Friday, March 16, 2007

Day 248: "I Used To Be ..."

....someone with a BlackBerry, insomnia, eczema, fourteen hour working days and a penchant for entire packets of cigarettes illuminated and inhaled in one go. Now, as regular readers will be aware, I bicycle to work every morning along the prettiest canal in Amsterdam, sit at a desk overlooking a seventeenth century garden, and think about Canadian pathologists cutting their own hair.

But some habits die hard. To this day, nothing exhausts me more than being trapped in an office with a workfellow telling me how important they used to be. They invariably spew out a cavalcade of self-aggrandising cock, pausing only to provide a verbal precis of their CV (with a particular focus on PAs, titles, gigantic team sizes and 'territories' managed).

I invariably stand and listen with my mouth hanging open, a thin line of drool running onto my desk, wondering when the talking will stop and the working will start. In fact, I have estimated that if you convert all the hours people spend talking about how good they are into hours spent doing actual work, the average European working week would be fourteen hours long. (This is a real fact.)

I am a cretin, and the brief moments I spent with a fancy title and a PA who never answered my phone are but a distant memory. I have yet to convince anyone that I work with that I am good (despite the fact that I spend much of my day telling everyone that I am old and therefore wise and clever), and instead pass time eating biscuits, making telephone calls and walking around holding a piece of paper as this - as everyone knows - is the most effective way of looking busy whilst in fact doing nothing at all.

But in the time between walking around with a bit of paper and eating biscuits, I have had ample time to construct this handy cut-out-and-keep guide to How Not To Fuck Off Other People In The Office By Talking With Your Mouth. If you have anything add, do let me know.

Things that no-one is interested in:

- how important you used to be
- the awards you have won
- how big your team used to be
- which famous industry people are your close personal friends
- which jobs you nearly got
- which jobs you turned down
- how much better you are than everyone else
- which famous things you did and how clever you were to do them.

Things that are quite interesting:

- where you used to work, leading to ...
- ... who you know that I know
- what you know that I don't know that you can teach me.

Things that are definitely interesting:

1. If you a decent cove.
2. If you are good at what you do or not.

(In that order.)

Actual fact

The more important, talented and clever you are, the less you need to show off about it.

Actual story proving this fact

This happened to me once in a situation of actual work:

Me: Hello! I am NWM.
Man: Hello NWM. I am Niall FitzGerald.
Me: Hello Niall! And you're ...
Niall FitzGerald ... I'm from Unilever.
Me:Oh, right. What do you do there?
Niall FitzGerald I'm the, um, Chairman.

800 people fall silent. A distant gunshot is heard. Someone coughs.

Me: Oh God. How embarrassing.
Niall Fitzgerald Not really. Why should you know who I am?


Anonymous said...

True words. The shyest man I know owns a multi-million-dollar company. But he'd never tell you that.

Please Miss, could you write a similar primer of sage work advice for the incredibly young, green and arrogant?

petemaskreplica said...

I have for many years been plagued by people who are generally considered to be terribly efficient and good at their job, for no other reason than that they spend all their time telling people how terribly efficient and good at their job they are. Then six months after they leave the full extent of their incompetence becomes clear.

Keep quiet about the piece of paper! That's my best trick, that is.

Spitting Mad said...

Once in a bar:

Ally McBile: So, what do you do then?

Stranger: I work for EMAP.

AMcB: EMAP? What, the publishers? Oh poor you. They're two pits down from Satan. The entire company is fuelled by the blood squeezed from the veins of naive trust-funded Daddy's girls who haven't got a hope in hell of ever getting paid work - unless daddy works for EMAP too of course. They're evil nepotism incarnate. So, what do you do there?

Stranger: "I'm corporate secretary to the Board of Directors."

AMcB: Really? {blinks} Gizza job then.

Z said...

That is just one of the reasons I never ask people what their job is. Another is that what you do for a living is not necessarily the most interesting thing about you. Even if you are quite a big-wig.

tea and cake said...

One lesson I learned was;

Get balled out in private but be supported in public.

I did that for my staff and it worked. The cunt that did it the other way around to me got her comuppance from me. Quiety.

oo, 'tis sweet.

Anonymous said...

Oh wise Monkey, when you get to the advanced ages of your monkeyparents, look out for the When-Is (closely related to the When-Wes, usually White Zimbabweans (sp?) or ex-pats).

They will tell you either: how good it used to be When-I ran a big fat advertising account in Europe (pre-computer, so around the time Lettraset was used to make ads) or: how I toured with an Important Rock Group in the 70s and 80s. And both of them will tell you what good friends they are with all the Famous People, and How Much Better things were then.

And we scream, internally and thus silently: "Who gives a fuck?", and then wonder what happened to these people we once consided cool.

And yes, the truly important/famous are nearly always modest and polite.

Mr Farty said...

True-if-not-entirely-relevant story: A bloke, Mike, who came to teach us about a new computer operating system, told us that at the airport coming in, he'd stopped in the car park to help some poor soul push-start his car. Pathetically grateful, the driver then offered him a lift into Embra. They got chatting and when Mike explained that he worked in the IT industry, the driver piped up, "Oh aye? Ma dad makes computers," before lapsing back into silence as he concentrated on terrorising grannies trying to cross the road.
"Really?" said Mike. "Does he assemble circuit boards or design them or what?"
"Sorry," replied the driver, "I should have introduced myself. Adrian Ferranti."

This was when Ferranti's still made computers, obv.

Anonymous said...

As a most humble pleb myself, though with frequent delusions of adequacy, I have the following tattooed to my big toe:

It's nice to be important but it's more important to be nice.

Simple but quite oddly true.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to know what you answered to his "why should you know who I am?"...

I guess that's the problem with fancy titles, you can't help the reaction they create. Say you are a PA : generally no reactions (unless you are Jade's PA or something), say you are a chairman, people get all embarrassed for no reason...although I realise this wasn't the point your story was trying to make, but hey.

apprentice said...

Oh that brought me out in a cold sweat.

Being someone who has left that world I really struggle with the "what do you do ?" question.

I was once at a retirement speech and the guy next to me went for a piss and when he came back and the speaker had only got from 1972 to 1973!

infinitemuppets said...

Bosses, eh? x

Katy Newton said...

Unexpectedly, I find myself quite liking the Chairman of Unilever.


Ah! An example of the comments being better than the original post! I have nothing to add, except I agree with you Z - the best answer to "And what do you do?" is usually "oh, you know, see my mates, go to work, do stuff, read books ... how about you?"

Unknown said...

dear NWM - i haven't laughed so much since i divorced my delightful ex-husband! i am loving your blog! absolutely loving it!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin