This is the first of a five part series by CareerActually contributor Peter Luscombe


Just before Jan stepped up so the office doors opened in their seamless way, she caught a glimpse of herself in their mirror cleanness. Today she thought she looked rather smart. The flash of the turquoise shirt contrasted attractively to the black, slim-line of her skirt.  Jan felt well-turned out for another day at the office, after a quite lovely weekend of sunshine and gardening. Jan smiled to herself as she stepped forward into another day at work.

At the lift, the usual were there for that hour.

Julia looked a bit tired and dragged down, however, managed a smile and a chirpy, ‘Hello. Lovely sunshine today.’

Jan nodded to that and smiled back.

Belinda was always another matter. She seemed to find comment where comment wasn’t due in Jan’s mind. ‘Like the top. Nice colour. How you finding the new boss?’

Thoughts rattled through Jan’s mind: ‘A bit of an upstart. New brooms like to sweep clean.’ Instead of any tart comment, any number springing to her lips, Jan replied primly, ‘Settling in fine. He’s like a breath of fresh air. It was time Mr Brannigan retired.’

The arrival of the lift interrupted any further comment. As they stood waiting for each of their floors, Jan wondered if Mr Murdoch was truly as she said. He was polite enough … praised her work … however … there was also this distance Jan felt; one of looking on and appraising her. Jan shrugged off this thought as the lift doors opened at the next floor and with a supercilious wave, Belinda stepped off to proceed to work.

As the lift doors closed, Julia said, ‘That girl gets more irritating every day. You’d think for her every day was a bowl of sunshine.’

Jan grimaced in sympathy. The need for any further comment was thankfully saved as the lift doors opened at Julia’s office floor. Julia smiled then went her way. In stepped a rather flustered Sophie. ‘Morning, Ms Worthington,’ Sophie blurted in an irritating way. ‘I just stopped off to speak with my friend, Bec, before going to our office. I’m still on time, aren’t I?’ Sophie looked nervously at her watch. Ms Worthington always flustered her. ‘So efficient … so together … so turned out …’ these thoughts shunted around Sophie’s mind as the lift proceeded to the next floor which was their destination.

Upon arrival at her work station, Jan noticed a folder on her desk that she knew had not been there when she left Friday. At the end of the day, she cleared her desk of any folders, paperwork or clutter. ‘A tidy desk meant a tidy mind’ was Ms Worthington’s motto. She frowned at the state some left their work stations. Sophie’s being one of the worst examples. Ms Worthington had made well-meaning comment several times, however, Sophie seemed to make little effort except a clean-up each time, then days later her work station was as bad as before.

‘Ah ha!’ Jan thought when she noticed just the merest peek of an envelope corner so discretely showing beneath the folder. ‘Brad.’ She smiled to herself as she slipped the small, white envelope out from beneath the work folder and into a desk drawer. ‘Brad is so sweet.’ While office romances weren’t against company regulations they were, frowned upon. Besides, Jan liked to keep her business to herself. Not for her the exchange of gossip over lunch or over coffee. The occasional attendance to drinks-after-work, merely to put in an appearance, was as far as Jan could stretch matters with the office crowd. ‘Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business,’ a quote from P.T. Barnum, was another of Ms Worthington’s mottoes.

The folder Ms Worthington next placed in her out-tray, where she’d left it looking rather pleased at her clean desk, before leaving on Friday to begin her weekend. Next she sat in her comfortable seat, then booted her work PC, and while that hummed to herself, she took down from her small memo board to one side of her work station the list she’d written Friday before leaving work. Her list, outside her To-Do list, were small reminders of matters to attend. Ms Worthington surveyed the list:

  • Get Richard to pay up for the office gift list
  • Ring ‘Your-Plants’ – there’s poorly looking ones again
  • Leave a note for the cleaners not to turn off the photo-copier
  • Remind M that the IT crew will vet his PC on Tuesday
  • Confirm lunch with Georgia

Jan felt on top of matters. These incidentals could be dealt with easily in the flow of the work day. ‘Now on to the important matters of the day,’ Jan thought briskly. Calling up what she named her – Daily-Duty-Schedule – all in capital letters as rightly so in her mind, Jan surveyed what lay ahead. ‘Right then,’ Jan smiled to herself. ‘First a meeting with M to confirm that changes in policy have been communicated to all members.’ Jan reached for the folder so squarely tucked away in the appropriate tray on her desk which contained the internal memos sent and a record of receipt from each party. ‘M might be a new broom sweeping clean, however, his policy changes were sound in the main.’ Jan was ready to give management credit where credit was due. ‘Credit where due’ was another of Ms Worthington’s mottoes. Believing that hard work ought to be praised, then in her books those who worked hard, put in the effort, deserved credit. ‘Pity that some simply weren’t up to standard,’ crossed Jan’s mind as it often did during a work day when she measured others. ‘Some simply didn’t put in enough.’

With this thought in mind, Ms Worthington stood, brushed down her slim-line skirt, picked up the appropriate folder so aptly labelled and ambled to Mr Murdoch’s office. No rushing around the office for her; a composed and business-like progression made a statement of competence. Advancing past Sophie’s work station caused a moue. Ms Worthington noted the disarray. ‘That girl never learns.’ Proceeding on, she passed Simon’s work station to note he was deeply engrossed in what Ms Worthington knew to be the Hermsworthy account. The logo of a spread winged eagle stood clear and bold at the top of each page. ‘I do hope he remembers to send a message noting they recently were applauded in ‘Business News’ as an up-rising venture.’ Past Brad’s work station, Ms Worthington advanced. She looked straight ahead, not daring to look to one side or even catch Brad’s eye.

‘Ms Worthington? A moment, please.’

Her progress stopped, Ms Worthington turned to face, Geoff. Geoff, her office annoyance for constant enquiries. Shoulders squared back, folder in hand, she looked him square in the face. ‘Yes, Geoff? How may I help you?’

‘Well …’ one of Geoff’s usual pauses in communication. ‘I can’t seem to find the latest statement for the Addison account. I believe it was due last week, however … well … there’s nothing on record.’

Ms Worthington went through the reference-file in her mind. ‘That will be released later than expected. I believe this Thursday.’

‘Oh?’ Geoff blushed in discomfort, nettled by the tone, however, said nothing further except, ‘I must have missed that. So sorry to have bothered you. I will …’

Ms Worthington, without a further word, proceeded on.

Look out for Part 2 to be published on Sunday March 15