As another weekend draws to an untimely end, 35 hours of soul destroying tedium circles through your conscious like a corporate feathered vulture. Sunday's television schedule does little to distract you from the thoughts of a job that you once donned your finest suit to secure, and here, in a moment of depressing clarity is the realisation that, "this is your life." Instead of a red book filled with your greatest feats and wittiest one-liners, the best that you can achieve is two pages of Arial 11 point detailing your employment history and one or two hobbies that you added in a desperate attempt to make it sound as though you were a true team player and not the mis-anthropic, work-hating malcontent that you actually are.

If this sounds familiar then fear not, you are not alone. The Daily Grindstone is here to help you through the perils of employment and give weight to your long held belief that, despite the hype, work just isn't that great. So... make another cup of tea (remember that a full kettle takes longer to boil and can add minutes to your break), get comfortable, and prepare to adjust the scales of the work-life balance a little more in your favour.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Shit Break

There is no greater pleasure than being paid to empty your bowels. Sitting there resplendent on your throne, you can stimulate your intestines safe in the knowledge that your employer is paying you for the privilege. The toilet cubicle, whilst sporting the faint aroma of your fellow employees’ excrement, is your sanctuary - make the necessary deposits and you can return whenever you require respite from your day to day labors.

Unlike the tea break or the trip to the stationary cupboard, the toilet break has no time limit. Your fellow workers have no desire to hear about the length of your movements or the tricky bits of sweetcorn that just won't budge, so take your time and enjoy your trip to the ceramic bowl of freedom. In the event that a co-worker does raise an eyebrow to your latest thirty minute stint, simply utter the following words, "I think I ate something funny last night." Whilst they cringe in disgust at the thought of loose stools hitting crisp white porcelain, smile comfortably, safe in the knowledge that you have just earned a day ticket to unlimited skiving.

With the advent of mobile internet browsing, the toilet break can become more than you ever dreamt possible. As you "fill the pond with brown trout," you are free to catch up on Facebook or simply beat your highest score on Angry Birds. The toilet break is your opportunity to claw back time from your employer and spend it on life's little pleasures (unloading your digestive system being one). Choose life, choose red meat and choose stodgy lunches.

Monday, 28 March 2011

A Grumpy Guide to the "Grumpy Guide to Work"

There is nothing more grating than listening to a famous and privileged media personality telling you about the horrors of work. As they recount stories of the ghastly summer job they endured in the time between leaving stage school and receiving a multi-million pound television deal, it is hard to avoid the feeling that this is just a little like a paintball instructor telling a Vietnam war veteran about the "things they have seen."

BBC2's The Grumpy Guide to Work promised a "look at the world of work, from ingenious skiving techniques to the dangers of email." In reality it provided a tired commentary on an imaginary workplace last seen in a 1970s sitcom.

To ensure that no viewer went away without just a hint of nausea, the show employed Britain's least funny comic, Shappi Khorsandi, to muddle her way through a collection of pointless and inane anecdotes about a job in a sandwich shop. Had I pursued a career as an abattoir executioner, I would have taken this opportunity to turn the bolt gun on myself and end the torment once and for all.

To see the show and witness Shappi's torture first hand, please visit:

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Out of Office Message

The more astute amongst you may have noticed that the Daily Grindstone has been a little quieter than usual today. Before you enter a state of gut wrenching fear that after only 105 working hours, the Daily Grindstone has exhausted all of the work gripes that face the modern day employee, please rest assured that the break is only temporary and we will be back next week to provide your usual supply of cathartic commentary on the absurdity of the workplace.

Taking a well earned break from his career as a Dickensian headmaster and workplace cynic, Thomas Gradgrind will be spending the next seven days on holiday. With no access to a laptop, typewriter, or quill, his contemptuous commentary will return on Monday the 28th March.

Whilst you wait with baited breath for his return, please browse the article archive and feel free to submit your own sardonic musings. For those of you who have been deterred from entering comments for fear of being uncovered by your employer, you will be pleased to find out that the settings have been adjusted and readers can now post anonymously without any need for signing in or setting up an account.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Give me relief from Comic Relief

Unless you are lucky enough to work from home or are unfortunate enough to be blinded to the colour red, you should know that today is Comic Relief. Whilst few of us could find fault with helping the needy, the manner in which office charity days aim to wrench money from our pocket can be a little grating to the sensibilities. I am not arguing that altruism should be confined to the privacy of an anonymous bank transfer, but I am questioning whether it is entirely necessary for me to endure another hour of forced reversion to sado masochistic childhood as yet another balding middle aged man waxes his legs in the name of philanthropy.

Whilst the end result should be applauded (and yes I do donate) Comic Relief's tag-line "Do something funny for money," is inherently flawed. Adults of a working age who are in a position to do something funny for money are called "Comedians" and have worked long and hard to establish what is funny and what is simply a half hearted act of non-committal by a monotonous bore. If we were to change the tag line to, "Do some brain surgery for money," would office clerks still feel qualified to assume this role?

It maybe that my concept of humour differs from that of my colleagues, but try as I may, I have been unable to find the punch line in spraying my hair red. If only we could use a small proportion of the money raised to educate our employees in the time honoured craft of comedy, I am sure that we could avoid the muscle damage that arises from contorting our face into an uncomfortable cringe as the wacky receptionist declares that they will, once again, bathe in a bath of cold baked beans.

Despite the well intentioned aims of the office charity day, I prefer my philanthropy served private. Although I may be averse to watching the mock-humiliation of my workmates, I do not wish to belittle the efforts of anybody who has given up their time raising money for Comic Relief. Like much of the Daily Grindstone my words should be taken with a heaped tablespoon of salt. Should the taste be unpleasant, I am happy for readers to spit them out without any concern of offending.

If you wish to donate to Comic Relief and mercifully cannot think of anything 'funny to do for money,' please visit:

Thursday, 17 March 2011

The best advice that you will ever receive

Somewhere in the haze of last night was the revelation that, contrary to everything that past experience has taught you, a bout of heavy drinking will “almost definitely” improve your ability to work in the morning. Having woken up with the unusual, but all too familiar sensation of navigating an ocean liner in a storm, you begin to doubt the previous night’s scientific breakthrough. Before you haul yourself from your swing chair to vomit out your excesses into the waste paper basket, let me tell you why drinking on a week night is the finest idea that you have probably ever had.

The numbing effects of alcohol not only make a tedious jobs more bearable, but the concentration required to avoid your stomach emptying its content onto the desk like a half digested picnic hamper, will help to make your day go by much quicker. By the time that your hangover has lifted, you will look at your watch to discover that only two more hours of work remain. Granted, you haven’t managed to get any work completed, but then you didn’t yesterday and at least today you have had chance to read the Top 10 unsolved mysteries on

Smelling like a pub carpet, whilst unattractive, serves as the perfect colleague repellent. As their nostrils quiver at the smell of whisky/sambuca/surgical spirit seeping out through your pores, their request for you to take them through the new printing process will suddenly seem less important. The occasional hiccup or muted belch will help to remind persistent colleagues that they should only approach you if the matter is of utmost importance - unless an asteroid is about to hit the earth, they should probably just leave you to the staring contest you have been holding with the photocopier for the last fifteen minutes.

If you are a new entrant into the world of work, please do feel discouraged by the above advice. Although careers advisors have told you to make a good first impression, turning up pissed to work on your first day is actually the better course of action. As you sit at your desk with bloodshot eyes and the “1000 yard stare” of a war veteran, your new colleagues will come to believe that this is your natural, resting state. From this point on you can continue to turn up hung-over without raising suspicion or, should you choose to enter the office sober, your employers will be so impressed by your vigour, healthy complexion, and new found productivity that they will undoubtedly put you forward for promotion.

....alternatively you may just receive a P45 and an invite to Alcoholics Anonymous. Follow this advice at your own cost!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

There's no escaping the office whip-round

Working in a busy office, it is hard to ignore, and to afford, the numerous birthday/Bah mitzvah/We're sorry you're dying/Congratulations on the new baby cards that will be thrust on to your desk at any given opportunity. Whilst it is trying enough to think of an original and heartfelt message for these cardboard messengers of mock empathy, no birthday will be complete without the obligatory "whip round." Like a mafia thug inviting quivering shop keepers to join a protection racket, the office whip round is guaranteed to empty your wallet and make you feel like a penny pinching scrooge for submitting anything less than your entire life savings.

There is no escaping the task of entering a, "Have a great day and don't drink too much," message into the card of a complete stranger. Despite protesting that you have never met the man, the disapproving glances of your fellow workmates will quickly inspire you to enter another cringe worthy message and ceremonial emptying of your wallet. Once the whip round (usually contained within an internal postage envelope) has been filled to the brim with crisply folded ten pound notes, the office head will elect the most embarrassingly out-of-touch member of staff to 'go out and choose something nice.' With the acceleration of a rabid greyhound, the chosen purchaser will race towards their favourite shop. Entering the emporium of imported tat, they will chose the gift that most reminds them of that 'lovely home from the faux leather moccasin advert' that they saw in the back of the Daily Mail. Proudly returning the abomination to the office, they wait with barely-contained excitement for the future recipient to return from their lunch break.

As the gift is unveiled, the office is drained of air as all employees collectively inhale. There in all of its glory is a polished wooden sculpture depicting an angry lion disembowelling a stork. As the recipient smiles nervously, their brain awash with thoughts on how to tactfully decline the gift, each and every birthday card signatory enters a catatonic state of mortification. By putting their mark to the birthday card, they have signed a confession speculating that the gift was their idea. How will they ever be able to look the recipient in the eyes without thinking that somewhere, behind the contact lenses, is a person who suspects them of being responsible for this hideous token. "Don't thank me, thank Jane, she chose it!" you cry as your co-workers let out a prolonged sigh of relief.

As Jane looks on proudly, you return to your desk knowing that not only did you snatch back your reputation from the brink of disaster, but you also, morally and rightfully, condemned Jane to a well deserved future of social exclusion.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The forgotten dreams of Martin's sandwich

Sat there in the deepest darkest corner of the office fridge is a sandwich. Once the pride of Martin's lunchbox, the cheese is carefully crafted into interlocking trapezoids and the Branston sandwich pickle has been applied with the accuracy of a King's College brain surgeon. Like a bread-based reflection of Martin's career, the sandwich had entered the office with a cocksure promise of great potential. After several weeks, like Martin, the sandwich was nothing more than a greening lump sweating under the artificial light that occasionally flickered as another, younger, more succulent sandwich was thrust through the open fridge door.

The story of Martin's sandwich is one with which any office worker can relate. Sat in the cupboards and fridges of workplaces across the globe are festering specimens of forgotten lunches. Like the dismissed dreams of their once proud owners, nobody will ever claim these rancid meals and so they sit dissipating into their frozen surroundings. As aging air-conditioners waft their bitter perfume across the office, why is it that nobody steps forward to consign these miserable picnics to the swing bin of office life?

Disposing of a mouldy sandwich is an admission of guilt. By handling the cellophane wrapped mulch, you are allowing you co-workers to peer through a window to your private life. The kind of person who allows a once proud sandwich to deteriorate to a rotten parcel, is the kind of person who will neglect basic personal hygiene, fail to return phone calls, and live alone with only "World of Warcraft" for company. Despite the gut wrenchingly awful stench emanating from the fridge, nobody wishes to become a social pariah and so, guilty or innocent, each employee will ignore the source of the discomfort and make pointed suggestions regarding the perpetrators possible identity.

Should the foul odour of your forgotten feast become unbearable, there is only one course of action to take. Prior to removing the offending article, send a mass email to everybody in the company speculating that the Finance department are responsible for the crime, theatrically condemn the habit of leaving food in the fridge for long periods, and then, when all traces of guilt have been firmly shifted, pick up the sandwich, carry it to the bin, and like an amusement park grabber machine, simply loosen your grip.

It all just goes to show that despite the ridiculous emails and laminated warnings adorning the fridge door, it really isn't that big a deal!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Kneeling at the alter of Careerism

As the death-throws of religion sound out across the globe, the masses are once again demanding their opiates. Whereas once, subservience to a bearded figure was enough to secure your place in the sun, one must now pledge allegiance to the god of careers should you wish to secure a spot to rest your weary feet. In stark contrast to the religions of yester-year, this new god makes no commandment to love they neighbour. Provided that you are willing to sacrifice all in this mortal game of roulette, "Careerism" will happily accept your stake.

The rise of Careerism has led society to value economic worth above all other characteristics. Disciples compete to outdo each other in their unquestioning devotion to long hours and caffeine induced neuroses. The reward for this dedication is a chance to win a pleasant living space and the misguided admiration of colleagues. Thirty year old men wear the scars of executive burnout like martyrs killed at the stake, and once bustling streets now echo with the gloomy sound of Careerists substituting their interest in the real world for the safe and sterile surroundings of a Blackberry Curve.

Mothers who would once have nutured children now sit solemnly at desks unwilling to snatch back their offspring from the loving bosom of a hired nanny. Exhausted from the unrelenting quest to show loyalty and subservience to a career, they return home to numb their minds with the images of moronic cretins barely capable of sentience performing like chimpanzees for a panel of hateful judges (if you were just about to defend the glazed mannequin who goes by the name of Cheryl Cole, first cast your memory back to her career as a nightclub toilet prize fighter). Like the misguided celibacy of catholic priests, Careerism removes all capacity for genuinely human pleasure.

When it is time for the final curtain call, you must ask yourself whether the mid-range BMW sat in the drive is really sufficient compensation for not knowing your children and never pursuing that childhood interest in go-karting. If the sums just don’t add up, then reject Careerism and follow the righteous path of work based Atheism.

Friday, 11 March 2011

The Injustice of White Collared Time Crime.

In most civilized countries, it has become customary to avoid taking items which do not rightfully belong to you. Were you to take a friends car and exchange it for a handful of  shiny coins, not only would your friend be motivated to re-evaluate your companionship  but you would also, most likely, be granted an opportunity to familiarise yourself with  the interior of a police cell. In the world of work the rules are slightly distorted and it has become acceptable for your employer to consume your time without proper reimbursement. The theft I am referring to is not of the contracted time for which your employer pays you, but rather, the time spent travelling to and from your place of work. As employers increasingly choose to situate themselves in business parks and busy towns, The Daily Grindstone questions how this phenomenon has come to such prominence.

In days gone by, employees would have lived within a short walk or bicycle ride of their employer's business. The commute to work was little more than a 5 minute stroll and gave workers the chance to meet with colleagues, indulge in a sneaky cigarette, and discuss the news of the day. With the advent of the internal combustion engine, employees were no longer tied to the locality of the workplace and began to move further away. Initially the car allowed workers to travel longer distances in shorter times, but as prices fell and more vehicles took to the road, increasing congestion saw journeys times rise exponentially.

The average commuting time in the UK currently stands at around 45 minutes ( This means that each day, the average worker sacrifices 90 minutes of unpaid leisure time to travel to a job that they are enslaved to by rent, overdrafts, phone bills and all manner of direct debit. Since travel time is essential for carrying out the duties of your job, it would not be unfair to seek financial compensation. Incredibly, the brainwashed worker accepts that he must surrender this time and instead of seeking recompense, uses it to conduct work for his master on a portable computer. The free labour that a lengthy commutes provides, encourages the profits of large companies to swell and bloat like feeding leeches. Despite the injustice of this white collared theft, we, the impotent masses, refuse to utter as much as a whimper of protest.

Even if you are not spending your commute working for free, do you really enjoy waking up at 7am to travel to a place of work? Would you not rather spend the time asleep or watching GMTV? Leisure time should be spent engaging in activities that you have voluntarily chosen to pursue, allowing your employer to take it for free is no better than opening your wallet to a Fagin styled pick-pocket. Given that business leaders will cry out about lost productivity whenever they hear the mention of a new bank holiday, we, the employee, should demand reimbursement for the time that we have lost travelling on their behalf.

It is time for a revolution and that revolution should start at 9am on Monday morning. Rather than sitting at your desk like a trained Labrador, casually leave the comfort of your home and let your employer pay for the time that you waste stuck in traffic behind an overturned caravan.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The wrongful Conviction of Monday morning

For as long as I can remember, I have been brainwashed into thinking that Monday is the most depressing day of the week. Like a gloomy fog rolling over the hills of the weekend, Monday descends to signal another 35 hours of hard labour. Now either my experience is unusual or, as I suspect, due to its pole position in the working week Monday has come into an unfair level of criticism. An innocent bystander at the crime scene of employment, Monday has endured years of wrongful accusations whilst the real criminal, Tuesday, has been allowed to carry out her work unheeded.
At the end of the working week, all worries and stresses are neatly packaged in ‘thought-tight’ containers and moved to the dusty alcoves of your mind. With 48 hours of freedom stretching out in front of you, there is no need to retain the key to this gloomy archive and in the pleasure zone of boozy nights at the pub, work will soon return to being little more than a distant memory.
Like all memories, come Monday morning, your recollection of work has faded like an antique photograph and the emotional peaks and troughs that you have previously endured are now nothing more than an agreeable flat-line. Despite a desire to remain in bed, your motivation to 'try harder this week’ is higher than it has ever been before, and with the new start, comes  a new desire to excel in your not-so-wretched career.
Come 5pm on Monday, the key to the hellish archive of work worries and stresses has been unsympathetically returned to your conscious. Turning the lock, you are engulfed by the horrors of last week and it suddenly dawns on you that tomorrow, you must do this all again. Like an angel of death, Tuesday hangs over your psyche waiting to strike you down.
Walking through the revolving office doors on Tuesday morning, a wave of depression will hit you like a tsunami, and despite your best efforts, you will once again succumb to the misery of corporate life. Whilst Monday has the decency to hide beneath the veils of the weekend, Tuesday will stand defiant and force you to endure the uncensored horrors of another week.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The horrors of 9am meetings

Having dragging yourself into work, there is little more depressing than finding a meeting invite ensconced in the comfort of your email account. With a time set for 9am there is little that can be done to excuse yourself from this hour of droning monotone. With no time to dream up excuses, you must accept this gloomy summons and look on as another hour of your life fades into history.

The 9am meeting is a stealth tactic designed by Office Dwellers to catch fellow employees unawares. In the confusion of the morning rush, the 9am meeting pops up like a mud covered Commando and strikes its victim with a short sharp blow to the conscious. With no time for premonitions, even the most experienced loafer will be forced to succumb to its ungodly demands.

In order to effectively bypass the excuses of its targets, the 9am meeting must be sent in the darkest depths of night. With the midnight oil running low, Charles, the diligent and self-proclaimed worker drone, will slave over a spreadsheet that has consumed his time and thoughts for the past two weeks. When he triumphantly completes his labours, he must broadcast this victory to the company by sending a 9am meeting request. With a well rehearsed, “Sorry to be sending this so late,” the email draws attention to the time at which it was sent whilst simultaneously reminding his colleagues that there should be no challenges to his crown of “Employee of the Month.” Since few workers will be in early enough to deflect this Machiavellian blow, Charles will ensure an ample audience for his unreserved crowing.

Everything about the 9am meeting is designed to inflict massive disruption on your day. The carefully crafted morning regime that you have followed for the past 18 months will be blown into the weeds, and with no solid foundations on which to build your day, the remaining hours will crumble like the walls of Jericho. For the Jobsworth there is no greater delight than watching his fellow workers wilt under a lack of caffeine and personal emails. As his colleagues wail like love sick banshees, the perpetrator of the 9am meeting is unchallenged in his attempt to secure a promotion from the boss. Employers know that, like the man ready to push the button on nuclear apocalypse, the organiser of a 9am meeting will stop at nothing to appease his overlords. The more the hatred for this brute swells and bloats, the more his employers see the potential for a role in middle management.

Since there is no escaping the 9am meeting, there is no emergency procedure that can save you from the horrors you will encounter. Like the captain of the Titanic, the best that you can hope for is the courage to hold your head up high as you and the rest of your day plunge into the abyss.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Team Days and the Demise of Professionalism

Being made to spend time with your colleagues is equivalent to being force fed beetle larvae. Sure you'll do it if you are on the brink of starvation but left to your own devices, you would probably prefer to dine on foie gras. No amount of paintballing, go karting, pottery painting, or wicker basket weaving will ever help to convince you that the sweating bedlamites you share an office with are any more worthy of your friendship than the spider you so gleefully flush down the toilet. In light of these inherent shortcomings, the Daily Grindstone asks why the team day continues to cast a gloomy shadow on our working lives.

The team day is your employer’s half-hearted attempt to generate a happy and productive working environment. It is not enough for you to simply turn up each day at 9am, you must also love your company and your colleagues like you would your own child. Whilst your contract makes no mention of this expectation, failure to warmly embrace your boss as they recount each glorious detail of their boyfriend's marriage proposal will receive the same level of disapproval as Mel Gibson turning up at a 13 year old's bah mitzvah. Since most team days aims to ease the transition from 'strangers who speak' to 'potential life partners,' it is ironic that so many should involve activities designed to inflict pain.

Seeing as I have never been in a battle zone, I can only assume that were I to shoot somebody in the face, it would be unlikely to strengthen the bonds of our friendship. So why is it that encouraging workers to shoot each other in the face with paint pellets has grown such a reputation for improving work relationships? Some would argue that working out tension in the safe environment of a paintball course may help to promote greater social cohesion, but I cannot help but wonder whether encouraging employees to act out a fantasy for executing their colleagues, may just inspire them to...well...execute their colleagues. The line from paintball gun to .44 Magnum is easily crossed when you have endured yet another morning of your workmate hammering at their keyboard like a navvy laying railway track.

If the team day cannot inspire you to discard a lifetimes worth (or so it feels) of contempt for your fellow worker, what can it hope to achieve? In days gone by the hostility you feel would have gone by the name of "professionalism." As the workplace attempted to emulate the touchy-feely air of a sitcom coffee house, professionalism was forced out of the door like a 65 year old office clerk. The team day is part of a monstrous attempt to camouflage work in the robes of a cheery evening out with your friends. If you can be persuaded to enjoy your colleagues company, you may just be persuaded to enjoy your menial job. Fight back against this ridiculous trend, turn down the invite to attend a company 'chat and bake' evening, and hoist up the flag of professionalism. You are not paid to like your co-workers!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Office Dwellers Part III: The Jobsworth

Every office has at least one person who believes that their modest job entering numbers into an Excel spreadsheet is no less important than finding the cure for cancer. Whilst there is nothing wrong with having pride in your work, if you find yourself forcing your passion for mediocrity upon your disinterested colleagues, it may be time to accept that you have become one of the most irritating of all Office Dwellers.

The Jobsworth would be capable of unearthing hatred in the Dalai Lama, and so tasked with a normal human being, they can induce torrents of rage filled bile to erupt out of their pores like an island of volcanoes. Not content with using ‘wacky’ shaped post-it notes to transform their workstation into a cathedral of tired and clichéd motivational phrases, the Jobsworth will insist that each and every one of their colleagues shares their enthusiasm for data entry/customer services/packing envelopes* (delete as appropriate).

Were the Jobsworth an agreeable character who just happened to possess an over- exaggerated opinion about the importance of their job, most, if not all people, would be able to forgive them for their shortcomings. Unfortunately, the Jobsworth behaves like the unholy lovechild of Josef Stalin and Richard Littlejohn, and in between musings about the “lazy immigrants in the production department,” will survey the office for opportunities to preach the merits of hard work.

Should the Jobsworth spot a co-worker engaged in a minute of idleness, they will alert the nearest figure of authority and swoop like an iron-fisted eagle to pointedly remind them about the company’s code of conduct. Like a sociopathic Rottweiler, their lack of empathy, combined with a devastatingly low level of intellect, makes them the perfect guard-dog. Witless and unintelligent, they are loyal to the hilt and will disembowel without question.

Going about their duties with the subservience of a Nazi prison guard, the Jobsworth acts as gatekeeper to the company. Having held the most junior position in the office for the last twenty years, every new entrant to the kingdom of corporate life must negotiate their way through the Jobsworth’s department. Any mistake that they make will be instantly reported to the line-manager and like a human threshing machine, the Jobsworth will ruthlessly help to separate the wheat from the chaff. Each and every disciplinary firing that is substantiated by their expert testimony will help to move them one step closer to the fabled, ‘employee of the month’ award.

Whilst there is no escaping the bitter and watchful eye of a Jobsworth, with a modicum of intelligence, most of us should be able to obtain some degree of immunity.
Like a huntsman spider, the Jobsworth’s toxic exterior hides a creature longing to be loved. By showing just a little interest in their twenty year career as an envelope packer, you may just buy yourself enough goodwill to avoid the effects of their poison.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Natwest - How I hate thee

Like many people who one day dream of buying their own house, I am currently enrolled on a painful mission to build my credit rating. The prize for taking part in this futile exercise is an opportunity to stand in front of a feckless automaton and beg for their generosity.

Thanks to a long held aversion to banking staff, I like to pride myself on being debt free. I have no overdraft, no credit card, and no outstanding monthly payments. For all intents and purposes, I am a pretty good bet. Sadly, in the financial world, where recklessness is rewarded with a bonus the size of Britain's GDP (or perhaps it was Britain's GDP?), the ability to spend less money than you earn highlights yourself as a potential threat. In the soulless eyes of a mortgage lender, the kind of man who shuns the shark like advances of a credit card company, is the kind of man who, when lent a large sum of money, will tear off the straitjacket of fiscal prudence and run wildly into the woods with their new found wealth. As a result of this, I recently found myself applying for a credit card with Natwest Plc.

Natwest, as the adverts assure you, is a "helpful bank." Should you have a large sum of money that you wish to deposit, they will bend over backwards to ensure that you receive the least possible return (I highly recommend their First Reserve Savings Account that promises a staggering 0.10% interest on your deposits). When it comes to granting you the privilege of slipping a shiny new credit card into your wallet however, the service you receive will fall far short of, "helpful."

Having applied for a "Savings Accelerator" credit card in store, I naively thought that having passed the credit check, put my signature to the credit agreement, and circled the pound of flesh to remove in the event of an emergency, receiving the credit card itself would be a fairly straightforward affair. Unfortunately, like a bungling collection of circus clowns, Natwest will lose your signed credit agreement and lead you on a wild goose chase through their labyrinth of call centre help-lines (I assume the name “Help-line” is meant as a cruel joke). Once you have spoken to all 300 of their highly trained amoeba, you will be put through to a re-animated cadaver, who will, with the comic timing of an executioner, inform you that they have once again lost your credit agreement. Having had five minutes of frantic techno hold music to calm you down, the cadaver’s ghoulish voice will return to advise you that they, ‘checked with Tracy, and did receive your credit agreement after all.’ Following an eternity of empty promises, the cadaver will assure you that the application has been expedited and will wish you on your merry way.

Following a month of deadly silence, you will once again call to enquire about the whereabouts of your card. When you finally speak to somebody with an IQ higher than a garden snail, they will calmly inform you that the reason you have not received your credit card, is because the application was not entered into the system correctly to begin with. At this point you should fight the urge to ask them why the hell nobody told you about this until now, cancel the application, and vow never ever to involve yourself with Natwest again. Since they must at some point, have received permission to handle large quantities of money, one would hope that they would be more than qualified to look after a signed slip of paper. Based on the service you will receive, you could be forgiven for doubting whether they even have the aptitude to take part in a game of Monopoly. C***ts!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Office Dwellers Part II: The Middle Manager

Trevor had never wanted to be the sub-team manager of CheapCo Office Supplies. As a child he had dreamt of playing football for Swindon town, unfortunately evolution had taken a tumble and he had been blessed with two left feet. His job at CheapCo had come about by accident really. A summer job filing purchase orders had developed into a winter job as an office clerk. By the time he had had the chance to re-assess his life, he was thirty-five and enslaved to an HP agreement he had used to purchase a Vauxhall Astra Sri.

The Middle Manager is by no means a malicious Office Dweller. Unlike the team leader, he was once like you, albeit a less attractive and less charismatic interpretation. Ten years working in the same office has had a detrimental effect on his character and the dreams he once had of parking in the “Directors Only” car park have been begrudgingly revised to account for the numerous opportunities he has failed to realise. His love life, like his career, has fallen a little short of the mark. Excluding a brief fling with Naomi Foot in the first year of secondary school, the Middle Manager has had little contact with the fairer sex. Despite his virginity, he is keen to recount imaginary, but extremely graphic tales of sordid evenings with women he has “met on the net,” and no amount of polite refusal will deter him from sharing “just how filthy she was.” In dealing with a Middle Manager it is essential to steer clear of subtle nuances and politely but firmly inform them that you would, "rather not talk about this during work.”

The Middle Manager is desperate to befriend you. Armed with a repertoire of tired jokes that provoke more pity than they do laughter, the Middle Manager will try to cure his aching loneliness by discouraging you from ever leaving the company. Thanks to his campaign of propaganda and fear, you will begin to entertain thoughts of settling for the job you hate and appreciating the comfort and security it affords. Sure it isn’t what you really want, but then neither is the Ford Fiesta parked in your drive, and you still lovingly wash and polish that every weekend. The Middle Manager’s greatest weapon is his persuasiveness and by convincing you that his life is a non-stop orgy of bonuses, expense accounts, and meetings “to determine the future of the office supply industry,” he hopes to lure you into a life of ‘office dwelling.’

Should you find yourself staring down at a pair of tassel-loafers, you will have most likely fallen victim to a Middle Manager. In this situation you must stand up, walk out, and reassess your life before you too become a pin-up for the office dwelling generation.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Office Dwellers Part I: The Team Leader

In every office in every country, ghastly creatures lurk, waiting to ensnare naïve career debutants into their lair of Xerox machines and unfulfilled potential. As your travel along the lonely road to retirement it is inevitable that you will encounter one of these monstrous incubi. Awkwardly blending into normal society, if you are to survive a run in with an office dweller, you must first know how to recognise one. In the “Office Dweller” series of articles, I will attempt to highlight the distinguishing features of these wretched beasts.

The most common office dweller is the “Team Leader.” Favouring the dank and stuffy conditions of a customer service call centre, Team Leaders can be recognised by their rotund physique and grotesque visage. Reminiscent of a melting Dawn French, the team leader will lure you into a false sense of security by promising to have once been, “just like you.” Under no circumstances should you fall for this deception. They were never just like you, unless you too once longed to hold power over a group of disenchanted musicians and half baked students.

Despite looking like Stephen King’s interpretation of the hunchback of Notre Dame, the Team Leader will recount endless tales of their sexual prowess and unrivalled attractiveness. Like a hypnotic chant, these mantras aim to influence the inner thoughts of her underlings. Once they have begun to take seed, she will attempt to breed with the young and broadly attractive University graduate who has, as yet, failed to react to her advances. In a booze fuelled orgy of shame and regret, she will initiate the transformation process that will see a once hopeful teenager metamorphosise into a tassel-loafer wearing middle manager (more on this specimen soon).

Whilst she may look vaguely human, the Team Leader was raised by Lucifer and fed on the dreams of the living. The insatiable hunger for chewing up aspiration in her shark like jaw is what initially attracted her to a job abundant in young and idealistic workers. In charge of overseeing the task of picking up (and duly putting down) telephone receivers, the Team Leader gains a masochistic thrill from hearing her minions treat desperate and exhausted customers like the “faeces smeared worms that they are.” In this desperate and lifeless environment, do not expect to find an ally in your fellow employee. The power that comes from befriending the Team Leader will seduce your co-workers and prevent them from assisting the quest to retain your humanity.

So how do you beat the Team Leader? Surprisingly, the answer is extremely simple. The Team Leader is very sensitive to rejection, and by passing them a letter entitled, “My Resignation,” their power will ebb away until there is nothing left but a slightly obese and mildy obnoxious version of Dame Edna Everage. Whilst terrifying at first, there is actually very little to fear from this particular breed of Office Dweller.

Faking it

Ever looked at you tired and drawn face in the mirror and wondered what it is that your significant other sees? Your sparkling wit has turned flatter like a week old bottle of lemonade and the torso that would once have looked at home on a Norse god would now look more comfortable hanging off the frame of an aging darts player. In spite of this, using words borrowed from Shania Twain, your partner assures you that you are, "still the one."

If you are at all familiar with the above scenario then you may have experienced a similar phenomenon with your career. The dashing young buck who breezed through the interview on a cloud of empty promises is now a palsied wreck struggling to disguise their innate incompetence. Each time the yearly review comes around, you are certain that your boss will tear away your mask to reveal the charlatan hiding beneath. Amazingly, they remains oblivious to your dirty truth and the P45 that hangs over your head like a sword of Damocles, remains firmly rooted to its tether. Whilst your partner may be able to overlook your flaws, how can your employer continue to ignore your obvious shortcomings?

The startling diagnosis is that, contrary to your employer being blind to your deficiency, you are in fact experiencing the symptoms of "imposterism." Discovered in 1978 by psychologists from Georgia State University, a person afflicted with imposter syndrome will harbour a secret sense that they are less capable than their peers or are less deserving of their career success. You should take comfort in the knowledge that these feelings are most common in intellectual or high achieving individuals, and many famous faces have gone through their careers plagued by a fear of being found out.

So what does this mean for you? People with imposter syndrome are reluctant to acknowledge their role in the success they have achieved and so label their achievements as luck, coincidence, or, "being bloody good at winging it!" When applied to a career, like an abused spouse, their is a perverse tendency to feel gratitude towards your employer. When saddled with unrealistic demands, rather than telling your boss to go and find another fool, you nervously oblige like a domesticated donkey.

Diagnosing yourself with imposter syndrome will release you from this prison of self doubt. The ease with which you fulfil your contractual responsibilities is not the product of doing a substandard job but is instead the result of an intellect underwhelmed by the necessities of your career. Should your boss remove the iron mask that you donned to enter the corporate world, let them see the handsome king and not the cowardly counterfeit.