Birthday lunch with the chief executive

Happy Birthday. It’s not everyone who gets to celebrate their birthday with the chief executive.  Well actually it is if you work in a particular audit section of the civil service. Apparently every month the chief executive invites staff whose birthday it is to join him for lunch and a chat. And yes there is cake. One day last month six members of staff, not just managers, enjoyed a sandwich with the boss.

I have worked in departments where the boss or rather their p.a. bought a birthday card and got the rest of the team to sign it. I have been in team where on your birthday you were expected to buy everyone in the team a cream cake. But this was a new one on me. My first thought was it must be a small department. As an informal way of keeping in touch with feelings in the department during these turbulent times this seemed a novel approach. A change from the senior management, Walk About, the half day shadowing someone on the front line or the big staged event referred to by one senior manager as the” pow wow with the chief ”. Not that they are mutually exclusive.

I am sure some staff would really like the idea of being able to tell family and colleagues they had lunch with the chief executive especially if during their work they were never likely to have face to face contact. Perhaps the chief executive wants people to put a face to that blog and be seen as approachable and may be even learn a few things. As long as everyone is comfortable and it not like the enforced Christmas meal I had to endure in one organisation I worked for. It was a formal do black tie, top table, seating plan, after dinner speech by the chief executive and your wives were also subjected to it. One year after a threatened mutiny the chief executive decided to make it more “fun” by introducing charades only he couldn’t step out of role and instead of asking the more extrovert members of the group to volunteer he picked on the quiet ones!

The lesson here is if you’re an autocratic boss don’t try and be friendly it just makes people more nervous.

Blair McPherson author of UnLearning management and Equipping managers for an uncertain future both published by Russell House www.blairmcpherson,co.uk

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