Confessions of a benefits manager: So young, so rude, so fired


Big Bad Boss has asked me to take his place at the annual Big Wig conference. Every year, the top 100 executives in our company are holed up in a fancy hotel and indoctrinated in the latest leadership buzzwords.

Big Bad Boss was asked to present on reward but he happens to be away that week. I’m a bit surprised he didn’t cancel his holiday because the executive conference is one of those things you are not really allowed to miss. Big Bad Boss is very career conscious so I have to assume he is more afraid of his wife than of the CEO. Having spoken to her on the phone from time to time I am not surprised.

So, lucky Candid gets to go in his place. On the upside, there will be lots of good food and fine wine; you can be sure the Higher Beings will enjoy a good spread. On the downside, I will have to make a presentation to the top 99 people in the company. No pressure then.

On the day, the presentation goes fine. I have to stand on a stage with a microphone, which is unnerving to say the least, but with the lights in my eyes I can’t see anyone’s face to see if they are disagreeing with anything I say. In some ways, it is easier than presenting in the boardroom, as I am too far away for anyone to heckle or ask awkward questions. Or so I thought.

At the end of the meeting, we gather for cocktails in the lounge. I had considered holding a party for one in my room instead, but that won’t enhance my career so I mingle with the big wigs instead. Most of them I know quite well anyway; you can be sure of higher beings keeping a close eye on their benefits. I am talking to the head of sales and his sidekick when a young guy pushes in. He has acne on his cheeks, and I am inclined to think he must be a minion from the hotel. I find out later that he is the new head of customer service. I know I am getting old when the Higher Beings start looking like teenagers. You might think a new guy would give his name and ask mine. No, he just started asking pointed questions about my job. Nice to meet you too, matey.

After five minutes of him I’ve had enough already. The little creep has criticised the international mobility plan (something I consider a personal triumph) and he has picked apart the last auto-enrolment communications developed by yours truly.

He has a catalogue of ‘suggestions’ for improvements to our plans that range from the ill-informed (our pay ranges are all wrong) to downright ridiculous (we should quadruple the pension contribution match). Who is this guy? Not only do I feel personally attacked, I find myself defending the plans that even I think need improving. Whoever he is, it seems I am the face of all the frustrations he has ever had with HR.

I look for an escape, but he has me pinned between the bar and the wall. To my horror, my friendly sales guy joins in and starts complaining about the commission plan. I wonder if Big Bad Boss would have suffered this bullying. Eventually, feeling a coward, I make a move to the ladies room and stay in there a full five minutes to be sure he will be talking to someone else by the time I emerge. Sure enough, he has my sales guy cornered. Oh, they will be having a blast. I slink over to the other side of the room and when I see him coming towards me again, I lose myself in a clump of executives, before heading to my room for the mini-bar.

How can someone so young and so rude get so far? Even our Higher Beings would normally take the time to meet and greet before getting down to business. And you would expect someone who has made a career in customer service to be a bit more socialised. Still I manage to avoid the guy for the rest of the conference, and get home in relief.

Back at base, I am still upset. What if this guy gets Big Bad Boss all stirred up to make me rework everything I’ve ever done and felt good about? He knows nothing about what we have achieved so far; nothing about anything.

Big Bad Boss does indeed get wound up. He comes back from a meeting positively quivering with indignation. It seems customer service boy did a smear campaign on him too, and in front of the whole board. Later, the head of sales shuts himself up with Big Bad Boss. Geez. Don’t tell me they are all on our case.

Our whole team is shaken and defensive. Even Lazy Susan has put her magazines away and is looking intently at her screen as if she is actually working for a change. I’m keeping my head down too, but I don’t like working from a position of fear; I like to be proud of what I do.

Only a few days later, Big Bad Boss comes back from lunch with a spring in his step. I am intrigued and risk asking him. Anything new? Yes, he tells me. Customer service boy has got himself fired. Not only did he tell the head of sales how to motivate his team, and the head of communication that he should be using social media more effectively, but he even made the mistake of telling the Highest Being that the board were spending too much money.

One thing about our Higher Beings: they act fast and without mercy. For once I am grateful.

Next time… Candid has one too many conference calls on her hands.