Fast Track: Corporate Strategies - 14: A frosty reception

The inside track on becoming a consumate professional: Why your workplace is always the wrong temperature
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The Independent Culture
Hollywood film star Nic Cage is currently working on an even more frightening sequel to last year's blockbuster Con Air. In Air Con he is trapped in an enclosed space with an unpredictable air-conditioning system. This nightmare scenario will be familiar to most readers - when it comes to climate changes, El Nino has nothing on El Average British Workplace. A graph of daily temperature changes in your office will bear more than a passing resemblance to the fluctuating share prices of Glaxo Wellcome plc.

There are a few rules to bear in mind when trying to understand the "corporate climate". First, hot air rises, which is why directorial conferences are generally held on the upper floors (and also explains why your boss has a huge mahogany desk while yours is made of chipboard; tropical hardwoods, of course, flourish only in the balmy temperatures and high altitudes of the top floor). The warmth of an office, and lushness of its carpet, is directly related to the height of its occupant above secretary level.

Secondly, there is never any point in trying to adjust the air-conditioning. Air-conditioning is governed by the uncontrollable forces of Mother Nature. You may think that it's governed by that dozy girl behind the office manager's desk, but this is just a myth. Try asking the dozy girl to change the air-conditioning and she will respond immediately, by substituting l'Oreal Elvive 2-in-1 for her usual Salon Selectives.

As a rough guide to workplace weather-forecasting: if you are wearing a big, thick coat it will be sunny; if you are wearing a skimpy, floaty chiffon skirt it will bucket down with rain (and your employment outlook for the future will be less than sunny if you happen to be a bloke). Outbreaks of light drivel are also common to many parts of the marketing department.

However, to look on the brighter side, the corporate climate does experience similar meteorological phenomena during the year. The seasonal cycle goes something like this.

January: crisp, white flakes flutter to the ground around your feet. You really should have put the lid on the hole-puncher before perforating that 80-sheet document.

February: everything in the office is frozen, including your pay.

March: comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. In marked contrast, your MD comes in like a lamb (looking sheepish, probably with a gambolling habit) and goes out like a lion (for a three-month safari holiday to Africa).

April: scattered showers, following installation of super-dooper new sprinkler system to comply with fire regulations. Staff take to wearing sou'westers at their desks and finally understand the meaning of the term "umbrella organisation".

May: "tycoon season". Papers are whirled around the office. Chairs are knocked over and small secretaries pulled up by their roots. This is a sign that the head of finance is trying to find those important tax documents which should have been sorted out a month ago.

June: your manager suggests that you open the door to "let a little sun in". Prepare for a depression on the horizon - he wants to give one of his workshy teenage children that promotion he'd promised you.

July: heatwave. Share price of electric desk-fan manufacturers rockets overnight by 1,007,837 per cent. Jeremy Dyson makes a fortune by converting his bagless vacuum cleaners from "suck" to "blow".

August: holidays! Sun goes back in. Freak hurricanes and cold snap hit Britain until ...

September: back to work. The evenings are getting longer - you have to put in loads more overtime to catch up with everything that didn't get done in August.

October: crisp yellow leaves crackle underfoot. You really ought to get around to actually reading some of those memos.

November: the office is carpeted with white powder again. Either the MD's dandruff is getting worse, or someone has been ignoring the no smoking rule.

December: your VDU screen bears a fresh coating of thick, snowy-white - Tippex. The temp agency are clearly struggling to find competent staff this time of year. The 25th! Everything green shrivels and dies, having been liberally mulched with fresh vomit at the Christmas party.

Finally - nothing is more tedious than a work colleague who won't shut up about the weather. So remember that there is only one office in which it is acceptable to moan constantly about the climate being so bloody unpredictable - this, of course, is the Met Office.

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