(Sometime in 2016)
I am instructed to assist a team leader by assembling motivational banners for him to place around the offices. The posters roll out to a height of six feet and are designed to be displayed in groups of three, spelling out the latest organisational slogan: ‘transform’, ‘together’, today’.
We only meet for a few minutes, but behind the usual initial synthetic enthusiasm the team leader is surprisingly phlegmatic. As we carry the stuff across the car park he explains that the campaign the banners were created for has finished, but they are still being put around the building “to keep it in people’s minds.” Keep it in people’s minds? “To make them work harder for less,” he says, “And make it seem inspiring.”
We reach the area where he is due to install this particular triptych. He walks along the aisles eyeing up possible gaps and corners. The staff know him and their exchanges are friendly, but as I follow with the tall corporate sails, a definite tension emerges. His approach is that they have to go somewhere, but every suggestion is met with hostility. He proposes putting a banner in front of a wall display, in front of pigeonholes, cabinets, desk drawers. Every spot is in the way of something. The workers, already cramped for space, make it clear that they don’t want the things. As he attempts to set them up someone mouths to me, “Take them away.” “I wish I could,” I silently reply. Finally, having exhausted the appearance of negotiation, he imposes the things on the staff, regardless of their objections. We push them into position. The buzzwords loom over the office workers, literally standing over their shoulders and obscuring their views. There is a sense of resigned inevitability about the exercise, although one could still imagine the workers rolling the banners up as soon as the team leader has departed. Sadly on my visits to that area in the days afterwards they are still visible.