What do you know about hard work, Paula thought. The day that Anna lost her third marketing assistant in five years was the day she lost all remaining sense of reality. It was also a week after her fourtieth birthday. Paula, the cleaner at the office, was rinsing the dishes the managers were even too lazy to put into the dishwasher standing right next to the sink. She might have to call herself lucky that most of them even carried the dishes to the kitchen, instead of leaving them at their desk for Paula to collect.

Anna was enjoying sushi with a co-high-potential. While Paula was sure that something about them was high, she wasn’t all too sure it was their potential.“It’s honestly frightening how many low qualified and unmotivated people we’re employing,“ Anna said to the Sales Director over lunch in the managers‘ kitchen. Paula knew he was her oldest confidant and of the few employees who were as proficient in manipulation as her. Anna had made it to Marketing Director in this huge corporation after only six years. She had out-played colleagues who had been further along after merely two years.“Well, it just goes to show that they don’t care about their jobs and, honestly, are not used to working independently. In this company, you have to take everybody by the hand, from the junior assistant to the director,“ Rich, the Sales Director, said. Both of them sighed and nodded while picking up another maki.

Paula managed to suffocate a laugh that built up quickly in her throat. If they asked her for her opinion, she would tell them, that – invisible as she may seem to many employees – she knew exactly what was going on. These two were expecting their subordinates to smell their thoughts before they even had them in their minds. And then cover every eventuality of their boss being wrong. It’s not like anybody cared or would ask her opinion, after all, she was merely the immigrant cleaner speaking four languages fluently and with a university degree in international business relations.

Anna cleared her throat. “I might have to change the job announcement myself, Marie keeps sending me these inappropriate candidates and it’s just a waste of time.“

“It’s awful how many tasks we need to do instead of them. It’s like we’re entrepreneurs doing everything ourselves, but what do they know about hard work“ Rich said and they both laughed.

After lunch, Anna went back to her office and poured herself a coffee from her espresso machine. Her office had two large windows and minimalistic furniture flashing a lot of chrome that Paula needed to polish daily. Her wall art, on the other hand, was in stark contrast to this modern look, as it showed a square-meter painting of Athene, the Greek goddess of wisdom, supporting an owl on her left arm. It was quite obvious, really, who Anna’s idol was, despite her own belief that she was a modest person.

Marie knocked on the open door and walked in. Anna was slightly annoyed with Marie, the HR Director, upon her entrance. Paula was wondering whether anybody would warn Anna, while she walked by her office down the corridor to clean the rest rooms.

“Marie, I’m kind of busy. Can you come back later?“

“You forgot that you requested my being here right after your lunch, remember?“

Marie was professional enough to not let herself be trampled over but at the same time remain as polite in her tone as possible. This was her secret to success in this company for thirty years, and Paula admired her diplomacy.

“Okay, but I’m very busy. We need to make this as short as possible,“ Anna said.

It only took her two minutes to re-phrase the job announcement for the marketing assistant job. When she read it aloud, even Paula, who had stopped to eavesdrop while cleaning another glass door, knew it was so confusing that they would have to handle dozens of inappropriate candidates.

Marie got up from her seat and clipped her pen to her notebook.

“Since you’re again without an assistant as off today, do you need someone to fill in the job until then?“

Anna leaned back and straightened her blouse. “No, thank you. I don’t want to have to explain them their tasks all the time like I obviously need to do already.“

Marie looked up at the minimalist stroke brushes of Athene and her owl, and she smiled.

“What’s so funny?“

Marie shook her head. “It’s nothing,“ she said and walked out of the office.

In doing so, she spotted Paula mid-clean. The two women exchanged a look of secret amusement and Paula wondered whether or not she should tell Anna about the rumor she had heard about a merger of the Sales and Marketing Departments. Rich would, clearly, be the better choice for the top management because he was the simpler one – in every aspect of the word. Had Anna been more respectful and polite to her over the years, Paula would have told her to beware of becoming a Medusa and thereby helping Rich, as Perseus, to destroy her. A metaphor will be all that’s left of Anna in a few weeks, and Paula wondered where she would go to, after having dedicated her whole career and given up her entire private life for this job.

But then Paula remembered she needed to clean the toilet cubicles, while Anna was sipping her coffee in her office and getting paid hundreds of Euros an hour for that. After all, what do I know, Paula thought, and had a spring in her step for the rest of the day.