Finance: The Trader: Supersalesboy needs a spot of reprogramming

Simon's best chance of survival is to suck up to Rory for all he's worth
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The Independent Online
"SO WHAT'S Rory planning to do with Simon?" Jaap says, as we wait for our starters. We have retreated to one of our favourite local restaurants, where you don't have to shout above the music or the four young estate agents at the next table and the waiters call you "bella". ("Not me," Jaap says, "they've never called me `bella'.")

Anyway, young Simon's fate is the hottest topic of conversation at the office for now. After all, what do you do with a pushy salesman who's been caught, er, exaggerating the strength of his corporate contacts?

"Of course, Rory was absolutely livid at first," I say. "Wanted to sack him on the spot, blacken his name around town, that sort of thing. Then this whole Archer business happened, and Rory realised he didn't want to look as if he was just copying the Conservatives."

"Hmm," Jaap says. "Well, there's nothing like watching other people doing something to make you see how over the top it is. Rory was the one who hired him, after all. I hope that's the last time he recruits anyone in a wine bar."

"I wouldn't bank on it," I tell Jaap. On the other hand, he may have learnt enough from his mistake to turn him into a better person. That's certainly what he's banking on in Simon's case. So instead of casting him out, Rory's arranged for our salesboy to attend an intensive one-week residential course called something like "The Ethics of Selling" with a colon and a few more words after to show how serious it is.

"It sounds a bit like a `reprogramming' session to my mind," I say. "Still, it may be useful and, if nothing else, seven days in the middle of Nottinghamshire should give him pause for thought. A week without takeaway sushi and he'll be promising anything to hang on to his job."

Jaap, who is older and therefore wiser than I am - at least, that's what he always tells me - laughs gently at my naivety. "You may be right. Simon may be so repentant he'll turn into the least corruptible man in the world. But the papers are strewn with tales of people who haven't learnt anything from their own mistakes. Supersalesboy may be one of those."

He's right, damn him. Worse than that, Simon's best chance of survival in either case is to suck up to Rory for all he's worth. I've seen it before with a salesman at my last job who lost the bank a ton of money, but ended up being promoted ahead of everyone because he was so good at flattering the boss; horribly unfair, and seeing all that grovelling made everyone feel queasy.

"Oh no, I can't bear the thought," I say. "Having to watch him fawn all over our big cheese and know that Rory's lapping up every insincere moment of it. Urgh! And what if he isn't really a reformed character? Then what'll we do with him?"

"Easy," Jaap says. "He'll just have to go into politics."

Then our food arrives and suddenly we're too busy toying with our crab cakes to think about work. It's not until the next day that my thoughts are brought back to Simon by Rory wandering over to have a quiet chat with me.

"Look," he says, perching himself on the corner of my desk. "As you know, I've decided to give Simon a second chance. But, knowing him, he'll be at his fawning worst. I want you to keep an eye on him for me, in case I forget to be angry."

"Angry?" I say innocently. "With the pipsqueak who beat you at go-karting?"

Rory's face darkens, and with a snarl he stamps away. Well, it wouldn't do for him to forget that now, would it?