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She’s strange

Elmina was scurrying for the meeting and needed some documents from Modupe, but Modupe was not in her office. She was confused. She called Modupe’s number and the phone rang. The handset was right there in her office. “Why can’t she just carry her handset with her?” Elmina cursed. She walked out of Modupe’s office in frustration.

She walked along the long corridor and saw Modupe coming from a distance. “Thank God she’s here finally.” Elmina thought. She decided to wait for her, but Modupe just walked past her.

“Good morning Modupe.”

“Good morning” she replied and kept on walking.

“I can’t deal with this. I certainly can’t deal with this.” Elmina spoke to herself. “I am going to report her straightaway.”

Modupe walked past Tobi who waved at her but she didn’t wave back. “She’s weird” Tobi thought. She walked into her office; on her desk were five post it notes left for her. The post it notes all read the same message, ‘please we need the documents to prepare for the meeting.’ She picked up her files and started heading to the conference room. As she was walking out of her office, Mrs. Dennis was just coming in to her.

“Good morning Modupe.”

“Good morning.”

Modupe walked past Mrs. Dennis, the vice president operations. Mrs. Dennis almost flew into a rage. Nobody dared to speak to her without addressing her properly as Mrs. Dennis or madam, yet Modupe threw her greetings back at her and breezed past her as though she was a flea on the wall!

Mrs. Dennis has been with Loyola Accounting firm from inception. She did her internship with them, started work with the head office of Loyola. She has worked in five offices of Loyola in the country and five partner offices across the globe. She was a well-respected lady in the company. She commanded respect. She was revered. Apart from the founding fathers, she was the only one who knew the company, inside out. Once you were in her good books, you were okay. For a staff member to walk out on her was considered not just rude but also a crime worse than blatant insult to the CEO.

Modupe carried on as if nothing had happened.

Mrs. Dennis was stunned. She couldn’t believe what she had just witnessed. It was bad enough that she had to personally walk down to Modupe’s office because the meeting was about to start in 30 minutes. The project at hand was one of the biggest projects of Loyola firm and Mrs. Dennis’. For a member of staff to be considered to be on this project was an honour, not to mind actually being on the project. That was an honour of a lifetime. Such privileges would make your CV stand out.

Modupe graduated with a first class honours from the University of London. Her master’s was from Cambridge University. Her expertise and experience was on company mergers. She had facilitated the merger of five top firms in Fortune 500.That was why she was put on this project. Older staff members didn’t like the idea that a new member of staff was put in a project that they, who had worked for the company for at least five years were not considered for. And here she was, first major briefing with the client, she could not be reached. She was snobbish and her interpersonal skills were non-existent.

“I better keep my calm till after the meeting” Mrs. Dennis thought to herself.

An urgent meeting was called with the HR director, Modupe’s line manager and the vice president operations, on Monday after the presentation.

“I am sorry I can’t stay for the meeting. It’s already past going home time but because of the presentation, I had to work late today” Modupe told the HR manager.

The tone of the email was not nice. Mr. Dokun was literally wetting himself. He was the acting HR director and he was gunning to be appointed the substantive HR director. He could not afford to screw up his opportunity. He read the email again:

‘Dear Ms. Lawal,

Be available for a meeting with the Vice President Operations at the VP’s office suite 305 at 9am 20th May 2015.

Thanks and kind regards,

Mr. Dokun, Sigie.

Ag. Director Human Resources’.

Satisfied with its content, he clicked the send button.

If there was anything Mr. Dokun wanted, it was the removal of that ‘Ag’ from his designation. That ‘Ag’ seemed like a bee that stung so bad. But he needed to sting too because after stinging, the bee’s stinger  is usually gone. That ‘Ag’ will become dead and the next time he sends out an email, it would read ‘Director Human Resources’.

The thought of it was just unimaginable. If the company requested any favours from any member of staff, it was considered a privilege to that member of staff. The company paid the members of staff handsomely. They looked after their staff members so well that, in the market environment, they would be ranked among the top ten in terms of staff welfare. In a country like Nigeria where jobs were so scarce, any opportunity that one had was held onto tightly, like a precious stone explorer who had just discovered a fresh site for exploration and exploitation. In view of this, people either always worked late or arrived work earlier than usual in a bid to impress the directors and line managers. The previous quarter the company had posted a profit of over a billion naira and staff members were rewarded handsomely too. The bonuses paid to staff members had covered their wages of over three years. Why would they not then stay true and faithful to the organization that had made them? In the process some of them had become slaves and lost their individualism.

At the meeting, Modupe strolled in at exactly 8.58am. H.R director was seated to the right of Mrs. Dennis, the H.R manager was seated to the right of Modupe and Modupe’s line manager, Mrs. Bernard was seated left to Mrs. Dennis.

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming” Mrs. Dennis began. Those who knew Mrs. Dennis well enough knew that when she started a meeting like that, most likely, heads may roll at the end of the meeting.

Mr. Dokun could not imagine the effrontery displayed by Modupe. He replayed the matter over his mind. He still could not believe that what he had heard was real. Modupe was standing on trial for blatantly being rude to the mighty VP Operations, not just a VP, but one of the shareholders of the company. To make matters worse, Modupe would not accede to a request of a post presentation briefing by the VP. To be on the same project with the VP is a privilege that any staff member would do anything to gain. The VP was like a demi god in the organization. Her request of meeting was like an order. It had to be obeyed. Modupe has set antecedence in the firm by turning down the VP’s request and she must be court-martialed.

“Ms Lawal, could you tell us the reason why you refused to attend the post presentation briefing last Friday?” Mrs. Dennis fired the question.

“Because it was about 6.40pm and I finish work by 5pm. I was also already late to pick up my daughter from school.”

People could not believe what they heard. No member of staff has ever had such audacity to give such an excuse before, especially the one about ‘I finish work by 5pm’. What! Loyola was your life. Loyola pays for your holidays, Loyola gives you that fat bank account, the car you drive, the nice neighbourhood you live in, the exotic holidays you take yearly, the expensive private schools your children attend, that exquisite wedding you had, is all because of Loyola, and you turned around and spurned Loyola. Is that how you show your loyalty? These were all the thoughts running through people’s minds.

“It clearly means that you don’t have a place in Loyola” Mrs. Dennis said. At this point in time, it was evident that the meeting was over and the next steps will be handled by the HR people.

“It has also been observed that you are anti-social and when people greet you, you do not even nod a response talk more of answering. You keep to yourself. What do you have to say about that Ms. Lawal?

Modupe became agitated. ‘You need to take your medicine.’ the little voice announced within her mind. She fondled with her phone before answering.

“To begin with ma’am, I do not see the people in question as I am blind. I only see objects and sense objects. How can I respond to people that I do not see? I am new here and nobody seems to care about my condition. What must I do?”

At this, the VP turned to the HR director and requested for Modupe’s file.

It was beginning to make sense now. Mr. Dokun had a candidate he preferred for this post but Modupe had beat the candidate hands down during the interview and demo sessions held. Mr. Dokun did not reveal her condition to members of staff and hence people were not aware of her condition. People thought that she was a snob and anti-social and her needs were completely ignored.

Mr. Dotun’s misdemeanor angered Mrs. Dennis a great deal. He was suspended for negligence of duties and his deputy appointed to act on his behalf. Loyola had a total revamp of HR policy to effectively accommodate members of staff with special needs. This was a case of special needs people not being effectively handled in work places leading to huge misnomers and misconceptions. The HR department had to create a new staff policy to accommodate the needs of people with extra needs and that meant sharing of vital information with staff members.

Uwem Mbot Umana©2020

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16 Comments

  • Lilian Eseme Posted June 28, 2020 12:20 am

    What worked well in this story was that Modupe was so privileged to find herself in a company like Loyola, as one of the staff working with the vice president of the company. Mrs Dennis.

    I like the fact that Loyola company takes good care of their workers. They provide good accommodations, cars, and even send their children to a standard School, and still pay them handsomely e.t.c.

    What caught my attention the most was the fact that Modupe was not actually pretending about acting strange at the office, she was actually having a physical challenge of seeing just objects and hearing voices, which nobody noticed then they thought she was a snob and anti-social.

    Modupe should have just stayed home for the day and call the office or the vice president herself, to ask for a day off of work so she can take her medication and some rest to regain herself.

    It’s also impressive that the company’s Human Resources Department was able to create a policy that accommodates the needs and extra needs of their workers to help them with vital informations.

    I now see reasons why most Nigerian company workers neglect their intreprenueship life and prefer to work with their Boss all their lifes because, they get too comfortable with what they are gaining from the company.Which Authomatically turn them to slaves unknowingly and make them lost their individualism. It’s either they work late at night or they arrive very early, earlier than the usual time just to impress their Boss or the cheif of staffs.

  • Joel-Levi Omotayo Posted June 27, 2020 9:26 pm

    This very touching story of a young lady who was handicapped and employed it was really inspiring. What really worked well for me was the amazing reality that every staff was well paid and was given a car and could afford the luxury of life e.g. a conducive environment to live in, expensive schools for their children to attend and a very classic holiday.
    What I like the most about the story was that Modupe eventually had the opportunity to make known her predicament to her boss and other colleagues who had already considered her a very rude and antisocial person.
    What caught my attention the most was to my great surprise no one observed the condition and situation of Modupe and even Mr Dotun never disclosed to anyone either.
    The writer should have further told us what the reactions of Modupe’s other colleagues were after they found out about her predicament and where she was later assigned to work.

  • Marcus-Philemon Omotayo Posted June 27, 2020 9:16 pm

    The story shows how unfair things can turn out in life how a blind person has to work with people who can see and expected to be able to do what they do .
    What worked well for me was the high level of
    commitment of the staff towards the company due to the fact that they were well paid they were loyal.
    What I like most about the story is that Modupe was given an opportunity to express herself as to why she behave the way she did and her condition was noted by everyone.
    It struck me the most that in spite of Modupe’s situation she never complained to anyone she just focused on her job and did what she had to do.
    The writer should hence write how Modupe deeply felt after she revealed her situation and the reaction of the others towards her situation and the reaction of the others towards her.

  • Aimée Posted June 27, 2020 8:48 pm

    What really worked well was the way the writer portrayed the 100% loyalty displayed by the staff members of Loyola. It goes to show the company culture of some organizations in our present day. One gets a job at one of the top companies in the city, he or she is expected to give it their all; their time and resources, even to the extent of putting the job before their personal life. Anyone in superior position is seen as a god who no one dares to cross for fear of being fired. Such was the case of Mrs Dennis. As a result of her successes and position, she was given so much reverence and admiration that none of the staff could confront her. When Modupe was asked to join the meeting and she declined, the thoughts that ran through people’s minds showed the amount of devotion they had to the company; it was practically their god, their only source of living and existence. Life isn’t just about work. Yes, we are to do our very best but not at the expense of our own lives. Don’t become a slave or lose yourself in the name of working with a company, just because you get all the exciting benefits.

    Mr Dokun could be a representation of how some people feel at their workplace. Anxiously waiting for that promotion, he sent his mail, knowingly fully well that the next time he would ever send a mail, it would be properly signed as ‘Director Human Resource’. He had worked hard to get to this point and couldn’t wait for his position to change.

    Also, I liked how Modupe kept her cool throughout. Although she was blind, she didn’t react to any negative attitudes shown by her colleagues. The gist of her snobbishness and rudeness had gone round the office and everyone was waiting for her to be tried but Modupe kept calm. When the time finally came and she was asked why she failed to attend the meeting, she could have easily snapped about her disabilities but she calmly explained the situation to Mrs Dennis which led to the realization of the negligence on the part of Mr Dokun.

    The story showed a great lesson of how companies need to redefine their organizational culture. Being a member of a team means knowing your team members. It was highly unaccepted that the workers were not aware of Modupe’s disability. Communication skill was poor. For someone who had been working in the company and no-one even bothered to find out why Modupe never responded to greetings or acted the way she did only revealed the bad relationship the workers had with each other. Mr Dokun was reprimanded for his actions and the much awaited promotion turned to a suspension. Also, it can never be over-emphasized, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Modupe was anti-social for a reason but her colleagues had already tagged her. She could have been blind or struggling with something but because no-one showed interest in her personal life, they did not know til the end. Companies should make provisions for people with special needs in their policy and embrace the idea of a workplace relationship between workers.

    The writer should have told us how Mr Dokun handled his punishment and the reactions from the colleagues concerning Modupe’s big revelation, especially for those that were anticipating her judgment.

    An interesting story

  • Yemi Adebiyi Posted June 27, 2020 4:10 pm

    A good story. I like how Modupes “behaviour” negates the conceived notion of conformity in Loyola firm, simply because the firm.made every employee comfortable. The twist in the story is unexpected; the HR manager got the treatment that an average reader would think belonged to Modupe for inappropriate briefing on the new staff. The story could also have been interesting the more if the author explored the theme “blind loyaity” instead of the “physical challenge” option.
    It is a little hard to believe that top mother’s of such a big firm would not know the condition of Modupe or the expectations from a blind.
    What made the story thick aso weaken it.

  • Dahunsi Samuel Posted June 27, 2020 12:07 pm

    (…)

    The writer could have played out the scenario of the V.P apologizing/sympathizing with Module. Also, in the last paragraph, Dokun was written as Dotun.

  • Dahunsi Samuel Posted June 27, 2020 12:04 pm

    How amazing it is, when what you perceive to be 6, others on the other side see as 9. This story is a very intriguing one about a partially blind and innocent employee of Loyola Accounting Firm, Modupe, who was erroneously perceived to be snobbish and disrespectful, even to the ‘almighty’ VP, Mrs Dennis, as her condition wasn’t known (owing to the negligence of the then Ag. HR director, Mr Dokun). It illustrates how quick humans can be to jump to conclusions and recommends the need to seek clarity before acting on such assumptions.

    I love the writer’s compliance and consistency in using a variety of pseudonyms in different stories. Last week’s was that of the Igbo tribe, while this week’s is more of Yoruba. One can easily tell that this particular branch of Loyola Accounting Firm is situated somewhere in the southwestern states of Nigeria.

    I must commend the writer, his style was fit to convey the most intricate details to the understanding of the readers with utmost clearness, without much deviation. He took us into the mind and thoughts of the characters effortlessly, especially that of the ambitious and negligent Mr Dokun. The story is simply epic. I also like the instant disciplinary action taken on Mr Dokun.

    What caught my attention was the ability of Module to contain her rising temper and master her motions, even when she could have flared up ‘justifiably’. I also like the idea of a little inner voice that communed with her. It takes a great deal of self discipline not to lose it when misconstrued and wrongly accused.

  • Mary-Joan Nwaogu Posted June 27, 2020 10:31 am

    “She is strange” is a well illustrated story Uwem Mbot Umana uses to illustrate a workplace interpersonal issue in a corporate organisation. It is a complete creative work. Full of suspense and intrigue, Umen Mbot Umana uses this story to illustrate how people are constantly labelled at the workplace amidst jealousy, fear and commotion. The story shows how Modupe’s colleagues had shallow interpretations of her behavior. Some took her to be unresponsive, some viewed her as weird, some others termed her to be snobbish. While the mighty and ever feared Mrs. Dennis raged at her behavior.
    At first, reading the story halfway would almost make one start wondering if she had issues with her job or serious issues she was attending to that made her unable to exchange pleasantries in a way probably relative to their organisational culture and climate.
    Modupe must have such extraordinary sensory and perceptual talents that enables her navigate her way through the company such that people could not realize she was physically challenged. How was she coping with her job in the absence of her special needs working tools? How does she feel being denied the use of those special facilities she needed for her job? How was she coping with navigating through the structures of the offices without being given proper orientation and assistance as a new and blind employee?
    Though new to Loyola, Modupe did not allow her fat salary to make her life her principles. She was bent on respecting time. She is probably one of those well principled employees who give in their best while expecting the organization to respect their tine and life.
    Mr. Dotun’s misdemeanor earned Modupe the misconceptions carried on by the employees of the organization. Her special needs were not attended to as these may have previously been seen as unnecessary or out of place. He could have finally achieved his ultimate heart desire – removal of “Ag” from his portfolio if he had communicated promptly with the Vice president after the interview about Modupe and her outstanding performance despite her physical challenges. This negligence cost him his job. He was waiting for the removal of “Ag” but he finally got removed. What a pity!
    Despite Mrs. Dennis’way of attending to issues and being feared by all employees, she can be compared to a coconut – hard from the outside but soft from the inside. This is glaringly noticed in the way she revamped Loyola’s HR policy to effectively accommodate members of staff with special needs.
    Thank you Uwem Mbot Umana for bringing forth this aspect of organisational life to limelight. Many organisations have chaotic climate in which employees work with fear thus treambling at the mention or presence of the manager or director thereby committing unforgivable errors that could have been resolved with effective communication.

  • Isabella Posted June 25, 2020 10:19 am

    Wow! I am marveled by the writer’s inspiration in writing a story like this.
    It was quite an interesting story which was full of lessons that people could bring out from different perspectives. I liked when the VP, Mr. Dokun, HR director and other workers were about to find out why Modupe was so rude to them.
    When Modupe responded so rudely to the staff who greeted her, it caught my attention.
    What happened to Modupe?
    Was she angry?
    Did she have a bad day?
    What really happened?
    This made me interested in reading more to find out what was the matter with Modupe.

  • Abe Posted June 25, 2020 9:29 am

    It’s so easy to misconstrue issues without getting the facts. Modupe was partially blind and ag. HR didn’t inform members of staff that she had special needs.
    We do need patience in dealing with each other as opposed to just running with one track in mind based on just our viewpoint(s).

  • Adelodun Jewel Posted June 25, 2020 9:16 am

    The writer’s creativity is very much commendable . I could literally not wait to see Modupe’s fate at the end. From the story, Modupe wasn’t totally blind. She was partially blind as she could see objects. She just couldn’t recognize people. I’m pretty sure the company staff were hoping that she will be sacked at the end of that meeting because of her supposed “misbehavior” the sad thing is that prior to the meeting, nobody cared to know why she acted the way she did. At least one member of the staff should have been curious enough to find out why she acted that way. But they were all focused on getting the job done with little or no empathy. If The staff had known about her condition, things wouldn’t have blown out of proportion and the VP wouldn’t have had to be insulted. I would love that the writer shows the readers the reaction of the staff members after her condition was revealed.

  • Elnathan Posted June 24, 2020 6:00 pm

    I mean modupe

    • Isabella Posted June 26, 2020 11:44 am

      That’s okay!😀😀

  • Elnathan Posted June 24, 2020 12:45 pm

    The writers inspirational and aesthetic mind left me jawdropped and marvelled.
    What worked well in the story is that the story contained true reasonable and life happening facts.
    The tension made me keen and anxious to know what Module’s fate was going to be.
    As I read the story, I noticed that Module’s blind state should have been noticed right from the first time she stepped into the company’s compound or environment. She wasn’t really completely blind, but partly blind to some extent. She had limited vision. Being partly blind means that you may have blurry vision or the inability to distinguish the shapes of objects. That is why she made the statement “I only see objects and sense objects. How can I respond to people that I do not see? I am new here and nobody seems to care about my condition. What must I do?”
    Not knowing about Modupe’s state caused people to think ill of her. I strongly and personally feel that Modupe’s medical problem should have been told to the members of the company to at least make them have in mind Modupe’s condition.
    The writer should have told us about how Modupe felt at the end of the story.

    • Solape Adetutu Adeyemi Posted June 25, 2020 8:01 am

      Beautiful plot, beautiful story. The part of picking up her daughter sounded insouciant. But we get, since she cannot see well, she needs to keep up with familiar schedule. But that part wasn’t necessary. The bottom line is she is partially blind.

  • Paul Elakhe Posted June 23, 2020 11:42 pm

    I am baffled by the writer’s creativity. The stories get more interesting every week. Never a dull moment. So what worked in the story is that the story is original, fact-based, convincing and was told as it is. It’s obviously somebody’s experience.

    I liked the suspense, the anxious uncertainty the story produced in the minds of the readers. Readers would be eager to know what finally happened to modupe. I was almost sure she would be sacked but at the end, it turned out another way. It’s not a story that can be read half way and completed later. The reader would be hankering after the end.

    My attention is drawn to fact that staffers did not know that Modupe was blind. It means she must be partially blind; could see her way around but not able to recognise people. Here are Modupe’s words; “I only see objects and sense objects. How can I respond to people that I do not see”? I thought, a one time confrontation of Modupe’s supposed misdemeanour by one of the old staffers would have revealed her true condition. The VP had to experience it before Modupe’s condition was discovered. it was an issue that should have been tackled and matters laid bare before the VP’s attention was drawn to it.

    The writer should have told us about the reaction of other staffers when Modupe’s condition was discovered.

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