A GREAT JOB CAN BE BETTER THAN SEX

William Faulkner said

… the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day is work. He can’t eat for eight hours; he can’t drink for eight hours; he can’t make love for eight hours. The only thing a man can do for eight hours is work.

Author: Carl Van Vechten (1880–1964); via Wikimedia Commons


Faulkner was right … the job that we do is a key to how much we enjoy our life, and how much we actually love our job is therefore at the core of our love for life, the universe and everything.

Image courtesy of Umantis: http://www.umantis.com/


In that case, a great job can be better than sex.

Here are 20 reasons why …

1. You don’t have to get undressed to do it.
2. You can do it with different people every day and not get into trouble with your spouse.
3. You get paid to do it without running the risk of being arrested.
4. You can tell your mother about it without her being shocked.
5. You can do it without getting breathless and sweaty.
6. You don’t have an uncontrollable desire to fall asleep afterwards.
7. You can keep your shoes and socks on and not be considered weird.
8. You can be great at it no matter what size you are.
9. You can do some of it on your own without going blind.
10. Families can do it together without running afoul of social services.
11. Parents can tell their children about it without embarrassment.
12. You can do it in a team without having to belong to a private club.
13. Skin colour is irrelevant to reputation.
14. You can go to a university and learn about the theory.
15. You can rise every morning like clockwork to do it, without chemical help
16. When you get older, people will pay you to advise them on how to do it better.
17. You don’t need the Kama Sutra to be able to do it in varying positions
18. You can do it vigorously even with a bad back or weak joints.
19. You can do it for at least 8 hours straight without having to take recovery breaks in between.
20. You don’t have to worry about suitable protection beyond key-man insurance.

Author: Aktron; via Wikimedia Commons


And 20 reasons why a great job and sex are similar …

1. You can find yourself under (and over) some interesting people.
2. The older you get the less people believe you can perform well.
3. Just doing it harder is not as beneficial as doing it smarter.
4. Oral skills are considered critical.
5. You need the weekends to catch up.
6. The better you are at it the more satisfying it is.
7. The more you do it, the more you will be able to talk about it when you are old.
8. Everybody always thinks that they are better at it than they are really.
9. You never forget your first one.
10. Preparation is the key to success.
11. When you get help from a partner you need to show genuine gratitude.
12. Creativity and innovation are keys to long term success.
13. There are accessories available that can help make it easier and more fun.
14. Being specific about what you need removes uncertainty.
15. Everyone exaggerates about their experience when being interviewed.
16. You need to be physically fit to do it well.
17. There is a risk of a coronary if you over-exert yourself.
18. Moonlighting can get you fired.
19. Foreign assignments can be rewarding but can also be dangerous.
20. Forced separation can be expensive.

And if you really believe that any job is better than sex, when it comes to sex you obviously aren’t doing it right.

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VIVE LE FRENCH LANGUAGE

The more that my French improves, the less well I speak the language.

It’s not just that it is hard to learn a new language when one is older, but I generally struggle with any language that believes that inanimate objects should be endowed with a sexual preference.

There are some basic rules in French on how to split objects into their sexual camps, but the exceptions to each rule are so many that the rules become fairly useless to those of us who didn’t grow up with a language that made the gender of the object an integral part of the word when first learning it as a child. A French child learns from the beginning that the word for table is “la table” and the gender is just part of the word. Not so easy for us who grew up believing that sexual differentiation tended to apply only to living things, and that most of the time this could be discerned by things such as the clothing that was worn, length of hair, first name, the shape that was formed by a tight sweater or if an animal, at least by the bits that were generally on display.

Author: Valerie McGlinchey; under CCAS license, via Wikimedia Commons


I have now spent over a decade trying to discover some magic formula that would enable me to come to grips with the fact that things that can’t actually have sex do have sex assigned to them, but with little success. I have now decided that actual gender allocation has nothing to do with logic, but is based more on these having been decided after a night of heavy wine-tasting by members of the “Commission Generale de Terminologie et de Neologie” who control these things in France.

For starters, in French, the fact that a chair is female (la chaise) does not seem to align with the fact that a sofa is masculine (le canapé). Nor does the fact that a wardrobe (l’armoire) is feminine but a cupboard (le placard) is masculine. At least a man (l’homme) is masculine and a woman (la femme) is feminine, but then a person (la personne) is always feminine, as is a victim (la victime) even when they are males. Totally illogically a man’s shirt is feminine (la chemise) and a woman’s blouse is masculine (le chemisier), which I am convinced was decided after a heavy night of Bordeaux reds.

Source:photography by NJGJ; under GNU Free Documentation License, via Wikimedia Commons


The good news for me in my language gender struggles was to find out that the word for fireplace (la cheminée) is feminine and that the fireplace implement, the poker (le tisonnier) is masculine, and supported by cave (la grotte) and flagpole (le mat), at least did make some sense to me based on their respective shapes. However, this brief moment of elation at some pattern recognition fell apart when I discovered that a tunnel (le tunnel) is masculine and a tower (la tour) is not, and completely disintegrated when I was told that the French word for vagina is masculine (le vagin) … figure that one out.

I now wondered whether the gender of these words may have had more to do with which sex is more interested in the object rather than its actual shape, function or connotation, further supported by the fact that the male sex organ is masculine in gender and that the French actually have over 100 different words to describe a phallus.

I was also surprised to find that most natural disasters are feminine like famine (la famine), flood (l’inondation), pestilence (la peste), eruption (l’eruption) and illness generally (la maladie). Even wars, which are generally started by men, are blamed on the fairer sex (la guerre). The question that one must ask is how long will the French keep blaming Eve and her kind for everything that is wrong with the world?

When it comes to food the same holds true, as some of the best things to eat in France are masculine including cake (le gateau), cheese (le fromage), soufflé (le soufflé), goose liver (le foiegras) and truffle (le truffe)and some of the nastier foods that exist(based on the French need to not waste any part of a pig) are feminine such as tail (la queue), spleen (la rate) and cheek (la joue).

Flowers tend to be more logical with the lily (le lis) and cactus being masculine (le cactus) and the tulip (la tulipe) and rose feminine (la rose), but when it comes to fruit and vegetables my plan to base it all on shape fell apart when I found out that the carrot (la carotte),zucchini (la courgette) and banana (la banane) are all feminine.

Author: Michelvoss (own work); via Wikimedia Commons


Even countries and continents have a gender attached to them but while the USA and UK are both considered to be masculine (not necessarily so by the non-French speaking parts of the world), Australia and France are both allocated to the feminine side of the divide. I am sure that this will shock and bewilder my Australian male friends who have always seen themselves as one of the last bastions of “blokedom”. At least they are in good company as Russia, China and Turkey are all feminine, despite the fact that women are hardly considered to have equality in any of them. To make it even more confusing whilst Niagara Falls is feminine, the Grand Canyon is masculine.

I am aware that getting the genders mixed up will not stop me from being understood in France, but the French do consider it important and a real test as to whether you actually do speak some French or whether you are just a “Franglais” speaker in disguise.
I could just do what author David Sidaris suggests, which is to use the plural all the time (les) (See “Me talk pretty one day”), but it is hard to get through life here when you have to buy or describe everything at least as a pair. I already have enough trouble when I write my name in French as “Les Hayman” with locals believing that I am describing the two of us.
I have therefore decided to pretend that I have a speech impediment and use the word “li” for everything … in France it is always better to be seen as being physically handicapped rather than sexually ignorant.

Author: Aaron Matthews; under CCA 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons


WITH THE GREATEST RESPECT

To be successful in any career it is critical that you become au-fait with “management speak”, as there are many instances when what is said is not really what is meant. Saying one thing and meaning another can be called irony, but it can also be called hypocrisy, being two-faced, dishonesty and cowardice. Whichever form it takes, it is important that you familiarise yourself with the true meanings of these phrases that are used by many managers.

Here are a few to get you started:

“With the greatest respect” is generally used when someone is about to insult you, but they hope that it won’t get you too angry. It actually means “with no respect at all”, and is just an attempt to diffuse the insult that will follow. This expression can also be used upwardly.

Author: ChinaFlag (own work); via Wikimedia Commons


“In all honesty” is used by people who want you to feel that what they are about to say has significantly more value than if they just said it on its own. It is meant to elicit the feeling that the speaker must be telling the truth, and that what they will say next has great significance and will be equivalent to a wondrous pearl of wisdom.

“I haven’t started yet but I have been thinking about it a lot” is a cover-up for the fact that a project is behind schedule and that the speaker will either need an extension or will submit an inferior result.

“The pipeline is light but I am confident of making the numbers” means that the sales strategy is based on hope, despite the fact that hope is never a strategy. It means that even if the numbers are actually achieved, the speaker has no understanding at all of what is actually going on in his business area and that it was just good luck that he achieved the goals … this time.

“What a creative idea” usually means that the idea will not get past the speaker, either because s/he hates or mistrusts anyone who is truly creative (as most managers prefer the safety of those who support the status quo), or else s/he thinks that you are an idiot and has used the word “creative” as a synonym for “stupid”.

Author: -Majestic- at en.wikipedia; via Wikimedia Commons


“Let me get back to you on that” means that they have no interest in what you are saying and are just trying to stop the conversation, or that what you have said is too complicated for them to understand, so they will have to go to their assistant to explain it to them in case it is actually something that they should know.

“Great idea but the CEO would never go for it” always means that they do not like the idea, but do not want to say that to you, so they will feign their support and will lay the blame on an authority figure above them who is not as creative or supportive of you as they are.

“Why don’t we sleep on that” means that they do not want to discuss this any further, or generally ever again, and that they would prefer to move on to their own topic which they consider much more interesting than yours.

“I hear what you say” means that they have not been listening to you at all, and will now comment on the one thought that is in their mind on this topic.

Author: David Benbennick; under GNUF License; via Wikimedia Commons


“My mind is open on this issue” means that the speaker has no idea of what needs to be done and is therefore accepting of any opinion, generally taking the most recent one that s/he has heard as their interim stated position. What they really mean is that their mind is blank on the issue.

“Let’s look at this from 30,000 feet” usually means that the manager has no idea of the details that are needed to solve a problem or set a specific direction, so looking at something from 30,000 feet allows the speaker to pontificate his own brand of generalisations without having to admit that s/he has no clue about what actually needs to be done.

“It’s hard to turn an oil tanker” is the manager’s way of saying that he has no idea of how to circumvent the bureaucracy that exists in the organisation to actually achieve anything worthwhile, by suggesting that change is impossible (and unwelcome) in anything as large and as wonderful as the company has become.

“Let’s talk about that offline” usually means that the conversation has become embarrassing for the manager so he is not prepared to continue it in public where it will become increasingly obvious to the whole group that he actually knows nothing about the topic. This way he can make it personal by pretending that it can be better handled in a one-on-one.

“Help me to understand” is usually a roundabout way of saying that what has been said is really stupid, and that no matter how many times, or different ways, the idea is repeated it will never make sense to the speaker.

“How brave of you” is just another way of saying that you have either just uttered, or done, something that is totally career-limiting, and that you may as well go and start to update your CV and to pack up your cubicle.

As was said by German scientist and satirist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799) “The most dangerous untruths are truths moderately distorted”

Author: Daniel Schwen; under CCA-Share Alike 2.5 License; via Wikimedia Commons


STUPID WORK FADS

I am amazed by how many business fads and strange ideas originate in places like California and then spread around the world, despite the fact that they have as much benefit to businesses and to employees as did the yo-yo and the hula hoop.

Woman playing with an early form of the yo-yo; via Wikimedia Commons


Here are some where I have never really understood the attraction:

1. DRESS DOWN FRIDAYS

I first struck this peculiarity in 1989 when I joined and visited Sun Microsystems HQ in California. I arrived on a Monday and on hearing about “dress-down Friday” was fascinated by the concept. As most employees spent the week in Jeans and T-shirts anyway, it was hard for me to comprehend how anyone could (or would want to) dress down from there. They however managed to do it. VPs in cut-off jeans and T’s where the sleeves had been ripped off by a rampant pit-bull were fairly common, and there appeared to be a competition as to who could most look like a homeless beach-bum. It just made no sense to me at all, as I have always believed that one should wear whatever is appropriate to the job and that matches customer expectations.

Author: Francis Ortiz; via Wikimedia Commons


A surgeon dressed as Bobo the clown would not instill a lot of confidence in a patient, and a salesman turning up in a dark blue suit to sell pickaxes to Cooper Pedy opal miners would not be taken seriously, so when I was asked by some SAP Singapore staff in 1997 whether I would institute a dress-down Friday, it was easy for me to say no. I felt that those who were customer facing should dress appropriately, and in Singapore that did not necessarily mean suits and ties, but did mean well cut, clean and smart casual clothing, and I felt that we could all dress along those lines. Software developers in SAP in Germany can wear what they want (and generally do) as no one expects them to do otherwise, and luckily they are rarely seen by the outside world. The idea that people get to look either like undertakers or hobos for some of their work time doesn’t actually do anything for anyone, so why bother.

2. RESERVED MANAGEMENT PARKING SPACES

I joined International Harvester in Christchurch New Zealand in 1967 and on my first day arrived at work at about 8.00am and parked my car in the employee car park which, at that time of morning, meant a walk of about 200 metres to the office. I noticed that there were about a dozen numbered car parking spaces by the front door and learned that these were reserved for the executive team, and immediately decided that one day I would be worthy of one. It took another 4 years to get there, but in 1971 I was promoted to IT Manager and was rewarded with one of the coveted spaces. I had arrived at one of the pinnacles for which I had strived. The problem was that it didn’t feel right, and I came to realise that if I was important enough to have a reserved car space by the front door, I was important enough to come to work early, which would get me a park close to the front door anyway but in the normal employee car park. I started coming to the office at 7.30am and parking in the general staff car park, and made my executive car park part of an award that I had initiated for my IT staff that had performed “over and above the call”. It had significantly more meaning for them to use it for a month or so, as it was a reward for effort and achievement rather than just for title. Some of the other executives thought that I was crazy to give up this “perk”, but a number of younger ones agreed that it was a great idea and started doing the same thing. After about 12 months, at an executive meeting, it was decided to do away with the reserved parking spots for all but the MD. It made me realise that not only are some so-called perks a waste of time, but that it is not hard to drive behavioural change in an organisation if one is prepared to question things that don’t make a lot of sense. It was a good lesson to learn early in my career.

Author: heartbeaz; via Wikimedia Commons, originally posted to Flickr as Cars


3. EXTERNALLY IMPOSED DIVERSITY QUOTAS

I understand fully that there are serious prejudices against many parts of the workforce in the business community, and that it is important that these are eradicated to ensure that capable people have access to all the opportunities that exist, irrespective of their sex, nationality, religion or physical state.

However, I do not believe that arbitrary diversity quotas imposed on the business community by governments are the solution.
Norway passed a controversial law in 2003 requiring all publicly listed companies to have at least 40% female board members and achieved this by 2008. The problem is that this created a crazed rush to meet the quotas rather than ensuring that the boards were filled with the best candidates, running the risk of some non-competent women being appointed to boards where they have little real chance of adding value, and where they are seen as “token” only.
Compare this with Sweden which doesn’t have a quota system but implemented measures to make it easier for women to combine work and family life. The result has been that women now account for about 50% of board seats in state owned companies and 20% of private companies (and growing), and no one questions them having earned their positions. (see “Do women make better managers?” posted November 22, 2010).
I believe that it is more effective ultimately to ensure that there is a level playing field for everyone, rather than trying to force a “one size fits all” solution. I do however support self-imposed targets that have been set by companies like SAP and Deutsche Telekom for increasing the percentage of women in their own senior executive ranks, as at least these can be properly targetted as an integral part of their recruitment and performance measurement.

As Colin Powell (Chairman US Joint Chiefs of Staff 1989-93) said:

“Fit no stereotypes. Don’t chase the latest management fads. The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team’s mission.”

Official Portrait of Colin L. Powell; via Wikimedia Commons