Often the loudest sound in any organisation is the bee in the chief executive's bonnet. Interestingly in most of the Smokehouse office, a vast open-plan sea of desks modelled on worst practice in the poultry industry, no one can hear this particular noise. That of course is because the vast majority of our caged workers are wearing colossal noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones are currently what's most on Lynton Spivey, our bewigged chief executive's, mind. It doesn't help that several people on his train in the morning also have massive headphones playing 'irritating tinny thumping'. Spivey's been complaining about headphones in general for some time and because the board are the only people old enough not to wear them, we get the benefit.
Headphones have become an issue because twice a day, as regular as clockwork, Spivey needs to go to the bathroom.
As this is at the other end of the office, he combines this trip with 'management by walking about', patronising various people on the way there and back. I've noticed that people have worked out the timings of Spivey's digestive system and put their headphones on shortly before he makes his royal walkabout. Those closest to the aisle also tend to suddenly leave on important business because of the real chance that Spivey will shake their hand, which is always suspiciously dry on the way back from the bathroom. Spivey generally feels totally thwarted, but this morning he seems very pleased with himself as he says he has solved the headphone problem. Shortly afterwards, I saw Lenny Sansom go into Spivey's office.
Lenny Sansom is the Alan Turing of the office. His last job was at GCHQ and he now works in our IT department where he is basically a god when it comes to doing things with computers. As far as we know, he left GCHQ under a bit of a cloud. There were rumours that he wasn't a homosexual. He says it's because he persisted in photocopying the church newsletter at work. GCHQ probably thought he was communicating with Daesh in the small ads, but knowing our local church they've probably already got a programme of outreach coffee mornings with Daesh. Anyway, shortly after Lenny was briefed by Spivey, everyone in the office suddenly ripped off their headphones and worked in a weird bare-headed way like freshly plucked chickens.
Inevitably the torrents of complaints have started to reach my desk. What Spivey has very cleverly done is to use our Emergency Channel for Fire Alarms, which overrides anything else on the computer network.
He now uses that channel to talk directly to the workforce. When he's run out of things to say he mixes between Harmony FM and Knut Spanfelner, his favourite American ex-SEAL motivational speaker. Lots of people, especially those under 30, have said we're basically infringing their human rights. I have two pairs of headphones with teenage children attached at home, so I know the scale of the problem.
In fact, I have a WhatsApp group for them called Your Dinner is On the Table. In return, they set up a group called Close The Door On Your Way Out. But I know something radical needs to be done in the office.
Only the board and their reports get their own office and the smallest of these offices belongs to Jamie Wright, our head of compliance. Jamie is the nicest man alive but being nice in the office is like being nice on the roads: everyone likes you but you don't get anywhere. That's why he's in a tiny office at the end of the corridor. I explained to Jamie that everyone likes him so much that they want him out on the floor in the middle of the people. He naturally thought that was a lovely, lovely thing and packed his bags almost immediately. I wasted no time getting his little office converted into a luxury executive washroom for the sole use of the chief executive. Spivey can now do his daily ablutions without him being seen by anyone and without him seeing anyone's headphones. I am a one-man Harmony FM.
Guy Browning is the author of The British Constitution: First Draft, published by Atlantic Books at £7.99.