Blue Monday: Efforts to inspire teamwork with swears back-fires for n00b team manager

Ah yes, that cheque, just make it out to a Mr Stonking C*ck

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Who, Me? Good Monday morning, dear Reg readers. If you were faced with doing overtime this weekend, rather than going out for beers, this episode of Who, Me? might be right up your street.

This time, in El Reg weekly column of readers' trips down memory lane, we meet "Kenneth", who tells us of a time he learned a valuable lesson about passing the buck.

In the late '90s, Kenneth was just a few months into his time at a big IT consultancy and was working on a re-platforming project for a large UK pensions firm.

Part of the training for new recruits was to muck in with any and all jobs that needed doing, which saw Kenneth doing test data entry, then running the data entry team.

On the fateful day in question, there was Kenneth, four temps on minimum wage and a few boxes of pizza.

"There had been a last-minute request for us all to work late for some big project milestone on the Friday," he said. "So our Thursday evening was wiped out, and instead of beers we were plugging in test data into green screen systems in a pokey old room in the client's building."

Kenneth was a n00b to management, and said he was looking for ways to raise morale – and thought he'd hit upon a great idea.

At the time, the project was updating a premium collection and payment tracking functionality, which meant the team was tasked with entering data for a "few thousand fake cheque payments".

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They had been given some guidelines on what names they were allowed to use, or not use, for the fake cheques – celebrities were fair game, but the boss's name and swearwords were off-limits.

But Kenneth wanted to be the cool boss, and in a bid to muster the troops' energies, he suggested ignoring the no-swears policy.

"It seemed to go down well," Kenneth said, and he decided to "lead from the front" and throw in a few of his own cuss words.

"We spent the remaining few hours by challenging each other to more and more outrageous names and turning the air, and the green screens, blue with any and every profanity we could think of," he said.

Spurred on by obscenities, the team finished on time and Kenneth had thought no more of it until the Monday afternoon when a "very angry" senior manager stopped at his desk, brandishing a set of PowerPoint slides.

"Turns out, the big Friday project milestone was taking a data extract to create all the training simulations and materials to support the imminent golive," Kenneth said.

And what else was on the slide but a selection of the profane sample cheques. Including some of Kenneth's own penmanship, such as the one made out to "BIG STONKING C*CK".

The manager said he would sanitise the data, but told Kenneth he needed to "have a word" with his team. Rather than dobbing himself in as the ringleader, Kenneth nodded and said: "Yes of course, that language is unacceptable."

Reflecting on the moment to Who, Me?, Kenneth said this was an early lesson in management. "Knowing when to stand up for my team and when to not!"

Have you ever let your subordinates take the flak for something you did? Or perhaps you owned up and it all went pear-shaped? Tell Who, Me? all about it and your story might grace the pages in the future. ®


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