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Random Annoying Things

July 18, 2012

My usual disclaimer: I have been busy / on holiday / can’t be arsed. I just don’t seem to have the time to do anything at the moment. Our house looks like burglars arrived and brought their shit and scattered it about, we have a laundry pile that is truly staggering and might even have a base camp; and our cars are fetid environments that even the kids sniff a bit when they enter – and they genuinely don’t care if you kept a dead cat in there for a week, they seem immune to scent. So, everything is taking a hit at the moment AND I start a new job in September so I guess I am going to have to give up personal hygiene or eating biscuits if I want to find the time to blog…

So, here is a bunch of stuff that is annoying me at the moment – no real reason, just collected them and jotted them down.

  1. Pointless Road Signs Falling rocks? What, exactly, can I do about it? Drive faster? Slower? Weave? Pray? Open the sun-roof and try and catch the bloody things? What? Another one is the deer jumping sign…again, what the sweet fuck can I do about that? Cover my car in bear scent? Point a shotgun out the window? What? I want to know. I saw another one the other say that said: bridge. Great, thanks for confirming what I can see and will shortly be driving over. High winds! What can I do? Open the windows? Drive into it? Take the sails down? Stating the bleeding obvious…
  2. Teabags in the sink I get it, they drip. But if you put them into something that is designed to collect water they will eventually be drawn to the plug hole where they will block it and then you’ll have to put them into they bin…and they’ll drip. I know taking them to the bin is a himalayan trial akin to moving a large rock over burning coals, but just try…
  3. Dish Soaking If you don’t want to do the washing up, just say.
  4. Fingerprints on Glasses When non-glasses wearing people hand me my glasses (normally my kids) they pick them up by the lens because, after all, they are the least important components of a pair of glasses…or worse, they put the glasses down on a table lenses down rubbing off the expensive (and as far as I can ascertain) utterly pointless computer screen layer of stuff that apparently makes looking at computer screens easier…or something. I fell for that one the first time…but not the second. Shouldn’t have gone to SpecShafters.
  5. Inside-out Laundry Everyone in my family (apart from me) takes their clothes off as if they are saving a drowning man, so I spend an extra twenty minutes doing the laundry because everything is inside out – arrrrgghhhh!!
  6. Coins for Shopping Trolleys I am normally pretty good about remembering to bring a 2chf piece when going to the supermarket…but sometimes I forget and then I have to go to the cashpoint and get some money and then go into a shop and ask for change…and then they refuse, because they haven’t got a lot of change, they’re not a bank so then I have to buy a packet of chewing gum (and suddenly they have all the change in the world – I think Wrigleys profits are 50% people breaking a note) so I can temporarily put it into a shopping trolley. Why would I ever steal a shopping trolley? Take it home? Leave it outside the flat? Put it on the balcony as an ornamental feature? If I really wanted one then 2chfs seems a small price to pay (BTW 2chfs is approximately £95.88 at current exchange rates) to secure an ugly wire box with wheels on the bottom that don’t really work that well on a pavement and even in the supermarket don’t really go in the direction you want. Is 2chfs really a deterrent enough to stop people joy riding on trolleys? How empty are their lives that they can glean some joy from riding in a shopping trolley?
  7. Google Maps on iPhone Wierdly, I know how to get around where I live because, you know, I live here. But if I visited – say – Germany, I wouldn’t have a scooby-doo where anything was in Hamburg or Berlin because…I haven’t been there before. Ah, but I could use the map app on iPhone! Then I can find the nearest coffee shop / bank / hardware store easily…but you can’t because you’ll come home to a bill so large that you’ll have to go on the run, grow a beard and eat raw rabbits. So…why have maps at all?!?!? What is the bloody point of an app that would only really come in useful when you are somewhere foreign. Bloody stupid mobile phone operators, they are a collective bunch of simpletons that I want to beat with rolling pins…to the Nokia tune. The fucks.
  8. Hair Trigger Petrol Pumps A lot of the pumps here have a little catch so that you can put the nozzle in and lock it so that while it fills your tank you can do other stuff…like check Facebook…or select some snacks from the petrol boutique (Urgh) or have a fag (saw that once in France – I pulled in and then pulled out again and spent the next 5 or 10 kms looking in my rearview mirror for a plume of flame 2 kms high…). But in France or England a lot of pumps have a trigger that when you squeeze it beyond a certain point it stops the flow of petrol…sometimes the flow of petrol is so slow that you continually try and squeeze the trigger just too much and it keeps cutting off and that become old very, very quickly.
  9. Long Leads for Dogs When I am running people walk dogs along part of my route. I don’t mind, it’s a free country (ha!) but some people have extendable leads so that their dogs can roam and at certain times of the day the footpath is a veritable cats cradle of the bloody things. Normally the dogs that are required to roam are small dogs. In my experience the smaller the dog and the longer the lead the stooopider the dog and the owner. So, when I run I trip over the stoopid dog or the fucking lead. If I have just run 10k and this happens then one day I will flatten a dog and frisbee the fucker out into the lake and when they say: ‘You killed my dog!’ I’ll say, ‘ what fuckin’ dog?’
  10. Flies Just because. I know they break down stuff and do loads of ecosystem bullshit that is important, but they’re bloody annoying.

The Footie

July 1, 2012

Wow, I really haven’t blogged for a while – but life took over and I just did not have the time. But, enough of that. What has been taking up my time recently is Football, namely The European Championship. There has been lots of column inches written about racism, the John Terry / Rio Ferdinand debacle and how easily Germany* are going to win it so I thought I would do an alternative European Championship overview.

Best National Anthem It’s got to be Russia. The second that tune comes on you can see everyone is the crowd get antsy and want to get industrious, start making tanks or get into formation and start marching or something. There was one anthem I heard that went on for so long (think it was Croatia) that I went and made a cup of tea and it was still playing when I got back. I still think that we should have Hey Jude as the English national anthem. Think about it, we’d all know the words and all the other nations would join in for the chorus.

Best Kit Sweden away kit, with the big diagonal stripe – it’s straight out of the seventies. A close second are the Netherlands (when did Holland become The Netherlands – it sort of slipped into common usage in the nineties…). The only problem with Holland is that they were like a bunch of investment bankers turning up for a sunday morning kick about – they had the best and most expensive kit, and you’d think they’d play like 11 Lionel Messi‘s…but they ended up playing like 11 Lionel Ritchies. Worst kit: Croatia away – man, straight out of Primark that one…

Best Pundit Jamie Carragher by a country mile. I thought he was going to be terrible but it turns out that he had real insight and was not afraid to say what everyone else was thinking but wouldn’t say lest it harm their television career. The glowing ember that is Roy Keane’s hatred for Adrian Chiles was sometimes a joy to behold but he didn’t really add much to the analysis but – alas – as far as I know he didn’t kick seven shades of shite out of Adrian Chiles. I thought Roberto Martinez was very good as well and was the only one who was adamant that he would not have selected Rooney to start as it would have split apart a winning team and would have played him as any player struggling for fitness – as a sub. Gary Lineker still pwns Chiles in the hosting stakes and I think the BBC have a very good pundit in Lee Dixon…but Alan Shearer‘s media training makes him look a bit desperate and however much I hate to say it but ITV (non-stop betting adverts aside) edged it on the punditry.

Worst Pundit Mark Lawrensen, again, by a country mile. Very, very little analysis that wasn’t just stating the bleedin’ obvious and he edged into Jimmy Tarbuck routines too often for my liking…except less funny. I think he has now become too sour and bereft of any passion for the game and his commentary just makes me depressed.

Graphics & Coverage I think the two nationals shared it. The BBC has a soulless opening sequence that reminds me of some things I have seen built in Minecraft and ITVs Tim Burton homage is creepy, weird and too try hard. Chop up grainy footage of x amount of wonder goals to uplifting music – job done. The BBC let themselves down with Wish You Were here dummies guides to Poland and Ukraine that could have made it into their Panorama programme – so hackneyed were their portrayals of the nations. ITV then went and bought the old sets from Startgate Atlantis and was only mitigated by the fact that their studio was above a town square and you could see Roy Keane itching to wade into the crowds with a broken bottle bellowing: I AM TRYING TO ANALYSE GREECE’S DEFENSIVE FORMATION YOU FECKS! SHUT THE FECK UP!!

Most Annoying New Thing to Emerge The countdown. Make. It. Stop. It’s not American Gladiators…or New Years eve. FFS, whoever thought this would be a good idea seriously needs to watch some 3rd division football to get back in touch with the real game.

Most Over-rated Player Wayne Rooney. For the umpteenth time, our own little granny fancier just can’t cut it at a major tournament in an England shirt. Some players just can’t do it. Ian Wright couldn’t (though he was very unlucky with injuries), Paul Scholes (arguably) couldn’t and neither could Frank Lampard. Maybe Rooney needs to be regarded as a sub, as a player who is wonderful for his club but shit for his country. Welbeck has it, and clearly wants more and so does Carroll. Rooney doesn’t.

Most Under-rated Player Andrea Pirlo. Too old, too slow and not motivated. They seemed to be the chief criticisms. Well, he showed us all a thing or two didn’t he? Genuinely lovely player to watch who seems to stroke the ball around the pitch without any effort or haste and yet finds a teammate with nearly every pass. I might send Steven Gerrard a video of Pirlos 10,000 greatest passes. Just so he gets an idea of it.

So, final tonight and I want Italy to win – mainly because they have grown into the tournament and are (for the first time in a looooooooonng time) an Italian team that I actually want to watch. They have the usual rock-hard Italian defence but now they look wonderful going forward and in Balotelli have one of the most exciting Italian strikers to emerge in 20 years. Spain have polished what they do so much that what was once a glinting thing of beauty is now a smooth, dull pebble that is not much fun to watch. No one likes a show off and they have a bit of that. I have heard their own fans booing them and that is never a good sign. They’ll probably win – they have the winning formula – but it is a formula: football as science and I am not sure it is a good thing that they should. Italy are being supported because they play the sport with passion, panache and verve. If Italy go at Spain and Mario has a good game then it’ll be a cracker and they could win – but if it goes to penalties then Spain will win…because they probably practiced penalties in a lab somewhere.

* I started this before Germany got knocked out.

Film Club

May 31, 2012

A while back (but being beyond 40 I can no longer accurately trust my memory any more) I started a film club. It’s like a book club except with films. I don’t know why I am explaining this, it’s not that complicated. I send out an invite and we all pile round someone’s house clutching a DVD of their choice, some snacks and their poison of choice. Then we pick a film out of the hat (not literally as that would be a very big hat.)

There are only a couple of provisos: no porn (for obvious reasons and also because I imagine there would not be a great deal to discuss after watching Debbie Does Dallas), no horror (just because it is an acquired taste  - even though there are some damn fine horror flicks out there – and it’s hard to discuss something you haven’t seen because you’ve been hiding behind the sofa) and no snuff films. I would prefer to place anything with Kevin James, Martin Lawrence or directed by Michael Bay into the snuff category – but that’s another discussion.

So, we have been open for business a few weeks now and some random (and not so random) films have been watched so here is a bit of a round up:

  1. Hard Kandy Almost like a stage play in it’s simplicity the film pulls your sympathies around like a rag doll until the very last frames. Beautifully shot and acted by two actors (Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson) the tension is ratcheted up every couple of minutes. At times this was a very uncomfortable film to watch and deals with some pretty challenging subjects but the staging, acting and hard boiled script keep everything under control Overall: belting movie, worth seeing…maybe only once though 8/10 
  2. One Hour Photo Robin Williams is a strange one; for every decent movie he appears in he picks ten stinkers. Look him up on IMDB, his credits are like the late listings on ITV4. What is annoying about the man is that he possesses obvious comic timing and given a half funny script he’d have the audience wheezing with constrictive laughter…and on the other hand he can act, properly act. He must have a crappy agent…or a faulty crap-o-meter™ because he picks some really shitty scripts. Anyway, One Hour Photo is not one of them. Underplayed and well paced what starts as a curious look into the mind of a complete whack-job ends up as quite a nice taut thriller. Oh, Robin, why pick this and then make R.V? Or Bicentennial Man? What, are you drunk most of the time? Overall: Williams is brilliant and keeps you watching this slightly odd film 7/10
  3. Layer Cake Brit Pop, Cool Britannia and East-End gangsters – those were the days, weren’t they? Layer Cake was plucked out of the hat and most people had only seen it once ages ago…because, well there were so many films of that genre around at the same time that they all merged into one. It was quite nice watching it again and you could feel the energy of Matthew Vaughn‘s direction as you tried to decipher the overly complicated plot marvelling at the cast and thinking: where are they now? Well, Daniel Craig has done well for himself and Sienna Miller? Not quite so well. Watching it you felt it was very much the embodiment of Cool Britannia – style, attitude but very little in the way of substance. Overall: good script, lots of fun but one felt that Vaughn simply doesn’t have the intellect to make the clever film he wanted this to be 7/10
  4. Beginners On paper this film is a winner: directed by Mike Mills – that’s looking good already. Stars Ewan McGregorChristopher Plummer and Mélanie Laurent - okay, now we’re cookin’. It’s about a guy and his dad – now in his seventies – comes out as gay. Well, just go for it – everything is there! But…it just ends up as a load of tosh. The dialogue is a bit hammy and there is zero – nil – chemistry between Laurant and McGregor. It’s like they’re brother and sister or something. It’s disjointed and has no real thrust to it…there is no verve to this movie…it’s just a bit dull. When you’re chatting between yourselves when the film is on…or someone goes to the toilet and says, ‘oh don’t worry, you don’t need to pause it..’ I think these are indicators of a bad film. This is going to end up in the  bargain list on Amazon or late, late on Film4. Overall: just dull. Which is about as bad a review a film can get 2/10
So, there we have it.

The Peter Principle

May 4, 2012

Hi, here is another of my posts from over at Brodard. I am gradually copying them here but I am going very slowly because I am inherently lazy and a natural-born procrastinator.

Behind every cubicle divider, the door of every hallway office, and the pigeon holes of every post room can be heard the sound of gnashing teeth, cracked knuckles and hissed asides. Everyone (from the top to the bottom) has, at one time or another, uttered the refrain: “You know what? My boss is a total idiot…”

Is there any truth in this? Is it true that if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and says ‘quack‘ then it must – surely – be a duck?

Well, we can all exhale a collective sigh of relief because -– as Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull argued in their 1969 book –  your boss probably is an idiot and is there because of “The Peter Principle”.

The Peter Principle postulates that within large organisations people get promoted because they are competent – sometimes extremely competent – at their current position but then get promoted to a position for which they have no competence. They reach what the authors famously called their “level of incompetence”!

For example, an extremely competent, hard working lawyer (let’s call him “Adam”), is deemed so effective and hard working that he is promoted to manage a department made up only of lawyers – despite having shown no competence at managing a legal department. But, an internal promotion is good for departmental morale, an easier transition and more cost effective. The previously hard working, competent lawyer – having secured his promotion – takes his ‘foot off the gas’ and settles into a steady period of reasonable incompetence. He can’t be fired (and demoting him would reflect badly on his line manager) so our newly promoted incompetent, then incompetently makes incompetent decisions including promoting other incompetents.

But – jackpot! – he now mixes with the movers and the shakers and although still an incompetent manager, the previously hard working, competent lawyer gets to interact with high level management. Come pay rise time the previously hard working and competent lawyer cannot be given a pay rise without a promotion (because of the way the pay grades within his company are structured) and there is already a Head of Legal…so the movers and shakers think: ‘he’s a lawyer, he’s bright, he can adapt to anything! Let’s make him the Head of Human Resources…

[time passes, people leave, new people get hired (by Adam) and Adam copes, delegates, and postures his way to ever higher levels of pay and responsibility]

…he ran Human Resources, then was Vice President of Communications and was then director of Marketing – and he was trained as a lawyer -– so Adam would be the perfect CEO.’ 

This is how The Peter Principle works. Although the theory was originally conceived as a humorous diatribe against the sometimes ridiculous nature of corporate hierarchies, the authors discovered that they had hit a bit of a nerve. Once they let this theoretical cat out of the bag people started coming to them with real world examples of The Peter Principle theory in action. But is it true to life?

I think, like anything that touches a nerve, there is a large grain of truth in it. But is there a way to fight it? Well, yes, I think that there is a three point plan to avert disaster:

  1. Pay more without promotion Most companies like to wed increased pay to extra responsibility and a widened role profile but sometimes this is not necessarily the best way to get the most out of a good employee. Recognition for excellent work shouldn’t always require the addition of extra duties or the application of skills that the employee doesn’t have. Another idea would be to give them a grander sounding title – after all, brass name plates are not that expensive…
  2. Train them for the position There is a definite sink-or-swim mentality after someone gets a promotion; that they got there because they have displayed natural aptitude for the role. But what if that person was trained beforehand, or allowed to shadow someone in a similar position? Wouldn’t it be more effective, less risky and more efficient to train them before they take on more responsibities? You might discover they’re not ready for the extra responsibility or they might discover that they are not ready either. For a perfect example, look at what happened with Gordon Brown after Tony Blair…
  3. Remove the stigma of demotion If someone has been singled out for promotion, been trained (and has responded well) for the position but once in situ are revealed to be an Olympic swimming pool sized buffoon then there should be scope within the corporation to demote that employee without any stigma. This, I think, is an impossible dream as failure in the corporate world stays with you like that egg sandwich you ate for lunch… The trick is to not get to this stage at all.

I am sure we have all worked with our fair share of incompetents but the real trick of it, the real solution to this perceived problem is to not be one of them.

Redundant Tech

April 18, 2012

My son, t’other day, pointed at my iPhone screen as I was checking my messages and said, ‘what’s that?’ pointing to the answer machine icon, ‘it looks like a pair of glasses.’ I looked at it again and it dawned upon me: it’s supposed to represent a tape recorder. In fact it’s supposed to be like one of those really old school tape recorders that are actually the size of a family pizza and would wind around slowly in ’60′s spy films. I got me a wondering: did Vodafone or Orange ever have a guy with two fingers on play and record waiting until the right time to start recording? In the age of digital music and MP3s this seems ludicrous.

Then I started thinking about other things that are basically defunct bits of visual imagery or terms that no longer represent the actual reality of the object:

  1. The Phone Symbol When I want to phone someone then I have to press a symbol that looks like a phone. Not an iPhone…or a HTC or a Galaxy Nexus…an old dial-up phone. We have an old telephone, merely as a decorative object sadly – it used to work, but booking a cinema ticket on it was a mission des doits – and when kids see it it is like a alien artefact. Isn’t it weird that we used a bit of ’40′s tech to help us identify the icon on our touch screens that will dial (ha!) a number? It’s bloody bonkers.
  2. Footage I love this. I can scan through hours of encoded video on my Mac and it’s referred to as footage. Footage is a completely old school way of talking about film…about how many feet of it you have. You used to be able to buy spools in feet and there used to be some weird formula that you’d work out depending on how many feet of film you had and what speed you’re shooting at which would determine how long your shot could be. Then you can take it into iMovie and cut and splice it together! Hahaha!!!
  3. Address Book The address book on my Mac looks like…an address book. Does Apple worry that although we can embrace the idea of cloud computing, wireless syncing, multi-account machines, progressive back-ups and remote desktops we cannot get our teeny, tiny brains around a simple database application unless it is depicted as an actual book – even when half their user base have never used a real address book…ever?!?! Is the address book department run by the Antiques Roadshow? FFS.
  4. www The World Wide Web. Okay, we obviously still use it but you don’t have to put www in front of every URL that you type, haven’t for years. Try it. It’s not like there is another internet out there that we can access by typing something else. Half the sites I use don’t even display it anymore. I’m wondering when all the http//; bollocks is going to be binned as well – that’s a pain in the arse to type sometimes. Even the suffix is becoming irrelevant. Just type in google into the address bar and it’ll go straight to google. No .com or .co.uk necessary. Eventually a friendly UI will replace all the legacy code that was used to build the internet and it’ll just be apps and we’ll barely use browsers at all. Mark. My. Words: Walled. Garden.

I was at the Dechetrie the other day (a dechete is the Swiss version of a dump – except it’s weirdly clean and has a nicer name) and there is a section for old electricals and in that were stacks of old CRT televisions, PCs and CD players. It made me a bit wistful – I cannot believe that in such a short time CDs, CRT televisions and radios have become obsolete. It’s kind of crazy that technology that was once cutting edge is now redundant.

I remember (cue violin music and plucked string section) buying storage for a company that I worked for. We needed fast hard-disks that were large. So we bought the biggest we could afford – a whopping 6gb of fast (5400rpm) disk storage and it cost us….£7,0000.00. Yes, 7k for 6gb. So, I just did a quick search on Amazon and found a 8GB flash drive for £1.69…for something that can fit on your keyring.

I wonder if the same thing will be true for our kids. Will they know what a CD is? Will it become a completely bizarre format that they just will not be able to understand? Will Blu-Ray be relevant? Will they be able to spell without a T9 dictionary? Will they need to speak a foreign language when Google Translate will translate realtime as they converse? Will handwriting be a thing of the past? Will the high street as we know it cease to exist?

So, I am sounding like an old codger now, but we’re going to be the link between the past and the future and when the internet breaks (after we have sucked every available resource out of the ground) we will have to explain what all these things are to a bunch of people who’ll think we’re making shit up.

Yoda, I am.

April 12, 2012

Being a creative in Switzerland is like being a clown at a funeral – even with the best intentions you are just bringing the wrong kind of skills to the wrong kind of party. I have picked up little bit of work here and there, but I am hampered by the language on one side and the fact that there is not a great deal of animation done in Switzerland.

So when I saw an advertisement for a part-time art teacher I thought: I can do that. I’ve trained people and taught people other kinds of skills so maybe I can teach kids how to draw and paint…can’t I? So I sent them my resumé and a ‘letter of intent’ (sounds like a bloody ransom note, if you ask me) and crossed my fingers.

So a few weeks flick by in the usual routine…make pancakes…take kids to creche / school…work like a bastard for three hours…pick son up from school…pick daughter up from creche…make lunch…drop son back at school…go to supermarket / play / chores…pick son up from school…go to playground…chores…cook supper…bathe kids…stories…teeth…bedtime…flop on sofa like walrus to not move again save to find new batteries for remote control…like everyone else. Then an email arrived inviting me to an interview, lunch and then I had to teach a class…of 14yr olds….24 of them!

I was spectacularly unbothered by the interview. I have conducted tons of them in my life and being the other side of the table doesn’t bother me in the slightest – I just remember my own advice: be yourself, don’t bullshit and do some research – it obviously worked because they decided to unleash me on the kids.

I obviously had to prepare a lesson ‘plan’ and make sure I delivered everything in the allotted time and I decided to get the kids to draw teeny, tiny items really BIG in really bright colours.

Anyway, I was shitting bricks before they came in. I don’t know why. I’ve trained rooms of people and given presentations at conferences and besides, I’ve got kids of my own, what’s there to be worried about? But it’s, you know, teenagers. I don’t know what I was expecting – attitude, knives and spotty Twilight obsessives spring to mind – but they turned out to be a pretty chilled out bunch.

After the initial nerves (about a minute) I got into showing them the idea of what I wanted them to do and helping them out with composition and choice of colour. There was a little chatting amongst themselves – which I don’t mind – but one of the observers (there were three) said I should nip that in the bud or it’ll turn into a social club. I didn’t care too much – in my mind they were working and that’s what they’re there for. They all finished what I’d asked them to produce, no one died or suffered delimitating disfigurement so I label that: a success.

So, I ummed and ached for a bit wondering if it went okay and the next day they said they’d love me to be a teacher…I just needed to learn some basic teaching skills. Stuff like: I forgot to do a register…I didn’t dismiss them at the end of the class, so they kind of sat there like statues until I said: ‘oh, right – you’re dismissed,’ and I haven’t developed my voice of authority yet. I was holding that back for the big kids who looked like he could take me in a fist-fight…but they were all smaller than me, so I reckon I could’ve taken on three or four. Besides I had access to the art cupboard, you hear me? Knives, scissors and protractors. The feedback I got was that I managed to get them to laugh a bit, they had some genuine rapport with me and they produced some good work.

So, there you go. I’m gonna be a teacher. I am choosing my special mug carefully, elbow patches and a selection of corduroy trousers that add ten years to me. Now, if only I can cultivate that musty smell…

Office Politics

April 3, 2012

Office Politics

This is another post from my other life at Brodard. This one is about Office Politics. 

For most right-minded people the mere mention of office politics sends a chill down their spines, makes them hold their children close, and throw salt over their left shoulder. Navigating the minefield of potential allegiances, conflicts, affiliations, and general no-mucking-about skullduggery can send most people scurrying to HR only to discover they’re as Machiavellian as everyone else. Office politics is like the Matrix; it’s all around us, in every move we make and the only way to beat the system is to take the red pill (the “leave now” pill). Unfortunately there is no blue pill.

I used to have a pretty solid stance on office politics and that was: “I don’t get involved in office politics”. What was ironic is that this is a political position in itself and merely means that you distance yourself from anything you think may harm your career prospects. I was as political as everyone else but I thought that I had risen above it all like some kind of zen master, “ohmm”- ing myself into a corporate meditative state, when in fact I had positioned myself as a diplomatic immovable rock against the unstoppable force of politics.

So, how does one become a Neo of politics, dodging the bullets of back-stabbing, bitching, crowing and brown-nosing? I have a few tips:

  1. Accept that you have to be political.  Office politics is at the core of all organisations so you firstly have to accept that as a given. Once you have stopped rocking in a corner you need to realise that being political is all about raising your profile and making others aware of you and your abilities. You don’t have to be mean, disparage your colleagues’ reputations or sabotage anyone else to achieve this. If you blend into the background you may be missed come promotion time. Or get used as a hat stand.
  2. Become your own political party, with you as the sole member.  You have to sing your own praises sometimes, because sometimes the political terrain doesn’t allow anyone else to do it for you. If other people say how wonderful you are, then great, but that is going to happen about as much as Elvis being hit by lightning in a leap year – so you need to take that responsibility upon yourself. To some, this is called ‘brown nosing’ but when you have been noticed for doing such a great job because you told people who matter about it then you will have the last laugh in your big, swish corner office with your big, swish Audi key-fob cluttering your big, swish desk (the last laugh (if you need help) goes along the lines of: “mwahhh-ha-ha-ha-ha..”.)
  3. Don’t bitch.  Sometimes it might feel like a good way to bond with your fellow workers to say that Arnold in legal is about as clever as play-dough, Donald couldn’t organise a bun fight in a cake factory or Annette is only where she is today because she lied on her CV but disparaging other people is not a pleasant way to conduct yourself in a corporate environment. Walk away, make your excuses or find a more honest way to address what are really your issues. This is a lesson you should bring into ‘real’ life as well. You know, be nice.
  4. Get to know people above and below you.  Don’t create cliques or us-and-them hegemonies; try to get to know everyone around you from the post boy to the head of finance so that you can understand every issue you encounter from multiple perspectives and nurture an eclectic group of allies. Don’t be tempted to kick the rungs out from beneath you as you climb your way to the top either; remember, these guys are going to be working for you so you best be good to them.
  5. Understand to be understood.  It is one of life’s undeniable truths that some people have zero people skills. Some are barely people. They seem to think that getting the job done is the most important thing and people’s feelings and pride are just the eggs that get broken as they make their omelette. Well, they’re wrong. A good political player will seek to understand other people’s issues, take them into account and break the eggs to make the omelette together. You have to get things done, but if you appear to get them done together, then everyone wins. It’s like cooking with three year olds, basically.

Being political is not about being smarmy, devious or conniving. It is about making sure that people know that you are doing a good job, in a good way whilst keeping the majority of the people happy most of the time. Simple, really.

Now, repeat after me: I know kung-fu…


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