10 May 2004
So there they were, halfway through the partners’ annual conference in their five-star hotel, listening to the boss drone on about vision and empowerment. All the squirrels, who hadn’t yet shaken their clients until the last penny came rattling out, were sitting quietly on their big, bushy tails and hoping no one would notice, while all
the counter-squirrels were sitting with smug expressions on their faces and a hint of terror behind the eyes, knowing they were heading into the new financial year with the approval of the board, but without a nice, soft, client-padded hole to dive into.
Actually, I do find the psychology behind squirrelling interesting. You could argue that the squirrels are profoundly pessimistic people, who have no faith in their revenue-generating powers and who skulk in the undergrowth, hoarding to get them through, while the heroic counter-squirrels throw themselves at the open market armed with nothing more than good nut retrieval skills and a buck-toothed grin. On the other hand, as someone who has a stash of savings my husband knows nothing about – plus the joys of child benefit, which never registered on his radar at all – I stand up for squirrellers as wise beasts.
Anyway, there they were, dozing comfortably after the grand dinner the previous night, when the double doors burst open and in rushed a group of men in combat fatigues and balaclavas. Two leapt on to the stage and grabbed the managing partner as a hostage while the others rounded up the sleepy lawyers and made them stand in a corner of the room. All the ones with a reaction time of under three minutes started jabbing at their mobile keypads until the men ordered them to throw their phones into the middle of the room.
Hundreds of Nokias went sailing through the air in a polyphonic wail.
The lawyers cowered against the wall wondering how their attackers had dared make their way through the golf course outside – you normally have to wait years to set foot on that holy turf. (The firm only has its conferences in hotels with championship golf courses attached; they say it’s because they’re the only places big enough for everybody to fit in, but it’s really so the board can book their tee times years in advance. And they never let anyone lower down know where they’re going until the month before, so they can’t get a look-in. It’s like the cabinet papers in reverse.)
The men in balaclavas announced that they would open negotiations if the lawyers would nominate a spokesman, but no one wanted to lead the project and everyone denied having any relevant in-house experience. Even the sports die-hards, who claim to broker deals that would make your hair stand on end, declined to take part, while shipping and international hid behind communications, because they all figured that no one attacks the media.
Suddenly they all realised that the lead terrorist sounded awfully like Graham from restructuring and that the managing partner was removing his blindfold and laughing his head off. They had just taken part in the least tasteful management training exercise ever, entitled ‘Leadership under Stress: Threat of the New World Order’.
Apart from having to keep the whole thing out of the press and asking himself what it was all for, this latest exercise in management money-wasting has had no effect on the Lawyer, except that he picked the wrong phone out of the mobile mound in the middle of the floor. And now knows that someone in the firm is having a very steamy text affair. The question is, who? And should he tell?