Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (10)

Blake was prickling with rage. Incandescent, in fact, as he spat out his fury in the direction of his greatest mortal influence. “Calm down,” said John, an undeserving victim of his tirade. “What are you trying to achieve?” Blake’s mentor was right, for the strategy his protégé had described was nothing short of corporate suicide. “Why don’t you take a couple of days off, relax and then figure out what you’re going to do once your head has cleared?” the big Australian further advised.

But for Blake there was pride at stake, too. He did not want to be seen as someone who needed to take time out in order to get his head together, even if this were true. Modern commerce was brutal in that regard – it took no prisoners. Blake was spooked enough by office politics to presume that if he displayed any hint of weakness, some corporate lackey would be trying to scramble over him, climbing the ladder that led straight up the Chairman’s arse. “But I still think I should go above him and talk directly to his boss – cut out the middle man. The tosser adds no value.” Adam intended no irony with his statement.

“A mistake, Adam,” John replied. “You’ve got to massage his ego. Give him the ideas, the rationale behind your three-year projections. Show him the acquisitions you intend making, the new business development initiatives that are in the pipeline. In short: make him look good. So that when he’s presenting your budget to his boss, he can do it with confidence.” By now, John was banging his finger into the table-top. “That’s the rules of the game. It’s called ‘managing upwards’. Win him over, Adam. You can put the knife in later, once he thinks you’re his friend.” But Blake was now ignoring John’s well-intended lecture, searching instead into the past to try and find a solution to his present problem. “My father would never have stood for any of this,” he said, his eyes focused somewhere off in the distance. “He would have told the Yank where to shove it. That’s how he rose through the ranks to achieve what he did.” “And what relevance does that have?” asked John.

Blake’s mentor was right once again, knowing that over the previous few decades the rules of playing the global commerce game had altered to the extent that nothing that ever went before now had any real relevance, however grand it may have seemed at the time. John also knew Adam well enough to sense there was something else distracting his friend – something that was preventing him from thinking straight. Clearing his throat, he then asked a delicate question: “Adam, can I say something?” “Sure, go ahead. Why not?” Blake was tapping the table with a chopstick, irritably. “Well, it’s just that you don’t seem to be yourself. You’re normally sharp, despite the occasional red mist that clouds your judgment.” Sharing an embarrassed smile, they chinked glasses at this. “And the excessive intake of this stuff.” John gestured with his glass. “But – if I may say so – you seem to have gone off the boil, lately. Is there something else worrying you? Your health, perhaps?” Blake stared absently, without answering. Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but have you had some bad news from the doctor?” John pressed him further.

Blake took a deep breath. There was a long pause before he replied: “It’s not me, John. It’s Kate.” “Oh no–” John began, before Blake raised a hand, indicating that he wished to continue with his explanation. “No, no. It’s nothing like that,” he reassured his friend and mentor. “She’s in perfectly good shape. Extremely fit, in fact.” At this, he managed an ironic giggle, before the sullenness of his earlier expression was restored. “No, it’s just that… well… This is difficult to say, John.” “Go on, Adam. I’m first and foremost a frie–” “I think she’s having an affair.”

posted by Kirk at 11:03 pm  

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