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Don’t You Wish You Could Be Yourself?

Business, Company Strategy, Managing people, Polyolefins, Singapore
By John Richardson on 30-Jun-2009

Picture: The Daily Mail

Ok, I lied – I am having trouble getting back into my petrochemicals bubble and so this post is not about polypropylene. Apologies to all those disappointed C3 H6 molecules out there.

I was sharing lunch with a highly demotivated Singapore-based chemicals industry employee recently and the great British 1970s sitcom, The Good Life, came to mind (see above picture for the full cast – don’t you just love the clothes?).

In that sitcom, Tom Good, played by the actor Richard Briers, is meeting “Sir”, the boss of the plastics processing company where he works as a draftsman. The company specialises in desiging and molding those little plastic toys you used to get (or might still get – I am not sure) free in your breakfast cereal.

“Sir” puts his arm around Tom, who he has noticed for the first time because he has been introduced by his friend Jerry, played by the late and great Paul Eddington, as “our top designer”. Jerry is a monumental crawler and, as a result, is in an executive position.

Anyway, “Sir” says to Tom, or roughly words to this effect: “A new bubble has just come off the top of our think tank and I want you to take charge of this project – plastic hippopotamuses (or was it giraffes? Couldn’t find on Google). Are you excited? Do you think you are the man for the job?”. He is speaking in one of those annoyingly enthusiastic voices you may have heard in meetings and wished “if only I could have the presence of mind to fake it that well”.

Tom, is of course, supposed to show enthusiasm in order to crawl up the slippery corporate ladder, but instead bursts out laughing, goes home, quits his job, and decides to become self-sufficient by growing all his own food – and keeping lifestock – in his suburban back garden.

To return to my lunch with the unhappy chemicals-industry employee, he had been ground down by having to bite his tongue in so many long and dull meetings that when his boss asked for ideas for a new corporate slogan, he replied: “How about ‘The Relentless Pursuit of Mediocrity?’ “.

He lives in a condo with a window box as a back garden and so growing fruit and vegetables for a new career is not option.

Anonymous contributions would be gratefully received for comments you would have liked to have made in company meetings, but felt unable to do so. This is your chance to let off some steam.