It’s a sad truth that there are people in the workplace talking in cliches to mask their lack of competence….Jacques is just one of them…
‘So stop it going out!’
Henry gnawed at his cheek.
‘It’s too late.’
‘Then get it back. Do whatever you’ve got to do.’
Henry’s toenails clawed at his inner soles. He stared down at the carpet tiles. A traffic lane had been ingrained with filth and slops where minestrone soup and sunrise orange had been trailed from the drinks vending machine.
‘Are you listening to me, Henry?’
Jacques scratched at the mole on his cheek. There was a scarlet shaving rash, livid as a nettle sting, below his Adam’s apple. He wore a lavender tie and bath tap cuff-links with Hot and Cold on them.
‘This report is critical. Do you understand?’
Jacques held the office door open and motioned for Henry to go in.
‘Mission critical,’ he muttered.
Jacques had been sent on a management training course that involved building bivouacs and skinning rabbits. He was keen to put these lessons into practice ‘going forward.’ Henry wanted to remind him they were tackling pockets of social exclusion, not fighting the Vietcong.
‘I can’t stop it,’ Henry said, ‘it’s not going to be possible.’
Jacques tapped the desktop with his pen.
‘You’ll have to,’ he said. ‘I don’t like the word can’t.’
There’s no such word as can’t, was Jacques’ motto. What the Agency really needed was can do people. Henry wasn’t can do, and worse, unlike the stream of young blood entering the Agency, he wasn’t accomplished at pretending he could be.
‘I want impact people in my team.’
Henry murmured ‘Yes.’
He felt foolish, standing hands clasped behind his back like the Duke of Edinburgh opening a children’s ward. His cheeks burned. Jacques had made no offer for him to sit down. A trickle of sweat ran cold from hairline to temple. He swallowed, licking away the thin film of gum from the corners of his mouth. He hadn’t had chance to clean his teeth, instead grabbing a packet of mints at the train station. His mouth tasted of copper and sour apples. He was light-headed and his stomach was growling.
‘I want big-hitters. People who make a difference.’