Rab McNeil’s Week
I like to keep abreast of developments at the old Scotsman building on Edinburgh’s North Bridge, where I spent many years in grinding toil leavened by moral relativism and existential doubt. Here, I first discovered that there was no god.
All that aside, we read on this very website that the old dame is to get a £10 million revamp by new owner G1, which will involve relocating some facilities.
Talk of The Scotsman building’s relocated facilities brings back a painful memory. I last visited the joint many years ago at a do where the drink was free. These events may sound like heaven to some but men of the world know they’re a recipe for disaster.
You turn up thinking: “I am going to pace myself. Just one or two.” But after one brief and pious “No, thank you” to the bod bringing round the booze, you find yourself being topped up regardless and end up pro-actively helping yourself.
Such happened to me at the former newspaper building turned hotel. I was an estimated three sheets to the wind when I felt the call of nature. Turning to the distinguished company, I interrupted someone’s considered opinion on the underlying rate of inflation and announced: “Right, I’m away for a slash.”
After performing my ablutions, I decided it would be fun to find the locus of my former berth at the Hootsmon. Alas, I got completely lost in the relocated surroundings and eventually found myself in a corridor of rooms on the top floor. A bit fogged, and knackered to boot, I sat down on the floor for a rest … and promptly dozed off.
Some time later, I was awakened by a Polish night porter, who escorted me off the premises, and told me the function had ended and that everyone had gone home.
Some of the top executives who attended the do still talk of it today, making reference to the Marie Celeste or Bermuda Triangle as they aver: “He said he was going for a slash and just disappeared.”
Happiness at work? That’s miserable
More disturbing news as a new, exciting concept threatens to undermine one of the business world’s key principles: the misery of the workforce.
“Agile working” doesn’t involve making the staff turn cartwheels or perform lateral plyometric jumps. It means, according to The Herald, “allowing employees to decide exactly where, when and how they carry out their work”. It’s a hop, skip and jump away from “flexible working”, with which everyone is bored rigid.
One proponent of agile working is Maggie Moodie, the chairman of law firm Morton Fraser, who says the point is “to have a happier workforce”. Did you ever hear the like?
A happy workforce, it’s claimed, increases productivity. But does the British employee want to be happy? Happy at work, he or she would no longer look forward to the weekend. They might not even like to go home at night.
There’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the principles of yin and yang here. Without the misery of work there can be no happiness at home. Night is meaningless without day.
I didn’t get where I am today by being agile. Indeed, some days, I hardly move at all. It keeps me bracingly unhappy. As for productivity, at the end of each day, I reassure myself that this alien concept is grossly over-rated.
The world of the mind continues to infiltrate business, causing discomfort and even introspection. More than Marxism or other anti-capitalist ideologies, this psychological mischief-making threatens to undermine the whole system, other than the counselling sector, which is well placed to profit from entrepreneurial despair and doubt.
Admittedly, though, some of the mental shenanigans make for interesting reading. Thus, an article by Martyn Barnett, managing director of RMG Networks, draws attention to the problem of short attention spans. Try and stick with me through this.
Writing for the Minutehack website, Mr Barnett argues that it’s time for corporate culture professionals to change the way they communicate to staff. Mass emails, he says, don’t cut it any more. Communication should be targeted more individually.
Furthermore, it should be two-way, with employees able to give feedback, which is particularly appealing to a generation that has “grown up generating content as much as consuming it”.
He suggests more video content and “gamification”, adding that the consequence for companies who don’t go in for this could be “unfortunate”.
Mr Barnett rightly focuses on the “millennial” generation for this malarkey. However, as a baby boomer myself, I must insist on throwing my toys out of the pram. For a start, I’m far too busy to be opening videos that might go on for five minutes or even longer, and would always prefer to read things written down so that I might skim them and not take anything in.
I have mastered the art of speed-reading, though I recognise the hollow boast about it once made by Woody Allen: “I’ve just read War and Peace in an hour. It’s about Russia.”
As for gamification, a man in my position cannot be seen engaging in such flimflam. Indeed, there’s surely a strong case for firing anyone who does. However, I suspect I will, as ever, be lagging behind the times on this one. Where is my tea, readers? Correct: it’s oot.
Standing up for anoraks
Bit of flak for the National Trust of Scotland after it sent a letter to a small Aberdeenshire clothing business threatening legal action if it didn’t stop calling one of its anoraks the “Glencoe”.
It turns out the NTS is the “proprietor” of Glencoe, the place, and appears to have trademarked the name. At the time of going to press, Hilltrek Outdoor Clothing’s position has been to tell the Trust to get stuffed, which seems reasonable.
For the Trust’s part, it says it wants to protect the name from those furth of the area who would seek to misuse it, which might also seem reasonable, were it not for the fact that the area under advisement should surely be all of Scotland.
Apart from which, anoraks and Glencoe go together like haggis and neeps. It would not really do for an outdoor company for hillwalkers and the like to call their anoraks the “Cumbernauld” or the “Castlemilk”.
The anorak, incidentally, retails for £365 for which I would expect to buy seven outdoor jackets, and still have change for a pair of executive-style galoshes and a portable camping dishwasher.