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The Cautionary Tale Of The CEO Who Hated Fiction

The harsh fiction ban meant that while management could read balance sheets and sales reports, they didn't fare that well when it came to reading people.

27/01/2017 04:57 SAST | Updated 27/01/2017 04:57 SAST
Ian West/PA WIRE
Ricky Gervais attending the world premiere of David Brent: Life On The Road.

I once worked at a company where fiction was greatly loathed. I distinctly remember my first day as an overeager intern at The Company. The business world didn't exactly look the way it did in the era portrayed in Mad Men - appropriate business attire now included everything from jeans to Steve Jobs-style polo necks. The Company had a strict no-corner-office policy, with everyone sitting in something the boss called a "Feng Shui open-plan". This was partly because all the corner spaces of the building looked out on aesthetically unappealing scenes like dumpsters, but mostly because Michael Bloomberg and Mark Zuckerberg were doing it.

Everything about The Company had caught up to the 21st century - except for small talk. You could have a meeting outside at the water fountain, but small talk around the water cooler was limited to strategies and analytics.

The CEO, a tall, brash guy, was leading the charge against fiction. He particularly despised time-sucking, procrastination-infusing, brain-killing television set. Unless, of course, you used your 40-inch HD flat screen to catch up on the points obtained by sports teams or the stock exchange. Yes, at The Company you could sit on an annoying ball chair that enabled you to discuss the bottom line while working on your V-line, but heaven forbid you brought up the fact that you've been re-watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix.

Reading, of course, was perfectly fine - as long you didn't find your book in the fiction section. There was even a banned authors list pinned on the notice boards which included names of fiction writers, from JRR Tolkien to Donald Trump's Twitter account.

A very vindictive co-worker once leaked the fact that I'm a self-professed Potterhead, and the tall, brash guy used this fact to mock me. At an office party. Over a microphone!

Couple of years ago, long after I had left, The Company closed its doors indefinitely. Rumour has it that staff turnover at The Company escalated faster than a fight on RuPaul's Drag Race. Not only did the staff leave, but so did plenty of the customers.

Perhaps Hermione, Princess Leia, Katniss Everdeen, Sansa, Daenerys, or Arya could have helped him realise that gender should play no role when determining pay grades.

Turns out that The Company's harsh fiction ban meant that while management could perfectly read balance sheets and sales reports, they didn't fare that well when it came to reading people. If only the tall, brash guy saw Full House, Gilmore Girls, One day at a time, Jane the virgin, Parenthood, Ugly Betty, Bates Motel, Raising Hope or Teen Wolf, he might have known about the challenges facing his employees - some of whom also happened to be single parents.

If only the bright, business-savvy CEO knew about Two Broke Girls, Shameless, Slumdog Millionaire or The Hunger Games he would have known that poverty comes in many forms, and is often about more than just a pay check.

Perhaps Hermione, Princess Leia, Katniss Everdeen, Sansa, Daenerys, or Arya could have helped him realise that gender should play no role when determining pay grades. If that didn't do the trick, then Olivia Pope or Annalise Keating would've.

White Collar, Scorpion, House and Suits would have taught him that smart employees are your most valuable assets, while in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Zootopia we learn that heart outweighs brains and muscles any day.

Okay, I will stop. I clearly have an addiction, and should get serious help for my obsession with creating lists and compendiums.

I know what you're thinking - surely The Company didn't close down due to a lack of knowledge about young adult fiction or Roald Dahl's children books? Surely no one has ever seen "ban on fiction" given as explanation on a bankruptcy application?

If you're thinking that the tall, brash CEO could also have obtained a better understanding of human nature from business books and seminars, then you're probably right. But where would the fun in that be?