“Yes, you have spoken wisely dear leader, spoon-feed me more of your warm diarrhea, won’t you?”

You would have thought, with the instant communication available to us these days, that communication within a large corporation would be – well, better than it is. While everyone is beavering away, seemingly doing “work”, they are in fact sorting e-mails into those they will respond to next week, and those that they will ignore.

When someone goes away for a week, they are guaranteed to complain within ten minutes of switching on their computer (thirty minutes if they’re using a Dell laptop) that they have “hundreds of e-mails to go through”.

Most of these e-mails are circulars, proudly announcing that the coffee machine on the second floor has broken down – and then again that it is up and running again – as well as some smart-arse who decided to reply to the receptionist who sent the message, but copied the whole company in, only to spend his whole afternoon head in hands because he e-flirted in front of everyone.

One of the major reasons – and therefore excuses – for no work being done in a corporation is the appalling reliance upon e-mail. E-mails that people spend hours on end crafting so that they get the right tone for the right audience. Get one word out of place, put one person in copy that shouldn’t be, and you end up offending more people than you originally intended. And how do you start an e-mail? “Hi” or “Dear”? Or do you just start with the person’s name and a comma? Or is that aggressive? At least it shows intent…

I personally offended a sales manager by telling him that his team hadn’t done their job. Now, normally this wouldn’t offend him because it was true. His team were rubbish and couldn’t sell a beer to a dehydrated alcoholic. However, I put his boss in copy as a ‘kick up the arse’ and was on the receiving end of a barrage of indirect abuse.

Most e-mails, as it turns out, have a hidden agenda. Usually, it’s a case of trying to impress whoever is in copy. It goes a bit like this:

“I’m very disappointed that you have been unable to complete this work on time”
“Look at me, look at me, I’m impatient and ambitious and I crack the whip, have you noticed me yet?”

I always had a stock of phrases that I could pull out at will in order to get the reaction I wanted. My favourite was “somewhat disappointed” which implies regret on my part that the person targeted, sorry, being mailed to, was somehow at fault.

Then, of course, there’s the conference call, the ultimate fuck-up of a meeting. “Let’s have a conference call” they’d shout – mainly because there’s nothing else to do and there’s no way you’re going to get everyone in a room at the same time because they’re doing fuck all somewhere else. Usually at home.

So yes, a conference call – brilliant. Let’s make it a weekly catch-up, shall we? Everyone will be there the first week, then next week people will start dropping out until by the third week, only the originator is there, crying into his receiver.

When there are people on the call, either you can’t hear them or they’re talking over each other. The beep goes and the person holding the conf call stops everything to say “someone’s just joined us” at the same time as Alan announces “Alan here” – a moment’s silence ensues before the call carries on inexorably towards disaster. At the end, the call organiser announces a list of “actions” – i.e. things that need doing, and will spend the whole of the next call going through those actions and asking why they haven’t been done.

Then there are the lurkers. Those who sit on the call and never say anything (me, for example). I used to spend my time on conference calls catching up with e-mails or perhaps surfing the internet – after all, the time’s blocked out in my diary so I’m not really available, am I? I’m on an important conference call. The only time I would jump in was when I had heard something particularly stupid or wrong, and wanted that person to repeat it.

“So I foresee a twelvety thousand% rise in Sale Order Value in Quarter 4″

<clears throat>”Hi, <me> here, could you repeat that, I didn’t catch the number.”

“Twelvety thousand percent”

“Thank you. Brilliant. I’m done.”

Of course, in a large corporation, communication is a major bugbear. Everyone knows that communication is shit, and that there’s a major “disconnect” between management and the plebs, sorry, the employees, and that they have to do more to “get the message across”, as if they’re Tony Fucking Blair with his “good news” on the one hand and the blood on the other. So they go on courses about how to communicate, only to come out knowing less than they did before about how to communicate.

So they start company magazines, released on a quarterly basis, at least for one quarter, before they dump the idea because it doesn’t make any money and it takes too long, oh and they made the graphic designer redundant and it doesn’t look so good in PowerPoint.

Or they do some circular e-mails to the point that they’re doing so many, everyone just creates a rule in Outlook that filters them into the “Total Crap” folder which also includes those e-mails from the receptionist about the coffee machine. Even better, they’ll organise meetings every quarter where all management drag everyone away from their desks for two hours to tell them how well they’re all doing – oh and by the way, we’re not really doing that well and you’re all going to get fired but well done anyway, you’ve all done really well. Here are some graphs, look at the pretty graphs.

All the while, the pooh-claimers, the no-brainers, the shirkers and the arse-lickers are nodding their heads as if to say “yes, you have spoken wisely dear leader, spoon-feed me more of your warm diarrhea, won’t you?”

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