At some stage of our working life we have all experienced it. We probably cursed under our breath as all reason seemed to have left our usually careful bosses as they were swept away with enthusiasm for someone they have just met.
Propositions – probably at some exotic destination and by the poolside bar – have been discussed enthusiastically about how much better they could run their business than before. The boss looks thunderstruck; here’s a fellow who can transform my operation with blinding logic. Why hadn’t he thought about it before? More importantly, why hadn’t the dobbins he had employed for years not come up with such inspirational ideas and concepts?
This happened back in the 1980s to me when the management I worked for which had been known for its measured approach, seemed to lose its sense of proportion in all areas. There were two companies on one site; one the publisher and the other a medium sized printer but with the directors sitting on both.
The printer was ‘seduced’ on holiday by an outsider who with the adoption of an internationally recognised quality assured system, would increase the efficiency and productivity at a stroke with the person, coincidentally, on a nice fat contract. D-Day arrived and chaos ensued, while we magazines waited vainly for copy to be turned by the typesetters and for the magazines to be printed.
And in the publishing arm an exhibition department suddenly sprung up. This was no bad thing in itself but while the new people were sitting at their computers, us hacks were still banging away on our Adler typewriters. A new title that the directors had been badly advised to launch, had an editor with a word processor and modern equipment next door, while I was begging for second hand filing cabinets. The word ‘envy’ did not describe the intensity of feeling on my side of the wall.
The end of the 1980s saw that particular recession arrive and many of the new projects the management had embraced so eagerly, went pear shaped. It is hard for me to forget returning from a business meeting when I naively asked a colleague: “Anything much been happening?” “Just half the staff have been made redundant,” came the rueful reply. The publisher of my title called me in and said that although my job was safe, my Deputy Editor had to go. “I’ve been told by the management that if you don’t like it, leave your company car keys on the table and go.” The directors had not read that the staff left behind could possibly have been in shock and not just grateful still to have a job.
Of course, we have seen much bigger mishaps of late. The Co-operative Group is the latest where ‘clever’ people were recruited and completely messed up an organisation in a way that you thought that the competition must have paid for them to do the damage. They, along with the amazing Chairman, have gone but look at the wreckage they have left behind. Not only financially facing the abyss but with 5,000 staff threatened with redundancies.
However, if there are some basic lessons for management to learn, they must be to value your existing staff, listen more closely to their views and respect them when they express them; indeed, even when they may not make for easy listening. But most of all, don’t, on a poolside bar in the Caribbean, listen to the siren voices of people who tell you how they could make you loads of money, especially when you take them on. You’ll regret it.