Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Time to fire The Apprentice?

Welcome back to The Apprentice - the reality show where you wish they could all lose.

Nothing on television is real, so it is best not to take the show too seriously. But I stand by what I wrote last month:
the macho view of business propagated in popular television programmes like The Apprentice and Dragons' Den is harmful. Liberals should support the establishment of more cooperative forms of organisation - as indeed we used to do.
In that post I argued that macho management is harmful because it is irrational. There can be no learning from experience where people are to scared to admit to error or suggest that things could be improved.

There is also the point that it appears to produce monsters.

Here is the Guardian on Roger Jenkins, the £40m a year head of Barclays Capital Structured Capital Markets:

While Jenkins's work is the cause of much controversy, those who have worked closely with him are agreed on one matter: his management style can best be described as somewhat abrasive. There is talk of a climate of fear at SCM, where those who do not come up to scratch are dismissed.

One source who is very familiar with SCM's work describes how one hapless new employee made the mistake of going to Jenkins's office to introduce himself on his first morning. Jenkins bellowed at the man to "fuck off", and then shunned him for some time. "He hadn't realised that one doesn't go to Jenkins's office unless invited," says the source.

And here is the Times on Fred Goodwin:

Staff lived in terror of invoking the wrath of Goodwin and his colleagues. On one occasion, catering staff were sent an e-mail from senior managers warning that incorrect presentation of tea and biscuits was a disciplinary offence. Headed “Rogue Biscuits”, it railed about the mistaken inclusion of pink wafers in a biscuit selection for executives’ afternoon tea.

A worker who toppled off a ladder while cleaning windows in Goodwin’s office, breaking a small model aeroplane as he fell, received little sympathy from RBS high command. Despite his having written a note of apology to Goodwin, staff simply “went into panic mode” over how to fix the toy.

Can a system that allows such creatures to flourish really be good for us? And before you quote Adam Smith at me, remember that he also wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Still, as Norfolk Blogger says, The Apprentice is only an entertainment show.


Unknown said...

I can think of few things that Adam Smith would have hated more than the idea that any single individual could decide what is best for everyone around them and impose their will on them without prejudice.

These people don't care about free markets, they do everything they can to distort the market in their favour, they're just tyrants who find it easier to get along in business then politics, well good for them! Can we have our economy back now please?

dreamingspire said...

Having worked in and run a variety of technology businesses for 30 years, and more recently occasionally watched parts of some of these shows, they make me cringe. To throw someone into a task without training, preparation, and planning is disgraceful. But the public sector does it all the time, so the shows are only aping the public sector...