Despite having a strong aversion for grunt work, Marius was an agreeable fellow to work with. He was fair-skinned, tall and verging on lanky. Also, unlike most of us in sub Director-level positions, he was already married and had a young child.
Marius had just joined the team a month ago and was the most junior member within our Managing Director’s bitch slap’s reach. His hair was brushed the same exact way at all times and he always carried a can of San Pellegrino Orange sparkling drink. Always! Even if empty he’d carry a can with him or leave it on the table for everyone to know it was his signature beverage. Every time he spoke of taking a holiday or wishing to be somewhere warm and sunny there was always a can of San Pellegrino Orange in the picture. ”I can’t wait to go to Marbella in the summer, lie on the beach, read a nice book and sip on a fresh can of San Pellegrino….”. It was more than just a drink. It was a way life. It meant…correction, was suppose give others the impression that…you were the type of person who went on holiday in the Amalfi Coast and knew the owner of the best clifftop pizzeria around.
A strange obsession with news
Marius hailed from the Baltics and at least one screen on his desk invariably displayed political news from his home region. The guy was obsessed with politics, especially if it had ‘controversy’ written all over it. And if he was in the middle of reading an article he was as good as dead to the team. Utterly useless!
When things got real busy around the desk and phones lines went ringing off the hook, it was common to yell out ‘HELP’ or ‘LINE’ if you wanted someone to pick up your line. Sometimes you had no choice. A stroke-inducing deadline was near and a managing director was looking at you as if you were shark bait or you were already on two simultaneous calls – one with your headset and another your mobile. And good ol’ Marius loved calling for help.
Because I sat real close to him – directly behind him – I often answered his call in times of ‘need’. Generally, if someone’s line rings a few times unanswered you look in the recipient’s direction to see if she or he is there. Makes sense. It’s a natural reaction. In the case of an incoming call for Marius, it only took me a few degrees turn of the neck to check out what he was up to.
The Baltic Academic
Nearly every time Marius called for help he was reading news. None of it having to do with one of the many projects that were a priority for team, or news about the markets for that matter. All 100% personal leisure. Soon enough all of us knew this. It got to a point where he was given the nickname the ‘Baltic Academic’ because we assumed he was amassing PhD-level knowledge of Baltic politics.
To make matters worse, and as I alluded to earlier he detested grunt work, such as updating graphs, creating league tables, etc. To the point where he refused to do it. In reality everyone does a bit of grunt work, even senior guys. You can’t expect to have all of it outsourced.
And to make matters even worse, he rarely ate at his desk. The situation around our desk could be manic and highly pressurised and yet I’d catch him sitting alone in the cafeteria eating his lunch as if he were at a Michelin-starred restaurant savouring each bite.
We all knew his days were numbered and therefore most people didn’t give him the time of day. On the one hand I felt bad for him because I knew his former team and division was fairly relaxed and ours was a completed change of pace. On the other, it pissed me off as he had to adapt but didn’t seem to care to. His performance directly affected all of us. And layoffs were prevalent those days.
In any event, I still took time to chat with him and to get to know him on a personal level. This went on for months. Then one Tuesday he came in to work unusually late and wearing jeans. A major faux pas.
Theibanker: ”dude, what the f@ck are you wearing? You’re four hours late and missed all the PROJECT XYZ calls. Everyone has been asking about you.”
Marius: sporting a cool smile and an expression which clearly stated there was no need to worry “step out with me. I’ve got something to tell you.”
I knew then and there that something had changed. Irrespective of his usual lazy behaviour I knew he cared for the job – he had a family after all. But the look on his face now said otherwise. In the words of Obama it was ‘time for change.’
As he walked past our Managing Director (MD) – this guy had asked us where Marius was on several occasions that morning – Marius tapped on the MD’s shoulder, said “hi” and kept walking.
MD: clearly irritated “where have you been?”
Marius: doesn’t even turn around to look at the MD in the face “I’ll be back shortly. Let’s chat later.”
I didn’t have the courage to look at the MD lest I burst out laughing.
It’s political baby!
We walk over to a cafe nearby, order a latte and espresso. Marius insists on paying. We make our way to the seating area and find an open table right next to a suspicious-looking couple which I recognize quickly. A Spanish M&A banker and a Moroccan sales girl. They were rumoured to have been seeing one another. Anyway…
I sit down, throw a sugar cube into my espresso shot and look up at Marius.
Theibanker: “Okay, what’s going on? Cause you’re definitely getting fired the next round of layoffs, if not sooner. I can’t even believe you did that upstairs with the MD.”
Marius: taking a long, slow sip of his latte “this, my friend, is arguably the best latte I’ve had in years!”
Theibanker: feeing a bit anxious “Marius! What’s going on?”
Marius: “I’ve been asked to become the economic adviser to the Prime Minister of [Baltic country].”
My surprise at his revelation leads to a big smile.
Marius: “I’m resigning today and flying out next week to start my post. I’ll be coming back to the bank…but not to manipulate Excel spreadsheets. To negotiate transactions with senior management.
I’m taken aback. Great surprise.
Marius: with a wink “don’t worry, I’ll make sure to invite you to those meetings.”