What drives you nuts at work? From team-building, to blue-sky thinking and middle-managers, HENRY BECKET on office life’s greatest pains
With so much that’s so seriously wrong with the world at the moment, it’s perhaps therapeutic to look back to an innocent age all of a year ago, when really trivial things had the capacity to drive you absolutely round the bend.
That’s what a recently-published book The Becket List – an A to Z of First World Problems does, with illustrations from cartoonist Tony Husband, of Private Eye fame.
Author, Henry Becket, has spent the best part of half a century in the world of work, so it’s hardly surprising that business life features strongly in the book.
In his time, he’s come across no end of organisations and the people in them that have the capacity to drive us round the bend. With tongue firmly in cheek, Henry shares three of them here.
After a year in lockdown and working from home, some commuters might even be missing the time they spent on the train – a return to the office could soon change that
An activity sponsored by organisations, both commercial and not-for-profit, that almost invariably has the precise opposite effect of what is intended.
An activity that almost invariably has the precise opposite effect of what is intended
You will forever hold in even more contempt than you started with, the person who took seriously the challenge of crossing a stream with two pieces of corrugated cardboard, a length of hosepipe, four bulldog clips and a dog-lead.
And then had the nerve to look pleased with themselves when they accomplished it.
Team-building activities almost end up with several ‘colleagues’ coming to blows in the bar afterwards.
To be steered clear of at all costs: throw an inventive sickie (you’ll gain others’ respect by your ingenuity if not from your prowess overcoming fatuous challenges).
Those grounded by lockdowns may be missing their regular business travel – but the reality often falls far short of the glamourous idea of the jet-setting businessman or woman
It’s just office work, guys, not nuclear science: GET OVER IT!
Do not blue-sky it, take it offline, get the team on board with it
Do not blue-sky it, take it offline, get the team on board with it, or run it up the flagpole to see who salutes. Nobody wants to know!
So please stop holding a mirror up to your customers, circling back, and all the rest of it and take your Boston matrices, cash cows, ballparks, J-I-Ts, and all the rest of the nonsense and stick it where the sun don’t shine.
WTC, JFDI by close-of-play and stop wittering on about it.
Beware the faceless middle manager ready to stall your best ideas and ambitions
Does anyone have any idea what a middle manager is or does?
All offices containing more than say a dozen staff seem to have one – or in some cases, hundreds – all beavering busily away… but at what?
These days their computer screen will be partially covered with fading post-it notes, and the wall behind it will carry motivational statements
Male versions are normally identifiable by their bad taste in clothing and bad teeth, and their unmistakeable sense of self-importance.
Back in the day they’d have had a breast pocket stuffed with pencils, pens and erasers and likely have tucked their shirt into their underpants.
These days it’ll be a uniform of M&S’s evergreen Under-Manager range.
Female versions tend to be short-haired and wear sensible shoes. Do they still have one of those spikes on their desk on which slips of paper are aggressively mounted, accompanied with a dramatic harrumph? I do hope so.
These days their computer screen will be partially covered with fading post-it notes, and the wall behind it will carry motivational statements such as ‘Do it Now’ and ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps’.
The first is ironic and the second merely honest.
But what do they DO, these middle managers? As far as anyone can make out, their role is to impede any kind of progress that an individual or the organisation itself might conceivably make.
They have a thousand ways of saying NO, and their tools are obfuscation, procrastination, a faked deference to the powers-that-be, and an impenetrable language peculiar to the species stuffed full with obscure acronyms and cod business-speak.
By the way, you know when you’re of no interest to the business in which you work when you find yourself intentionally marooned next to one of these types at the office Christmas meal, getting morosely drunk on warm white wine: you’ll vow to look for a new job at the start of the New Year.
It’s senior management’s adroit way of easing you out – death through a thousand yawns – without having to expensively resort to HR best practice.
- The Becket List – an A to Z of First World Problems is available to buy now and a second volume is being written. It can be bought at all good book shops and, of course, Amazon.
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