The Wall Street Journal newsroom in the 1980s. Photograph: Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images

Office culture is something to treasure for the routine, structure and purpose it offers

‘My best, healthiest worry is about tulips. I can’t change the colour scheme as they are already planted and it doesn’t matter a jot anyway. But that’s the beauty of it.’ Photographer: Dara Mac Donaill

Research shows clever people worry more because they are alive to things that could go wrong

‘Life does not begin at 60; by definition it has been going on for an inordinately long time already.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Some, already retired, loudly claim they ‘adore travelling the world’. I eliminate these too

The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park  suffered a major fire just after its renovation was completed in 2018. Photograph: iStock

‘I don’t know if oligarchs love TVs, but if they do, they are in for a treat’

There was no Christmas slowdown in Lucy Kellaway’s school Photograph: iStock

Too deep in exterior angles and Pythagoras’ theorem to notice Christmas was even here

Lucy Kellaway outlines her top rules when it comes to spouting absolute nonsense

“When I cleared out my desk last week, I felt fine. I simply scooped up 32 years of workplace detritus and dumped it in the bin.” Photograph: Getty

Lucy Kellaway: I knew it was time to go once I realised I was no longer frightened

Over the years, Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz has consistently proved just how bad language serves business people well. Photograph: David Ryder/Reuters

Business is split into two kinds of people: the majority who talk tosh, and those who do not

Lucinda Chambers at Paris Fashion Week in 2016. The former ‘Vogue’ fashion director has spoken candidly about being dropped by the British edition of the magazine

Chambers broke two golden rules on how to behave when you’ve just been sacked

“Apple Park is Steve Jobs’s last, posthumous, hurrah; as a vanity project it is roughly on a par with Nicolae Ceausescu’s People’s Palace in Bucharest.” Photograph: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

No infantilised decor, no nerd caves: Steve Jobs left a monument to workspace maturity

Swearing is only recommended for people who are amiable and know how to communicate. It should never be used by those who are nasty or angry. Photograph: Getty Images

Lucy Kellaway: swearing can help you be more successful by getting your point across

Arianna Huffington: last week David Bonderman interrupted Huffington, his fellow Uber director, to make a crass joke. He got his facts wrong.  There was nothing for it: the 74-year-old billionaire had to go. Photograph: Ruben Sprich/Reuters

Men should not be made to interrupt less – women should be made to do it more

‘Yes can be said by any old fool, while no requires character, commitment and courage.’

Naysaying is bang on trend - for successful people, no has become the new yes

Paul Romer: ordered his staff to write more clearly, shut them up whenever they banged on interminably in presentations, and insisted all reports were short and lucid

War of words at World Bank as chief economist Paul Romer lambasts sloppy writing

‘My bet is that during Jesper Brodin’s rule of the kingdom of Billy bookcases and Ektorp sofas, growth will falter.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne

We will all rue following the Swedish retailer’s order to ‘chuck out your chintz’

“Amy’s voice has an agreeably low timbre and is smooth as velvet.”

The Financial Times gave part of her job to a robot last week - but the writer isn’t despairing just yet

Who’s got more energy?: Younger colleagues end the weekend less fresh than they started it; an older person turns up feeling perky after a spot of gardening. Photograph: iStock/Getty

Lucy Kellaway: Once clubbing and children are behind us, we have far more to offer professionally

Diane Abbott: something doesn’t add up. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Diane Abbott’s difficulty with a simple sum is evidence of widespread failing

Eggsacting work: an employee monitors Cadbury Creme Eggs at a Bournville Cadbury factory, operated by Mondelez International. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Oreos and Creme Eggs producer presents 10 business cliches, each begging to be banned

“Two minutes into my speech, and I was aware the laughter was strained – and it became more so as I ploughed on.” Photograph: Getty Images

My recent speech was a tour de force of clangers – but I won’t be dwelling on it

“Our message to executives who crack up is that it is their fault for not having enough of something that has become the corporate world’s most fashionable virtue: resilience.”

Myth of stressed bosses thriving by building resilience is decadent

A Deliveroo  document bans the words ‘employees’, replacing it with ‘independent suppliers’. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

A memo on strategy from the president of revenue at Condé Nast is a prime example

In these inhospitable surroundings dedicated chatters are being forced out. Photograph: Getty Images/Cultura RF

It’s not true that we’ve too much work to do, it’s just that we want to appear busier

“Charlotte Hogg, who helped write the Bank of England’s code, still managed to get tripped up by it and this month had to resign as deputy governor.” Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Labyrinthine codes of conduct are part PR exercises, part excuses for firing violators

Prof Robert Kelly  with his wife, Kim Jung-a, and their children Marion (4) and  eight-month-old James, at a press conference after a video of the children crashing Prof Kelly’s Skype interview with the BBC went viral. Photograph: EPA

Latest business fad is to encourage managers to behave like young children

Angela Ahrendts: “I wanted you to know that I am always there for you spiritually, emotionally and digitally.” File photograph: Peter Foley/Bloomberg

Inspiring? More like the mother lode of tripe in Angela Ahrendts’s ‘letter’ to her daughters

Warren Buffett:  “Either he should get in touch with modern ways or he should retire.” Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

It seems the bar for unacceptable tastelessness in the US has just got a lot higher

“The brutality of death is a disrupter of habit – it stops the living in their tracks.” Photograph: Getty Images

Death of someone you love forces you to ask if you are doing what you really want to do

If you are as famous as  Bill Clinton, you can wallow in former glory more or less indefinitely. People will pay to hear you discuss your previous greatness many decades after the event. Photograph: Koen Van Weel/AFP/Getty Images

Trading on past career triumphs seems a little sad – unless they’re sporting triumphs

We rightly make a fuss when receptionists wear heels because their employers demand it, but not about the women who feel obliged to dress this way because their colleagues do

Individualism is to be avoided at all costs

The key to the successful thank you: three of my mother’s four principles apply to the thank-you email

Most people know how to say please and thank you but not how to be persuasive

Margaret Thatcher: Google reveals twice the matches for “a difficult woman” as for “a difficult man” – and most of the references to difficult men don’t count because they continue with “to pin down”. Photograph: Tim Graham/Getty Images

Being difficult at work is not generally thought to be a good thing – but it can be

Companies are trying hard to make staff  happy in their jobs, but it’s not working. Photograph: iStock

Office life is better than ever before, but dissatisfaction is rising

“’Good’ now means bad, and ‘great’ means mediocre. Even ‘extraordinary’ is now workaday. So we went for ‘formidable’.” Photograph: Thinkstock

Setting up a website for a teaching business provided a lesson in avoiding giving offence

2016 proved that the most egregious jargon is a sign not of failure, but of overexcitement. Illustration: Getty Images

Time to action the annual Golden Flannel Awards for horrible business jargon

If Leonard Cohen could do world tours until he was 80, I can surely find the energy needed to be in a classroom all day, teaching kids my favourite subject

I’ve been encouraging bankers, lawyers and accountants to spend the rest of their careers in the classroom

 Starbucks coffee shop in Dawson Street, Dublin. The company’s head recently sent his “love and respect” to some 100,000 employees. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Workers should be treated with respect and dignity but spare us the Starbucks empathy

‘Irish Times’ journalist Edel Morgan tries out a  technique used to address fear of public speaking. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Remind yourself how awful most business leaders are at speaking: the bar is low

Silicon Valley: tech companies located here tend to be ageist. The median age of workers at Facebook and LinkedIn is 29. At Google it is 30. Photograph:  David McNew/Newsmakers

The more companies opt for ‘controlled chaos’ the more my generation will be locked out

US president Barack Obama said: “My commitment to being early isn’t just good for me. It’s good for the nation. It’s good for the world.”  Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Having time to spare makes you feel in control – and comes with moral high ground

“I have been to too many dinners and sat next to too many people who were not trying hard enough”

Just as with other skills, we benefit from clear and direct views that help us improve

 All the millennials shrugged and said making office loos gender-neutral was fine. They looked so unconcerned that I found myself feeling sheepish for having asked the question at all. Yet older workers were less keen

I have just canvassed views in my office and found big divide is less by gender than by age

When it comes to getting a message across, Edward Mike Davis set a standard  every modern chief executive’s email should be judged by. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lucy Kellaway on what John Cryan could learn from Edward Mike Davis, founder of Tiger Oil, known for his brevity, clarity and blun(...)

“There is nothing to be gained from having your emails follow you around . . . but much to be lost”

Leaving your phone in a taxi is frightening, shaming and ultimately liberating

“If one employee offends against a bank’s vision and values, it is their fault. If 5,300 do, it is the bank’s.” (Photograph: Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

US bank fires 5,300 for contravening ‘vision and values’ but fails to take responsibility

“On Indeed, the job-search website, there are 32,000 openings specifying creativity in London alone, compared with only 2,700 requesting politeness.”

Luckless workers are patronised by moronic job titles such as Subway’s ‘sandwich artists’

Is a post on global strategy as relevant as, for example, a good cup of coffee at work? Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

A new vending machine in the office sparks more interest than profits – and rightly so

Bragging about not toiling on holiday part of wider trend of shorter working hours

The idea of finding a place that is right for you is misleading, even the best jobs are only intermittently energising or satisfying. Photograph: iStock

The gap between expectation and reality is the biggest problem for 20-somethings

Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer: 4,200 articles were published in English about her last year. Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

What may look like gender bias in relation to Yahoo chief Mayer is understandable

McKinsey has just asked 14 chief executives which books they will be taking to the beach this year – and the result is one of the most naked displays of one-upmanship I’ve ever seen

Now it is unacceptable to brag about spending, bosses turn to the summer reading list

British prime minister Theresa May:  her strategy of going through meetings looking exasperated but poised is as good as it gets. Photograph: Andrew Parsons/AFP/Getty Images

Looking exasperated but poised best way to present yourself to peers round the table

British prime minister David Cameron, who resigned following the Brexit vote. File photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

A resignation statement is not a time for truth, it is a time for causing minimum upset

I phoned the BBC back and said I would be delighted to come and talk about high heels after all

The 10 minutes I debated high heels on radio were the sanest I have had since the referendum

“As there is far too much email to reply to we’ve learned not to – or to send terse one-word answers – both of which are rude.” Photograph: Getty Images

We are more thoughtful to strangers in the street than we are to office colleagues

Philip Green before the British parliament’s business select committee on the collapse of British Home Stores which he used own. Photograph: Reuters

‘There was no limit to what Sir Philip did not know. He uttered the phrase “I don’t know” a full five dozen times’

Function vs future:  umbrellas of old are being replaced with smart umbrellas that discourage you from losing them by reminding you when they stray too far from your phone. Photograph: The Irish Times

Do you really need a smart clothes peg to make your life a little easier?

 Tim Cook: research from business school Insead found the Apple head,who has 2.6 million followers, to be the most influential chief executive on Twitter.  Photograph: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg

Apple chief found to be most influential CEO on Twitter despite his just 40 tweets this year

This elimination of the vast rump of 50-somethings from London’s office spaces is at odds with what is supposed to be happening. Photograph: iStock

In a group of 200 bankers I could see only one who seemed to be in their 50s – the CEO

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 c(...)

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