Thursday, 20 December 2018
On a scale of...
I made one of my rare forays into the world of [gulp] the great unwashed at the weekend, when I made my annual pilgrimage into Tunbridge Wells to walk among my people, take the temperature of the nation and buy those odds and sods which only seem to be offered for sale at this time of the year. Nice and early, easy parking and no huge crowds, I hoped to be in and out before the throngs of seasonal retail worshippers gathered to pray. All was going well until I came to pay for my first purchases.
The keypad into which I had inserted my card asked me to rate my in-store ‘experience’. I looked at the options – coloured icons, with expressions ranging from smiles to frowns but not one of them asking the most important question of all, which should be: “On a scale of one-to-ten, how pissed off are you with constantly being asked to provide commentary on the pettiest of events?” It is everywhere you look these days; feedback on this, feedback on that. It can’t be too far away that we will expect to provide affirmation for every third-party interaction in our lives.
Every online purchase is now followed up by wheedling, needy requests for a pat on the back. Every service delivered is incomplete until you have rated the inconsequential elements which brought it about. No interaction with the apparatus of state is concluded without some form of survey – were you A) satisfied, B) ambivalent, or C) miffed with the three new points on your licence today? Was your speeding conviction dealt with A) efficiently, B) sympathetically, or C) fuck you? Even our own gadgetry colludes to rack up the meaningless statistics: Alexa? Rate my life...
What’s your job? What do you do to bring home the bacon? Do you make a thing that people need? Do you grow, manufacture or distribute food? Do you entertain people? Do you heal them? Or are you a part of the essential backroom machinery that delivers on any of these outcomes? In short, what have you done today which can genuinely be said to add to the profitability, the effectiveness or even the happiness of the organisation you work for? Because if you're not sure, you may be part of the problem.
Does the way you make a living take money or effort away from the front line? Is your role in HR, the legal department or in the furtherance of diversity, inclusion or customer experience facilitation simply a cost to the company and a drain on the emotional resilience of your workforce? Do you earn a crust by facilitating offence, pointing out difference, or prosecuting others for failure to do so? If you are, I hope you are thoroughly ashamed of yourself.
I have three reminder emails sitting in my inbox for something to do with my work. Except it is nothing to do with my work at all. It’s an outsourced human resources frippery which will make not one jot of difference whatsoever to my effectiveness. What it will do is take up some of my time, annoy me a little and then, when I get the inevitable follow-up survey of how I found it I know it is not asking my true opinion. It is asking me to validate their worth. I did that once and then had to ignore for weeks the phone calls and emails requesting more of my time to ask me why I felt the way I’d indicated, even though I had been pretty explicit. They got bored in the end.
Feedback: Garbage in, garbage out...
This morass of pointless, self-indulgent piffle is one reason why Britain’s overall productivity figures are poor – too much time spent navel gazing, which not only takes you off the assembly line but engenders apathy, disrupts the flow and results in reinforcing the difference between those who do and those who get in the way. Yesterday, Parliament spent half a day trying to decide if Jeremy Corbyn had called Theresa May a stupid woman when I’m pretty sure other matters were somewhat more pressing. In this world of constant affirmation and re-affirmation members of Parliament have to, every five years, ask our opinion of their performance. How do they rate?