23 February 2006

Watched The Apprentice, which I’d recorded on Wednesday. I’m hooked! What a loathsome bunch of people! They’re all business high-flyers who have given up well-paid jobs (so we’re told) to compete for the approval of Sir Alan Sugar of Amstrad, who’ll then give one of them a job. At first they come over as cowboy caricatures (‘I’ll win, because that’s what I do, I’m a winner’, ‘Yes, I’d say I’m pretty ruthless’) then the males descend into farce as they’re set the major project of … coming up with a name for the team. This gave a stark insight into why so much time and money is wasted in businesses – in the culture of businesses. The women, to their credit, came up with a creative name in less than five minutes. The men were still at it hours later, bumping egos off each other then trying to define decisionmaking systems to get round the ego clash. When it came to the next (and more important) job of choosing a project manager, they had no energy left for real interaction and fell back on pulling names out a hat (‘It’s the only guaranteed fair way.’). In the actual task, neither team got any credit: the men bumbled and blustered but did it by the book and lost; the women shrieked, jumped up and down and did their business by sheer flirting and sexploitation. It was funny, but sad and pathetic at the same time. What kind of image does that give people of what it’s like to work in a company?

I realise I’m contradicting myself by saying it’s an accurate portrayal
on one hand, and it’s a harmful caricature on the other; in my
experience these characters exist but they’re unusual, and treated by
their colleagues with anything from scepticism to contempt. I’m
thinking of one character at my workplace nicknamed ‘The Rhino’, who
was responsible for The System That Stands on Your Neck and Bellows,
who has now been hounded out (sorry, I mean has left to become an IT
consultant).  But I’m sure a lot of public service employees watch this
and think if you’re in a business environment  it’s full of characters
like this. Well, not any more so than anywhere else (I had an insight
from a couple of friends in local government – they didn’t realise they
were giving me an insight, they thought I’d be impressed), it’s just
perhaps they have more money and visible trappings and a language of
pretension which has more acceptance than it would in the public
sector. Most of us aren’t like that. Honest.

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