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 Big Brother watching you

If you haven’t set up a system East German style surveillance in your office, you’re derelict in your duty as a capitalist.

If I had to name the two things that have got me to where I am today it would be:

  1. Stupendous talent
  2. Unyielding and repressive scrutiny from my superiors

I’m not afraid to admit it: I loved being surveilled at work. Without Big Brother having watched my every professional movement from one of his infinite telescreens, I would have frittered away my career to date on inefficient activity and unorthodox thoughts.… 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 end-of-year parties

Don't dance at work parties

This may be my last post of the year before Jesus turns 2017, so I thought I’d give you my tips on resurrection from death.

Only joking – that’s blasphemous and requires many more than 500-odd words to properly explain.

I’m actually going to give my advice on end-of-year work parties. I wrote down 16,000 during my lunch break – here are ten of the OK ones:… Read the rest

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How good words turn bad

buzzwords wasteland

The items that we now categorise as weasel words, wank language and corporate buzzwords weren’t always the indefensible, indecipherable brain-slop of desk-shackled keyboard tappers.

Almost every single one began as a word or term that didn’t make you want to chainsaw it alive and throw its corpse into an abandoned quarry.

Some were very good words: think of bespoke, curate and granular.

Some were not quite so pleasing to look at or say, but had delightful original meanings: think of journey, storytelling or kicking goals.

And some were fairly plain but serviceable: think of action (the noun), drive and disrupt

Each of them has succumbed. Action has become an entirely unnecessary verb. Journey, drive and disrupt have reached epidemic proportions and have lost almost all meaning to the point where “Let’s drive a disruption journey” would now be considered a perfectly legitimate (possibly an “innovative”) sentence in many offices. Storytelling is what a lot of people who can’t tell stories profess to do exceptionally well these days. Etc, etc. 

Yes, each of the has succumbed, but not in a single, fell swoop. Instead they have succumbed in a relatively lengthy process of bollocksification. It can take many forms, but it usually goes something like this:… Read the rest

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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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