Would you rather

I wonder just how many of us have, at one time or another, resorted to playing the odd game of ‘Would you rather?’ in an attempt to kill some time? I know that we’ve played it on numerous occasions (whilst stuck in traffic or seated at a restaurant, waiting for our food to arrive) and it always fascinates me to see just how much of a quandary can be sparked by a handful of seemingly innocuous choices.

Rather quickly, a picture begins to emerge as to the personality traits and priorities of each player and the rationale behind some of the decisions (in our household at least) has been nothing short of hilarious at times.

And so, in deference to that tension dispersing, mood enhancing, sanity saving family rescue tool, here are my (somewhat irreverent) thoughts as to what the workplace equivalent might look like:

‘Would you rather’ by Gaynor Hall

Would you rather wear a tutu or a wetsuit to the office?
Or carefully don a crisp white veil and pretend to be a novice?

Would you rather commute by bicycle, by skateboard or on foot?
Or travel along the floo networks of Rowling’s wizarding books?
 
Would you rather clean the staffroom fridge, or fix the photocopier?  
Neither one sounds tempting, but with which would you be happier?

Would you rather get a pay rise, or a boost in annual leave?
Or maybe just an amnesty on the 100+ emails received?

Would you rather date your manager, or perhaps the boss’s son?
Exactly how far would you go to get that promotion won?

Would you rather have an argument, or staunchly bite your tongue?
Is hot-headedness in the workplace just the dominion of the young?

Would you rather court the limelight, or support from behind the scenes?
How important is it to you that you get to chase your dreams?

Would you rather be a leader, or perhaps a keen foot soldier?
Do you value your family time much more, now you’re getting older?

Would you rather inspire fear, or try to keep an open door?
Does it make good sense to perpetuate the misery of before?

Would you rather leave behind you a sense of loss, or of relief?
Or perhaps, like me, you’d rather be known for humour and mischief!

Calling all Superheroes!

I often think that parenting is akin to an extreme form of superhero training. There may not be any kryptonite involved (and I’ve yet to encounter any infinity stones) but daily survival has, nonetheless, been known to present its own challenges with everyone’s wellbeing (especially mine) frequently left hanging (rather precariously) in the balance.

However, even the most stressful of mornings (when the relatively straightforward task of leaving the house as a family unit, suitably equipped for the day with one’s sanity broadly intact) has nothing on the abject horror of the ‘in-tray exercise’!

Yes, with one foot firmly seated in middle age (and the other desperately seeking a new and exciting chapter) I finally came up against this veritable instrument of cognitive torture. And I have to admit that I was more than willing to wave the white flag of surrender just a few short minutes later!

For those of you who haven’t yet had the ‘pleasure’ of such an experience, let me attempt to give you an indication of what to expect.

Now obviously, my little Pandora’s (In)Box was full of school-based scenarios – the likes of which (if they were to occur simultaneously on a Monday morning as suggested) would literally require the help of the ‘Avengers’ and the ‘Justice League’ combined in order to demonstrate even a modicum of managerial supremacy – but if you can imagine apocalyptic levels of employee, client, or customer dissatisfaction, coupled with a lack of resources and wholly unrealistic deadlines, then this should prove universally relevant!

In just 30 minutes one is required to ‘solve’ a seemingly near exhaustive list of ‘problems’, ranking them in order of priority and explaining what course of action should be taken. Simple, right?

Wrong!

Because for every choice that you make, you are basically providing your future employer with a Velux style window to your soul, laying bare your capacity (or otherwise!) for compassion, logic, and leadership. And the final straw here, is that your line manager will almost certainly be ‘unavailable’ to lend any support to this fire-fighting exercise, and your future colleagues are apparently representative of the very small percentage of the population for whom physical or mental impairment should really have rendered them unemployable – and thoroughly deserving of every benefit going!

The final twist, of course, is that (having prioritised the immediate safeguarding concerns of any pupil who has been hypothetically placed in your care; having dealt with any pressing staffing shortages; having provided pastoral support to a distressed team member; having prepared the necessary academic data for a governors’ meeting; having written a captivating article for the newsletter; having responded to a parental complaint; having disciplined a junior member of staff and having referred a parent back to the school’s policy on the administering of medication) your own child is apparently in need of urgent help too.

What to do now? Where exactly should your own ‘flesh and blood’ rank in all of this? I mean, if you deal with your own son / daughter ahead of a school issue, then there’s a strong chance that you will be inviting criticism along the lines of
a) not being very dedicated to your job or
b) failing to take your professional responsibilities seriously.
Then again, to ignore your own child’s ‘cry for help’ paints you in a rather unfavourable light too – not to mention lining you up nicely for a child protection concern that is frankly a little too close to home!

Thirty minutes later, I left the confines of that tiny office a mere shadow of my former self.

My head was literally throbbing with the strain of trying to deal with such a kaleidoscope of child-related chaos; the academic data had been delegated to possibly the only other suitable senior leader (assuming that they were not, of course, amongst the previously mentioned high numbers of staff absences); my newsletter article was about as engaging as a bowl of tapioca (having managed to devote just 2 minutes and 48 seconds to it, off the back of far too much ethical and logistical deliberation) and try as I might, I couldn’t quite shake off the feeling that I had more than likely overlooked something of real significance.

In summary, I suspect that my performance was moderate to mediocre, and it was undeniably an experience that I would be in no particular hurry to repeat. However, in a humble attempt to adhere to my original analogy, I would suggest that certain qualities would be a minimum requirement – if ever (like me) you should find yourself bravely pursuing ‘in-tray utopia’…

At the very least, you should aim to exhibit the genius of Iron Man, the leadership of Captain America, the resilience of Thor and the compassion of Superman. Otherwise, prepare for the comparative ignominy of, for example, Marvel’s Jack of Hearts.

Offside

These days, like so many other parents I know, I seem to spend vast amounts of time standing on wildly exposed areas of boggy land watching one or other of my sons play football.
Now don’t get me wrong, I genuinely love it – I’m just not that keen on the second stage hypothermia that tends to come with it!
Perhaps growing up with four brothers was fitting preparation for being a Mum of two boys. And I’m more than happy to concede that there are a great many things to admire about the ‘beautiful game’. However, to my mind, the offside rule is definitely not one of them!
When asked to explain the offside rule to his Dad, I heard a young lad reply that “it’s basically a way for the referee and linesmen to stop us from getting lots of goals”. Now, I’m quite sure that this was not the response that this particular father was hoping for and, (judging by the long string of expletives that followed) this father evidently felt that he had more than adequately covered this subject on a previous occasion! However, aside from making me chuckle, I found myself drawing some uncomfortable analogies between one boy’s interpretation of the offside rule, and the many stories that flood the likes of LinkedIn, in relation to difficult employers.
I guess that, as he works his way steadily through the various age groups, that young lad will come to realise that ‘offside’ is neither a conspiracy nor a cheap shot at reducing a team’s ability to score. His team may even eventually learn to employ the ‘offside trap’ to their advantage.
Leadership, however, is arguably a trickier concept to master. If an employer is seen as conspiring to halt creativity and flair, choosing not to ‘play the advantage’ (where the conclusion remains unclear) and metaphorically ‘blowing their whistle’ at every turn in a muscle flexing manner (simply because they are in a position of power) then productivity may unfortunately dwindle. The last thing that any organisation worth its salt should want is for the frisson that young, innovative staff can inject into a company to become an unwelcome casualty of overzealous micromanagement.