Living in a Dilbert cartoon

My, how I laughed at Scott Adams’ book, ‘The Dilbert Principle’, with its wacky tales of life in the lunatic asylum of big business. But yesterday was like waking up, only to find that your nightmares are infinitely better than reality.

It started off with a departmental re-organisation, the company equivalent of the three-card trick, in which you try and move the managers around so fast that they give the illusion of productive work. These frequent, effectively pointless exercises are simultaneously carrot and stick: good managers perhaps get allocated extra areas of empire, others get them taken away. Mine was given control over the switchboard — I’m not sure which that counts as. Of course, nothing will actually change. More meetings will be held, and the number of people actually doing any work will decrease.

It’s symptomatic of the longer-term approach, which goes something like this

  • A new head of department comes in, full of bright ideas.
  • New head of department decides to scrap all the projects of his predecessor, and move ahead on to the cutting edge of new technology.
  • They junk large quantities of hardware + software.
  • They realise no-one in the department knows how to work the new technology.
  • Hideously overpaid contractors are employed, and training is thrown at us.
  • We see the promised delivery date for the new system.
  • We laugh hysterically.
  • We realise with horror that they aren’t joking.
  • Working like amphetamine-crazed beavers, we produce the electronic equivalent of finger-painting, and hope the users won’t notice.
  • People leave in droves with their new skill-set, before the shit hits the fan.
  • They hire even more hideously overpaid contractors to try and rescue things.
  • They don’t.
  • The head of department falls on his exceedingly well-paid sword.
  • A new head of department comes in, full of bright ideas…

We’re now on the third cycle of the above. Is it any wonder that my enthusiasm for actual work is not overwhelming? However, I don’t think we’re especially bad at it, which is I’ve been here eight years; going anywhere else wouldn’t change anything.

And then, bizarrely, yesterday became Corporate Tie Day. Midway through the afternoon, the PA to the deputy head (approximate title: god knows what it is, post-reorganisation) came through like Santa’s little helper, distributing ties with the company logo on them to all male employees (hideously overpaid contractors excluded). The women will apparently be getting scarves later. We just laughed. The company’s share price has dived 40% in a month and this was their response? We hadn’t exactly been demanding neckwear, and a month or two back the company boss sent round a memo asking for ways to save money! [“Stop sending round dumb memos” was a popular reply…]

It’s almost impossible to fathom the thought processes behind it; as a token of appreciation it’s backfired utterly, though the ties themselves are quite nice, in a psychedelic way. But I guess the odds were always against them offering us lap dances from a babe clad only in a company T-shirt…