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Office Politics

Sweetness and Harmony: when the boss and his secretary were "on the same wavelength" and "grabbing a quickie" did not mean a dash to the nearest Threadbucks!

At a time when big business is showing signs of recovery and fat cat salaries are once again grabbing the headlines, any sentient observer might be forgiven for thinking this - in reality perennial - issue, is a uniquely modern post-pandemic evil. So it’s good to know that many of the eye-brow-furrowing issues currently in play across the pages of a synthetically outraged press - eg basic pay, salary differentials and working conditions - are, in fact, simply part of the warp and weft of the enterprise culture.

This is not, of course, to say that, some of today’s hotter topics - mieskeit skirmishes surrounding, for example, gender, fairness, working hours, dignity at work and similar matters of odious triviality - have not significantly ramped up the sense of office friction, but the basic “who gets what” debate - especially when it involves the “bonus culture” -seems to have been with us since the Stone Age when men first started handing themselves the best piece of rancid carcass and the women considered themselves fortunate to gnaw on the remaining gristle. Happy Days!

Alwys Puttupon who learned much of what she knows about office life at the hands of her boss Constant Tuching. Former Wing COmmander Tuching was well known as man capable of "bringing on" a junior female.

None of this means, of course, that modern business culture is unchanged or unchanging. Peruse as you might the modern management manuals and you will search in vain for the idea that giving a personal secretary an encouraging pat on the backside is a good idea; nor - more surprisingly - will you discover any support for the notion that a squeeze of a typist’s left boob accompanied by a cheery “and if the other puppy behaves I’ll give him a squeeze tomorrow” is still de rigour when female staff are flagging and office morale is at an all-time post-War low. [All this assuming that you can still find a typist [smackable arse or no] somewhere in your over-staffed corporate office. As we have noted on many an occasion, prim young ladies in glasses who, with the shake of their pretty little head, can turn into compliant lunch-time distractions seem to have disappeared forever - surely a matter just as concerning to those of a conservationist bent as bewailing wildlife extinction, preventing global warming or rescuing the odd polar bear from a shrinking ice-luge heading rapidly down south.

Former Wing Commander Tuching - again with Alwys Puttupon - was a master of the well-timed opportunity and a great promoter of women's careers, though many noted that he expected them to "bend over backwards in return".

We were reminded of all of this and similar matters in a rather profound way when, at a retirement party for longtime staff member Alwys Puttupon, the lady in question produced a memo from the Archive which had been circulated on the very day she first joined the staff in Great Heaving. A junior Office Clerk with a big heart and a “very giving” as well as “forgiving” nature, Alwys was immediately identified by Hornimint’s then Managing Director - Constant Tuching - as “one to watch” - “preferably after hours through the lens of a Eumig 8mm point-and-shoot”.* [A contemporary invoice suggests that a small flat in Lyme Regis, together with assorted blackouts, was purchased - using Corporation monies - with this very purpose firmly in mind.]

*See Constant Tuching [1976] Hands On: My Life and Times in Personnel Management [The Threadbone Practical Office Library Series 1]

An illustration from Constant Tuching's influential Hands On: My Life and Times in Personnel Management. This is from the chapter on Reprographics and Reproduction: Getting Over the Gestetner.

Amongst many such items which Alwys included in her two-and-a-half-hour Power Point-based retirement speech, this memo stood out for its ability to remind us that while many things stay the same [“the old and familiar groundless harassment complaints”**] they also change markedly***. In the latter regard, there is a quaint cosiness - even naiveté - about the memo which is redolent of an era in which corporations were much more like families than they are today - ie dysfunctional, febrile, petty and fractious.

** Constant Tuching [1976] Hands On: My Life and Times in Personnel Management [The Threadbone Practical Office Library Series 1, pp4-5]

*** "Towards the end of my time in the Office, it was becoming harder and harder to explain to the more assertive brand of young women by then more common in and around the office, that saving up all the photocopying for the late afternoon when I could assist them in their task was a good idea. Many seemed suspicious that something was afoot and I wondered if there might have been "office chatter". Constant Tuching [1976] Hands On: My Life and Times in Personnel Management [The Threadbone Practical Office Library Series 1, pp388-9]

Alwys has kindly given us permission to reprint the Memo in full here though sensitive readers should be warned that it is very much a document of its time and should think carefully before accessing it. is in no way responsible for any offense given, damage caused or hurt inflicted by its content.

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