The London Paper – 12 Nov 2007
It was when the management consultant said ‘we are all individuals’ that my Tourettes kicked in and my solitary voice rang out and uttered the only response possible to such a clichéd platitude: ‘I’m not’. My Pythonesque gag went down about as well as a French kiss at a family reunion and I vowed not to open my mouth again.
About ten of us were gathered together for a four hour training session aimed at teaching team leaders how to give our employees the most ‘helpful’ year-end appraisal. Put another way, we were being told how to calculate what size bonus our team members deserved and how to sweeten the inevitable bitter pill of disappointment when we came to disclose it to them in December. This is my first year of handing out bonuses and hence initially I almost paid attention until I quickly realized that it was yet another complete waste of my precious time.
The main problem was that we were focusing on abstract concepts like ‘the five basic human requirements’ rather than the key method that the City uses to retain its workers: MONEY. Whilst desires to ‘feel part of a team’ or ‘progress as an individual’ are all well and good I, and everyone in the room, knew that our underlings would simply bugger off if they don’t feel they are being paid their ‘market value’. This is partly because we’re all greedy scumbags who ain’t working 70 hours a week composing spreadsheets and chatting to tedious clients for the creative satisfaction or the joy we’re bringing to the world. It is also because we in the City generally believe that our remuneration is a true reflection of our ability and hence perceive a small bonus as a personal insult. Although my experience suggests that the buoyancy of the markets, luck and office politics are the principal determinants of bonuses most don’t see it like that.
The consultant’s best attempts to overcome our obvious cynicism were somewhat dented when he referred to our team-members as ‘human capital’ and it was then that it hit me. This whole caboodle had been organized because this year’s bonuses were going to be rubbish and we were being informed about non-financial cons that can be used to try and retain our staff. It was yet another case of management telling my colleagues and I to ‘work harder, for longer, for less’.
When I receive my bonus no matter what the size I will give the traditional City reaction – which is to pretend that my boss has just asked me to saw my own leg off. Unfortunately, the writing on the wall now tells me that I and my team-mates may not need to act when ‘B Day’ arrives. What annoys me is that the clearly already small bonus pool has been reduced further by the money that has just been wasted paying consultants to teach me how to fool my poor co-workers. What a terrible insult … they should know that my entire career has been based on fooling my co-workers.