The dog days of Summer are here at last and half the world seems to be on holiday – that strange quiet calmness that typifies August (except when there are riots) has descended on the world. It feels as if the world is a becalmed ship, drifting aimlessly and waiting for the trade winds to return. Indeed, the normal August sense of quietness has been amplified with the end of Olympics and its sixteen days of frantic activity. Of course, this time of year is usually also the ‘silly season’, with stories about flying saucers, crop circles and Elvis working in the local Aldi filling the vacuum left by the lack of real events. Not that ‘real’ events aren’t happening, (even as I type this, Syria is in the throes of self-destruction), it’s just that they feel distant and unreal. Even more unreal than the aforementioned crop circles, which have already made a recent reappearance in the Daily Mail. Arguably, we’ve just had the biggest ‘silly season’ story of them all dominating the headlines and pushing everything else out: the London 2012 Olympics. Entertaining though some of this event might have been, looking back it seems scarcely credible that the antics of swimmers, runners and cyclists were, for a while, considered more important news items than Syria.
Anyway, the August peace has even penetrated the thick walls of the Sleaze Factory – with Little Miss Strange missing in action, Suzie Sleaze pursuing a pop career after her smash hit Sex Pistols cover on a recent Sleazecast and Big Sleazy, well, God knows where he is, there’s only me on deck at the moment (to mix a metaphor). And I’m going to be off on holiday soon, hoping to emulate Little Miss Strange by disappearing for a while. But before I go, I intend having another bloody good rant. Quite a few things have been pissing me off of late, which, I admit, isn’t unusual in itself. However, recently one thing in particular has really got to me – the cult of management bollocks that has taken a grip on our workplaces. You know what I mean – a constant stream of idiotic ideas which allegedly ‘improve’ performance but which, in reality undermine staff morale and efficiency, all delivered by robotic management clones with glazed eyes and fixed rictus grins. The kind of ‘initiatives’ being pushed are so obviously addled that it’s like the ‘silly season’ all year round in offices up and down the land.
Let me give you an example – a couple of weeks ago I was made aware of the existence of something called a ‘resilience guide’ for my office. Yes, that’s right: ‘resilience’. Yes, that’s right: resilience. I found out today that my employers have actually paid some consultant for advice on ‘resilience’ in the workplace. Really. They’ve even produced a handbook. I think, perhaps, that some elaboration is required here. The term ‘resilience’ is – as is often the case with consultants – being used inappropriately. What they are really talking about (in their handbook at least) is workplace stress and how, supposedly, to deal with it. Apparently, the sum total of their advice is to ‘smile’ when dealing with a stressful situation because ‘when you smile, the whole world smiles with you.’ Yup, that’s it folks. Organisations are apparently paying consultants to tell them that gem of profundity. The next time I’m faced by a man waving a machete at me, (which has really happened – not in the office, obviously, but out in the field where I spend most of my working day), I’ll remember to smile at him and it will, doubtless, be OK.
To be fair, it doesn’t just advise you to smile in the face of adversity. Oh no. It also advises that you should ‘be gentle with yourself’. Which sounds like advice on masturbation techniques to me. However, I suspect that they merely mean that you shouldn’t be too self critical. Which highlights one of the problems with the stuff that these consultants come out with – it isn’t really English. Sure, it is composed of English words, arranged into some semblance of a sentence, but it doesn’t actually make sense. Deliberately, as if they actually came out with their advice in plain English, it would be obvious that you needn’t have paid them for it. They’re simply stating the obvious. But if they dress it up in feel good phrases and aphorisms, then managers can patronise their workforce with it, repeating it all over and over again, with a fixed smile, wide eyes and insane enthusiasm.
Which is another problem I have with the modern workplace: dealing with managers in thrall to these consultants and/or the latest management fads, is like trying to deal with Scientologists, or Moonies. To be fair, I think I prefer the Scientologists. At least their brand of insanity, sorry, belief system, is internally consistent. The evangelical zeal with which managers pursue whatever constitutes the latest management bollocks is truly disturbing. They really do treat it as a religion, its edicts to be unquestioningly followed. Every stage of implementation is treated as some kind of new divine revelation. It’s even justified in quasi-religious terms, with the words ‘the Chief Executive has decided we’re going to implement it’. Ah! God has spoken! No other explanations for why we are being forced to follow a management regime which is effectively undermining the organisation’s entire ethos and rendering the workforce inefficient and incapable of delivering any kind of customer service. But, in a classic piece of double-think, the whole process is deemed to be in the name of greater customer satisfaction. Except, of course, customer service has been redefined: what used to be called ‘piss poor’ is now ‘acceptable’, and what was ‘acceptable’ is now deemed to be ‘inefficient’. Welcome to paradise and all hail the messiahs of bollocks!
Clearly, I’m in the wrong business. I obviously need to set myself up as a ‘consultant’ and sell my dubious services to organisations. In the past I’ve mooted the possibility of styling myself an ‘international security’ or ‘intelligence’ consultant, on the basis that to be one of these ‘experts’ you should at least have some experience and knowledge of the area you specialise in. After all, I’ve seen a disturbing number of former colleagues from my days as an intelligence analyst popping up on TV and in the press, claiming to be ‘consultants’ and talking absolute bollocks. But I was wrong – you don’t have to know anything about the field you consult on. Indeed, you can completely make up an entire field of expertise, then convince organisations that it is vital they pay you to give them advice on it. ‘Resilience’, for instance. Until then, I’m going to do my vanishing act for the next weeks. So, until the next time, keep it sleazy.