By all accounts, the Queen is good at running her organisation and on top of the management detail. But she’s saddled with a forest of deadwood: a tired, out-of-touch team with lifelong contracts and a powerful thirst for the expense account. Family businesses can be like that.
Their entire job description? ‘Try to look interested in things’.
Now, at 93, when she’s earned a bit of relaxation, the Queen has to do a performance plan for the crustiest middle-manager in British Royals Limited. A guy who in any other business would get, at best, a ‘special projects’ business card and a stationery-cupboard office before being quietly exited six months later.
The Queen deserves better than this.
The surplus prince problem
Prince Andrew is the man other royal layabouts look at and go: ‘If we really had to cut costs he should be the first to go.’ Once hot magazine-cover material, he is now the whitest, middle-agedest of middle-aged white guys, unable to grasp that the world has changed, this prince just can’t simply place an order for young women like some commodity product with no consequences.
The total number of people in the world who believe his side of this super-creepy story is one. You’d ground your small kid for telling tales like: “I didn’t sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands War, when I was shot at … it was almost impossible for me to sweat.”
Sure mate. Looking forward to Lynx bringing out a new deodorant this Christmas. ‘Lynx Prince Andrew: sweat is impossible. By royal appointment.’
In his mind, though, he’s totally getting away with it in a persuasive style.
There’s no easy solution for ageing surplus princes. After half a lifetime at number two on the next-King ladder, he’s slid to number eight, and there’s plenty more downside. He’ll be on the British taxpayer’s payroll for another 40 years, keeping him in a good supply of bespoke suits and gout medication. Does your company have people like that?
Maybe not with the same entitled swagger or sex-pestiness, but most organisations have people who are deadwood burdens on the payroll. They don’t achieve much at all, but they’re soooo good at looking busy.
They’re sucking down your margins while others do the actual work that brings the money through the door. Sometimes they’re hard to spot. Let me help.
None of these signs are a major crime in isolation. But if you see more than a few, it should trigger your management spider senses to investigate further and see if they’re actually producing work of any kind.
Ten signs of deadwood in your business
1. Telling you how busy they are
It’s the number one sign of people who aren’t getting much done. To them, busy is status. They will create stupid tasks for themselves, and for others.
There is a full article on this syndrome, including this emoji-MBA diagram that explains almost all of management.
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2. Wide CC’ing of emails
Circulating emails is the most efficient way to look busy. With a few keystrokes, you can make it seem like many people depend on you to keep them informed.
It wastes insane amounts of everyone’s time and costs the business far more than fiddling expense receipts, but you never see people disciplined for chronic email broadcasting.
3. Instant response to internal emails
They’re always the first to reply because internal affairs are of deep interest to them… while a Hoover Dam volume of unanswered customer emails builds up elsewhere.
4. Asking to be in meetings
If there’s a meeting on, and they’re not invited, they feel left out and start dropping hints they’d like to be there.
What sane, productive person wants to be in any meeting?
Wanting in is a clear sign they’re a deadwood time-thief. They’ll be the one asking meeting-extender questions when everyone else has closed their laptops and tidied their papers into a neat pile.
5. Quick liking of company social posts
They’re always the first to like the company’s posts. Like a true patriot. But not a bright enough patriot to know it’s a dead giveaway that they’re lurking on the socials all day.
6. Laminated sign production
No business ever made additional profit due to its world-class system of laminated office signs. You know the ones. ‘You’re mother does’nt work here so ensure you wash up your mugs’, and so on.
It comes from the 1950s belief that you can make people do things just by putting up a sign that ends with ‘by order, the management’. The maker of these laminated signs honestly believes chaos would reign if they and their signs weren’t there. In reality, they would disappear without a ripple and the mugs would be no dirtier.
7. ‘Just thought you should know’
The subtle ratting-out of other staff with a quiet word in the ear of management, because they’re very interested in how other people do their jobs.
They’re not directly saying you should discipline that person, it’s more: ‘I, a management expert, thought you might appreciate some help with managerial things.’
8. The leather compendium
I know plenty of legit businesspeople carry them, but they’re also an absurd busy-ness prop brought to meetings by people whose business sensibilities were formed by looking at stock photos.
9. The late-night time stamp
11.43pm ‘I was working on our compliance report, and I just wanted to give you a heads-up that …’
Actual message: ‘Look at me, I am working late at night because I am an essential cog in this machine.’
Actual hard-working people who are pulling an all-nighter for whatever reason do not feel the need to let the entire building know about it.
10. They like office ‘humour’
The nesting urge is strong with deadwood staff. They create their own comfortable hideout, and it will usually be lined with cutouts of old-school office ‘humour’.
Think: ‘You Want it When?’
Or: ‘NOTICE – I’m busy now, can I ignore you some other time?’
Sure they’re just jokes, in the same way every offensive dickhead says ‘just joking’ after they deliver some insult they mean 100%. Also, the jokes weren’t even funny when they were written just after World War II.
Take your weary cynicism and go get a job at the post office. Or as Prince Andrew’s press secretary. Apparently, there’s now a vacancy.
This article was first published on Motivation for Sceptics.