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Published by: serena_fairfax on Feb 17, 2012
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02/17/2012

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THE BOARDROOMWhen he had first arrived in the firm someone called him Titch and the name had stuck. He was a short, slight, man, very quiet but with a keen sense of humour and a total devotion to his job. He was fifty and had been with the firm twenty years. Nobody knew much about his background, or his home life, or his interests outside work, except that he lived with his wife and son in cramped, rented rooms for years until his promotion and a house of his own in the suburbs. From the very first his immediate boss discovered he had a razor-sharp mind, and when the boss retired it was only natural that Titch was appointed to succeed him.After another ten years he was elected to a seat on the Board of Directors. Hisquiet presence exerted its influence and he attained a measure of control overgeneral policy, though he remained unobtrusive and never spoke of his personal affairs. Titch spoke perfect English but with a still perceptible trace of the accent from his native country from which he had arrived twenty years earlier.A new chapter opened for the firm. There was a takeover battle, a boardroom shake-up and a Managing Director from the predator firm was placed in overallcharge. He brought new colleagues and new ideas with him into the boardroom. The new Managing Director was Douglas an extremely ambitious, relentless and ruthless thirty-five year old. His rise so far had been meteoric and he was convinced that his trajectory would be unstoppable. He had made up his mind to streamline the firm and go all out for the big contracts, the bold contracts, competingin international markets overseas. To do this, he thought, he had to root out the dead wood in the firm, from top to bottom.The reverberations of the new appointment were felt in the boardroom and it wasn’t long before he found himself dealing increasingly with Titch. And there was the rub. Titch would co-operate, would suggest brilliant ideas, but he retained his reserve. His attitude, his general bearing seemed to convey to Douglas that he needed no directions on how to do his job. He frankly infuriated Douglas and soon the clash of personalities resulted in real animosity on Douglas’s part. He felt that Titch was holding him back and considered his business practices outdated. He decided very early on that Titch would have to go, but apart from some minor differences of opinion, he had no grounds for getting rid of him, and decided to bide his time.When he announced his new idea to Titch he realised immediately that this could be the chance he’d been waiting for. Douglas had made up his mind beforehandthat the firm should tender for a valuable contract in a certain foreign country. He told Titch so, and told him also that he would have to handle it. Titch listened in silence, but was momentarily shaken out of his studied calm when he heard the whole proposition.‘But the country – it’s a cruel dictatorship. It has been that for twenty –two years.’‘We’re not concerned about the politics of it,’ Douglas snapped. ‘We’re in business.What we really need is a bit of pull, some influence with the guys at the top.’‘You’re going to do business with a gang of thugs like that? With a country that’sknown for murdering and torturing dissidents?’ Titch was trembling visibly.‘They’re efficient and they’re there. Certainly we’re going to do business with them. If we’re lucky. It’ll be the biggest breakthrough, the biggest money-spinner, in the firm’s history.’‘It will be blackest day in the firm’s history,’ Titch said intensely. ‘Other firmsstill have scruples and standards. They won’t be tendering. ‘‘I’m glad you mentioned that,’ Douglas said. ‘It seems you have less than complete single mindedness where this firm is concerned.’‘I’ve always done my best for the firm, and you know it,’ Titch said. ‘But this isa matter of principle.’‘It certainly is, ‘Douglas said. He had a spasm of pure unalloyed joy at having at last got a lever on Titch. ‘We’re in this to win it and if we don’t get that contract the board will hold you personally responsible. And as far as I’m concerned it means the red card.’‘You wouldn’t.’ Titch was pale.

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