IT MUST be a nightmare being a boss these days. Bogged down by legislation, subdued by sensitivities, with the ever watchful eyes of the HR department just waiting for you to fuck up because they’ve never liked you anyway because you don’t abide by the rules and now we’ve got you, you bastard.
I’ve managed big teams – 60 or so journalists back in the days when we weren’t just entrenched in the industrial age as a medium grade craft. And it’s only when you stop managing those people that you realise how much life they sucked out of you. The prima donnas, the needy, the strugglers, the weak, the barrack room lawyers, the alcoholics, the shaggers, the shysters, and the genuine people who deserved – and got – your guidance and help. I reckon that ministering to their needs occupied at least 90% of my time, meaning that I only had 10% left to do what I was good at – producing shit-hot newspapers.
And in all that time, I don’t recall ever bullying anyone, harassing anyone or soliciting sexual favours in return for a promotion. So the announcement last week that every single regional journalist who had responded to a survey said they had suffered at least one of the above struck me as rather odd.
But then you read that the survey was commissioned ahead of an NUJ conference entitled Creating Without Conflict, and that of the 4,000 respondents from across creative industries, just 160 were journalists. And those 160 also included staff from national newspapers, radio and television, so you wonder how many respondents there were from regional newspapers. And you further wonder if the question posed was “Please respond to this survey if you feel you have been bullied, harassed or discriminated in the workplace”. And then you realise that a handful of whingers can easily make a headline.
Yes, newsrooms are – or were – tough working environments. It was hard graft and no place for shrinking violets. But you don’t get the best out of people by bullying them. They have to buy into your vision for the newspaper; you have provide them with the time, the training and the tools to do their job to the best of their ability.
As I descend even further into dinosaur mode, I would suggest that these days, it’s just too damn easy to moan and complain and seek excuses, rather than just getting stuck in and doing what’s been asked of you. As mentioned above, the dead hand of HR weighs heavily upon the shoulders of any manager and there seems to be a preventative policy for any action beyond being mildly critical of a trainee’s intro. And, cushioned by this no-blame culture, slackers and skivers have now got the Thought Police on speed dial. They’re so fucking sensitive that any perceived sleight immediately puts you into a paperwork paralysis.
I’ll give you an example of this attitude. Last week I came across a Twitter account called Everyday Sexism. It consists of women recording any instance of men straying from what we would regard as reasonable behaviour, ranging from wolf whistles from scaffolders to wandering hands on the Underground. Now clearly some of what is mentioned is quite wrong, morally and possibly criminally, but so many contributors are from the ‘All Men Are Rapists’ camp that the whole purpose of the account is undermined by mundane moaning.
A PR chappie, who should really know better, recently posted a photograph from his table at an Italian pavement cafe where his Peroni had been served in a regular glass while his girlfriend’s had been brought in the ladies’ version. Everyday sexism? Really? What the fuck did he expect?
And was it really necessary for 743 women from around the world to tweet that their “Dad called me fat”? (Including one calling herself ‘Chesapeake Stripper’. That’s empowerment, love.)
I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that serious issues – like bullying in the workplace or women feeling threatened by male behaviour – are in danger of being trivialised by the ease with which we now complain about everything and anything; swamped by a sea of sanctimonious self-righteousness. And that is not a good thing.
The Grey Cardigan has been in newspapers since the days of hot metal and expense accounts. After a lengthy career as chief sub on several regional newspapers, plus a multitude of shifts on the nationals, he was appointed editor of the Evening Beast in 2009 before being ignominiously 'rationalised' last year. He is currently collecting gas in jam jars in case the Russians cut us off. @thegreycardigan