Once again and against the sage advice of everyone in the comments box last time I put myself in such grave life/career/sanity jeopardy, I very nearly got myself a manager’s job, subjecting myself during the unwholesome and unedifying process not only to the rigours of the internal application form but also to: an airless two-and-a-half hour ordeal behind glass-panelled doors consisting of a quickfire research exercise involving the Nolan Principles (whatever they are); a presentation on the Future of Community Investment in a Devolved City Region to a stern-looking triumvirate of Not For Profit Company X VIPs; and- immediately following the foregoing and only when these challenges had failed to reduce me to a weeping, snivelling wreck (although it was close, damn close) a gruelling twenty-five question interview, complete with weapon-laced pre-baked enquiries courtesy of the HR department’s Special Big Book of Difficult Questions for the Aspiring Middle Manager, such as ‘describe a time when you have had to deal with poor performance on your team’.
Unlike last time, I actually emerged from the airless glasspanels thinking I’d acquitted myself without undue disgrace, at least in as far as I had, at several points during the process, quite manfully resisted the temptation to: withdraw my 700-word tribute to my own passion for Community Investment in favour of taking up a vacant junior position in the post-room; introduce my assessment presentation with the marker-penned flipchart title ‘Why You Can Stick Your Nolan Principles (Whatever They Are) Up Your Arse’; run screaming from the glass-panelled room sometime around Difficult Question 17 and catch the first one way service out of Manchester’s Fashionable Westside never to be seen again. So I was actually quite downhearted the following day when the scheduled feedback session with Company X’s Director of WhatHaveYou began with a practiced smile of sympathy and the words: ‘Well Jonathan, we’ve decided not to offer you the post on this occasion’.
A fifteen minute masterclass in largely unelucidating directorspeak followed, during which I was advised: that I had some good points to make but spent rather too long getting round to them; that I waved my arms around rather too enthusiastically at intervals, when they would have looked altogether more managerial if less inclined to send the markerpens and flipcharts careering across the floor; and that (this last one possibly not being unrelated to the first two) I fell short of possessing the necessary gravitas* demanded of a role of this magnitude, involving as it does some interaction with Board Members, Councillors, and other Fully-Fledged Members of The Great and The Good.
This all happened about a month ago. In the time since, the ‘Gravitas Remark’ has gone down in the annals of family history, and I have received much more sage and considered advice from close relations known to us all through the medium of the comment box (you can guess who), along the lines of how:
1..Your man the Gravitas, whatever it might be when it is at home, is surely overrated and possibly actually detrimental to the general health, and we should jolly well avoid acquiring it at this stage in our lives, even in small experimental measures.
2..the life of your man the bossperson is not for the likes of us, taking into due account: our sensitive/bordering on neurotic dispositions; our tendency towards creativeness/laziness as opposed to the Protestant Work Ethic; our habitual workaday station within the ranks of the lowly office-clerk class; and- above all- our innate empathy (born of several generations of endeavour in the engineering works and coalfields of Northern Britain) to The Plight of the Common Man.
All in all, I think they are right, these sage family members/ habitues of the comment box, don’t you know. And I think that I will do without this so-called gravitas for the time being, as well as the small matter of the not-inconsiderable pay rise, in exchange for the luxury, as exercised this present afternoon, of getting the hell out of Manchester’s Fashionable Westside at 3PM prompt and leaving my newly-appointed manager (actually, a thoroughly lovely and wholly competent person, possessing among numerous executive-level characteristics the most admirably immobile set of arms in known voluntary-sector Christendom) to deal with the stress of a strategy-setting-session with the Company X leadership team (well probably, I didn’t actually look in her calendar, but it’s the sort of thing managers have to do, as far as I am given to understand).
Which trademark lowly-office-clerk course of action sees me where you find me, in this here internet-enabled branch of Costa Coffee, gazing out of the window at the passing number eleven buses, and struggling with possibly the most trademark Guardian reader dilemma I have ever experienced on a Wednesday afternoon: whether I should spend my Wednesday evening at the Ward Meeting of the Local Labour Party (warm beer, hot air, updates on Planning Applications) or at my weekly Tai Chi Class (warm radiators, ill-fitting jogging trousers, ancient oriental bodily movements with martial applications and names like ‘Turn to Strike the Tiger’, ‘Grasp the Snake by the Tail’ and ‘Send the Monkey an urgent Fax Message’**).
I don’t know. Gravitas in any appreciable quantity is not advertised as an essential requirement for either of them, which is possibly why I can’t make up my mind. Probably the Tai Chi, on the basis that an evening spent standing on one leg and emptying my consciousness of negative interfering thoughts may contribute more to the likelihood of a 2020 Labour Party General Election Landslide than the approximate same interval of time devoted to discussing the future of the Edgeley Roundabout Carpark with half-a-dozen grey-faced socialists in cardigans.
More on this, and other matters of national import, next time. Over and out, Comrades.
*Gravitas (n.). Seriousness or sobriety, as of conduct or speech
**I may have made one of these up.