His reddened face showed that he would have preferred to slap me. But all he said was “What a cheeky little fellow you are” and “You’ve got a lot to learn”.
My internship at the management consultancy firm actually went well. I settled into my role of making coffee, cold acquisition, taking minutes and folding leaflets.
Until I got a call from the Senior Partner. I could tell from the static in the background that he was in the car. “Harm, can you call my client to let them know I’ll be 10 minutes late?”
Without thinking, and with some surprise, I replied: “Why, haven’t you got their number?”
It turned out he did have the number. He just liked having someone else facilitating him. And I flatly refused to stroke the Senior Partner’s ego in this way.
Like a Boss Baby I later called him out on his ‘behaviour’ with some bravado. This did not exactly go down well.
And to some extent, he was right. Because actually, violating the hierarchy of such a small office showed a lack of tact. And anyway, it was true that I still had a lot to learn.
Yet I look back on this learning moment in my career with pride. I still set boundaries, although nowadays I am a little more subtle about it.