my face grow red. “I know that, ma’am. I wasn’t implying—I just want us to do all we can to carry out that mission.”
“We know that,” Arthur said, nodding more emphatically than before, his smile stretching tighter across his narrow face.
“Here’s the way it is,” Donna said, leaning back in her chair, which groaned in protest. “We have a lot invested in our established programs. Our supporters are familiar with what we do; they like these events; we don’t want to risk alienating people who have put their trust in us.”
“Trust is very important to us,” Arthur added.
“Yes, we have very faithful supporters,” I said, hoping they would see I was on their side. “I just want to build on that. Faithful supporters would probably be willing to go along with something new, and then we might be able to find even more supporters. I feel like that should be one of our goals if we really want to have an impact.”
Round, lumpy, and motionless, Donna Wells suddenly resembled a stone, and she proved to be just as unyielding. “That may be how you feel,” she said, “but we’ve got an awful lot of experience, and you would do well to respect that.”
I glanced at Arthur, but he was simply nodding. “I see.”
“Is there a problem?” Donna asked.
“I guess I’m a bit confused is all.”
“Hm,” she grunted.
“What seems to be the problem?” Arthur asked.
It seemed like a trap. I was supposed to answer no and just keep my head down, but for once I actually cared about my job. “On my first day you said you wanted to see my proposals for the year. I’m the Director of Programs, so I assumed that meant that you wanted my ideas for programs and events.”
“And your ideas are great,” Arthur said, still trying to smile.
“But you don’t seem interested in actually running any of them.”
“Well,” Arthur mumbled, glancing at Donna.
Though she was usually quite verbose, the boss’s answer on this question was short and straight to the point: “No.”
“That’s not…exactly what we hired you for,” Arthur added
I could feel my jaw tense. “What is it you want me to do then?”
Arthur again looked at Donna. There was no visible communication, but Arthur quickly turned back to me and with a slight shrug said, “Direct the programs.”
“You mean, the same ones you’ve always done.”
“Exactly,” Arthur said, smiling genuinely for the first time, apparently relieved that I finally understood.
“Will that a problem?” Donna asked.
“Not at all.”
“Maybe if we see some growth in the future, we can talk about trying something new then…” The bosses continued speaking as they got up and left, but I wasn’t really listening. I was looking down at the documents I had spread across the table. They had been the embodiment of my hope and determination, and they were now all but meaningless. I gathered them up and dumped them into the recycling.