Friday the tenth, twelve thirteen pm. Employees are walking around whispering in the corridors. And from the window on one side of their office wall, the manager can be seen repeatedly loosening his tie and scratching at his bald spot. He’s taken to coming to work without a coat. The office he shares with the co-director seems cramped and cluttered with chairs and used tea mugs. The air inside is hot and the ceiling fan has been running non-stop since Monday. Footsteps echo along the laminate flooring outside their door. It’s been nine days since the end of the month and no one’s been paid.
HR is silent and Finance is all but mute on the issue. It was a monetary drought of frightening proportions and no one had any ideas for salvation. Mark from technical kept ‘accidentally’ bumping into HR and casually asking ‘how things were’. For a middle-income company, they weren’t too bad. On a good day, people usually had their salaries right before the end of the month with maybe a bonus or two. But some days were worse than others. Almost everyone at Silverstone Construction knew this. They also knew to stay well out of the manager’s way when things got like this. He was liable to take his frustrations out on the first person he came into contact with. You didn’t need to be yelled at by your wife and your boss on the same day.
Over at Finance, people were not sitting down. Between badgering clients for payments and answering interdepartmental phone calls, the staff had been on their feet since morning. But chances of payment from clients were slim. Most of their clientele were banks, and there was no rushing them. They paid when they were good and ready. As Johnson well knew.
Standing in front of his desk, he looked through his office window toward the west end of the first floor, at the knot of officials holding a meeting. In attendance was the head of Ops, the Technical Director, an HR rep, and an outside consultant, along with the lead technical supervisor. You’d think as head of Finance they’d require him there, being that he was in a better position to elaborate on the financial status of the company. What they can and cannot do. But alas, they probably thought he would only provide facts not conducive to their over-ambitious planning. Fair point. And in all transparency, his work was not to pacify. He would not placate them at the expense of the company and its employees. They should know better. And in any case, any financial proposals they cooked up in that little huddle of theirs would still have to pass under his nose in the end.
Turning away from the window, he circled around to the chair behind the desk and sat down for the first time that day. The way he saw it, they were going to have to find a solution outside of themselves and the company. As it was, they were barely running their projects. They could look for an alternative source of funding, which was not hard to find given that they were well known. But that would not solve the problem. There was an underlying issue with work practices and expenditure in the company that needed to be addressed before any kind of stability could be achieved. Otherwise, Johnson thought, we’d just be spending money without really seeing a return on investment.
But the key players were reluctant to adopt the Johnson directive. Mainly because it required them to demonstrate a bit of transparency in how they conducted their operations. They didn’t like answering for their actions. Johnson found it intriguing, seeing how they tended to question every independent decision everyone else made.
The Manager was in charge of operations in the field and coordinating the technical team as regards work sites. But he had a tendency to overextend his reach in Johnson’s opinion. Meddling in his department especially. To a point where he seemed to know much more about the payments than Johnson felt was right. But it was one thing wanting to know what everyone is doing and quite entirely another telling them how and when to do it. If Johnson was an argumentative short fuse, they’d have had it out and he’d be long gone by now. The technical director, on the other hand, was much more level and controlled. The exact opposite of his explosive colleague. Johnson would have preferred dealing with him if he wasn’t such a skip-rock, jumping from issue to issue without really solving any of them.
As the hay-coloured glow of the sun hit his desk, illuminating the pay slips on top of it, his brain clicked. He needed a way out of this. Not just for this one month. It was dangerous to ever get caught in this tangle again. The staff might not be so understanding next time.
He gathered the pay slips and left the office, headed for the bank. He’d work out a plan with them and make it so that the staff would get paid automatically each month, whether or not the company deposited funds initially. This way they were guaranteed, (at least the employees) payment, regardless of the company’s position at the time. Then he’d work it out with the bank later. Most of their invoices circulated within them in any case. It shouldn’t be too hard to come up with a suitable arrangement.