Scratch Post ARCHIVE


Managing Your Time

I’m sure we all have favourite techniques to help improve the way we manage our time. The following grid is a very simple approach, which helps to clarify the relative urgency and importance of what we need to do, when it gets difficult to see the wood for the trees.

Attributed to Dr. Stephen Covey and featured in his book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, the grid below (which has been slightly amended from the Covey original) encourages you to sort your workload wheat from chaff and prioritise your time accordingly.

It sounds easier than it actually is, especially when using the approach for the first time (most of us end up wanting to put everything in the top two boxes and denying that we get embroiled in trivia). However, perseverance brings rewards in identifying those tasks which you really need to focus on and those that actually contribute little and should either be resisted (e.g. the siren call of every email), or delegated – do you really need to see every piece of mail?

The grid can also be used to help improve the balance between work and other commitments (sorry – I can’t get to grips with ‘work-life’ balance….work is an essential part of life, not separate from it!), especially in terms of establishing what the real priorities are.

Why don’t you give it a go….you never know, it might just help



Not Urgent


I: Do it Now!


  • Crises
  • Pressing problems
  • Deadline-driven projects

II: Plan to Do


  • Prevention
  • Relationship building
  • Recognising new opportunities
  • Planning
  • Recreation


III: Reject or Delegate


  • Interruptions, some calls
  • Some mail, some email, some reports
  • Some meetings
  • Proximate, pressing matters
  • ‘Comfort’ activities

IV: Resist & Cease


  • Trivia, ‘busy’ work
  • Some mail/email
  • Some phone calls
  • Time wasters

Getting Tough on Illegal Workers

From this month (February 08) the Government will implement tough fines on employers who engage illegal workers. Fines can range from £5,000 to £10,000, with possible prison sentences for those who continue to flout the new law.

Wildcat View: Pressure on employers has been increasing in this area for some time, with high profile media coverage of those who are unscrupulously exploiting an ‘on the cheap’ workforce. Quite right too. However, genuine employers can be caught out if procedures for checking an employee’s legality to work are inadequate, or not followed – especially for sectors where there is high turnover and a fairly peripatetic employment pool, such as retail, hospitality and agriculture. The need for a robust procedure, fully implemented and adhered to is essential in avoiding such penalties. This will no doubt be an interesting challenge for the 2012 London Olympics, as well as our own 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.


Nothing to Laugh About!

A senior banker at Barclaycard has been forced to resign following a joke he made to staff, which resulted in complaints that it was anti-muslim. He was reputed to have said, when discussing the quarterly figures, that they were like muslims, “some were good, some were shiite”. Although Barclaycard refused to comment on the situation officially, it was rumoured that his position became untenable after the complaint was made.

Wildcat View:  This is a prime example where the advice ‘never discuss politics, sex or religion’ would have been well to heed. Regardless of the individual’s talents or potential, an unguarded comment destroyed his credibility, losing him his job. Barclays is an employer who has always been in the vanguard of promoting and valuing diversity and the result is, therefore, unsurprising. The case also stresses the risks of making an intended light hearted play on words, but where doing so could be taken as an insult. Oh well, what a silly banker!


No Escape from TUPE

An Employment Tribunal has recently taken the view that the transfer of part of a UK based business to a company based in a non-EU country (in this case Israel) could still constitute a TUPE transfer. Until now it has been broadly assumed that TUPE only applied in countries covered by the EU Directive, or those with similar legislative provisions.

Wildcat View: This is an interesting development, especially in the light of the level of off-shoring that has been taking place over recent years, in order to reduce employment costs. The importance of getting good legal guidance on such matters can’t be overstated – TUPE transfers can be very expensive to get wrong



At some stage in our careers we're faced with the need to negotiate - whether it's a major commercial deal, the annual pay round, or improvements to our own terms and conditions. Rather than provide a comprehensive set of 'how to...' skills, these notes are intended as a refresher.

  1. Always do your homework thoroughly, to gauge what the other side might be looking for - or might settle for. Understanding the context to the negotiation is also important as it may give indications of what particular bargaining levers exist and how you can counter or exploit them.

  2. Clearly determine what you really want from the deal and the minimum you are prepared to accept.

  3. Take things one at a time, try to trade on each point and resist the temptation to bundle a number of issues together to negotiate on. Something (often a big thing) usually gets lost in the mix. When involved in a big deal, constantly review progress and check that you’re covering all the ground.

  4. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed – especially on important points. Take what time you need to consider what is being proposed, how that measures up to your objectives for the deal and, as a result, how you want to respond.

  5. Build up a good level of rapport with the other side and show them respect. Showing that you understand where they are coming from helps with this (achieving a degree of empathy also helps to predict likely tactics and questions). Avoid point scoring at their expense and always remain aware of the effect you (or your colleagues) are having on them – watch for shifts in language, tone, body language and expressions. Striking the wrong chord here can compromise a deal (or the quality of the deal).

  6. If you find yourself getting stuck on one point, try to keep the overall momentum of the negotiation going - perhaps by working on less contentious areas, ‘small wins’ etc, whilst finding scope for manoeuvre with the big one. Be on the lookout for hidden constraints (or opportunities) that may potentially prevent (or enable) a deal.

  7. Keep a good record of everything that has been agreed and what’s still to play for. Get someone to take notes if you can, so you can remain focused on the negotiation.

  8. Once agreement has been reached, close the deal firmly. Confirm all the items that have been agreed and the nature of what has been agreed. Follow through on the detail at this stage is vital, before memories fade or become ‘rose tinted’.

Email abuse

A woman who roundly insulted her boss, by calling him names such as ‘blob’ and ‘that fat thing’ in emails to her colleagues, was found to have been unfairly dismissed by an industrial tribunal recently. However, her compensation was reduced because the tribunal believed she was the agent of her own downfall. »

Wildcat's view: This is an interesting reversal of the usual harassment cases we tend to hear about, as it shows how employees can actively seek to undermine the credibility and possibly the confidence of their managers. Bullying and harassment isn't just a one-way street and often 'abuse' against managers can be quite insidious and difficult to prove. Many organisations take the view that 'it comes with the managerial territory', although surely respect works both ways. However, if you must 'bad mouth' your boss - be a bit more discrete!

High earners motivated by more than pay

Those earners who are at the higher end of the salary bonus scale are, over time, are less likely to find money as the prime motivator and companies are having to be increasingly creative not only in retaining these staff, but also encouraging them to go the extra mile. Recent studies suggest that high earners tend to be highly competitive and want to be seen as successful – recognition, therefore, becomes an important element of the pay and benefits mix. Although eschewed by many, recognition schemes are beginning to gain a foothold in a number of international banks. »

Wildcat's view: Financial reward eventually becomes another 'hygiene factor' for high earners after a while. In fact, far from representing the long term motivational incentives intended, salary, bonus levels and even equity can actually become an issue of discontent. When you get to a certain income level - so the theory goes - people lose interest in just earning more money. So, how can organisations keep their best and most valuable people? It sounds easy to say, but meaningful, challenging and responsible roles, with a clear contribution to the organisation's overall goals are an important starting point. What makes the difference though is visible, demonstrable and continuous recognition of their achievements and constant encouragement to develop and grow their capabilities still further. Oh, and recognising there’s a heart and soul, rather than just a productivity machine makes a big difference too. Ah, the power that lies in a simple 'thank you'.

Measure what matters

The Chartered Institute of Management has recently published research which seeks to identify the most important human capital management (HCM) measures. The research, which was conducted among senior directors and investors, recommends a three tier approach for HCM measurement and reporting. This ranges from the basic HR and workplace measures, to performance indicators and, finally – at the most sophisticated level – to strategic, organisationally specific measures of alignment between workforce capability and strategy.»

Wildcat's view: Whoever said 'there are lies, damned lies and statistics' had a point. A lot of time and effort is spent collating and interpreting data - formulating indicators, scorecards and dashboards, which are of questionable value to performance measurement or decision making - on either strategic or operational levels. The case of employee related data - which can be less tangible and where the impact of strategies and interventions can be more long term - has been a particularly thorny one for establishing meaningful human capital management indices. So, this work by the CIM should be interesting. However, there are a lot of HCM 'experts' out there these days, so who are you to believe? Focus on the outputs the business needs to achieve, rather than activities that are easy to measure. What are the critical people-related factors? Is it retention and, if so, where and at what levels - what's an acceptable rate of turnover and what isn't? Is it attraction/recruitment strategy? Talent management? Health and safety? Customer service? Are your indices giving you a strategically balanced picture? Forget dashboards - if all your jigsaw pieces aren't adding up to the picture you want or expect on the box-lid, it's time to revisit!

Nanthomba School, Liwonde, Malawi

You may remember that Wildcat One recently made a donation to a school in Liwonde, in Malawi, visited by Pat Tomlin when she was on a speaking engagement in the country. Volunteer teachers run the school for over 800 children. Many of these children come from impoverished backgrounds and over a quarter of them are orphans, due to the aids pandemic in Malawi.

The head teacher, Maston Tambala, was over the moon with the donation and reports that the money has enabled the school to provide text books, exercise books and pencils for all the children, as well as school uniforms for 20 very vulnerable orphans. Chalk, boards and sun-shades have also been purchased for the school.

Malawi: Pupils at LiwondeMalawi:Nanthomba School










Children at Nanthomaba School, Malawi

Coaching at Christmas

Last December, we gave clients the chance of an early Christmas present (as well as seeking to raise money for charity).
We offered the opportunity of a free coaching session –and asked those who took advantage of the session to consider making a small contribution to charity.
The idea was very popular and many clients took up the December-only offer. The coaching was well received, with plenty of good feedback about how useful it was and in particular, how much you could get through in a one-hour coaching session! Wildcat One particularly wants to say a big thank you to all those who offered to make a donation. These will go to the Macmillan Cancer Support charity.

In fact, everyone seemed so taken with the idea, that Wildcat One may do something similar this Christmas – so watch this space. If you can’t wait that long, why not contact Wildcat One to discuss what coaching can achieve.

The no bullies rule?

How do people get away with it?

A woman who worked in a small office became pregnant and naturally had to increase her number of visits to the ladies. Her boss noted how many minutes she was gone each time and took the minutes out of her lunch hour.

One American film producer had 109 assistants in 5 years, not counting those who stayed less than two weeks - he fired one for buying him the wrong muffin.

One Silicon Valley company employed a salesman who constantly abused staff. The company calculated they spent £80,000 on hiring new staff and on management time rectifying problems.

Bob Sutton's book Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving one that isn't" also entitled the "No Asshole Rule", explores the phenomenon of workplace bullying and gives companies tips on how to avoid employing the wrong people in the first place.

Apparently, one acid test is the ' Starbucks Rule ' where the more complicated the order - the bigger the asshole. So, ordering "a decaf grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one candarel and one sugar" probably rates quite highly on the asshole Richter scale. Look out for the tell tale signs next time it

is your turn to do the coffee run. »


In all areas of life and particularly if you manage others, you will be faced with times when you’ll have to have a conversation with someone which is not going to be easy. Avoidance is often seen as an easy way out – but, usually, only a short-term one, as the need to have these conversations rarely goes away. The tips below will help you achieve the result you are looking for.

  1. Face up to it! The worst you can do is ignore and avoid it. The price of avoidance is often increasingly poor performance, lower morale among other staff (who often have to bear the brunt of the problem) and loss of your own credibility.

  2. Plan what you’re going to say. It’s important to be clear about what you want to get out of the conversation, how you will control it and stay focused on the problem. Ensure you’ve done your homework and have the relevant information and facts (don’t relay on hear-say). If it concerns inappropriate behaviours, have a few specific examples to hand to illustrate your point. It’s also useful to think about how the other person is likely to respond and what their view-point may be – this will help you to think through how you might handle them.

  3. Timing is important, allocate a specific time and appropriate place for this. Don’t allow yourself to drift into it – you may not have all the information to hand, have planned what you want to say, or be in the right place for such a discussion (the middle of a team meeting really isn’t a good idea). Similarly, your ‘target’ may feel extremely defensive if they’re made to feel ‘hijacked’.

  4. Stay calm – it’s far easier to remain in control of a situation if you’re calm. If you get to a stage where you feel as though you’re beginning to lose your temper, then stop the discussion. Make arrangements to recommence when you’ve both had a chance to cool off – but ensure you resume it quickly and don’t allow things to drift.

  5. Be aware of the other person during the discussion – how is your message being received? What do their responses, facial expressions and body language suggest is happening for them? What is this telling you about the extent to which you are really being heard and understood? When someone keeps telling you ‘I hear you’ it’s often the very last thing they’re doing!

  6. Separate the person from the problem. Be as objective and balanced as you can and stay focused on the actual problem (or behaviour), rather than allowing it to become a personal assault. Taking a problem centred approach also means you can be very clear about the improvements/changes you want.

  7. Be as open and honest as you can. This is important for maintaining your own credibility. If the other person thinks there’s a hidden agenda, or you’re not being entirely straight with them, then this is likely to affect the course of the conversation and, ultimately, the result you get. This is especially important when talking to people about redundancy or dismissals.

‘Time Out’ Called on Personal Data Misuse

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has called ‘time-out’ on corporate mishandling and misuse of customers’ personal data. A recent ruling, under the Data Protection Act, against telecom company Orange and Littlewoods Home Shopping suggests that the ICO is looking to get tougher on data abuses. Orange were found to have inadequate controls in place to prohibit the sharing of login details among new staff, whilst Littlewoods continued to use personal details for direct marketing purposes, despite repeated objections by customers. The ICO has also called for greater powers to conduct compliance audits and inspections, against data controllers. »

Wildcat's view: These cases add to the recent raft of media stories about apparent abuses in the way confidential data is held and used by companies (especially in the finance sector). Clearly the issue of water-tight compliance procedures is a real challenge when faced with the relative unpredictability of human behaviour. However, increasing fears of (and opportunities for) identity theft, makes it clear that public expectations around data protection is high. The risks of failing in this duty of care are probably less about the ICO and more about loss of customer trust and, ultimately, business.

Watching the Watchdog

The Commission for Equality and Human Rights (the new all inclusive UK equality watchdog) may be facing claims of discrimination against its own practices.

Due to restructuring and merger requirements for the employees who will make up the new body, it is highly likely that redundancies and relocations will be necessary. Unions claim, however, that a high proportion of affected employees are women and people with disabilities - who are likely to have particular problems with relocation. It is rumoured that many of the organisation’s 600 employees may be considering legal action on the basis of sex and disability discrimination.»

Wildcat's view: It’s interesting to see the new equality body beset by the very problems it campaigns against. However, their predicament is a very pertinent one and highlights the real challenges for employers, facing the need to restructure whilst managing against the risks of inadvertent discrimination. Achieving a perfect balance can’t always be guaranteed, but more likely to occur where restructure processes (for consultation, redundancy selection, redeployment and relocation, for example) are clear, objective and consistently adhered to.

What Makes a Winning Company?

Consulting company Accenture think they’re well on the way to finding out. Ongoing research, with over 6000 companies to date, suggests that not only is high performance ‘definable, quantifiable and achievable’ but that there is also a winning formula - related to market focus and positioning, leveraging distinctive capabilities and, what’s referred to as ‘performance anatomy’ (culture, business models, values, employee incentives etc). The research also suggests that a better understanding of high performance can be achieved through a set of related financial metrics that include growth, profitability, positioning for the future, longevity and consistency. »

Wildcat's view: This is interesting stuff. The provisional results of this research purport to provide clear evidence on what differentiates consistently high performers from the rest, across a range of industry sectors. Of particular interest are the suggested financial metrics. These potentially provide a greater insight into performance than the traditional TSR vs. comparator group approach, for example. If such measures really do enable you to identify high performing companies it would be of particular interest to investors, analysts and even executive reward specialists.

Ginger Nuts?

It would appear as though comedienne Catherine Tait may have much to answer for, with her TV sketches poking fun at red heads (or as a friend of mine always staunchly maintained ‘strawberry blondes’).

A recent industrial tribunal upheld a claim for unfair (constructive) dismissal and sex discrimination, brought by a waitress after she had reputedly been taunted about her red hair. She was awarded £17,618.

Teasing people about their appearance can leave employers liable to claims of constructive dismissal, on the basis that it breaches not only the implied terms of mutual trust and confidence but, potentially, also the Protection from Harassment Act. It has even been suggested that ‘gingerism’ (it was only a matter of time before it became an ‘ism’) may even constitute indirect race discrimination!

Now, taunting or bullying someone because of his or her appearance is unacceptable and clearly the lady concerned in the above case had due cause to complain, but isn’t this all going a bit far? Since when has hair colour denoted racial origins? Imagine the problems for ethnic monitoring every time someone decides to dye their hair a different colour.

So, it won’t be long before the word ‘ginger’ becomes decidedly non-pc. So, no more gingering up stories, doing anything in a gingerly fashion and being part of a ginger group is an absolute no-no! Gingerbread men are just plain sexist as well, so in future it will have to be ‘spicy biscuit in the shape of a person of indeterminate gender’.

Oh, and ‘See You Jimmy’ hats will no longer be acceptable headwear - were they ever?

Looks like Catherine Tait’s ‘Gingers for Justice’ may have the last laugh after all.

And Ginger Nuts? Hmm, I think so….. »