“What name is it?” asked one of the Pentacles on reception. “Fred.”
“Just Fred? Isn’t there a family name?”
“Fred,” came the stolid reply.
“We don’t have a Fred with no family name on the list……”
“Oh, just give me one of them sticky labels and I’ll do it meself.” The stocky man with a rather square head and a crew cut grabbed a sticky label and a black marker pen and wrote “FRED” in large capitals and stuck it on his chest.
The other delegates to the conference on “Change Management” settled themselves into the meeting room, some sitting close together, some a little apart. Fred sat himself in the middle of the front row, folded his arms and glared as the first speaker came onto the platform.
A tall thin man in well-cut black jeans and a black leather jacket with a white rose in the lapel welcomed everyone. “Let’s throw some ideas about change into the ring, so to speak,” said the tall thin man. “Any ideas?”
“Balls,” came a rough voice from the front row.
“The changes you plan for,” said Three Wands looking rather pleased with himself.
“Redundancy and leaving home,” was a mournful contribution from Six Swords.
“Jolly changes that you aren’t expecting,” said a large man with Jupiterian curls and big grin.
“Thank you, Wheel,” said the tall thin man, “and you?” he gestured to a cross-looking individual with four big bags, one each on the chairs on either side, one on his knee and one under his feet.
“I don’t share my ideas,” came the sullen reply. “They’re mine.”
“But what if they are good ideas? We would like to know,” said the tall thin man.
“No we wouldn’t” said Fred just audibly enough.
“I don’t share my ideas,” repeated the man with the four bags in an obstinate monotone.
“Changes people ask you to make and then rubbish them,” said a sharp-faced woman with three very aggressive spikes of heavily gelled hair.
“Did that happen to you?” asked the tall thin man.
“Yes,” she said sourly. And she glared at one of the other delegates.
The tall thin man divided the delegates into smaller working groups. He had set each of them a specific problem and they were to work out what changes would be necessary to reach a workable solution.
“But you can’t just ride rough-shod over colleagues,” said a well-dressed woman in red, “It wouldn’t be fair.”
“Don’t see why not,” said a young man in what looked leather armour, “it gets things done.”
“At what cost to other people?” went on the woman in red.
“Yes, but we really need structure,” came another voice from another part of the room. The clipped tones suggested ex-Army, thought the tall thin man.
“But this workplace problem is caused by too much structure. We should allow more flexibility and room for initiative” said the King of Wands.
“People ought to be happy with change, we have to make it manageable for them,” came the voice of a placid-looking rounded blonde woman from somewhere else.
Meanwhile Fred stomped round the room. He hoovered up all the leftover biscuits that had been served with the coffee and those he didn’t eat straight away he put in a bag which he appeared to have brought for the purpose.
After the groups had reported their generally unsatisfactory conclusions to the exercise it was time for lunch. Pentacle Manor Conference Centre had provided its usual well-thought-out menu which appealed to all tastes. All except Fred’s. “I don’t eat cold soup,” he said, pointing to a homemade vichysoisse.
“There’s hot soup if you prefer,” said one the Pentacles.
“Don’t like that.”
“Perhaps a salad?” persevered the Pentacle.
“I’m not a rabbit.”
The Pentacle retreated.
“Don’t you do beans on toast?” asked Fred.
“Or with a sausage or two? And if you do do sausages, I don’t want that free-range muck where they tell you the pig’s names, just factory ones.” A slightly flustered Pentacle retreated to the kitchen and sent for the Queen.
“Give him what he wants,” she said, “and don’t tell him where the sausages came from. But explain he’ll have to wait about ten minutes while we prepare his meal.”
The conference delegates had an outdoor team-building activity scheduled for the afternoon. Before they set off the King of Pentacles explained that because of the recent heavy rain part of the parkland had become a small swamp and to avoid it. While the delegates set off, Fred loaded a large bowl with mini fruit crumbles swamped in custard he had somehow obtained and took it outside to eat in the garden.
After allowing the delegates a short while to get going, the tall thin man and the other facilitators followed slowly. The tall thin man came to a log on which the woman with the spikey hair was sitting, obviously very upset. “Is it all right if I sit here?” he asked, perching on the other end of the log, without waiting for an answer.
After a moment the woman with the spikey hair said, “I’m heartbroken. I was asked to organise some changes at work, so I did and everyone complained. And that little toad Seven (the delegate with the red hat) undermined me.”
After a pause the tall thin man asked, “ Why were they upset?”
After a few more sniffs, the woman with the spikey hair said, “Well they said I didn’t consult them first. The Senior Managers said I had no authority, and the junior staff said I was arrogant.”
“Did your changes threaten anyone?” asked the tall thin man. He looked at her intently. “Well did they?”
Spikey Hair thought for a bit, and then nodded.
“And the junior staff? Are you arrogant with them?”
“No of course not.”
“Are you sure??” Spikey Hair sniffed. “You see, perhaps you did not understand how people would perceive your actions. Has this happened before?”
“Yes,” sniffed Spikey Hair.
“Is there something you can learn from this? Do differently next time?” Spikey Hair sniffed and nodded.
The delegates gathered for the closing over cups of tea. Even if some of them were not convinced by the day’s work they were more relaxed and even the man with the four bags look almost cheerful.
“Where’s Fred?” asked the King of Pentacles who had come in to close proceedings and check everyone out. Everyone looked at each other.
“I think he went that way,” said the young man in the leather armour.
“Then we will have to go and find him,” said the King of Pentacles crossly. “I said no-one was to go that way because of the swampy area.” Everyone trooped out. It wasn’t long before gruff noises could be heard from the direction of the swamp. Fred had fallen over and was covered in mud. He wasn’t in danger, but he was, temporarily, stuck.
And he sat down again firmly in the mud.
(c) Lucy Voss