Monday, 2 February 2015

We Can’t Manage

I caught the tail end of a piece on the news at the weekend; some guy doing the round up of the stories from the papers, and I really wish I’d been paying more attention to who he was and what he said, because I swear I heard him utter the most appalling blasphemy it is possible to say out loud in this country: He suggested that British management wasn’t very good.

Burn the heretic! He must have been a foreigner and not accustomed to our ways, because no right minded Briton would ever dare so much as think that our bosses are anything less than one hundred percent perfect. We are a nation of snobs; we doff our caps to those we perceive as being above us and look down our nose at those below. Even the lowliest tramp, lying in the gutter in his own faeces, will find someone to feel superior to.

Blame must always be attributed in a downward direction in this nation of ours. When our car industry collapsed in on itself and died a death it wasn’t the management that were said to be at fault, it was the workers. It was those damned pesky unions what done it. Similarly in the modern age, when the government doubled our national debt overnight by bailing out the incompetent bank managers to the tune of eight hundred billion quid, who did we blame for our country’s poverty? Why it’s poor people of course. Those Goddamn fucking benefit scroungers are ruining Great Britain. String ‘em up!

I’ve had many jobs in my life, and therefore many bosses, and I struggle to think of even a handful of managers who I would describe as good at their role or even vaguely competent. They all seem to fall into the same trap of thinking that a promotion to the rank of manager means they’ve moved up an entire social class, and are now looking down on the world as some kind of God. In other, more forward thinking countries than our own, I’ve heard tell that the role of manager is seen as being only one cog within a team; it is the manager’s job to manage, just as it is the welder’s job to weld and the driver’s job to drive; they are no more or no less important than anyone else.

But if a British person climbs to the heady heights of manager then it’s time to crack open the champagne, for they have truly arrived among the jetsetters. Being a manager gives you licence to look down your nose at the plebs, and is a perfect opportunity for you to wreak your revenge on the world for every wrong that was ever done to you. You hold the power now - you can do whatever you want.

But that initial euphoria soon wears off, as you begin to find that it’s lonely in your ivory tower. None of your friends want to know you any more; they stop talking as you enter the room and swivel their eyes in the other direction as they pretend they’re hard at work. So what do you do? Why it’s obvious; you promote your chums to come work as managers alongside you; you fill up your ivory tower with all your bestest friends, so you can all be together again. You put fake job adverts in the newspaper and hold fake interviews, just to comply with the regulation that states it’s illegal to simply hand out promotions to your clique, and then you promote them anyway. What a hoot.

Once upon a time there were more workers than managers, and things actually got done. But in the eighties they got rid of all the jobs and created a new style of economy based on venture capitalism. You don’t need an industry to manufacture things when your entire set up is geared towards a bunch of guys in stripy shirts playing with money that doesn’t exist.

The downside to this was the newspaper headlines that talked of mass unemployment, which made the government look bad, so they decided that everyone should go into education to get them off the unemployment figures. Education Education Education was the mantra. They made it easier to gain qualifications, and suddenly everyone was going to university, and for a while it worked.

But five years later they found they suddenly had a whole bunch of people with groovy qualifications but no job. Something had to be done. Thus they created more management roles – a whole tidal wave of new managers to run our lives. Who needs one manager when you can have five, or even ten? We’ll have an HR manager, a Health and Safety manager, a recruitment manager, and so on; lots of people wearing suits, going to meetings and collating information which they pass up the chain to their manager. Presumably up at the top of the pyramid there’s some kind of uber-manager, who receives all the meaningless reports written by the fleet of managers below, and files them away somewhere, never to be seen again.

Is it my imagination, or are we drowning in a sea of bullshit that’s getting deeper by the year? This epidemic of managers is self perpetuating, because it’s a manager’s job to think up new rules, and every new rule will need a new manager to oversee its application. Pretty soon there’ll be nothing but managers, a whole multitude of people in suits standing around scratching their heads and wondering why the toilet doesn’t work any more.

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