Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts

a miscellany of the wonderful and the banal

Posts Tagged ‘advice

How to be a Good Boss

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Now, it’s been a while since I had a job, as I scampered back to full-time education and have been using this as an excuse not to get on with the demoralising business of lying to HR departments about my level of enthusiasm for filing things and trying to convince them that I am in any way a sociable human being. However, when I was in full-time employment I had a wonderful selection of terminally awful bosses, and one or two really good ones. The really good ones did things like give me free food, instill a sense of team unity without getting into disgusting bonding exercises, and ensure that they didn’t give us all contradictory instructions; the bad bosses did things like talk to me as if I was a dog, lean over my shoulder while I was working, and change the goalposts every five minutes (and refuse to train me to do my job because it was time-consuming and then yell at me for not being able to do my job: advice for large companies, if someone has been in the same role for 30 years and it doesn’t require specialist skills, you may want to consider keeping a close eye on them for psychopathic tendencies).

So here’s a nice list of ways you can get more out of your workforce when your workforce is someone like me:

  • Don’t micromanage. Everyone has different ways of getting a job done and if the end result is the same, whinging at them for doing things in the order you personally wouldn’t or for slumping while they do it is pointless timewasting. Go sit behind your desk and play minesweeper or something instead.
  • Make sure there is a steady workflow. If at all possible, give everyone a list of shit that needs to get done over the course of the day. If it’s supposed to be in a specific order, say so. And then let them get the fuck on with it. Interrupting to give people new work should only happen if the new work is urgent, otherwise just tack it on to the end of the list; and for fuck’s sake don’t take things off people when they’re in the middle of doing them. It’s disorienting and despiriting and depressing and nothing makes people more resentful and less productive than that. Furthermore, don’t give people one task and assure them it will take them all day, because it pretty much won’t. You can only ever have at best a vague understanding of how long your employees take to do something, and if they’re like me they will finish quickly, get bored, surf the internet while waiting for more work rather than interrupt you to get some or “take the initiative” and risk getting that wrong.
  • Be aware of how people work. Your employees aren’t machines. They have different needs and approaches; some people like to chat while they work, others prefer to listen to music on headphones; some people like to work in one long lump and then have a long break, others like to take lots of little breaks; some people dip between projects, other people concentrate on one at a time; some people have their most productive periods in the mornings, others after lunch; some people are sticklers for deadlines, and other people need to be told they’re two weeks earlier than they actually are.  It’s to your benefit to adjust to their methods of working rather than panickily trying to impose the same sense of order onto everyone and failing to get the most out of them.
  • Either sit down or piss off. If you work in the same room as your employees, work in that room. Sit down and type or make calls, but don’t prowl around the room like you have radio-controlled underpants. It’s distracting and threatening, and as you must know, nervous people make more mistakes than calm ones. If you have to flounce around, do it outside.
  • Set a good example. If you want your employees to be on time, not spend their entire time on the phone to their friends, have fewer coffee breaks, and dress smartly, you have to do the same. It gives a proclaimation a little more weight if you say “you don’t see me chatting away all afternoon” rather than, as one of my former line managers did, spending all day every day on the phone to members of your family within earshot.
  • Be flexible. A workforce that’s rewarded for its loyalty and hardwork with understanding and patience doesn’t even require as much in the way of material rewards. Most people would rather have a pleasant working environment – ie. one in which disputes are settled quickly and the boss (that’s you) doesn’t behave like a gorgon, a lunatic, or a prison-warder – than a large bonus, particularly if we’re in low-responsibility jobs. It also makes us more likely to volunteer for overtime.
  • Aim to be authorative. Not bossy, domineering, or shrewish. Don’t wheedle. Don’t attempt to explain the significance of the tasks you’re setting – we’re minimum wage slaves, we do not fucking care, and you cannot make us care. You’re the boss. I don’t give a blind monkey fuck why you want the files moving, just tell me to move them and I’ll move them. Don’t try to convince me of the worth of the work I’m doing, or cajole me into doing something. You are boss.
  • Don’t hotdesk. You can’t prevent friendship groups or cliques from forming, it’s a deeply ingrained part of human nature. Instead of forcing everyone to move out of the position they’re comfortable in, let them have their own dominion, and remind them not to glower at other people and to save their work gossip for outside of work.
  • Never make work socialisation mandatory. Just because we can get on with each other when we’re being paid to doesn’t mean we have any desire to see each other outside of the workplace. If we want to come, we’ll come, and if you make it an offer it’s far more likely to breed camaraderie than if everyone is required to spend additional unpaid time around people from work. Furthermore, not everyone is a great socialiser. They may well be a great employee, but you don’t get anywhere forcing the leopard to change her spots for the sake of “workplace spirit” – all this does is breed resentment.
  • Keep calm. You’re in charge, here. Your panic is contagious, and so is your anger. There are other ways to convey the gravity and importance of a situation or timeframe than by being emotional: they’re called words. If you’re straightforwards about the relative importance of various tasks and projects, people will respond accordingly.

It feels nice telling the boss what to do. Maybe I’ll try this again sometime.


Written by Amelia &/or Delilah

June 8, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Living Lazily Guide

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Both of us are afflicted with a certain degree of, well, how shall I put this?

Terminal laziness.

Delilah has long-since perfected the art of “making my boyfriend do absolutely everything short of wiping my arse”, but even in the dark days pre-partner had mastered the delicate science of doing as little as possible, and Amelia is single.

There are several domestic areas which take up far too much time, effort, and unexpected monetary expenditure, and you will recognise them by this: they are the ones which students almost invariably neglect first.

Washing up

Pots, pans, plates, palaver. With good cooking comes ten thousand things to wash up, especially if you’re operating under mis-en-scene for the sake of ease and speed; this, however, needn’t be the case. There are myriad dishes which only really require one pan in which to cook them – you can, after all, fry mince-meat in the same pot you just boiled the pasta that is now draining over the sink – and this business of eating off a plate is sorely over-rated. Eating out of a pan is entirely preferrable, and if you can do it standing next to the sink or the cooker you don’t have to walk as far to put it in to soak.

[Note, as environmentally conscious lazy people we’re not recommending that you use paper plates or eat disposable dinners. That would just be crass.]

The other trick to doing as little as possible when it comes to washing up is not to leave your dishes for as long as humanly possible – laziness is not equal to procrastination, because putting things off makes for more work, not less. The smart indolent person rinses regularly; whether it’s your coffee cup or the saucepan you just made spag-bol in, if you sluice it immediately after finishing there’s a good chance you won’t have to scrub it at all. And voila, no soaking, no elbow-grease, and no expensive detergent required.

Cleaning your house

A clean house is a sign of an empty mind. It’s also a signal that you intend to have people over to visit, which is not compatible with laziness. Take it from us, it’s far better for your reserves of effort to live in relative squalor and head out to be entertained in style elsewhere than it is to maintain a perfect home but save yourself the trip; apart from anything else, hosts have to cook, clean, put off the washing up until everyone’s gone home, and deal with the stress of wondering if people are fornicating in your watercloset. Meanwhile, as a guest all you have to do is show up looking presentable and with whatever bottle of cheap plonk you salvaged from the bargain bin at Morrisson’s, and try not to get too hopelessly lost on the way to the bog. Advantage: visitor.

For optimum cleanliness there are really only a couple of things to remember:

  1. Mice and cockroaches can’t get at things in metal containers. Army surplus stores sell fantastically stable footlockers in which to stash non-fridge foods, and they stack well. No, your kitchen will not look like a magazine showhome, but that takes effort, and effort is what we’re trying to avoid, here.
  2. Keep the lid of your kitchen waste bin closed at all times and both the stench and the likelihood of insect life taking up residence in there is greatly diminished. Also, while it may seem tempting to wait as long as possible before emptying the bin, if it’s summer and you live below the arctic circle your garbage can produce a thriving population of maggots in two days flat. Empty it frequently.
  3. The less stuff you have sitting out in the open, the easier it is to vacuum the accumulated dust out of your house every six months (or every six years, if you’re Delilah and don’t have any dust mite-related allergies); keep things in boxes. Those army surplus footlockers we mentioned, or nice big clear plastic boxes. [NB: If you sort out a system for what goes in which box at the start, it will save you a tonne of effort later on].
  4. It’s easier to wash slippers than carpets – go with wood laminate flooring and you can pretty much just kick dirt around instead of grinding it into the carpet.
  5. There is no shame in having to wear Doc Martens to safely walk through your own kitchen.

Washing Clothes

Not only is washing your clothes annoying, it’s also expensive and a waste of water. Oftentimes, you can avert doing the washing for weeks at a time with nothing more than some floorspace or a towel rack (or, for particularly stubborn cases, Febreeze.) All you need to do is make sure that your clothes are aired out, preferably over night. In the morning, if they pass the sniff test, they’re good to go–if not, hit them with the Febreeze and leave them for another night. You can extend the wearability of your clothes for weeks just like that. With undergarments (bras, knickers, boxers, singlets, etc.) washing can be slightly more important; bras and undershirts can be aired out, but will usually need washing before the rest of your clothes, and for the sake of hygeine underpants should be washed more regularly.

On the plus side, regular washing of your undergarments means your clothes can go even longer before they need a wash. If you’re lucky enough to be female, pantyliners can be an invaluable resource; if you’re lucky you can make your knickers last an extra week or more.

When neither airing nor Febreeze will stop the stink, or when you spill something on them, you will have to wash your clothes. There’s really nothing to be done to simplify this part of the process; just suck it up, follow the instructions on the machine, and above all remember to seperate the darks and the lights. Trying to fix clothes affected by running dye is annoying, and the antithesis of laziness.

The whole process of reusing clothes also becomes simpler if your wardrobe has a tendancy towards the nondescript. People tend not to notice if you wear the same pair of plain blue jeans for several days; jeans with artful rips, sparkles, or excessive embroidery are much harder to rewear without arousing suspicion. Plain black shirts work in much the same way, with the additional bonus of stains showing up less on dark materials.


Now the TV is the friend of the lazy person, but sometimes it is a lot of effort to turn the wretched box on. Fortunately, there are even more indolent alternatives for the truly idle. People-watching, for example, or people-listening (also known as “spying on the neighbours”) can provide one with hours of drama, comedy, and occasionally accidental pornography. And, naturally, there is the joy of self-love; masturbation is not only sex with someone you love, but cheap, entertaining, and not even something you have to get out of bed for.

We do not advise combining the two suggestions in this section: masturbation while people-watching is creepy and ultimately leads to either restraining orders or blisters.


The lazy man gets around the sun as quickly as the busy one.
R.T. Wombat

Driving is filled with effort and rage. Walking involves moving your legs too much; public transport requires organisational skills which require thinking, and hitch-hiking both calls for perky conversation with strangers and carries the risk of dying in the back of a Ford transit at the hands of someone who has unresolved mummy issues. Fortunately the internet, or “Satan’s own plaything”, has the answer; you don’t need to transport yourself when you can let the world come to you. With the except of friends’ parties, which a simple “I can’t drive” will avail you of lifts to, there are few things that people cannot deliver to your door, often within twenty-four hours. Most of them seem to come from Amazon these days, and we are eagerly awaiting the launch of their “order Alexander Skarsgard for free next-day delivery” service (customers who bought this also bought Peter Skarsgard: 2%. Sorry, Pete).


As mentioned, the internet is a wonderful resource. There are even websites that will deliver food to your door. Unfortunately, these websites are often limited in their range of delivery, and the meals themselves can be expensive, so the occasional trip out of the house can be valuable.

The key thing is to shop in the same way teenage boys have sex; in and out in two minutes flat. When shopping for food, stick to things that are both cheap and filling. Pretty much anything with excessive amounts of starch gets a thumbs-up here–bread, pasta, ramen, and rice are good places to start, and can easily be augmented with things like peanut butter, frozen vegetables, and sauce in a jar, if scurvey isn’t your thing. Buying in bulk is also a must; carrying a ten kilo bag of rice home may be annoying, but it cuts down the number of times you have to leave the house drastically. If you’re shopping for something other than groceries, take a moment to plan your attack carefully. Try to figure out where the thing you want is in the store, and go straight there. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by the bright lights and vivid colours,  and do not let yourself be suckered in by signs that say things like On Sale or Reduced. After all, the less time you spend in the outside world, the more time you have to entertain yourself.

Written by Amelia &/or Delilah

April 7, 2011 at 12:38 am