Failures followed by successes stop mattering at once

When Johannes Haushofer at Princeton listed his professional failures it went viral

The Siemens Healthineers   was ridiculed online – and rightly so. Photograph:  Paul Zinken/EPA

Companies should never express their values through song – or spandex-clad dancers

Cycling: the most pleasant and almost the cheapest way of getting to work in London. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Only by bike do you arrive in perfect frame of mind, even if it causes ocassional injury

As I lay on the tarmac, I had a sense of déjà vu. The first thought that came into my head was: I’ve had a bike accident – again. Photograph: Thinkstock

Typing is hard, so I have to practise the long-forgotten skill of thinking before I write

“After a few months the boredom hits and they find they aren’t faced with exhilarating work. They are filling in spreadsheets that have no apparent purpose.” Photograph: Getty Images

Entry-level graduate jobs promise the world but deliver monotony and pointlessness

 Going by her LinkedIn profile Hillary Clinton believes her role as a grandmother is more interesting to members than her shot at the White House.  Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Beauty of being late adopter of social network is learning from others’ efforts – both good and bad

When it comes to our bosses, it seems we can cope with more or less anything – except unpredictability

Research suggests we would rather have a manager who is consistently horrible

If a company wants to show that it really values women  it will show pictures of them in which they don’t always look cool or gorgeous. They just look like professional women at work

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photograph that captures what real working women actually look like

Fortunately, in newspaper columns you can still say what you think. In email it is no longer possible. Photograph: Getty Images

Copying those bosses into emails is a gift for passive aggressive operators everywhere

Youthful charges tend not to believe or agree with a word an executive may say

Joseph Mauro’s motivational message to staff made a series of elementary blunders

Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Schwab CEO was spot on in one thing at least – inviting job candidates to a restaurant

Most companies aren’t building cathedrals. They are doing less glorious things like giving tax advice. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Firms should remember there is a glory and a skill in doing any job well

When Stephen Elop likened Nokia to a burning platform, he spoke the truth. Yet it was a disaster. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

Any sign of doubt is as tantamount to admitting that you are unfit for the job

Meg Whitman: Her advice in Davos was “you can always go faster than you think you can”

Meg Whitman’s lieutenant was ‘disappointed’ with what I’d written. Here is my response

Meg Whitman: “You can always go faster than you think you can.” Photograph: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

The amount of guff talked is always in direct proportion to the size of the audience

British philosopher Bertrand Russell  (above)  and John Maynard Keynes both predicted shorter working time  in the 1930s. It has been a long time coming but maybe it is happening at last.  Photograph:  Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Just as it is vulgar to boast about how much you consume, it is now becoming vulgar to boast about how long you work

Mass new year emails: they are pointless and fail to motivate staff.

No employee ever worked better or felt more committed after a mass memo from a boss

“Most younger people have learnt that there is no such thing as a private joke on email; only idiotic old people persist.”

The older generation loved a spoof email but millennials can’t afford to joke around

As Howard Schultz of Starbucks, a superb peddler of drivel, put it: “Innovation is the force that will . . . enable us to expand and increase revenues and profits – always through  the lens of humanity. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Here are some of 2015’s worst examples of the drivel spoken and written in business

Next time you hear someone say: “This deal, we feel, is the right deal to go forward. In the go-forward scenario, we plan on doing the deal”, which was precisely the bull AOL’s Tim Armstrong spouted when it was bought by Verizon this year, don’t swallow it. Photograph: the New York Times

I am urging you to submit horrible new words or phrases

Lucy Kellaway: “That the corporate world is so very badly in need of storytellers is a very bad sign. It shows that we don’t think our jobs are enough without them.” Photograph: Getty Images

To see storytelling as my most valuable asset is idiotic and shows the craze has gone too far

I noticed  that people have got better at building offices.

It is difficult to believe that cooler furniture means higher productivity

’If you want to be successful, the first step is not to know yourself very well.’ Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

One problem of getting older is both your self-knowledge and complacency go up

Marissa Mayer, president and chief executive officer of Yahoo! Inc. Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

The picture of Mayer in her Dorothy wig is embarrassing, but it’s actually a stroke of genius

A young employee  taking direction from a senior colleague:   the boss is blind to his own bias and instead congratulates himself on his prescience in spotting someone extraordinary

The phenomenon has little to do with sex and everything to do with power and is as random as real love

Jes Staley, new chief executive of Barclays group. Trust, he said, was “the key to unlocking shareholder value”. Photograph: Debra Hurford Brown/Barclays/PA Wire

If Jes Staley wants to build my trust, he could start using the words ‘money’ and ‘profit’

Swimming in a pool of misleading metaphors can distort your perspective. Photograph: Reuters/Vincent Kessler

How about using honest, honourable terms for the people who work for your company?

Teleworking is the most backward progressive policy that has ever been invented

Integrity is particularly feeble. It makes no sense to assert integrity as a value, as no one would ever dream of asserting the reverse.

It’s all guff, the same words crop up over and over again

Monkey wisdom: A study a few years ago  at MIT showed that monkeys learn more from getting things right. When rewarded for making a correct choice they remembered it and could repeat it, but after a wrong choice they remembered nothing. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

The chief executive of UBS told his bankers it’s okay to get things wrong. It isn’t

There are lots of things essential to the health of global businesses and to the “personal lives” of millions, but the “travel experience” offered by United is not one of them. Photograph: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

In a metal box hurtling through the air at 30,000ft, passionate people are a liability

One colleague said he knew he was a good father because his grown-up children liked his company enough to go on holiday with him

Working out if you are good at something is usually straightforward, but a question posed by UBS is complicated

If something is important enough to have a meeting about, then a table must be found and people must travel to sit at it. Photograph: Getty

Though you could always unload the dishwasher while you’re hanging on the line . . .

A male chief executive’s ideal book club  is just like a board meeting. Photograph: David Sleator

Most of us seem to hate it when dinner parties turn into seminars, but men adore it

Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of “Our culture is friendly and intense, but if push comes to shove we’ll settle for intense.” Photographer: Mike Kane/Bloomberg

Three recruitment adverts, from Amazon and two smaller companies, set an example

Doing expenses: “I started the job at 3.30pm and by 5pm was close to tears.” File photograph: Getty Images

While most admin tasks are getting less painful, expenses are getting more so

The head of Accenture said  he is going to free all 330,000 of his staff from the charade of the annual job appraisal. Photograph: Getty Images

Accenture’s decision to remove the annual performance review is welcome news

Recruiters and managers are so faceist that the good-looking have been found to earn some 10 per cent more than the bad-looking. File photograph: Stockphoto/Getty

We are hopelessly faceist. Nobody calls anyone ugly anymore, they just don’t hire them

Missing skillset: Antony Jenkins, the former chief executive of Barclays. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

The reason the CEO of Barclays, Antony Jenkins, had to go, we were told, was that he no longer had the right ‘set of skills’

Microsoft  chief executive Satya Nadella: “I want to share more on the overall context and connective tissue between our mission, world view, strategy and culture.”   To have a mission, vision and world view is greedy, but to have so many abstractions with lots of connective tissue between them leaves one feeling sick.    Photograph: Jason Redmond/Reuters

Chief exec tries to convince that the company has a plan and to remind employees what it is, in case they had forgotten. What he (...)

Taking part in a workout outside  the New York Stock Exchange  after Fitbit’s  IPO in New York earlier this month.  “It is a dismal sort of status symbol that says ‘I am up to date, I am fit’ and is an invitation to people with bare wrists to feel out of date and out of shape.” Photograph: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

The worst thing about these wrist-wearing devices is that in the long term, they probably have no effect at all

Every chairman will say his board is ego-free. Photograph: Getty Images

The ego that throws its weight around is the most tiresome. But the silent ego is most dangerous.

‘I blame Steve Jobs: thanks to him, caring is now compulsory. It is supposed to be good for us, as it bolsters our self-respect, and is supposed to be good for employers as it bolsters their bottom lines.’ Photograph:  David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Anyone not caring about work is best advised to pretend to feel passionately about it

“Mostly estate agents play no more fast and loose with words than other professions.” Photograph:  Nick Bradshaw

Even the sanest people become unhinged when it comes to buying and selling

‘Shoe-shining, in marked contrast to banking, gives its customers pleasure.’ Photograph: Antonis Liokouras/Getty Images/iStockphoto

There is only one thing better about banking than shining shoes: the money

Tim Armstrong: see him on YouTube for a masterclass in how not to talk to staff, how not to motivate and not to lead.  Photograph: Victor J Blue/Bloomberg

Seeing him, it is difficult to argue that the most successful leaders are the humble ones

Every time we write an email we are in the dark as to what is going to work best. Photograph: PA

The main selling point of is not entertainment but to help you communicate better

Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo: “As we iterate on the logged-out experience and curate topics, events, moments that unfold on the platform, you should absolutely expect us to deliver those experiences across the total audience and that includes logged in users and users in syndication.”  Photograph: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

Dick Costolo undermined Twitter’s brand with his windy nonsense

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, who have been married for 21 years. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP Photo

Contrary to expectations, most of the supersuccessful who wed are in it for the long haul

Warren Buffett has done 50 years at Berkshire Hathaway, proving it is possible to be with the same outfit forever without becoming a gormless, unimaginative loser.  Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

My 30-year anniversary at ‘Financial Times’ proves that I have been very lucky

Graduate recruitment  now  often involves team exercises, “panel interviews, ordeals and other assorted pranks”. Photograph: Getty Images

Senior staff should have to jump same hoops as recent graduates do

Reality bites: the Apple logo may be one of the most recognised in the world but most people are unable to sketch it accurately. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

The Apple logo falls into a large collection of things we do not need to remember

The super-anxious cannot wait more than two minutes without retuning to the desk to ask if the receptionist has forgotten to announce their presence. Photograph: Getty Images

Nothing to prevent rudeness in reception area being used in evidence against us

No matter how much my children think I am making a poor fist of bringing them up they can’t get rid of me. Parenting is for life. Jobs are not.

Pretence that motherhood is one long, democratic, emotional jolly jape is a far worse lie than the one that says motherhood is a j(...)

Chief financial officer Patrick Pichette didn’t resolve to leave Google right away. He went back to work, and then three reasons for quitting came to him. Photograph: The Irish Times

Kilimanjaro-inspired exit memo mixes work-life epiphany with pitch for job offers

Appy days: there’s a Smartphone app for everything now, including one to tell you how you did at a meeting

Good feedback is always going to be rare, with or without apps to help it along

Richard Dawkins: a prolific thirdpartybragger. Photograph: Don Arnold/Getty Images

Retweeting praise might make it seem like you are not boasting. You’re fooling nobody

“Lean in”, urges corporate queen Sheryl Sandberg (above). Meanwhile, at least one very successful female  has discovered workplace  laziness has major benefits. Photograph: Pascal Lauener/ Reuters

Laziness, according to the modern view, is something we need to be coached out of. Instead, as my friend shows, the reverse is tr(...)

Twitter appears to have changed how we work forever. Yet on closer inspection, Twitter has changed nothing – all it has done is speed things up a bit

All managers often pick hopeless people. That is not surprising given how hard it is to know what someone is like until they start(...)

Happy employees, it is claimed, are more likely to do the right thing than unhappy ones

Wells Fargo claims last year there were eight times as many Pollyannas as miserable sods

Do it today: JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon has told all his underlings to reply to emails within the day. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

In a world in which people have largely given up answering at all, it is moronic to ask only once

‘Obviously it was stupid to cycle with anything on the handlebars. Perhaps, for the first time in my life, I will learn from my own mistakes and start using a pannier.’ Photograph: Getty Images

A black eye and an arm in a sling: not a good look for an interview to become a director

Last week Jamie Dimon told Fox Business: “JPMorgan is the best thing I can do for country and humanity”,  which is even richer than Lloyd Blankfein saying Goldman Sachs did “God’s work” as the latter remark was arguably ironic. Photograph: Reuters

The only way of safeguarding common sense in business is to become an entrepreneur

Facebook has a new empathy team, whose job is to go around feeling the pain and pleasure of others and translate the experience for the benefit of its engineers. Photograph: Martin Keene/PA Wire

The ‘daily average people’ were formerly known as Facebook users

The judges also commended Apple chief Tim Cook who was quoted as saying: “At the end of the day . . . this is a very key day for Apple”, thus combining two empty, clashing phrases. Photograph: The Irish Times

And the prize for Golden Flannel phrase of the year is – ‘to action forward’

AOL chief Tim Armstrong, who has instructed his underlings at AOL to spend one-tenth of each working week deploying their grey matter.  Photograph: Peter DaSilva/The New York Times

AOL chief Tim Armstrong believes managers should spend 10% of their time thinking. Really?

Alan Rusbridger: ‘An excellent editor, by most accounts, and can play Chopin’s Ballade No 1 on piano.’ Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Festival of sycophancy as ‘Guardian’ editor announces he is to step down

“One of the greatest puzzles about email is that despite the fact that we have spent several hours a day for the past 15 years practising, we are failing to show any improvement. Even on the basics, we are as clueless as ever.” Photograph: Ian Nicholson/PA Wire

Opinion: email is getting more aggravating but can be less of a nuisance

  A mere third of the workers canvassed by CareerBuilder said being a manager appealed to them. The remaining two-thirds said no thanks, I’d rather stick with the lowly job I have.

Climbing the corporate ladder has never looked less appealing

All office work viewed from the outside makes you glad you are not having what she’s having at all.

Opinion: white-collar work makes the worst spectator sport

At the end of each day of being boorish and unpleasant the traders would go  to the pub to be more so

Many traders were boorish, mean, sexist, racist barrow boys who operated a feudal system with its own hierarchy

As an employee, being fearless is not obviously an advantage.

If you are running a business and are scared of nothing, you are dangerous

At any given moment of the business day, millions of mostly pointless coffees are being had

Great ideas can sometimes come from a chat with the unlikeliest of people

There are far more fitness fanatics than fatties in corporate boardrooms. Yet the reason is not that extreme exercise causes extreme success, more that both are the result of the same personality defect

A testing fitness regime won’t make you a success, but it will probably make you dull

Russell Brand: “The reason I don’t vote is the same reason I don’t eat glitter; there’s no fucking point”. Photo: EPA

Over soup in an East End café Brand says capitalism has failed, gives money to a drug addict and tells Lucy Kellaway to shut up (...)

Not only are CVs unhelpful, so too are interviews  and references are the most pointless of the lot. Photograph: Getty Images/Hemera

Let’s face it, the traditional CV and interview route is a bit old hat

Conscientiousness makes work and life run a lot more smoothly: it’s time to value it more.

Conscientiousness is a far more valuable commodity than ‘passion’

Stanford University. Its ambitious female MBA students gathered together to have the hard skin rubbed off their heels and their nails painted cerise and blue, while at the same time being told by McKinsey how great it would be to work for the world’s most formidable management consultancy.

What’s next? A sponsored event involving ironing and dusting?

There is a catch to Sir Richard’s plan –  staff will only take time off when they “feel a hundred per cent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project”. Photograph: Rob Kim/Getty Images

There is a 100% condition to the Branson plan

“In my intake at JPMorgan in the 1980s there was no race to the door by the smartest. Out of a group of 10 the two who quit after the first two years weren’t so much the brightest as the misfits – we were the ones who shouldn’t have been hired in the first place.” Photograph: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

Opinion: the cleverest use top employers as a training ground and springboard to get out

The two things that people will always be better at than machines are motivating others and coming up with original ideas. Photograph: Getty Images

Momentous article based on years of research by firm’s sharpest minds

Being in the library at opening time is only cool if you’ve been up all night. Photograph: Getty Images

Looking gorgeous is cool. And looking thin. So is wearing the right clothes

A Moleskine notebook: ‘Electronic diaries are slowcoaches compared with the speedy paper version.’ Photograph: Daneil Rodriguez/

Opinion: paper is faster, requires no password and never runs out of batteries

As eBay clearly demonstrates, consumers are sometimes irrational. The data show auctions with an opening bid of 99p get buyers so excited they usually end up bidding the price up more than when the starting bid is higher. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As a DIY business school, there has never been anything like eBay - a place where animal spirits roam free and yet markets are tra(...)

Earlier this summer the New York Times carried a front-page story about a speech Barack Obama had given on US foreign policy with a headline referring to his “Cautious Reponse to World Crisis”.

Opinion: human’s ability to write comes with ability to err

Emailing when away, I reasoned, is inevitable, mildly useful, and fine so long as you use the drug in moderation, says Lucy Kellaway.

The further you are from work, the more its news disturbs you, writes Lucy Kellaway

Rather than dish out the bad news directly, the executive vice-president takes refuge behind a curious subjunctive: “We plan that this would result in an estimated reduction of 12,500 . . . employees.”

Microsoft executive Stephen Elop’s 1,100-word memo, which casually mentions massive job cuts, is a case study in how not to write(...)

With jobs, unlike with loo paper, there are many axes to grind. Photograph: Getty Images

People feel compelled to review everyday items but are more reticent regarding their work

When the contest is between the big firms it is especially pointless. Photograph: Getty Images

Opinion: employing a professional services firm is all about back-covering

Facebook chief Sheryl Sandberg. “Her ‘didn’t mean to upset you’ was patronising and, worse than that, a lie.” Photograph: EPA/Money Sharma

Opinion: women are more guilty than men of unnecessary apologising

The best work-avoidance technique of all is to be perfectly willing, but perfectly incompetent.

The equivalent of the avoiding washing-up technique at work is to be hopeless at small tasks

“A few years ago a psychological science journal published research that concluded there was nothing great about diverse teams per se. They were good if you wanted to do something creative or innovative. But if you wanted to slog on with business as usual then homogenous teams did the job better.” Photograph: Getty Images

Opinion: a wide cross-section brings with it the danger of groupthink

“Apple’s hitherto nice way with words was almost certainly a part of its success. Perhaps the language helped cause the success, or perhaps the success caused the language.” Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Opinion: Apple’s ugly words suggest it has not hung on to what made it different

“Those who feel ‘harmonious passion’ towards work enjoy their jobs and experience that lovely sense of ‘flow’ when they are in the thick of it.”

Opinion: being passionate about work is just another example of language inflation

“Anyone with the gumption to reach the boardroom has a grotesquely inflated drive to succeed far more powerful than a factory full of Gucci watches.” Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Opinion: performance incentives are needless and unfair

“‘Hello Lucy. How are you today? ;)’ Ajay typed.  ‘Fine,’ I typed back. ‘Cool! ;) I’m certain I can help you with this.’” Photograph: Getty Images

Opinion: businesses’ chumminess is acceptable only when not too blatantly self-interested

The New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr, center, and Jill Abramson, right, who was sacked as editor of the New York Times last week, celebrate the four Pulitzers won by The Times in 2013. File photograph: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Sacked New York Times editor Jill Abramson will struggle to shift the mark of her former employer

Angela Ahrendts is getting up to $68 million as a welcome gift for joining Apple.  Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

A new book on the difficulty high-earning women have in finding a husband

The City of London: in the early 1980s, investment banking had not yet adopted the football model. If you were a Warburg man you didn’t become a Schroders man just because it was prepared to pay a bit more. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg.

Could the City move away from the football model when it comes to changing jobs?

“‘Your email must have got caught in the spam filter’ is a handy white lie that I have often used to get me out of scrapes, but as filters go on getting better its value is diminishing.” Photograph: Getty Images

Technology is steadily ruining all the old favourites

More articles