Lucy Kellaway’s Monday column in the FT always brightens up the start of the week. This week she ended with Words to the wise, ‘the sinister things that people say to each other in offices – the little phrases that look perfectly innocent but are actually toxic’.
I liked in particular
“We haven’t made any final decision about this.” This means we have made a final decision and you aren’t going to like it. An alternative, even more sinister variation is “We want to consult you about some possible changes . . . “
Given the reports about the travails of Bevan Brittan in both Thelawyer.com and Legalweek.com, one wonders which of the two phrases was used when the men in grey suits walked in to Stuart Whitfield’s office last week?
For further thoughts on reducing email, see Doug Cornelius’ blog post Email Deluge about trying to free yourself from email on KM Space and the comments string. And for a more lighthearted take, read Lucy Kellaway in Monday’s FT, Shock of BPC: before personal computers.
I have just started a 24-hour low-tech vigil to mark the stepping down of Bill Gates, who more than any other human being has made the modern office what it is. I wanted to celebrate his departure from full-time work at Microsoft by reminding myself of what life was like when windows were things that let the light in.
Last Tuesday afternoon, I composed an automatic e-mail reply that said: “Lucy Kellaway is in the office, but not on the computer. You can send me a letter, or ring, or visit me on the second floor.” Then I pressed Submit, but got a message saying: “Error. Database has too many unique field names. Ask administrator to compact database.” God, I hate computers.
I love them, too. I have no truck with the idea that they have frazzled our minds and shrunk our souls: most office workers seem to be doing perfectly well, as far as I can judge. Although I am addicted to e-mail, it’s quite under control. Twenty-four hours’ cold turkey would be no problem.
Very much cheered this evening by reading Lucy Kellaway’s latest FT column, Happiness is finding your inner receptionist. She writes:
“A couple of weeks ago another cheering piece of work was published by scientists at the University of Warwick showing that happiness over a lifetime is U-shaped. It looked at thousands of workers in 80 different countries and found that most people start off happy, and then slide towards misery, reaching a trough at 44. By our early 50s we start to get happy again and by our 60s and 70s happier still.
It isn’t altogether clear why we get cheerier as death draws closer. I suspect it is mainly because the burden of ambition and expectation slips away. We no longer hanker after what we are never going to have. I’m not quite there yet and neither are most of my contemporaries. Ambition still rages, and prospects are intolerably uncertain. But if we hold tight, the upward curve of the U will carry us along soon. We don’t need career coaching. We just need time.”
I read this to my youngest (a confirmed pessimist at 18) and his response was the title to this post. I am next going to email the link to my eldest!