The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

The Evil Of The Business Magazine.
February 2, 2012, 6:18 am
Filed under: Comment

As I’ve said many times, I read a lot of magazines.

A lot.

Because it’s hard to get a lot of stuff in China – and I don’t find reading stuff on my iPad nearly as enjoyable, even if I often have no other choice – I have found that on top of all my usual [and unusual] titles, I am also devouring any magazine I can find in a shop … which in China’s case, is often a business title.

Etc Etc.

Over the years, I have always checked these kind of magazines out, however as they’re now the only titles I can get in ‘classic paper form’, it seems I’ve started noticing what they say in much greater detail.

Without doubt they are informative.

Without doubt they talk about issues and subjects that relate to my clients and my job.

But on top of all that, they also all promote a way of life that is totally unconducive to health, happiness and family.

Take this article in Fortune:

[See it a bit clearer here]

I have no idea who this woman is – and without doubt she is highly successful – but does she come across as the sort of person you’d want as your Mum … or your wife … or your girlfriend.

Does she come across as the sort of person you’d want to be with?

Does she come across as the sort of person you’d want to be?

I’m sure there some bits that sound attractive, but I’m not talking about ‘bits’, I’m talking about how she lives her life in its entirety, each and every day … would you like that?

Don’t get me wrong, this is not some ‘women should stay at home’ rant – they’re countless articles where Wei Hopeman could be exchanged for some male executive – but the issue I have is the general attitude in all these magazines is that ‘giving your all to your job is the only way you can succeed in your job’.

Sadly that might be true.

I accept that maybe the people featured in these magazines are very happy with how their life is going … but wouldn’t it be nice if there were articles on successful people who lived a healthier, more balanced life?

I do find it interesting that so many execs leave jobs and say it was ‘so they could spend more time with their family’.

Why does it have to be one or the other?

If you ask my wife, she’d say I’m a bit of a hypocrite saying all this because – believe it or not – I work quite a lot and have done more travel in the last 10 years than some pilots [maybe] … but a healthy and happy workforce is as commercially beneficial to an organisation as a dedicated and effective workforce and the reality is that in many cases, these two scenarios are not mutually exclusive.

I hate that companies think it’s OK be able to call upon you whenever and wherever they like.

I hate that companies think they can veto your pre-planned holiday.

I hate that companies are starting to charge their staff to train them.

I hate that companies have created an atmosphere where going home at the proper hour means you’re not dedicated to your job.

I hate that companies act like paying you a salary means they own you.

That’s why I love that Volkswagen [albeit because of union pressure] have mandated that their work email servers are turned off 30 mins after official office closing time and will only be turned on 30 minutes before the working day.

Sure, that will only benefit some people [though it’s a lot of people] but I genuinely think that’s a brilliant move.

Is it enough?

Will it change anything?

Who knows – without doubt it might mean more of the working day gets taken up answering all the held back emails – but since when was answering emails when you’re at home part of the job?

OK, so for some people, it could be argued that their level of remuneration means there has to be a greater level of flexibility as regards their working hours … but even then it shouldn’t mean they have no ‘personal time’ whatsoever.

But what’s scarier is that there seems to be this attitude that EVERYONE should think and act this way, regardless of family circumstances, level of responsibility or pay.


Why do they think this is acceptable?

Believe it or not, some people feel a balanced life – be it with family, friends or just themselves – makes them as rich as having a bank account filled with gold.

Companies are forever talking about their ‘staff being their greatest asset’ but their actions seem contrary to this.

It appears they think a salary counters any personal sacrifice you make – or are made to make – on their behalf.

As much as Wei might be happy with how she lives her life … as much money as she might be making for herself, the bank and their customers … if I was thinking about joining them and read that article, I would run a mile.

Of course Citibank would think I’m weak, because they – like all bankers – think they’re all powerful, all conquering, super machines … but if they were that good, they wouldn’t have fucked up with the economy as badly as they did.

Mind you, they did also manage to convince Governments to bail them out so they could continue earning obscene salaries so maybe they are smarter than the rest of us.

But being smart isn’t as wonderful as being happy and living a lifestyle isn’t as rewarding as living a life and while business magazines have to talk about business, it would be good if they occasionally celebrated the companies and individuals who succeed with a more balanced type of life.

Sure, they might not be as rich as those who sacrifice all to ‘the commercial cause’ [though that is open to debate] but if the commercial value of a happy, rested, fulfilled employee was more greatly acknowledged and appreciated, maybe we’d start seeing more companies treat their workforce like an investment than simply an asset.

61 Comments so far
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I can’t say much more than this is a fantastic post. I hope it gets the coverage it deserves.

You might be interested to read what the Brazilian government have done in relation to employees answering emails outside of traditional office hours.

Comment by Bazza

Yes! And VW have done the same thing. That’s great.

Comment by Andrea

so youve decided to make a fucking appearance have you baz? about fucking time. now where the fuck is my iphone 5 or are you going to fuck everyone over again with the launch of the iphone 4s2?

Comment by andy@cynic

you can be sure as fuck that rule wont be passed in the us, uk or china anytime fucking soon.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hi Baz, great to have you back – hope all is good, though I’ll be able to see for myself soon, won’t I!?

WON’T I?!!!

Anyway … I’d heard about the Brazilian law and I think it’s fantastic. Well, it’s only fantastic if it changes corporate expectations and behaviour, otherwise it’s basically just another “pay for the issue to go away’.

I wonder how they will be able to enforce the law and what will happen if someone chooses to ignore it … wonder how much ‘teeth’ the Government will show.

Eitherway, it’s a positive move though I would imagine most companies will off-set this by increasing the price of their products which will be met by universal distain … despite the fact the people who make/buy these products will be ‘allegedy’ having a better balanced life.

Comment by Rob

why the fuck are you seeing baz? as if i didnt fucking know. they dont call you the blagger for fucking nothing.

Comment by andy@cynic

*quietly agrees with some points you’ve made without being able to say which whilst not being able to provide any kind of public intelligent input*

Maybe I am delusional but we are perpetuating myths about hard work. Long hours aren’t good, you get too stressed and then you cost your company more money in sick leave (stress counts as sick leave). Agencies don’t pay overtime, it means renegotiating fees, screwing up with timesheets and everyone hates that. I have never worked in a place that does, nor am I aware of places that do but am happy to admit I’m wrong.

In some places people don’t really ‘admire’ you for hard work, they might just think you’re a loser who can’t finish their stuff on time – so it varies by culture. Yet everyone works or gives the impression they’re working.

There’s a really interesting Danish TV series called ‘Borgen’ on the life of a woman prime minister – and they are *very* good at portraying the evil eye she gets when she says “I’m not having a meeting at 7, I am going home to have dinner with my family”.

It got me thinking that women don’t have many role models in the public world, and those who are seen as role models also happen to be workaholics (or have these crazy ‘give it all’ lifestyles). That’s a real shame. Sheryl Sandberg is the only person who actually talks about women and what she calls the ‘ambition gap’ across the world: in the US 36% of women describe themselves as ‘ambitious’ while in India/Asia it’s over 80% or something..she doesn’t define ‘ambitious’ – ambitious for yourself or ambitious because you want to be perceived as such and thus other people’s views are more important than your own desires? She also touches on how women behave in the workplace..that’s an interesting angle which hasn’t been tainted yet by all sorts of allegations of the ‘Well, she would say that’ type … (to me/my knowledge at least).

Sorry boring rant etc. just some thoughts floating through my head after reading your post.

Comment by Andrea

George will be happy, that’s 3 great posts in a row so it can officially be classified as a trend.

I agree with Bazza, this is fantastic. If a politician said this, they would be swept into power on a wave of mass, public support. It’s that kind of post and that good.

I think what VW and the Brazilian government are doing is fascinating. I wonder how the employees and companies feel about it? I’d love someone at Fortune etc to read this and hear what they think.

Great and inspiring post Robert, please keep it up, it’s more representative of you than the “best friend appendage” posts.

Comment by Pete

I prefer the posts where Rob comes out the closet by writing lovingly about his best friends donkey cock. And I know I’m not the only one.

Comment by Billy Whizz

so do i billy. this fucking serious and important bollocks gets right on my fucking tits.

Comment by andy@cynic

I am happy Pete, very happy. Well written and well said Robert.
I know someone at fortune, so I’ll forward them this post and see what he thinks.

Comment by George

I particularly like the point “staff should being treated as an investment, not an asset”. You make a very important distinction between “like” an investment and “as” an investment. Companies currently favour the former, the benefits would come if they focused upon the latter. Wonderful point and post Robert.

Comment by George


Comment by Pete

youre sounding like dodds. except nice. sickening.

Comment by andy@cynic

It would have been more impressive if I’d realised that at the time of writing. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Fewer meetings, less insecurity, more decisiveness.

Comment by John

Schmidt instilled those rules at Google. Have a decision maker in the room (if no one decides anything, why meet?), no more than 10 people, and no waiting to make important decisions.

You’d struggle with the insecurity one though.

Comment by Andrea

Schmidt? Page. Whoops.

Comment by Andrea

i can speak from personal fucking experience that having a decision maker in the room doesnt mean you get decisions. it just means the fucking potential is there for a decision but thats like saying theres the potential campbell will become a decent human fucking being.

Comment by andy@cynic

That may well be the case, but at least it eliminates other more useless meetings where people go around like headless chicken I guess…’lol what do we do?’ – ‘I don’t know…’ – ‘does anyone know?’ – *blank stare*

Comment by Andrea

I never got paid overtime when I worked for you. You gave me 6 weeks holiday a year but I never got overtime on top of that. And there was a bed in the office, what sort of message did that send out?

And do you know where that Wei stays when she’s in the US, she might be in need of some company.

Comment by Billy Whizz

You should have worked faster.

Comment by John

We were given a mandatory 5 day holiday every 3 months on top of our annual leave. That’s better than overtime. Besides, you would have to work late to qualify Billy and as I remember it, you were dust as the clock struck 6pm.

Comment by Pete

Stop stirring Billy. It’s worth pointing out that rather than just say these things in a post, Rob was adamant we had to offer a better work environment when we started cynic. We knew the ad industry can never run as a 9-5 operation so right from the very beginning we set rules as to how we would structure ourselves to improve work/life balance. It wasn’t perfect and I know we failed on a number of occasions but things like a mandatory week holidays every 3 months was very important to us as it helped keep our people fresh, happy and sane as well as avoided that habit of working like a dog throughout the year so you can spend 2 uniterrupted weeks on a family vacation.
Not perfect, could have done more, but the intention an action came from day 1 and I’m quite proud of that.

Comment by George

if any fucker slags off what we did for them ill fucking cut them. or sue them. for loss of earnings. or theft. cynic was supposed to be a fucking company, after a few months i realised it was a fucking charity and our employees were the fucking beneficiaries.

Comment by andy@cynic

I got free food and beer, I’d have worked for free.

Comment by Billy Whizz

you got paid, thats more than you fucking deserved.

Comment by andy@cynic

Happy people make smarter choices.

Comment by John

happy people make smarter choices? try telling that to dan fucking wieden.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m concerned about this post. I like it.

Comment by DH


Comment by andy@cynic

I really like what you have said here today. More people like you at the top positions and I think the day you hope for will come soon.

Comment by swati

I’d rather work 24/7 than have a queen fan, birkenstock wearing boss. Been there, done that. It was fun but it was not to be repeated.

Comment by DH

Youre not fooling anyone.

Comment by Pete

OK, but he would have to stop playing those queen songs at a 1000 decibels.

Comment by DH

I love Queen. Long live Queen.

Comment by swati

Where is Andy?

Comment by swati

im fucking here, wheres my fucking christmas present?

Comment by andy@cynic

This comment is your present.

Comment by swati

can i have the receipt, i want to fucking return it.

Comment by andy@cynic

No you may NOT.
Where I come from people suffer the pain of receiving presents they do not like in silence.
People are also thankful for what the receive.

Comment by swati

thank fuck i dont live there then.

Comment by andy@cynic

We are thankful too.

Comment by swati

I’m guessing Vancouver will be losing it’s status as one of the great places to live very soon.

Comment by DH

get this straight you cheeky fuck. vancouver is not my fucking home. nyc is my fucking home. vancouver is there because im the greatest fucking husband in the whole wide fucking world. it is not because i am under the fucking thumb in any way. oh fucking no its not.

Comment by andy@cynic

And in a couple of months you absolutely won’t be under the thumb of Andy jnr either.

Comment by Rob

are you announcing your political fucking candidacy campbell?

youd be better than romney, but then so would the massive turd i lay in the toilet this morning.

ill fucking regret saying this, but i quite liked this rant. but then im fucking tired and half pissed so i bet ill see it as your usual fucking planner bile in the morning.

Comment by andy@cynic

dear wei, never get photographed leading with your chin, you end up looking like jimmy fucking hill. look it up.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by DH

I am mighty impressed with VWs efforts. I am think my major gripe is the way that through some people keenly working many hours it makes the rest of us look bad by comparison. In a job you want to keep, there’s a challenge to keep up, and not being able to make it home for dinner is sad. Nice post.

Comment by Claire

Top post. Why do we underestimate balance? It is, after all, the asian way.

Comment by harshal

The article I read made it sound like it was actually an anti-union thing rather than a positive move.

Shows how distorted the media can make things look…

I was worried you were heading down a dangerously mysogynistic sounding path, but you redeemed it with some good points and some context!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

It appears you were in danger of mistaking me for Andy, Billy, Doddsy and NP. Fortunately you redeemed yourself at the end too. Ha.

Comment by Rob

are you calling me misogynistic, or that I redeem myself with good points and content?
In any case, looking forward to Andy’s reaction to being lumped with us.
Not that he’ll care about such things soon when he’s dripping in baby sick and hallucinating through sleep deprivation. Mwaaaahahahahahah

Comment by northern

Apart from the word ‘baby’ I’m not sure how that’s any different to his current lifestyle…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

being covered in baby sick is a fuckload more preferable than being covered in planning bullshit.

anyfuckingway, that will be the wifes job. oh fucking yes. she has it, she looks after it, i fucking pay it for the rest of my fucking life.

and being lumped in with you fuckers isnt as bad as having billy being put ahead of you groper. thats proper shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

So you were asking me for pram and car seat advice for engineering reasons?

Comment by Mary Bryant

yes i fucking well do actually mary. im intrigued by their materials and fabric stress levels or some other bollocks you told me to look out for. its a fucking good job i dont want to pull a campbell and make my own products or you will have just ruined the surprise by spouting our private converfuckingsation to all and fucking sundry.

george, can you please get your lovely wife and her big fucking mouth under some sort of control. for once.

yes mary, laugh it up, ill get my revenge by getting your husband to arrange my bastard birthday cake again.

Comment by andy@cynic

Just when I thought I could not love my wife any more….

Comment by George

Note I said “any more”, not “anymore” so don’t try to turn this around to your advantage Andrew, the bases are covered.

Comment by George

youre both so very fucking mature arent you.

Comment by andy@cynic

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