December 6th, 2007


Because I said so?

Simon and I are having fun researching a feature on enterprise technology in 2015 and we're getting some interesting predictions. But I'm also getting a number of PR folk who I'd have to characterise as either lazy, chancing it or in need of a visit to the optician sending through predictions for 2008.

Predictions for next year are common at this time of year and dailies and online titles will find them useful (print titles wrapped those prediction pieces up some weeks ago; dead tree media needs time to kill its trees). Sending them as a flavour of the areas your client can address or to see if there's a trend we'd like to ask you to extrapolate, with a note saying you're looking into the 5-10 year span we asked about is fair enough. Sending them to go into the 2015 piece because it's easier than doing the work involved in actually answering the query and being surprised when we come back and say they're not suitable isn't.

And if you're going to ask 'why 2015?' I'll be more impressed if you ask whether we're picking that year because of the AMD targets, the Cisco predictions, the Millennium targets, the Crossrail completion date, the climate predictions or simply because it's a round number in the 5-10 year period - because having thought about any of that before you ask makes me feel you're more likely to have useful predictions for the piece rather than just an attempt to get your client a mention, which gets the answer in the title...

BTW, for the benefit of my most-welcome PR readers who may be wondering what happened to 'the sweet Mary Branscombe' as characterised by TWL: this isn't a swipe at anyone in particular but at something of a trend in my mail in the last 24 hours.
snark maiden

Annual review? No thanks

I like working for myself. The boss may be pushy and demanding but I've found she can be really reasonable when push comes to shove and we rarely disagree on the direction work should be taking. For my wage slave friends, if this is annual review time, I've got some statistics to make you feel - if not less fed up, then less alone.

84% of managers think they are fair, while only 69% of their colleagues agree with them. Only 39% of managers think they're good at setting objectives though 56% of the colleagues think they do well - so we've got a lot of unfair, insecure people here. And plenty of workers think it's endemic: if you ask if the company treats everyone fairly only 54% agree and 49% feel that change is something that they're on the wrong end of. 46% of workers don't think much of their manager's skills - again, it's that pungent blend of incompetence and lack of confidence as the reasons. 61% said poor decision-making leaves them frustrated and results in a loss of respect for their manager, while 83% said it damages morale (and I guess the other 17% don't care enough to respond any more). More than half believe it reduces productivity. But looking down from above, 82% of bosses consider managers in their organisation to be effective decision-makers.

And the top ten 'you'd have thought it was obvious' complaints about managers:
- not being fair
- not telling people what they need to know to get the job done
- not getting people involved in changes at work
- not having a good promotion path
- not telling people what the company wants to achieve
- flexible working, no thanks
- pretending the promotion path really is fair, because denying it's raining keeps you ever so dry
- what's the motivation for my character? what, *just* money?
- you can't go on a training day to get more efficient, there's too much work to do
- I may be a wage slave, but I'm a wage slave who expects to have a career path here

Actually I count several variants on not being fair, being seen to not be fair, being an idiot and expecting your staff to be psychic. BTW, a good manager makes a huge difference and they can transform a department, acting as an umbrella against all those drips from senior management; but they won't have the power to turn around a toxic company and company culture is self-sustaining - it's only natural to hire people we think we'll work well with. With some managers and some companies, taking the time to say 'this makes my job harder, can we fix it' is enough to improve things. If not, you have the choice of hating your job, hoping for a new manager, finding a way of coping or finding a new job. Personally I think it's a bad thing to stay in a bad job - I know people often don't have an easy or obvious choice, and I'm sure there are plenty of terrible employees driving their managers berserk in return, but if it's this bad no wonder everyone in offices spends the day reading Facebook...

The deluge of statistics in my mailbox today comes from a site asking you to pay £20 to have your management skills evaluated based on confidential feedback from your team. 360-degree reviews are excellent if they really are confidential, but I don't know how professional I believe a site is when it gives you a £5 Amazon voucher for everyone you persuade to go get evaluated as well. The management skills test is a bit odd too; I keep getting "hmmm. You’re probably a very nice person. But it looks as if you could do with some tips on all your management skills." Hmmmmm.