Thursday, March 09, 2006

Linda Herrick: Bully-boy bosses abound

Tonight's Inside New Zealand: The Real Office on TV3 contains no real revelations for anyone who has worked in one, but managers should watch it anyway. Apparently, most people only work at 80 per cent of their capacity and there's nothing that can be done to raise their discretionary effort unless they want to.

An expert advises that the best way to motivate your workers is to show a positive attitude towards your employer who may be a psychopath, the doco scarily reveals.

A statement of fact, she says, is that bullies addicted to control usually get to the top - enter scenes of shouting men who grind reports into the floor and walk around hitting workers' heads with big plastic pencils.

The workers in The Real Office seem so cowed they take it but I know exactly what would happen if someone tried that in our real office.

The producers plant an actor called Jeremy to play the office idiot. He doesn't do any work, has a cellphone ring like a screeching chimp, and wanders around peering at his co-workers' emails. He wouldn't last five minutes in our office either.

The end motto is, "We have to be happy to work hard", but the girls in the new season of America's Next Top Model, which starts on TV3 tomorrow, see an alternative route out of their ordinary lives.

It's a brutal, hugely entertaining formula in which the 36 young women selected fly into Los Angeles and park up in the Beverly Hilton where they are expected to put in their own form of discretionary effort.

That involves a whole lot of bitching and whining about each other as they suss out the competition. They must undergo interrogation by the judges J. Alexander, Jay Manuel and the terrifying Tyra Banks, whom they want to emulate.

An immediate standout, for all the wrong reasons, is an irritating Texan called Nicole who is obsessed with Chapstick. She is the equivalent of the office idiot, self-obsessed, spoiled, not too bright. The other girls don't like her one little bit but she doesn't care.

Although the show is formulaic it's a fascinating study of human behaviour as the girls go one-on-one with Tyra, some of them simply sweet, like the Dairy Queen gal who has never met a celeb in her life, to the silly little thing - Nicole, as I recall - who throws herself on to her knees and swears she'll do anything, ANYTHING, to win.

"No, no, no," admonishes J. or Jay. "Never say that."

Some of them have awful life stories, like Caryn, who never knew her father and whose mother is a junkie. There's a cunning little minx who raves about the evils of materialism and how she, by being America's Next Top Model, will do her bit for the United Nations.

Tyra has her pegged. "What was the last thing you did in the way of community service?" she asks. Lip chewing silence is the response.

The girls are quickly culled to 20 by the cruellest method: they must do a fashion show and find out who's in or out by running down a corridor into the dressing room to see if the clothes have their name and photo on them. Tears all round.

By the end of tomorrow's show, they are again culled, down to 13. "I'm the jam. I don't understand why anyone wouldn't want to butter their bread with me," philosophises one.

What an unconventional mix the judges go for this time. As for the ones who don't make it, they will have to face reality - that most of us can only aspire to working in an office.

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