Office Politics, Lisa Summers

Lisa Summers came to Atlanta from Columbus, Georgia to attend Spelman College and went to work for Bickering Plummet right after she graduated in 1994. Highly qualified for upper management, she has consistently been passed over for consideration to the management training rotation and has remained a Tier 2 project coordinator for much of her tenure at the company. This oversight has nothing to do with her abilities, rather the unfortunate situation she’s consistently found herself in. Lisa has gained a reputation as a strong “utility” player, fully capable of independent supervision, and often she finds herself subbing for a higher-level supervisor who’s absent or covering for a position that’s vacant. Given Bickering’s internal promotions process, it takes the recommendation of a superior for movement into the upper tier of management, and, for her past several jobs, she’s had no supervisor. She has long since given over to frustration, caught between wondering why she doesn’t just move on to something better, and not wanting to make the last eleven years of her life a complete waste.

Early on, it was easy to justify sticking around. She had a lot of debt to pay off after school and Bickering Plummet had seemed the perfect place for a young, ambitious black woman to make a name for herself in her adopted hometown. Along the way, she met Levi Graham, the man she would marry, and when she learned she was pregnant, just weeks after he’d been sent to Afghanistan, she figured it was best to stick with a sure thing. When she received the news her husband had died in combat, barely a month before their son, Jarod, was born, she now had another life to worry about, so staying on just made more sense.

For most of the past year, Lisa has been in charge of Enterprise Software at Bickering, overseeing the division in the absence of its director Nelson Cabot, who’s been a ghost ever since taking over in 2004. Various rumors are circulating as to why Cabot is a no-show, some say he’s been in poor health, others say he’s been detailed off to one of Bickering’s overseas concerns, while other stories claim he’s taken a sabbatical to achieve enlightenment on a vision quest to Tibet. Whatever the cause, it has once again fallen to Lisa to keep things running until the director re-emerges.

She’s sitting in her office when the phone rings.

“Lisa Summers,” the voice says, “this is officer Delgado at the first floor desk. Nelson Cabot is here.”

Lisa sits up straight. “Nelson Cabot? Are you sure?”

“That’s what his license says.”

“Figures no one said a word about this,” Lisa says.

“Ma’am?”

“Stand by, I’m on my way down,” she says.

Lisa rises and moves at a brisk pace to the elevator. In the year since being placed on her current project, she has never met or even seen a photo of her supervisor. As is par for the course at Bickering, no one warned her Cabot was coming in today, so she’s caught totally off guard, wearing a festive blouse with casual slacks and loafers. She checks herself as she’s going down and as the doors open in the lobby, she puts on her corporate face, and steps out to greet the enigmatic Nelson Cabot.

She’s surprised to see a relatively young man standing at the guard station, wearing an Italian cut suit, his hair slightly longer than typical for an executive, and beard neatly trimmed. The guard looks in her direction as she approaches and Cabot follows the look, fixing his eyes on Lisa as she approaches.

Lisa extends her hand. “Mr. Cabot, I’m Lisa Summers.”

He takes her hand and gives her a cordial smile, “Pleased to meet you Ms. Summers.”

“I apologize for not being here to officially greet you,” she says, “but no one told me you were coming in.”

“Quite all right,” Cabot says. Lisa can’t help but notice he seems slightly befuddled. “I wasn’t sure myself.”

She glances at the temporary badge he’s wearing. “I see Officer Delgado has you squared away. So, if you’re ready, I can take you up and introduce you to the team.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Cabot says. Turning to the guard, Cabot says, “Thanks for all your help, Officer Delgado.”

Lisa finds this unusual as well. Most executives hardly take notice of the guard staff, unless they’re being questioned for failing to wear their ID badges, which usually leaves them in a huff.

“Anytime, sir,” the guard replies.

Lisa leads Cabot back toward the elevators.

About an hour later, in a tiny office on the tenth floor, Clark Randolph is reviewing personnel files. Marisa, his secretary, looks in and says, “Have you heard? Nelson Cabot is here.”

Randolph leans forward. “What do you mean Nelson Cabot is here?”

“He just walked in this morning,” Marisa says. “Apparently he’s back from whatever self-imposed sabbattical he’s been on and says he’s ready to get started. Corporate is having a welcoming reception for him at two.”

Marisa steps out, leaving Randolph shaking his head.

“This is not good,” he says to himself. “Not good at all.”

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