Though he never indulged in it, corporate politics was not an unknown game for Hariharan. When he joined the company eighteen years ago, the place was riddled with dirty politics. The whole organisation had been split into two groups that fought a war of corporate intrigues all the time. Lie and canard ruled the place. No one believed anyone. No one talked straight. Even birth day wishes were loaded with political intentions.
However, the boss was a wise man, then. He took things in stride. A non-descript man, the boss remained cool as he was new to the job as the Chief Executive Officer, having come to the company from another enterprise. He allowed things to be as they were for years. And after a few months, he slowly started cracking the two groups with patience and persistence. He ensured that both the warring groups started developing cracks in their ranks. And once that happened, things became easy. Politics started growing weaker. And soon enough, things started cooling off.
Hariharan recalled all that as he realised that some silent politics was being woven around him as his name was being considered to be the next CEO. He chose not to react. He chose to stay focused on his task. He chose to behave cordially with each and every one even if he knew that the person was neck deep in politics against him. He knew, some people spewed venom against him in his absence. He knew, some guys and gals were busy weaving all sorts of fake stories of his ‘lack of moral character’. But keeping quiet was his watch-word. “I would not react. If I do, then they will win,” he cautioned himself.
The outgoing CEO watched all this carefully. He had formed his opinion, and was amused how people built stories around a clean and efficient person. He was pained, as well. For, he knew Hariharan as a man of principles, above board and unwavering in his commitment to work and loyalty to the company. He had seen Hariharan in all situations – of decision-making in hostile times, of refusing to fall prey to temptations, of making quick buck on the sly, of sacking his adversaries even when they made big mistakes.
His rival to the post was a favourite of the company’s promoters. He was also related distantly to the present CEO. He often made tall claims of his efficiency. He lived in an expensive house and moved in shining cars that he changed every year. He also indulged in political games and corporate intrigue. He hosted parties and invited the company’s promoters, too. That was his PR.
In contrast, Hariharan did nothing of all these. He focused on work, and shunned all extravagance even at the company’s cost. All he wanted to ensure that year was to achieve his target – of production and sales and savings — successfully and silently. That was his PR. ‘My work will do the talking,’ he said to his wife Mala who agonised over her husband’s simplicity. “Play some politics. Build your PR. You have a good chance”, she had insisted. But Hariharan’s answer was simple: “Look Mala, I would do my work which will speak for itself. The other guy is not doing exactly that.”
Then came the crunch. The CEO called Hariharan and told all sorts of dirty things people were gossiping about him. “In such a situation, the promoters are not inclined to have you as the next CEO. What can I do? I am helpless”, he said.
Hariharan smiled in response. Slowly, he rose from his chair on the other side of the boss’s table. Then carefully and calmly he said, “Sir, please do not mind all that. The promoters know the best. They will choose the right man, whosoever he may be. If I am not selected, I would not mind. I assure you to be with whosoever in the new boss. Don’t worry. After all, I am just forty years old. I can afford to wait. But, Sir, please do not take all these things to heart. I am all right. Thanks.”
Seven days passed after that and the CEO could see no change in Hariharan’s conduct at work or outside. He was the same – calm, composed, undisturbed. Then on a Sunday, the CEO invited Hariharan for a dinner at his house. Hariharan was surprised to see all promoters of the company at the dinner. His rival, too, was there in best of his dresses, almost ready to take over. But there, after the dinner, the CEO announced to a total surprise to Hariharan, “Hari, we all have chosen you as the next CEO. Last week, I tested you, and then watched your conduct. You were unfazed. And you won. Congrats.”
Hariharan had nothing to say except a tearful “thanks” to all those who clapped. He then turned to his rival, shook hands with him, hugged him, and said, “You will be my best man, my second-in-command, won’t you!”
At that moment, all realised that they had made the right choice.