Tag Archives: work

Ready To Work?

1998 just called, it wants you to hand over your personality

In 1998 I applied for a promotion at my place of work. During the interview I was asked for my home phone number, as well as my office number and mobile, so I could be easily contacted with the results of the interview. I was successful in my quest and my new boss phoned me at home to give me the news. I wasn’t in – so he left a voice mail. He confirmed I’d got the job, and in a rather confused tone, asked me to call him. I rang back and my new boss told me he wasn’t happy with my answer phone message, and I’d have to change it. The message was a short, cheesy tune I’d recorded using a keyboard for a simple backing track, with me singing over it. I can still remember it, word for word.

We’re not here to take your call
So leave a message cos we love you (love you) all

Such strong composition, it really should have been a hit. Hey ho. I was surprised by the request, and politely refused, this is my personal, home phone number after all. My new boss was adamant, so I lied and said I would change it. I worked for him for about two and a half years. He never called that number again, and because it was our home phone number, neither did any other colleagues or customers. A few months after the incident I did change the message, but only because I got fed up with so many people ringing just to hear the song! Though the memory of the song remains in my head, I got on with my life, and figured that people nowadays would see beyond little quirks like this, to the real person. As anyone who pops by here regularly will know, I’m often wrong…

2016 just called, it says the song remains the same

I recently spotted an advertisement by Barclays Bank about being ‘Ready To Work’. It’s basically a staged vox pop where a bunch of younger people are speaking to camera, talking about, and revealing their ’embarrassing’ email addresses.

The advert is one of a series. Here’s another, where the same group agonise over their social media profiles.

Maybe it’s just me, but this campaign feels distinctly at odds with the much talked about ideals of authenticity, vulnerability, (insert your preferred …icity here) which we are encouraged to embrace in the new world of work.

Seemingly, it doesn’t get much better once you’re offered the job. A quick Google for things to do on your first day at work yields the following gems:

  • Blend in, learn your coworkers’ names quickly.
  • Learn and make the tea round, it’ll make a great impression.
  • Be on time, come in early, stay a little later.
  • Stay positive! It can be daunting being the new person (especially if you’re getting bombarded with awful advice like this).

The conferences I attend and tune into are stuffed full of promises of an exciting future of freedom and wholeheartedness, of purpose and values. If the future of work is about these sometimes edgy, often exciting human interactions, then why do we persist in coercing the next generation of people to cover their tracks in this way? What’s authentic about that?

‘Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss’

Update. I had a request to rerecord the answerphone message. I prefer the original but here you go.

Learning To Let Go : Change Is Hard

When things are evolving, and change is afoot, people often hanker for the good old days. ‘Things were so much better back then…’. Were they really?

Leaky Pens

When I first left school I was a trainee draughtsman working at a house building company. I drew housing layouts, road and drainage section drawings, and more, on large sheets of coated film using a technical drawing pens. Expensive, high specification, high maintenance pens, the ink distributed perfectly in lines of uniform width. Except when they leaked and scratched, which was often. When the dam burst, and the ink leaked, depending on how much progress had been made, the choice usually boiled down to starting again, or letting the ink dry and trying to scratch and scrape the excess off the drawing film with a scalpel. It was easy to cut yourself during this part of the process, adding blood to the inky excess. Truthfully I can’t distinguish whether the feeling experienced on completing a drawing was joy in my work, or simply relief that me and my pens hadn’t leaked everywhere. Things were so much better back then…

Mutant Tea Urns

One of my earliest office jobs involved a myriad of fascinating duties. My day started by filling the clanky old hot water urn so that people could make tea and coffee at will through the day. This big steaming tin can, with its shiny spout and oddly ear shaped handles brought to mind a mutant, monstrous metal elephant head, steaming with rage. The mutant was hot, and I often burned myself on its metal skin. Things were so much better back then…

The DeathBringer 5000

Once my burn wounds were dressed, it was mailshot time. We used to send letters to our customers, and the envelopes containing the letters were hand printed, by me. As a new customer joined our ranks, I would stamp their name and address, letter by letter, onto a small lead plate and insert the plate into a metal surround and file it away. When the time came to correspond, I took a handful of these metal surrounds and loaded them into a stamping machine. I then inserted an envelope into the machine, pulled the handle and voila! A movement was triggered. A metal surround containing the lead plate went via an inkpad before being forced against the envelope, where it left its mark, a name and address. We might send a couple of hundred letters in a batch and this machine was hand operated and had the capacity for one envelope at a time.

I had to pull the machine handle downwards really hard to create the force to stamp the address. For some inexplicable reason, the big heavy handle had a hook built into it. One day, at around envelope number 146, my mind somehow drifted from the scintillating task, and I became nothing more than a part of that machine. Load, stamp remove. Load, stamp, remove. Load, stamp, remove. Just prior to experiencing the screaming pain which accompanies your thumb nail departing from your thumb, courtesy of being smashed through by a superfluous hook on the handle of the DeathBringer 5000 Envelope Stamper (for that was its name), my reverie was broken by an abundance of blood all over the place. The thumbnail grew back, the mental scars have never left me. Things were so much better back then…

We have enjoyed many improvements to the process of work. Our drawing pens are better, and complemented by technology. Our mutant tea urns are safer, and slightly less angry, and the DeathBringer 5000 is where it belongs, safely behind bars at the Tower of London torture section.

So if it is not the process we look so longingly back at, what is it?

More to follow…

Change Is Hard : Learning To Let Go was inspired by a conversation with Tim Gardner over a pint or two last week. Thank you Tim.

 

What Is Art?

I haven’t blogged here for almost a month – I can’t recall the last time I took such a long break. It’s been enjoyable for me, and I’ve found the motivation to be a little more active over at The Art Sensorium, a place I tend to neglect.

Part of the challenge of starting writing again, is knowing when to start and what to write about. I have plenty of draft ideas – works in progress currently include:

  • Slow Down
  • Masterminds
  • Muddy Waters : Problems and Mistakes (or Why Trust is Never Enough)
  • Work is Theft

Some of these may or may not see the light of day – my drafts folder often gets covered in cobwebs, so we’ll see.

In the midst of my indecision, Jon Husband drew my attention to a short video in which Brian Eno talks about state provision of a basic income for everyone.

This in turn led me, via Kev Wyke, to The 2015 John Peel Lecture – given by…Brian Eno. A strong thread in the lecture relates the question, ‘What is art?’ Brian Eno’s talk is at times funny, caring and insightful. I found both the content and the manner in which it is delivered, quite moving.

What Is Art?

Art is everything you do not have to do.

Children learn through play – adults play through art.

‘Art is the exposure to tensions and problems of a false world, in order that man may endure the tensions and problems of the real world’. Morse Peckham

Scenius – the talent of a whole community.

Through increasing automation we are less connected to production. In a world of ultra-fast change, how does man stay coherent? Eno believes more and more of us will spend more time becoming and being artists. What is art? Art is everything you do not have to do.

Thank you Jon, Kevin and Brian Eno. It feels good to be back.