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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Driven mad by values

Last night I attempted to describe what I thought of this (which I photoed about an hour before photoing that Pedibus):


But I feared that my efforts of last night might get Samizdata sued for libel by Santander, so I had to start again. Maybe Santander really do practise all that they are here preaching, on this bloke’s back.

But, Santander aside, what is it about corporate proclamations of this sort that makes them so vomit-inducing? (See what I mean.) I mean, you don’t have to run about London in a T-shirt like this, do you? Nobody pointed a gun at this bloke, or I do not suppose so. And if you really hate having to endure this kind of verbiage at work, you can always get some other sort of job, can’t you?

Maybe not. Maybe if you are an office worker, in a city like London, of a certain rank, doing a certain sort of work, then insincere verbiage exuding fake enthusiasm and moral ambition that is relentlessly out of line with what they actually reward you for doing and fire you for neglecting to do is something that cannot be avoided, no matter where you work. Besides which, moving from one job to another, although perhaps possible, is quite an upheaval. For many, another job that covers the outgoings would be hard to come by, in times like these.

Now I entirely realise that a T-shirt that I don’t like does not register very highly on the evilometer. It is nothing, for instance, compared to the kind of skullduggery that Johnathan Pearce’s piece earlier today, about Fast and Furious, alludes to. Nevertheless, I’d be interested if readers here are as put off by this kind of thing as I am.

I don’t think it’s just me. I have a number of friends who are, right now, being driven almost insane with suppressed rage by employment which (a) they would prefer to hang on to, despite it (b) involving lots of the usual tiresome crap that you have to put up with when you have a job, but which also includes (c) occasional bouts of psychological torture when, often at vast expense and involving huge amounts of travel, everyone is subjected to interminable out-of-hours company propaganda – propaganda that cannot simply be screened out, because it demands “involvement”, the content of which is insultingly disconnected from the daily grind. It’s a kind of spiritual bullying, and yet my friends just have to put up with it. If they said what they really thought, they’d be fired for insubordination on the spot.

I’m out of all this now, but my own most memorable experience of this kind of psychobabble company bullshit, so to speak, was actually very positive. But that was a long time ago, before this kind of stuff got way out of hand. And the person doing it to us really knew what she was talking about, did so with total honesty and lack of waffle or of third-hand verbiage she had got from a book that she didn’t understand, and she knew how to make it stick. And she was in general the absolute opposite of the kinds of bosses from hell who combine being mediocre with being mad that my friends now complain about.

11 comments to Driven mad by values

  • the other rob

    I sometimes fear that once the babble du jour has been uttered, posted on a noticeboard or what have you, people then regard the issue as “dealt with” and cease worrying about it.

    By way of a concrete example, I frequently drive past a large railroad depot, which features a big fuel tank upon which the legend “Safer Working is Practised Here” is blazoned in huge capital letters. Every time I see it, I can’t help thinking “Christ! That must be a fucking dangerous place, I’m glad that I don’t work there!”

  • Sigivald

    The part that irks me is that they got the puzzle-pieces wrong.

    The notches on the sides are between pieces, not in a piece – and the corner shapes indicate those are the puzzle sides, so there shouldn’t be notches at all.

    (Or tabs on the top and bottom, either, for that matter… nor, to take the metaphor where they wanted, is there a blank space for “you” to fit in attached to the others, rather than dangling off a single notch or tab…

    I’ve seen this hackneyed metaphor elsewhere, but typically done better.)

  • Not fond of forming “teams” to build towers from balloons and packing tape I gather.

  • About 15 years ago, after various (in retrospect, rather minor) scandals, the big investment banks decided that it was necessary to be more “ethical”. Once this had filtered its way through the organisation, bankers were no longer allowed to take their clients to strip clubs or watch pay per view porn in their hotel rooms when travelling on company expense. (As most hotels make a point of simply itemising these as “pay per view movie” on hotel bills, this meant that watching any pay per view movie at all was banned, meaning that one was banned from watching “The Little Mermaid” as well, assuming that one wanted to watch it. In places like Tokyo in 1999, the selection of English language regular television (even in five star hotels) was such that one’s options were either to read a book, blow one’s brains out with boredom, or go to the hotel bar and drink yourself blotto on £15 glasses of Scotch, which the bank was happy to pay for, this not apparently being an ethical issue.

    This all rather missed the point, of course.

    These days, also, we have the internet, which allows you to watch all the porn (or even legitimate movies) you like, as nobody is going to see this as anything other than a legitimate business expense.

    Best not to use the company laptop, though.

  • PaulM

    I’ve observed, over the years, that Santander gets an awful lot of adverse comments in those sections of newspapers that help people correct errors in their financial arrangements.

    XYX lost my deposit of £22K and won’t reply to my letters/emails etc.

    I notice that Santander don’t have “attention to detail” marked on the puzzle 🙂

  • Oh God yes, the company I work for is full of this kind of nonsense (Big Retail). Luckily, it’s nonsense after nonsense after nonsense with absolutely no follow through, so most of us are completely immune to it by now. It’s “dealt with” before It’s even “rolled out” (or, ugh, ” gone live.”)
    Unless you are a manager, in which case you have to believe that “this time it’s going to be different. “

  • wh00ps: the people who don’t deliver this kind of nonsense will be very adept at hanging around for non-delivery of the next nonsense, though.

  • BigFatFlyingBloke

    I work for a Swiss Industrial Engineering company and they occasionally have stabs at this kind of thing and much mirth results because you can tell nobody in the company from the CEO down actually buys into it and it’s just done because an expensive management consultant told them it was a good idea and they didn’t want to feel like they wasted their money.

    Just like for the UK office they needed an HR manager so just told the company accountant she was now the HR manager “because somebody has to wear the hat”.

  • Brad

    While I hate the type of indoctrination caliber spiels as described, I get caught between that and the overall erosion of right and wrong within the culture at large. If there was a strong sense of right and wrong to begin with, platitudinous t-shirts might not be necessary. Though one good thing comes out of it, I have detected the more a company hammers such themes, the more likely they are the most rotten at the core.

  • Dale Amon

    I wonder why retail stores, banks and the like feel a need to use terminology from the high tech industry? A rollout is what you do with a new airplane in a big ceremony. Sometimes in systems it is a set of interlocking changes that have to be done in a sequence. And then ‘go live’ is sort of a TV/radio thing, also used in other areas of communications technology to me that point at which you start broadcasting, or in some cases allow access to your site.

    I can sort of see a rollout of management changes if there is an interlocking set of things which have to happen. But ´go live’ does not make any sense to me unless you are turning on hardware/software systems such that they are now controlling real things and taking interactions from end users.

  • Paul Marks

    People who actually have integrity (which, I suppose, what this “values” talk means) are not the people who boast about having integrity.

    The honourable person is also normally a modest person.

    A gentleman is embarrassed by praise.