Review of 2017: is work becoming even more ironic?

When originally drafting this Review, I struggled... what were that year's themes? I wasn’t sure… then inspiration came from two directions. Firstly, a client sent me a 26-page contract for just a single day of training (yes, 26)… then a week later, sent me an e-Christmas card, saying it was ‘a sign of its commitment to the environment’.

Secondly, I reread last year’s emails. And lo, the theme emerged. Irony. Last year had numerous examples, e.g. the ‘communicating’ book that said never to make more than three points – but gave this tip as one of ten tips. The UN’s attempt to ‘facilitate clarity’ - it was a 117-word sentence (tip for clarity: avoid the word facilitate). The Time Management Course that over-ran. The email that exhorted me to use videos, but didn’t include a video.

I could go on, there are many more examples from last year. But let's stop there. Instead, here are tips on spotting irony - or, rather, two steps to follow in 2018 when someone spouts communication 'theories' at you (but do choose your battles… maybe don't try them out on your boss):

Ensure people practice what they preach: if someone exhorts you to use videos or do infographics or follow a ‘rule-of-three’ or “tell stories” (a trendy topic...), etc, do they use those techniques when conveying stuff to you? At an ‘infographics’ Course, a presenter showed us lots of infographics people had done to convey their stuff to others - yet to convey his stuff to us, he used just one in three hours (and he did it ironically, given he sported a wry smile as it went on screen).

Look also at what happens outside work: decks are reports written in PowerPoint (sounds odd, but go with it), and those that do them make many claims as to why bosses like them. Two particular ones I’ve heard are: (1) bosses prefer landscape; and (2) decks helpfully give one overarching thought per page - and bosses prefer that too. Really? How do bosses cope with broadsheet newspapers? They're in portrait and have many thoughts on a page...

Also, ponder these two: (1) apparently, attention spans are getting shorter… yet blockbuster movies are getting longer; and (2) apparently (again), everything needs to be visual… yet we listen to talk shows and documentaries on podcasts and on the radio.


That was the Review.


But there may be more. You see, when adding this email to my website several years later (it's February 2021), I remembered I'd seen lots of other irony over the years.

There was the company that wouldn't let its staff try anything new, but whose values were: 'Innovate! Challenge!".

There was the company that existed to spread 'happiness at work' - it even had its own BBC show - but which then sent the rudest, most perfunctory, insensitive email I'd seen in years.  

Work overflows with irony.

I might add some more to this email one day. If I do, a future email update will let you know.


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