Telling staff to ‘buck up’ breaks management’s golden rule

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Telling staff to ‘buck up’ breaks management’s golden rule

Reprimanding miserable employees during lockdown is bound to backfire

Lucy Kellaway

When I was at primary school there was a particularly fierce dinner lady who saw it as her duty to make sure all children always ate everything on their plates. Whenever we tried to sneak some vinegary beetroot or a nasty bit of gristle past her she would send us back to finish it with the admonition: “Think of the starving children in Africa.” 

Even when I was nine I did not find this argument terribly compelling. I wanted to tell her to give my beetroot and my cold, powder-mash potatoes to the starving children, but one look at her face assured me this would be a bad call. 

I thought of her last week when I read about Jeremy Mayhew, a senior member of the City of London’s governing body. He told staff at its Barbican arts centre to stop feeling sorry for themselves because at least they still had jobs. He would have made a fine dinner lady. As would Bill Michael, UK chairperson of KPMG, who told his underlings on a video call that they should stop playing the victim card and cut the moaning about pandemic working conditions. This went down so monumentally badly that a few days later he was forced to quit. ..

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