Cautionary Tales For Managers (with apologies to Hilaire Belloc)

No. 2: Jim, who avoided teamwork and suffered the consequences


Jim’s approach to interaction

Drove his colleagues to distraction.

He caused them all much grief, it seems,

By never taking part in teams.

Now teamwork, as I’m sure you know

Is central to our status quo:

It’s how consultants earn their fees

With lessons from the Japanese.

But Jim just didn’t seem to care –

He shunned his team-mates everywhere.


When colleagues, as they often do,

Announced there’d be a drink or two

That evening at The King & Queen

(“The unofficial works canteen”

As it had wittily been named)

Jim always answered much the same:

I’m sorry, but I’ve got a few

Outstanding tasks that I must do.”


Jim liked to think things through alone:

He often left his telephone

Switched off, so he could think things through.

The emails in his inbox grew

And grew, but he would only read

Those which displayed a pressing need –

And as for all the hundreds more

Which knocked upon his cyberdoor

With Jim’s name in the ‘cc:’ field,

To these ones he would never yield:

If all they said was ‘FYI’,

They were not graced with a reply.

How irresponsible, each day

To simply throw such things away!

He should send thousands every week:

It’s called the ‘C.Y.A.’ technique.

(Please don’t ask me to translate –

It might be ‘inappropriate’.)


His fellow workers every day

Would talk (in that supportive way

That colleagues will) behind his back

About the qualities he lacked.

It’s clear, though he will not admit it

That he is simply not committed!”


Well, one week things came to a head:

The Managing Director said

That teamwork was now de rigeur

And all the firm’s employees were

To go on a team seminar.

(He then departed in his car

To play golf with a colleague who,

Like him, felt he already knew

About the subject; if they’d stayed,

They knew they’d just be in the way.)


And so Jim and his team-mates went

To part of Wales, where they spent

Two days among the hills and trees

Engaged in such activities

As building bridges out of sticks

Or towers out of Lego bricks

(Both of which, it’s plain to see

Will boost your profits instantly -

If only you can find a way

To link them to your working day).


Midway through the morning’s games

I’m sorry, ‘exercises’ –  James

Was spotted walking off alone,

In conversation on his phone,

While his team on the climbing wall

Were bonding, trying not to fall.

They asked Jim why he did not climb.

He said: “It’s all a waste of time!

We’d get much more done back at work,

This seems like an excuse to shirk!”


This was pushing things a bit;

The MD got to hear of it.

Better off at work? I say!

If everybody thought that way

In just what sort of state would be

Our sceptre’d isle’s industry?”


They couldn’t let this get about,

So Jim found he’d been ‘managed out’

(Which means, for those who do not know,

They simply engineered things so

That one day Jim discovered he

Had been replaced by a PC.

They made it clear he wasn’t fired,

But knew that he would soon grow tired

Of having nothing much to do;

And so he did). And so to you,

Dear reader, must I now relay

The lesson of Jim’s darkest day:



However cut-throat work may be,

It thrives on reciprocity;

So, if you want to not get hurt,

Pretend to be an extravert!

© Phil Lowe 2004.  All rights reserved