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Monday, 25 February 2013


This is an extract from Much Calamity & The Redundance Kid", available in paperback via all major online booksellers.

"I had detected some cold-shouldering from my boss on a few occasions.  One was at a rather tense regional meeting where he isolated me, then humiliated me in front of my management colleagues.  The crunch point at that meeting was his declaration that he had decided to move some of my store management team to another location, without any discussion with me.  When I challenged him on it, he spat back that the decision had been made, it was a closed subject and if I wasn’t happy about it we could discuss it after the meeting.  I don’t think I said another word at that gathering.  Some of the more friendly colleagues in the room used facial expressions to communicate a little bit of concern and sympathy, but they had their own backs to protect so they could not be seen to be too derogatory to our boss or supportive to me.  It was obvious that something was going on but, as devious as he turned out to be, my boss had elected to choose a cowardly route to do things behind my back rather than have professional and courteous meetings to talk openly and frankly, a prerequisite for any manager in an “all colleagues one team” culture.  

He fancied himself as a great manager but he had that old-fashioned heavy-handedness that a bully uses when he is not adept enough at articulation and one-to-one contact.  He also used the opportunity to shout me down in front of an audience to prove that he was a tough guy, but after the meeting a number of my colleagues tried to console me with their opinions that he went a bit over the top.  A bit?  He came across as an elephant in a bun shop trying to outdo the bull in the china shop next door.

On another occasion, my boss visited my store.  He was showing an overseas colleague around and, after a tour, we went off to the restaurant to have a coffee.  All through the conversation, he sat with his back to me and cut across anything I tried to say to our guest.  This incident was a few weeks after the managers meeting I described.  After my boss and guest departed, I sat for a while trying to understand the nuances of such body language.  At a base level it was just plain rude, but such behaviour had become known in our industry as “the treatment”.  In retailing, and it may be the same in other industries, sometimes you pick up bad vibes because your bosses and colleagues do not have the guts to say things to your face.  In a people-minded culture, this is wholly bizarre.  In this company, we were sheep-dipped in a strategic mission statement and working values that basically called for open and honest feedback and a genuine respect for colleagues and customers.  

My boss and his ilk were managers who had come through the rough and tumble retail days when managers could bark orders at their staff and tell them to “just bloody well get on with it.”  The jokey expression – JFDI – was often used when certain managers had little patience with the new inclusive cultural regime. JFDI?  Just fucking do it!  Managers like this seemed to play at being good people managers but it was unnatural to them, and on occasions they drifted back to, let’s say, their earthy ways.  No one communicated the definition or existence of “the treatment”. You just knew by instinct that you were getting it."

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