The Management Chat

The London Paper  –  6 Nov 2006

Last week some relatively new manager at my bank gave a presentation aimed at boosting employee morale. Seeing as this joker is already about as popular as Gary Glitter at a kiddies’ party, it was with a heavy heart that we wearily trudged into his meeting. His speech, as is always the case, was a complete waste of time for everyone involved. I would have preferred to have spent the time scooping my eyes out with a rusty spoon rather than, once again, hearing a load of nonsense that no-one is going to take remotely seriously. Seeing as there were about 100 people forced to sit through this tomfoolery and that their average salary probably equates to around £100 an hour, I think we can safely conclude that this event wasted my bank around £10K.

A common feature of all these internal meetings is the nonsense language that is employed. This language, known asconsultantese’, is spoken only by a chosen few and differentiates itself from other languages by sounding very similar to English but actually having no meaning at all. We were informed that our bank will be undertaking some ‘right-sizing’ and that this was not to be interpreted as ‘down-sizing’ (e.g. job cuts) despite that being exactly what it means. We were told that a ‘belt and braces approach’ would be taken and that we would be ‘leveraging off our core competencies’ whilst ‘maximizing cross-departmental synergies’. It was when I heard him declare that ‘there is no I in team’ that I made my excuses and left, like a News of the World reporter offered sex for money.

The problem with these meetings is that a eunuch has a higher chance of being tea-bagged than a manager has of changing experienced stock-brokers’ working habits. This is because we’re all a bunch of opinionated egotists convinced of our own brilliance, which is what we need to be in order to do our job properly. The City expression that best sums this up is ‘the herding cats syndrome’ and this applies to pretty much every bank. The one institution that seems to successfully manufacture production line robots is Goldman Sachs, which interestingly enough is probably the most successful bank in the world.

My more cynical colleagues often argue that senior managers are generally failed brokers who were too expensive too fire. Even nastier colleagues have even been heard to mutter that ‘the scum rises to the top’. However, personally I would prefer to be Ron Jeremy’s fluffer than attempt to manage a whole bunch of comedians convinced that their unique approach is the only way to run their specific business unit. Having said that, the seven figure salary that generally goes with top managerial posts might make the task just about acceptable.

Thoughts ?

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