Brenda de la Rue was having her monthly meeting with Fiona Foil, Head of HR. To avoid the awkward silence of meeting alone, they had both brought a group of spectators, as is common management practice, although none of the spectators had a clue what the meeting was about.
Dave Starling was lucky enough to be standing in for his boss Flux Larson. He had been very busy this afternoon, but Flux called him to say he was tied up in an important meeting and could Dave please go in his place. From the background noise, Dave wished he was at Flux’s meeting instead. Dave leant over to Justina Goose and whispered, “What is this about?”
“Nobody really knows. It’s one of those box ticking exercises so they can both tell their managers that they catch up regularly. Pretty standard in IT, you’ll get used to it.”
“But we’ve been sitting here in silence for twenty minutes.”
“Shh. It’s a half hour meeting. Won’t be long now. I use the time to meditate. Either that or plan the order I will shoot people in if I ever go postal.” Justina nodded towards Brenda.
Suddenly the room was disturbed by a loud noise. Brenda had dropped into a slumber and pig snorted herself awake, sitting bolt upright unsure of where she was.
“What did you say?” she asked Fiona.
“Err. I think you were asking a question. Either that or making a statement, I never can tell.”
“That’s right, I was asking you how recruitment was going. Last time I looked we had over sixty open vacancies. When do you think you will have hired them all? There is so much pressure from the business to deliver and I can’t keep using you as an excuse.”
Fiona looked unperturbed, “Finished.”
“Oh, I’ll be off then. See you next month.” Brenda started to rise to leave and everyone else, except for Fiona, jumped up too.
“Not the meeting. The recruitment. We’ve hired them all.”
Everyone sat down again.
“All of them? What the hell are they going to do? Sixty bloody randoms wandering around, it’ll be chaos.”
“Not my problem.”
“Well if you’ve finished recruiting, you know what is next.”
“Start sacking them. The business are trying to reduce cost. I need about sixty people gone before month end. Start making up a list of names.” Brenda looked around the room, realising there were other people present. “And you lot better be on your best behaviour. I know some of your names.”
The silence returned.
“Well.” said Brenda, checking her watch, “I guess that’s time up. Anything else on the agenda?”
“Actually, there is one thing.” Fiona said, “You know the namby-pamby HR bullshit stuff you hate? Hug the staff, give everyone a bunny rabbit, come to work in your pyjamas, you know the sort of thing.”
“Well I need one of those ideas and its your turn to come up with it.”
“Bugger.” Brenda turned to Dave and Justina, “Ok, Flock of Seagulls, what have you got for me?”
Justina suddenly spotted an opportunity to be popular at work and to sort out a childcare issue that she had. “What about we make next Thursday ‘Bring a Kid to Work Day’?”
Brenda thought about it. “Well we used to shove them up chimneys, so writing some code shouldn’t be too bad. I’m not paying them though, and if they shit on the floor you have to clean it up.”
Fiona interjected, “We can’t make them work. But it ties in nicely with an initiative that I’m working on with the universities to encourage more cannon fodder into technology. Congratulations Brenda, that’s the first good idea you have ever had.”
“What’s that fucking child doing in here?” Flux asked.
“Barry McGuigan?” questioned Dave.
“No. Behind him. Wicked looked bastard with one eyebrow.”
“That’s Lars Effendic’s spawn. Left him here to keep an eye on us while he went to the shops.”
“Be on your best behaviour. I know when I’m beaten.”
Just then Justina came around the corner with a child that Dave estimated was between about three and twelve years old.
“This is Tristan, he’s here with me today to learn what happens in an office.”
Penelope Crank nearly choked on her mug of tea. She stood up to speak but Justina raised her hand. “No profanities in front of the child.”
Penelope sat down in silence.
“We are going around the office so I can explain everybody’s roles to Tristan. I won’t bother with this section, but you have a good vantage point from which to point at people without them being able to hear me. Let’s see…”
Justina looked around the office with Dave and Flux, desperately trying to find a department whose worthless role in the organisation could be explained to a child.
“Got one!” Shouted Dave. “Look over there Tristan. See the bald guy and the man playing Candy Crush? Those men are project managers.”
“What’s a project manager?”
“Hmm. Well, you know when you want to do something and you make a big list of the things that you need to do.”
“Well that’s like project management.”
“They do all the things on the list?”
“Err. No. Not really.”
“What do they do then? Do they make the list in the first place?”
“No. They don’t do that either. They write down the things that other people tell them should be on the list and then they manage the list.”
“Manage the list how?”
“They cross things off when they are finished.”
“And that’s a job?”
“Surprises us too.” added Justina.
Tristan was curious now. “I saw a man on the way in who had a sign on his desk that said Program Manager. Is that like a project manager?”
Flux decided to take this one, given his vast experience. “A Program Manager is very senior. They are responsible for a number of project managers.”
“So a Program Manager watches other people tick things off a list that none of them do. Is that right?”
“Spot on son, you’ve got it.”
Just then Justina’s phone rang. “Could you both watch him for a bit? I won’t be long.”
“Sure. Now, Tristan, let’s see if any of these jobs take your liking. You can add ‘Head of’ to any of them too if you want to sound more of a twat.” Flux said, “How about Risk? No?, ok, Operations. Nope, nothing to do with doctors, though for some reason the term abortion does come to mind. Helpdesk?”
“Oh, I don’t know enough about computers to help people.”
Flux raised his hand to silence Penelope.
“Scrum master? Not even close kid, you’d take all of them in arm-to-arm combat. Digital? Makes me think of 1980’s watches or, back to rugby, a Hopoate moment. Are you following any of this son?”
“I think so. Sounded like a Pulp Fiction reference, I am 15, I’ve seen it. Any other jobs for me?”
“Is that looking after the machine I saw when I came in, with the cans of coke?”
“Yup, that’s it.”
“I think I’d like that job.”
“If only it was as useful in real life as you are imagining it. Now, do you see that kid over there taking pictures of us from behind the plant pot? Why don’t you go and play with him until your mum gets back?”