Pfizer staff receive a magical corporate coin to 'empower them' - so could this human resources wheeze pay dividends elsewhere?

Upon their induction, each Pfizer newbie is issued with this special coin, engraved with "own it" on the obverse and the all-powerful "straight talk" on the reverse

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The Independent Online

Who among us wouldn't like a bit of straight talk with the boss? Further, who wouldn't relish a right to such a thing, enforceable by a special token that can be plonked on a manager's desk with the full authority of the chief executive behind it? Just imagine: Your very own talisman of empowerment, something you can wield, Harry Potter-like, at some bullying, reptilian shape-shifting monster of a line manager?

I assume that the staff at Pfizer prize their statutory right to their company's very own corporate truth drug, as revealed to the world by their boss, Ian Read, during his somewhat baffling testimony to MPs about the takeover of AstraZeneca. Upon their induction, each Pfizer newbie is issued with this special coin, engraved with "own it" on the obverse and the all-powerful "straight talk" on the reverse.

It does, it must be admitted, suggest that, unless conducted under the cloak of honesty that the medallion endows, other, routine exchanges at Pfizer are of the less-than-straight variety. Perhaps, instead, there should be a light on every manager's desk, for which some standard options for such exchanges could be chosen, and suitably illuminated. I would suggest:

1. Complete candour;
2. Economical with the Actuality;
3. Slippery;
4. Outright Porkies

The Pfizerites would at least know where they stood. The only problem would come if this particular currency were deliberately debased by a torrent of lies delivered under the misleadingly calm glow of the "complete candour" lighting. What are the chances of that?

Still, the "straight talk" coin is an interesting innovation, and could easily be extended, and made even more useful to humanity if it were adopted across economies. The key is to make the straight talk "coin" tradeable. So if one straight talk token entitles the bearer, on demand, to 10 straight talks per year with a boss, it could be exchanged for cash, with those who have less use for straight talking. You could imagine, just to take some random examples, that those working at News International, or perhaps parts of the BBC in the past, might be grateful for extra straight talk currency. They could have bought them from nice, cuddly organisations where straight talk is the norm, employers are responsible and caring, and where relations between bosses and staff are universally harmonious.

Read more: Pfizer chief won't rule out Astra break-up
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Pfizer admits jobs will be lost in AstraZeneca takeover

A touch less fancifully, and within humane limits, workers could also sell each other slugs of their holiday entitlement. If, for example, you are entitled to six weeks off a year, but rarely take it, and indeed prefer to spend your waking hours at work (some folk do), then you could flog a week or two of your leave "ration" to someone, say with a family, who would make much better use of it.

Similar trades could be made for car-parking spaces, for a separate office, for the right to choose who you sit next to, and so on. If you never have any bother with your boss, you could trade your straight talk entitlement for car-park rights. And so on. There would soon grow up a fascinating market in such "goods", related to cash but with each component having an exchange rate. A martinet of a boss arriving in the office would presumably trigger a sharp rise in the value of the straight talk currency, for example.

Although such notions sound like an ugly extension of market forces, in fact they'd allow people to make decisions about their work/life balance currently denied them. And, as with gold, the Bitcoin and the US dollar, trading such workplace commodities could become a global phenomenon, where French workers can freely purchase Americans' holiday rights (assuming they conform to current preferences for leisure time).

Drugs companies such as Pfizer are supposed to invent new medicines, but their alchemy in the unexpected world of human resources has much potential. As the MPs might have exclaimed to him as they were confronted with this unlikely modern-day Merlin; what sorcery is this, Mr Read?