What's your problem?

What's your problem? - I recently moved out of London, where I work, and my daily commute has become overlong and tiring. My job is specialist with few good opportunities outside the City. I don't really need to be in the office every day but my boss, per

by JEREMY BULLMORE
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I recently moved out of London, where I work, and my daily commute has become overlong and tiring. My job is specialist with few good opportunities outside the City. I don't really need to be in the office every day but my boss, perhaps understandably, doesn't want to create a precedent. I feel torn. I want my job but seem to be constantly exhausted.

You don't say what prompted you to move out of London in the first place.

You must have known that commuting can be a pain so I assume that there were compensating attractions; or, at least, you thought there would be.

Bigger, cheaper accommodation, perhaps? Or better schools? Or weekends away from town and traffic? If one or more of the above, the first thing you must calculate is how much of what you hoped for you got and how much you value it.

And not just you. It's odd that you make no mention of your family. You use the word 'I' five times and the word 'my' four times and present the problem as a purely personal one, so either you haven't got a family (which somehow I doubt) or you're being very slightly egocentric about all this.

So if you (and/or your possibly non-existent family) have gained quite a lot from your move then you should decide to stay where you are and work out the best way of reducing the hassle and the exhaustion. You say you've moved only recently. Unfamiliar routines are invariably more tiring than familiar ones, so simply giving yourself a little more time may in itself be helpful.

Then try a little harder with your boss. Tell him you're sure you could be more productive with a different work pattern. Suggest a trial period, during which you work, say, two days a week from home and three from the office. Ask him to appoint a 'jury' - two colleagues, for example, two clients and himself - who will be asked to pass judgment at the end of the experiment on whether your work has suffered or not. And promise him that, whatever the verdict, you'll happily accept it.

At the very least, you'll have a better basis for future decision-making; and it might even work a storm.

I have 10 trainees but only seven jobs. Six trainees are clear contenders. Of the remaining four, one is black and although my company has no specific policy of positive discrimination and the trainee is no better (and possibly slightly less qualified) than the others, I am inclined to make him an offer. Is this the right thing to do?

How big, I wonder, is the gap between the six who are clear contenders and the other four? I ask because it's just possible, if the gap is great, that you shouldn't be taking on any of them but should rather be looking outside to fill the seventh place.

However, if you believe that taking any one of the four would be a responsible decision, then I think your instinct is right. However much you and he might wish otherwise, your black candidate - all other things being equal - would almost certainly find it harder to get another job To be one of only three who fail to make the grade would be an even more bitter experience for him than for the other two.

But do be as sure as you can that he's got a reasonable chance of making good. You'll do him no favours by inviting him to do a job while harbouring doubts about his ability to do it.

Failure for members of minorities is doubly cruel. If a white, middle-class male doesn't make it, that's life. But if a black (or a woman) doesn't make it, it confirms the bigots in their views of an entire category.

So please be very careful with this man.

Where does one go to find a good partner to go into business with? I have had an idea for some time for a company providing a particular service to expatriates. I have been an expat myself for 20 years. I have discussed the idea several times with colleagues, who all think it a good proposition and would pay for the service. My problem is I would need a working partner for a number of reasons, including capital, accounting and finance knowledge and the obvious moral support. I don't know anyone who is prepared to have a go. What avenues are open to me to locate someone who may be interested?

Two thoughts here: one new, one old. New thought: try the internet. Spend an entire day feeding key words into search engines and browsers (you'll know what the key words are) and see what they dredge up. Most of it will be irrelevant rubbish, but persevere. Follow up the slightest lead if it seems promising. You could amaze yourself.

Old thought: if you have friends or acquaintances who work for one of the big five accountancy firms, try buying them lunch and start from there.

These great multinationals all have many ex-pats on staff themselves and will be well placed to judge the value of your idea. If they like it, they could either provide the services you need themselves or steer you towards others who could. And if they don't like it, however disappointing, you might find theirs a more objective evaluation, and therefore a lot more valuable, than the warm encouragement of colleagues.

But before exposing your idea more widely, you'd be wise to consult a solicitor.

Jeremy Bullmore, former chairman of J Walter Thompson, is now a director of Guardian Media Group and WPP.

Please address your problems to him at: Management Today, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP.

Or e-mail: management.today@haynet.com

Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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