Friday, 1 January 2016

Comet's tail

Day 32 (New Year's Day - Friday 1st January 2016)
32 muscles can be found in each of a cat's ears (compared to just 6 in a human's).
A cat can turn its ears 180 degrees.
Welcome to 2016 - a whole new year for us to play with. I hope it is a wonderful one for you and all those you care about.

David D'Souza is the contributor of today's New Year's Day post and, no matter how hard you partied last night, I am sure that you will find it an excellent read. You can always rely on David to raise a smile whilst simultaneously making a thought-provoking point - you should try his regular blog for HRD (HR Director magazine) or his own blog, 101 Half Connected Things, as well as his regular posts on LinkedIn. Since April 2015 David has worked as Head of London for the CIPD, the UK-based professional body for HR and People Development, championing better work and working lives. I view myself as extremely fortunate in having David as a friend and former colleague: he is one of the brightest, most innovative, commercially-minded, values-centred and inspirational people I know who is involved in transforming HR and the workplace for the benefit of all. He is a devoted father and genuine partner and pal to his wife, as well as a wonderful friend; being selfish, my only regret since he joined the CIPD is that he works so hard, and attends many evening events, so that I am unable to see him as often as I would like. David - I wish you and your lovely D'Souza ladies (and all of you reading this) an awesome 2016.


So, this year’s topic is Comet’s tail. I looked quite hurriedly at the topic, but it seemed to make sense given the festive timing and the fact that most of you will have picked up your presents from Santa without giving any thought to supply chain conditions.

Retail Week Christmas Index for 2015
An overview of the working conditions at the North Pole:
If you are the reindeer following Comet - or any of the other reindeer at the front - I imagine the view is a little bit unpleasant. Seeing Comet’s tail will be the least offensive part of the role. 

Shackled to a sleigh with an unreasonable expectation as to how much work you can do, you stare ahead and all you can see is another reindeer’s posterior. A black hole of hopelessness. You only get to follow the path already taken by someone else and I imagine that, at times, the whiff of carrots is overwhelming. It must be hard to keep track of progress when your field of vision mainly consists of the (slightly too close for comfort) bottoms of colleagues. I know I wouldn’t fancy that role.
If you are Rudolf you have been part of one of the most celebrated cases of workplace bullying that I’m aware of. Singled out for your nose being bright (last time I checked this isn’t explicitly covered under the Equality Act, surely a shortsighted piece of legislation) it appears that Santa doesn’t really need you unless the weather is even more unpleasant than usual - at which point suddenly you are promoted without any paperwork or mention of an adjustment in salary. And you are supposed to be thankful that, at last, you will stop being teased by colleagues, not because they realise their previous behaviour was wrong but simply because you are slightly more useful to them now.

For the reindeer at the front the experience is entirely different. The crisp night air must be exhilarating as they fly through the air on that most special of nights, delighting in the sense of teamwork that ensures that others follow their direction and multiply their effort. The destination for them must be clear and, even when they are tired, they will be the first ones to realise that a break or the end of the night is coming soon. And their face will be easiest to make out in any team photos.

For the elves apparently you only get one day off a year – at Christmas – and you never get to see the end consumer of your product. They’ve just had their annual break.

For Santa the job is even easier. You take all the plaudits, call out directions and occasionally make motivational noises. All of the thanks come your way – you get pies and alcohol, your team get leftover veg. 

It’s a great job. It’s also apparently possible to outsource public appearances to other people without any hint of criticism.

Each day I work for the CIPD, championing better work and working lives for people.
In the evenings I mainly concern myself with the organisational dynamics of Santa’s operations and what that means for reindeer – the forgotten workers.
So next Christmas, as Santa’s sleigh draws near, spare some time to think about whoever has to look right up Comet’s tail. It’s dark up there.

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