Delta had reached a decision point.

Witnessing certain things…being complicit to other things…realizing that the situation wouldn't change anytime soon…thoughts about the situation had given him a strong sense of impending doom. He knew he needed to make or cause a change. So, he decided to arrange a trip to the Home Office.

Delta had decided to take his cause to the boss…to sit across the table from the man, instead of trying to have the conversation over email or the phone. Delta wanted to look Alpha in the eye. He knew Alpha was the key.

Alpha was an imposing man. He was tall and broad shouldered. He exuded power. He had been the man at the top of the heap for Delta’s entire career. And, Delta had always been a little intimidated by him. Alpha had been a big time college football player. He had even played in the pros. But, after blowing out his knee in his second season, he returned to his home town and took up the same career his father had had. He started at the bottom and worked his way up. He was a man who'd been in the trenches and fought the battles. He'd done more than his fair share of traveling. He’d been relocated multiple times. He'd paid his dues. He was hardened. His place at the top was never in doubt. The clients trusted and respected him. The agency had absolute faith in him. And, his employees were ever mindful of his role as the person in charge.

But, as would be expected, his management style was old school. It was born out of the "pay your dues" mindset. It was easily identified with what is seen in athletics and coaching. It was management by crisis. Information is power. And the person with the power controls the information. Alpha was the antithesis of the new age or en vogue motivational technique. Alpha was the boss.

On the day of their scheduled meeting Delta was nervous. He arrived at the Home Office early and found an empty cube. After spending a little time finishing some paperwork and expense reports, he started making the rounds and visiting with old friends. He asked about people's families. He caught up with client news from around the country. He spoke with Florida about billing and client payment issues. He even chatted with some of the people who'd only been voices on the phone, introducing himself and exchanging pleasantries. All of it was an attempt to pass the time before having the meeting with Alpha. None of it really settled his stomach any.

Just before lunch he let Alpha's receptionist know of his attendance. She told Delta that the big man was expecting him and to go right in. Delta thanked her and put on his best cheery face before entering the corner office.

Alpha: "How are you, Delta?"
Delta: "Great. How are you, sir?"
Alpha: "Fine. How was your trip?"
Delta: "No complaints. The flight was fairly uneventful. I really enjoyed seeing the new airport, though. I can't believe how much nicer it is than the old one. It's only been open a couple of months, right?"

Alpha motioned for Delta to take a seat. Delta noticed a half completed game of solitaire on Alpha’s computer monitor. Delta saw that Alpha’s hair had grown greyer since he’d last seen it. The lines in his face were more pronounced. He’d aged.
Alpha: "Yes. It's very nice. It’s a big improvement over the old one.”

They talked about the weather. They asked about each other’s families. They talked about the city and several of the people in the Home Office. In spite of his goals for the meeting, Delta knew he would have to wait for Alpha to make the first move. After awhile, Alpha brought the conversation around to business related topics and asked about the clients and business. Delta answered his questions with honesty and as much detail as possible. Alpha would know if he did otherwise. And after Delta had given him the rundown on the current situation, Alpha gave him a knowing look and asked him the opening question.

Alpha: “So, what brings you here? What do you want to talk about?"
Delta: "Well, sir, as I'm sure you would expect, I want to talk about my career path. I have been in the position for a couple of years now and want to begin planning the next move."
Alpha: "Sure. That's what I expected. What are your thoughts?”
Delta: “Well, I believe I’m ready for a Director position.”
Alpha: (Smiling) “I’d agree.”
Delta: “But, recognizing that Charlie and Bravo are senior to me in experience…”
Alpha: “Charlie isn’t senior to you.”
Delta: (A little startled) “Well, ah, well since Charlie has a longer tenure than I do…”
Alpha: “Yes, but I see you and Charlie at the same level.”
Delta: “Well, I know that Charlie doesn’t want to move. And, my assumption is that Bravo is not going to move either.”
Alpha: “That’s right.”
Delta: “Since both are in my way and neither intends to move, I realize I’m going to have to move to get the next position.”
Alpha: “True. And, you could move here. I would consider putting you in charge of some of the smaller clients in the region. Give you an opportunity to get your feet wet. You would work under Romeo, similar to what I have for Foxtrot.”

Romeo was a Director in the Home Office, reporting to Alpha and at the same level as Bravo. Romeo was ten years older than Delta. He was unmarried and made no secret of his string of different female companions each weekend. He was a playboy and a partier and Delta had zero respect for him. Foxtrot, similar to Echo, was a peer to Charlie and Delta and had the same job and level of responsibility. He resided in the same region as Delta, but in a different office, and also reported to Bravo. It surprised Delta to hear Alpha say that Foxtrot was considered to be at a slightly higher level. His title certainly didn’t bear that out. And, no one had ever mentioned this fact before. Delta thought Foxtrot was a pompous ass who could barely get out of his own way with the clients. His advancement in the company had been exactly like the troublemaker everyone knows during elementary school who gets advanced to the next grade solely to move them forward. Only later is it realized that the troublemaker can’t read. Foxtrot had left behind problems wherever he’d been stationed. Delta considered himself to be on a faster track than Foxtrot.

Delta: “In all honesty, sir, I don’t see Foxtrot as above me.”
Alpha: “Well, he does have more tenure than you.”
Delta: “But I’m smarter.”

Alpha paused and looked squarely at Delta. There was a brief moment of uncomfortable silence. Delta realized he was being tested. And, he didn’t like the test. He knew he’d done good work for the company. His clients had always been pleased with his efforts. For Alpha to imply that tenure was more important, considering the many mistakes Foxtrot had made, caused Delta to question the direction of the conversation. He decided to start over.

Delta: “I might have implied I wasn’t happy where I’m currently located with what I said earlier. If so, I apologize. I do like it there. I appreciate the opportunity you have given me there. It’s an important locale and group of clients. I would certainly accept continued responsibilities there, if that’s what you wanted.”
Alpha: “Understood. That’s good to know. But, as you said, neither Bravo and Charlie are moving.”
Delta: “Maybe if that part of the equation were to change…maybe if Bravo were to move?”
Alpha: “That won’t be happening. Bravo will be staying there. I’m protecting him.”
Delta: “I don’t follow, sir.”
Alpha: “I had to move Bravo there because he was no longer welcome here. They got tired of his activities and told me to get rid of him. So, I put him there. And, I’m protecting him. He won’t be moving.”

There. It had been said. There was the thing that Delta had long suspected. There was the knowledge he’d come to the Home Office to get. Hearing it firsthand from Alpha brought an instantaneous realization to Delta’s mind that he should not open up and tattletale about Bravo. Delta realized Alpha already knew about the negative activities. He knew and allowed the transgressions. And, he wouldn’t want to hear someone, especially someone at Delta’s level, break the code. Delta could say a lot of things. His performance in the company allowed him a certain amount of latitude. But, to say anything negative about Bravo would be crossing a line. And, Delta realized Alpha had told him about Bravo’s past in order to continue the test. Passing or failing the test would hinge on the very next thing that was said. So, Delta changed the conversation.

Delta: “In all honesty, sir, I have given some thought to going international. What are your thoughts on that?”

He’d made his move. And, the moment was past. The test was over. To ask about going international was asking to be let out. It implied a desire to leave the group. It was not something Alpha wanted to hear from his employees. And, it left unsaid that a) moving to the Home Office to work for Romeo was unwanted and b) to remain working for Bravo was unacceptable. Delta knew he was done with Alpha. He knew Alpha would no longer consider him as willing to pay the dues.

Soon after, Delta thanked Alpha for his time and left. The conversation had been productive. But, the situation was much worse than he’d imagined.