Vignette 1: Fire alarm in Bucharest
An engineer from the Bucharest office of a global company describes a recently experienced situation.
We were sitting at an extraordinary staff meeting in a windowless office in our company's building in Bucharest. Almost all of the Romanian office people were invited to listen to a big boss from Munich. One could clearly see that our local managers were trying to do everything possible to leave a positive impression with the guest from headquarters. Our local top brass people were smiling and nodding all the time when the visitor spoke, and the Romanian general manager was even taking notes on his tablet computer, something that he never does. The visitor from Munich was talking about the responsibility each of us had for cutting costs. Suddenly the meeting room went completely dark and a fire alarm sounded. Everyone stayed sitting at their places, waiting for instructions. The visitor from Munich went silent, but our local bosses for some reason were silent too. Finally, someone from the audience lost patience and shouted: "For how much longer are we going to sit here? Do you want to burn here? It's time to get out." People jumped from their seats and started making their way to the exit. They were stepping on each other's feet and bumping against the furniture. When we were finally out of the building it became clear that a fire had started in one of office's electric rooms, and firefighters were already handling it. Luckily, nobody was injured.
When the situation cleared, the engineer found himself thinking about the behavior of the managers in this situation:
Since this incident, I have often thought about why our managers remained silent when the fire alarm went off. Usually they have no problem giving orders or telling us how to do things. This time, however, they were quiet and indecisive. Could it be that the presence of the higher-ranking boss from Munich had an impact on their...