Weak at the top: John Weak's diary

Weak at the top: John Weak's diary - MONDAY

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010


The smell of corporate restructuring is in the air. All the directors are doctoring their budgets, dusting down their CVs and eyeing up smaller departments. Smokehouse is either going to reorganise its functions into horizontally integrated client groups or reorganise its client groups into vertically integrated functions. Either way, it's just an excuse to get rid of some dead wood and show the City boys we're awake. Sir Marcus wants voluntary redundancies, and not the Bill Peter variety either, where you declare yourself voluntarily redundant and keep your job for 20 years.


Appraisals begin. This is when the team get to have an exchange of opinion with me: they come in with their opinion and leave with my opinion. Smokehouse has 360-degree appraisals - which means everyone gets a chance to stab you in the back. One I'm not looking forward to is Graham Keene, a senior brand manager, who's an ambitious little snake and doesn't mind who knows it. Saying you're very ambitious in business is like going on a date and saying you're very randy. It may be true but it won't get you what you want any faster. After work, took Sir Marcus's secretary out for drink.

(You should always pretend to fancy Chairman's secretary, even if she's a swamp donkey.) It took me three Barcardi and Cokes and a bag of pork scratchings to find out that Sir Marcus is thinking of promoting internally for a joint Sales & Marketing Director. Which means I'm either getting the job or getting the push.


Red Alert!! Sir Marcus asked me what I thought about Keene. Sir Marcus never asks people what they think unless he's had a thought. I think Keene is a cocky, Oxbridge tosser with ideas above his station, which translates for Sir Marcus as: 'He's an interesting young man we should keep an eye on'. Apparently they met on a flight from Frankfurt, during which Keene told him all his bright ideas for my department. Sir Marcus said we need to promote young talent. It's time I applied some crushing pain to Keene's low-hanging fruit. Had lunch with Bill Peters, who said that the deadest wood is in the handle of the axe. I wanted to clarify this but after his third bottle of red he became horizontally integrated.


Show time. Appraisal for Graham Keene. I gave him a good length of rope by asking him to appraise me first. He said I was fun to work with but that I didn't listen to people's ideas. Wasn't really listening so had to get him to repeat it. I asked him what the ideas were he shared with Sir Marcus. He said he couldn't remember, so I asked him point blank whether I had his 100% loyalty. If he said yes, I won, if he said no, he lost.

I could feel his wood dying. He said no and I had to sack him. We can't run an effective team with disloyalty. I'm sure he'd understand that - being the bright young Oxbridge graduate he is (was). Went home happy and dreamt of axe handles.


Arse safely covered, concentrated on getting myself joint S&M job. I used Keene's salary to get in marketing consultants. Told them the conclusion I wanted so they could merge-print some tired old rubbish to get there.

Got the report two minutes before my own appraisal with Sir Marcus. He flicked through report and then asked whether the consultant who wrote it was the same Graham Keene that was in my department. I said probably and wasn't it a shame we couldn't retain talent like that. He gave me a look that converts alligators into handbags. He said the problem with voluntary redundancy programmes was their effect tended to be dead-wood retention. Directors weren't to be reshuffled so I'm safe. Touch wood.

Contact John Weak at john.weak@smokehouse.co.uk.

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