It’s been three years since my father passed away.
I remember that in 2014 January just after New Year, I was in a boardroom with some people who just didn’t like the fact that I was a woman with an agenda different from theirs. They were willing to put the future of an entire department on the line for the sake of market share at the expense of profit. Needless to say, even the sweet vendor on a street knows that a business exists to make profits!
Anyway, after a long heated conversation and seeing that they were not going to get me to relax on the demand for profit and change of strategy, one of the guys asked, “Are you saying that you will not do what we are telling you to do?”
In a split second, a letter of being fired, embarrassment and a shelterless, hungry child flashed across my eyes and I took a diplomatic path to answer, “With all due respect, you are welcome to do whatever you want with this business, I am simply an employee and this is not my Father’s company!” I closed my diary and laptop and sat down to wait for the verdict.
The next thing I knew, the meeting was over and the decision I had fought so hard was dropped on my lap for implementation. In retrospect, I should have done at that moment, what Prime Minister David Cameron did with the BREXIT decision – resigned.
About two months later after that fiasco, my dad went MIA and was later to be found dead in some forest. At the same time all this was going on with my dad, my boardroom opponents figured that in my grief they had gotten a chance to conduct a business management coup. After the burial and everything, I went back to work to find that a decision had been made to split my department, in what was to be a strategic move and they had began head hunting a replacement.
I thought that this would crush me career wise. It didn’t. It was an eye opener to the fact that I was simply an employee who had ran their course and I was on my way out willingly or unwillingly. The writing was on the wall, as clear as day. BUT I STILL COULDN’T BRING MYSELF TO RESIGN!!
While a lot of drama happened in both my personal and career life, I only managed to resign about 2 years later and as I reflect to my dad’s passing on, I can’t help but draw lessons with the end of my career.
- Don’t take it personally. It’s never about you; and if it is about you, then it’s because your opponents are cowards who would rather fight than offer constructive opposition.
- Boardroom politics take a higher percentage of the ratio between competence and survival in corporate setting, the higher up the ladder you go.
- Stay in the ring and stand, even if you have to do so alone with all your bones broken. Nothing infuriates a coward opponent as much as a victim who fails to fall. Stand until the moment you sense the rhythm of your Spirit, soul and body begin to heal you. Then, and only then is it time to leave the ring, on your feet and on your terms.
- German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said this: “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger”. Those boardroom wars prepared me for the takeover of a failing family business which is now beginning to grow again. Am glad I fought back with the spirit and not my mind; otherwise blood pressure, stress, ulcers etc would have put me down and out.
- A former vice president of the Republic of Kenya in East Africa (the late Prof. George Saitoti, 1945-2012) once made this profound statement, “There comes a time when the nation is more important than an individual.” In employment that time comes when the business can no longer sustain the wage bill, or the company goes into a merger, or a new strategy is adopted, or you have served your time and it is time to retire. Whatever it is that gets a company to that point, the result will always be what the late Professor painted in that famous quote. Whatever is not important will always be treated according to its value.