On Leonard Cohen

Poet, writer and musician Leonard Cohen died on this day a year ago.

He was not a man for varnish or facades. His metaphor for the world of everyday work was “Boogie Street”, a place of traffic jams and ugly commerce. 

On these pages over the past five years or so I’ve recommended that you follow the lead of The Bush Tucker Man, my infant daughter, the grossly incompetent manager I worked under at the Burwood Smorgy’s, the entire 1980s, the old Italian men who sold grapes from the vacant block next to my old home and me. But if I had to settle on a single, quite serious (for a change) role model it would be Leonard Cohen.… Read the rest

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The Haught guide to learning fast

The kodiak bear, native to Alaska, can smell a mound of discarded roast pork, curdled custard and overcooked carrots in the Southern Hemisphere

Newcomers to Benign to Five, a column which I occasionally transpose into blog form for your delectation, may not be aware that, for a short period in the 1990s, I worked at the all-you-can-inhale restaurant, Smorgy’s (Burwood). Patrons entered through a fibreglass volcano and every three to five months thick black smoke spewed from its roof; these two facts were entirely unrelated.

In my 35-day period of employment at this venerable house of engorgement, I learnt almost everything I’ve ever needed to know in my professional career.

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Pranker or wanker? (I still don’t know if I was being stooged)

practical joke zing

Have you ever had the feeling you were being watched at work? Or at least felt that the client, colleague or customer you were dealing with was such a clown that you must have been the butt of a practical joke?

More than a year ago, I completed a ‘collaborative project’. Collaborative project is the term foisted upon the debacle by others. In fact, it was an encounter with a person apparently dragged out into reality, through the fourth wall, from inside a very badly written comedy television show dealing in the most facile stereotypes. 

I appreciate little in the world more than mischief. And a really sophisticated practical joke is one of the ultimate expressions of mischievousness. So I spent many quiet moments during this futile assignment excited by the possibility that I was being stooged.

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The Haught guide to burning career bridges

bison

I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve come to the end of my professional tether more than once in my time. I’ve reached the point where a steady income has seemed far less preferable to escaping a certain work environment – escaping out into a world of destitution where the blisters are extravagant, the hunger is hallucinogenic, but where the absence of corporate nerds telling me how “key” it is that my “deliverables” are “actioned” in a “timely manner” on a “go forward basis” is like a salve for my flayed soul.

Yes, several times I’ve approached the edge of the career abyss and thought, “Oo, that gaping void looks alluring.”

I’ve fantasised about its darkness. Its coolness. Its quietness. I’ve considered that there might be Bach playing approximately halfway down. I’ve conjectured that there is a fernery at the bottom.

What’s stopped me from stepping into the pleasant nothingness? The truth.… Read the rest

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ParentHaught: Lessons learnt from the University of Fatherhood

University of Fatherhood

Before I became a father, when people told me that parenthood was a great educator, I would scoff with the flamboyant malice of a reality dating show villain and walk out of the room.

Since our daughter was born, however, I’ve learnt some important lessons, one of the most vital being that suddenly leaving somebody alone in a room can make them very very upset to the point where they forget to breathe, leak saliva from the mouth and slam half a banana in your eye when you return and try to console them.

It turns out those I had ridiculed were right. Sorry to all of you reading this that I did scoff on.

Many of the things I’ve come to understand since becoming partly responsible for our little marshmallow addict are applicable outside the world of domesticity.

Here are just a few:… Read the rest

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Is Mondayitis real?

Mondayitis.

Mondays. Unless you genuinely love your job, are a massive nerd or one of those evangelical Self-Motivators (“I will empower myself to start this week with AWESOME!”), Mondays can be troublesome.

But is Mondayitis an actual, serious psychophysiological illness or just a throwaway malady akin to man flu and hose buttock? To find out, I asked former GP and practising psychologist Dr Egan Patiens.… Read the rest

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The Haught guide to “too much information”

There’s an acronym doing the rounds on the interconnected network of digitised information at the moment. You might be familiar with it.

It’s TMI. It stands for “too much information”.

According to Urban Dictionary… actually, no I just checked and I can’t use any definitions from Urban Dictionary without risking losing the few remaining followers I have left.

TMI is generally used as a term of exasperation or disgust. It’s dispensed by a person burdened by the involuntarily role of listener. The recipient is a teller considered by the listener to have demonstrated the faultiness of an important biological filtration mechanism – the one that connects their brain to their mouth, thus:

“I just did a burp that tasted of a witch’s broth with a human foot in it. In a cauldron.”

“Oh. OK. Wow. TMI.”

The colleague who routinely discharges TMI is the most challenging of workplace obstacles.

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The Haught guide to people who love drama

Drama

A little while ago a friend thought one of my articles was a pointed reference to his own behaviour.

It wasn’t.

This was just his own giant ego and tendency towards solipsism playing tricks with his very small mind. What a neurotic clown he was for making such an assumption; I would never besmirch his already grease-spattered reputation in print.

It got me thinking about how easily a misunderstanding can lead to offence and how convenient that can be for some, especially in the workplace.

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The Haught guide to resigning

ABBA knowing me

We often look back on the decision to resign from a job as a happy career juncture, a fork in the career road with a perfectly-cooked career sausage on the end of it. But the moment itself, that ten or fifteen seconds in which we have to tell our manager that we’re pulling the work pin, is almost always filled with trembling anxiety.

So here, for your edification, are some conversation starters, written in natural, everyday language, that cover many of the most common situations surrounding a professional parting of ways.… Read the rest

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The Haught guide to bringing stuff to life

Image: Insomnia Cured Here, flickr

Image: Insomnia Cured Here, flickr

If you want career success in 2016, it’s not good enough to “implement”, “generate” or “create”; you need to “bring to life” whatever it is you work on daily.

You can bring to life a brave concept or ambitious plan. You can bring to life a detailed design or complex first draft. You can also bring to life an annual report or financial statement.

Bringing stuff to life is such a versatile and inclusive exercise.

While working at Smorgy’s Burwood (yes, the one with the volcano – thanks for asking) I had a manager who was years ahead of his time, so I’m well-versed in the discipline of life-bringing. Let me regale you.… Read the rest

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