Friday, 24 February 2012

The girl next door who got lucky

Family first: Victoria Beckham at 
Simon Fuller's induction into the
Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Now, Victoria Beckham is not known for dropping pearls of wisdom from those pouty lips. In fact, the former Spice Girl rarely speaks, other than to drop clangers along the lines of “David likes to borrow my knickers.” *

But I was struck by her self-effacing honesty in a recent interview in Guardian Weekend. She admits that, despite having an entourage to help her,  she sometimes struggles with the demands of her life.  “It got to the point, just before Christmas, when for the first time ever, I wasn’t actually sure I could cope,” she says.
I imagine jaws up and down the land dropped open in disbelief at the idea that life could be a struggle for  Victoria. After all, at the latest count, the Beckhams were reported to be worth around  £165m. However, juggling life with a new baby, three boys, a high-profile husband and a career as a fashion designer is still a tall order, no matter how much you’ve got in the bank.

Wealth alone is not the secret of great happiness, although many people believe it is. Most of us have said at one time or another: “If I could only win the lottery, all my problems would be solved.” Well, winning the lottery would solve your money problems, fair enough, and paying off debts does bring peace of mind. But once money worries have been dealt with, having a mountain of cash won’t guarantee a happy life.
Getting the most out of wealth requires wisdom, or emotional intelligence, which is something you can’t buy, but it is something that can be taught. Lottery winner Michael Carroll, of Swaffham, Norfolk, was just 19 when he hit the £9.7million jackpot back in 2002. He was unemployed at the time and had already had a few run-ins with the law, in fact he collected his winnings wearing an electronic tag for being drunk and disorderly.  However, Carroll  insisted he would spend the money carefully  - he  just wanted a modest house near a lake, where he could go fishing.

Surrounded by hangers-on, Carroll blew the money on houses, fast cars, drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, quad bikes and gold jewellery. By 2006, he was in prison for affray. Two years ago he was officially declared bankrupt and tried to get his old job back as a binman.  Last year, he attempted suicide twice and is now living on benefits. One week ago, he was back in court for shoplifting booze and a sandwich.
To be fair to Michael Carroll, he didn’t have the greatest start in life. When Carroll was just 18 months old, his father was sentenced to 11 years in prison for stabbing a couple at a dance.  Michael’s parents separated when he was seven and he was only 10 when his father died. He also had a number of stepfathers  – one of whom beat the young Michael and locked him in a room for hours.

Small wonder then, when he got his hands on a lot of money, he used it to finance several years of self-destructive hedonism. He has, however, taken something from the experience. When asked in a interview on BBC Look East  what winning the lottery  had taught him, he replied: “You don’t trust no-one.”
Victoria, by contrast, had a very stable upbringing. She once said: “I’m the girl next door who got lucky,” and this, no doubt, has helped her form a set of values which she adheres to, no matter how huge the size of her wealth.

Her core value is “children first”, which is why she and David decided to stay put in LA and turn down the offer of a move to Paris, even though it would have been good for both their careers.  Victoria lists her second joy as working on her fashion label: “I was never going to be the best singer and it wasn’t my passion,” and in this moment of insight, she reveals the secret of a happy life.
It doesn’t come from money,  nor does it come from fame. Happiness stems from the ability to align what you do with what you are – not what you, or other people, think you should be. It’s called authenticity, and it gives you the staying power to keep going, even when times get rough. Authenticity helps us live our lives with few regrets.

And no amount of money can buy that.

*Channel 4 Big Breakfast TV program in 2000

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Enter the Dragon with web-fuelled wisdom

At your fingertips: The web puts the whole world in your hands
and former Dragon Doug Richard shows you how to use it.
Image: nokhoog_buchachon

Doug Richard, of Dragon’s Den fame,  likes people to choose their words carefully  – he’s an entrepreneur  with no time for business jargon. Pepper your language with phrases such as core competencies, incentivise or value proposition,  in the hope of impressing Mr Richard, and he’ll quickly put you straight.
He’s a man after my own heart. Throughout my many years as a sub-editor, the greatest challenge has been to make sense of business stories, to strip away the “blue sky thinking”, the “best practices” and “paradigms”, and turn them into language everyone understands. I don’t really know why some business people think it’s clever to use words and phrases that leave the rest of us feeling bewildered – or maybe that’s exactly the point.

Well, welcome to the 21st century. If you want to succeed in business today, you need stripped back, plain speaking. Words that sum up what your business is about will help you to soar to the top of search engine results, thereby attracting new custom.  And here’s the really interesting bit, everyone can learn how to do it.
Doug Richard, a former Dragon and founder of School for Start-ups, is touring the country with his Web Fuelled Business bootcamp.  These one-day events are designed for small businesses, entrepreneurs, social enterprises, even lone writers like myself, anyone who wants to use the internet to get themselves noticed.

By attending one of these events, you not only get access to this entrepreneur’s vast wealth of experience and knowledge, but you get it for free. And contrary to received wisdom, which says there is no such thing, you get a free lunch thrown in as well.
“It’s very easy to be invisible on the internet,” says Mr Richard, who during the course of the day explains the “Secrets of Search” and unveils ways to optimise your website. “At the beginning the goal is not just to get a high ranking... the goal is to be noticed at all”

This, he explains, takes time – months rather than minutes – and anyone who promises you otherwise, is lying.  Furthermore, there’s no point in putting off the most vital element of your 21st century business, building a website. “So often people say to me they are going to put aside a year to build a really good website, but because they expect it to take up a lot of their time, they’re going to put off starting it for another year. Well, In that case, it doesn’t take them one year to build a website, it takes them two.”
There’s no time like the present, seems to be the message. And, as if to drive the point home, James Dening, former head of enterprise sales at Amazon, showes us how an e-commerce strategy can be planned and executed in less than a day. He also demonstrates how to set up a free working e-commerce website in a matter of minutes.

However, it’s all very well learning how to attract customers...  but how do we keep them? The answer is simple, says Mr Dening, and it lies in the company’s delivery and returns policy. Using Amazon as an example, he demonstrates how a bad experience (microwave ordered through Amazon blows up after three days) can be turned into a very positive experience (new microwave arrives the following day and a courier arranges a time to collect the faulty item). Net result? Amazon gains a customer for life.
“If you were cut in half, would you have the words ‘Amazon’ running through you?”  ventured one of the delegates at  the bootcamp I attended in Norwich on February 9.

As James Dening pointed out, he no longer works for Amazon – even more reason to believe him when he holds them up as a shining beacon in the world of e-commerce.
Each Web Fuelled Business event is crammed full of tips, guidelines and information that every business can use to identify its audience and reel them in. You learn how to make the most of free marketing tools and when it’s wise to spend a little money in order to reap big rewards.

It helps that Doug Richard is a gifted communicator, compelling to watch and pretty funny too – just ask the lady who sells “ethical furniture” at The Living Rooms  in Norwich. She might not have enjoyed being the centre of his attention at the time, but was tweeting his praises like mad by the end of the day.
All delegates are given free classes to follow up at home, and the opportunity to buy bundles of courses to suit individual business’s needs, but there is no pressure to buy. Doug Richard also lets us into a little secret . What two words do you think do absolutely nothing to help get your business climb the rankings? The answer is  “click here”. Unless, of course you happen to be that Dallas-based marketing and advertising agency called... Click Here.

You work it out.

Image link:

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

When grief takes over

I first encountered Mrs B as I was cycling along the lane near my house – the one with the muddy track and the No Cycling sign. As we drew closer, I dismounted out of politeness, and was about to smile and walk past when Mrs B  started talking. “I don’t go out walking on my own much, you know. Not since I lost Freddie.”

A time for mourning: Death, redundancy,
a change in circumstances are all forms of loss.
Any kind of loss is naturally followed by a
period of grieving. *See image link below
“Oh, I am sorry,” I replied, sympathetically. “Has he been gone long?” I was treading that fine line between showing sympathy and trying not to put my foot in it. Freddie, I assumed was the late Mr B. “Since April,” she replied (it was now late September), “and I just can’t get over it. My daughter keeps telling me to pull myself together but I keep wanting to cry.” Right on cue, Mrs B started crying.
I laid the bike down and put my arm round her. “People don’t understand that grieving is a slow process,” I reassured her. “It affects different people in different ways. You mustn’t feel bad about crying.”

“It’s all very well for her,” by now Mrs B was beginning to wail. “She wasn’t there when he had to be put down!” For a nano-second, I had a vision of a man in his late 60s being given a lethal injection while Mrs B held his hand. Fortunately, that was soon replaced with the realisation that Freddie was Mrs B’s much-missed dog.
Heaven knows what possessed me, but I explained that I had just qualified as a life coach and, if it was okay with her, I would like to offer 10 free life coaching sessions. I would just listen and she could rant and rave, bawl her eyes out, say what she liked about anyone, it would go no further.

I met Mrs B’s daughter later that day in order to reassure her that I wasn’t planning to con Mrs B out of all her money. However, gradually, as I got to know Mrs B better, I understood why her daughter was so protective towards her – but that’s a story for another day.
In the meantime, arrangements were made for me to come round every Wednesday, just for a couple of hours. Mrs B would talk and I would practise my life-coaching skills.

I’m not sure who got the most out of these sessions, me or Mrs B, but it turned out to be a great meeting of minds. We talked about lots of things but grief was the emotion I wanted her to focus on. Because Mrs B felt she couldn’t talk about Freddie, or cry about his passing in front of her loved ones, she was in danger of getting stuck in the grief process.  
Complicated grief, as it is known, is usually a symptom of unfinished business – maybe there were harsh words spoken before the deceased passed away, maybe those left behind were unable to say goodbye properly, or perhaps there was a harsh or violent death. When that happens, it becomes impossible to speak of the deceased without experiencing intense and fresh grief all over again. This is exhausting for the person caught up in the grieving and for those close to them.

The other question is: “How long is long enough?” Well, normal grief follows a pattern – and we’re not just talking about the death of a loved one, but about all kinds of loss. This includes the end of a relationship; redundancy; a major change in lifestyle, such as marriage, illness, or the birth of a child – any event  where there is grief for what’s gone before and the realisation that those days are gone forever. However, anyone who still cannot resume normal life seven or eight months after the death, may be suffering from unresolved grief.
A very quick outline of the normal stages of grief may help here:
  • Acceptance of loss – shock and denial are the mind’s healthy defence against being overwhelmed by what has happened. After a couple of days, reality sets in – but  emotions are a different thing altogether. The person grieving may still see and talk to the person for many months or years after they have gone. Anyone who saw The Iron Lady with Meryl Streep as Lady Thatcher  will understand what I’m saying.
  • The emotions of grief – this is the stage of acute grief which can show itself through emotions such as despair, guilt, fear, shame, loneliness and anger. Grief can also show itself in physical ways such as weight gain, aches and pains, inability to concentrate, outburst of crying, pacing, wandering and searching.
  • Acquisition of new skills – the person left behind accepts the loss of the loved one; physical and emotional symptoms subside and a new phase begins. This is the point to get out and about, make contact with other people, learn new skills and accomplish practical tasks.
  • Re-invest emotional energy – it’s time to say the final farewell, while still keeping a place in your heart for your loved one. Say goodbye to the lost loved one in order to say hello to the future.

Now, as I said before, Mrs B was in danger of becoming stuck at stage 2. So my first step was to get her to acknowledge what she had lost: a companion, a confidante, a reason for getting out of the house, a friend who gave her unconditional love.
My presence gave her the permission she felt she needed to reminisce about Freddie, his kindness and intelligence, about how he went bonkers on Christmas day, and how he lay down by her study door after their walks, while she wrote and he snored. Most heart-wrenching of all was Mrs B’s story about giving Freddie his final meal and waiting for the vet to arrive on their last morning together.

All this stuff is very healing, but what I really wanted Mrs B to do was to sob her heart out. I encouraged her to get out the photo album, look at pictures of Freddie, remember the good times and let the tears flow. Intense crying is physically exhausting, but the reward is huge relief and a greater chance of finally letting go.
We reached our “Hallelujah!” moment  when Mrs B sobbed out loud: “He was such a big dog and he took so long to die. People don’t realise how long it takes. I felt so guilty.” That was why she couldn’t stop grieving, she couldn’t get rid of the guilt.

I suggested she wrote a letter to Freddie saying how sad she was that he’d gone; how sorry she felt about the way he died and how much she loved and missed him. I also suggested that she thanked him for the good times, assured him he would always be in her heart, but now it was time to say that final farewell and let go.
Mrs B is a good friend of mine now.  We meet every three weeks of so for a cup of tea, usually somewhere posh. She entertains me with tales of Freddie, usually laughing at tales of his antics. But she doesn’t start crying every time she talks about him these days.  I’ve asked her if she would ever consider having another dog.

“I’m not ready yet,” she says. “ But maybe one day....”
*Image: Marcus74id /

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Why some bosses really are poor value for money

Shall I book a table? Some bosses need to spend less time sorting out their social lives.
Picture: photostock / - See weblink at end of post

RBS chief executive Stephen Hester found himself at the centre of a political storm last week over his near £1m bonus. The 51-year-old banker argued that he was a “commercial animal” and wanted to be paid as such.  However, given the press and public maelstrom whipped up by the size of his salary,  Hester decided to waive the bonus in return for a quiet life. Good decision.

Now, I’m not suggesting for one moment that Hester isn’t worth every penny that he’s paid for his role in getting back the £45bn of taxpayers’ money spent on bailing out RBS.  However, this story did make me think about people I have worked for (obviously not Stephen Hester), who have turned “doing sod all” into an art form.

Here are my top ten reasons why I think some bosses give poor value for money.

Tweeting:  Now I love Twitter, and think it’s a fantastic way of informing lots of people about your products, services, breaking news, live commentary, and so on. You tweet to your followers and, if what you say is interesting enough, they’ll  retweet the tweet to their followers and the whole thing spreads like wildfire. However, if you’re the editor of a local paper, shouldn’t you be tweeting about, for example, the latest stories your newspaper is putting up on the web, jury verdicts, traffic delays  and accidents on local roads, football news, competition results and a whole host of other things   that affect your readers? You would not expect someone on a regional editor’s salary to spend the whole day tweeting about Libya, now would you?

‘Borrowing’ staff to compile material for awards: I’m not a fan of awards ceremonies. The term “award-winning” should be treated with scepticism, unless it applies to something worthwhile and recognised, such as the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, the Grammys, Oscars, Brit Awards, Booker Prize... something you can point to and say “Wow, the person who won that must be really talented.” And even then, I still think they’re a bit narcissistic and rigged to some extent.  
     I do believe, however, that in-house awards are a total waste of time and money. They’re just an excuse for endless emails about hotel rooms and coach pick-up times, followed by a night filled with pissed people, bad dancing, awful dresses and fat arms. Lazy bosses love these awards because it gives them the chance to take people away from their normal jobs – leaving the department even shorter staffed than it is already – and make them spend three days researching and putting together material to get the team on the shortlist. All the boss has to do is keep asking: “How are you getting on?” from time to time, and let the poor hapless sod do his job for him. In the meantime, the boss goes into the office, pulls the blinds down* and pretends to be working.

Breaking off work to do non-work activities: Bosses who do this have such a limited concentration span that they have to keep leaving the building. This could be to have a smoke, meet their dealer, join the queue in M&S, or anything that begins with the words: “I’m just popping out for a while, you can get me on my mobile....”

Nitpicking:  There are few things more soul-destroying than having to keep going back on perfectly good, sometimes even very good work because someone decides they want it changed. And why do they want it changed? Because they’re the boss and they want to ram that fact down your throat. The title of this blog, The Blue Marker Pen, gets its name from the pile of proofs aggressively covered in blue ink, which we used to face every morning. We had to redo nearly all the previous night team’s work before we could start on our own work. Almost none of that was necessary.

Phoning  home: This is another example of a boss wasting company money by having long, sometimes heated, discussions with their partner about domestic issues they could resolve at home. Often, the manager conducts these conversations  with their office door wide open, or worse still, out in the department. Having a borderline obsessive fascination with the boss’s private life is a given, so this means everyone else slows down or stops working to listen in. More time wasted.

Meetings: Now here’s an opportunity to really waste the company’s money, and for the boss to bolster his sense of importance. Most meetings I’ve attended go on for far too long, there are far too many of them, they swallow up valuable working time and score poorly on the cost-effectiveness scale.  Of course, if you’re the sort of boss who thinks work is an extension of his social life, why not get your colleagues to come up with ideas for themed meetings, such as beer and sausages, cider and pasties, Chilean wine and chilli?... I think you get the gist.

Wafting around the building:  This involves walking about the building holding a folder stuffed with pieces of paper and chatting animatedly to staff in other departments. They think your boss is a really good bloke – but then they don’t have to work with him. This type of boss-action is poor value for money on two levels.
1.       While the boss is doing this, he’s not working, nor is he contributing to the morale of his own department.
2.       He’s stopping other people from  working.

 Abusing their position: This includes coming in late, going early, or taking extended lunch breaks with no explanation – just because they can.

*Secrecy and deceit:  This involves disappearing into their office and pulling down the blinds on the pretext of having a meeting. What they’re really doing is putting their feet up and watching football on their laptop with the sound turned off. 

Refusing to learn:  Poor value bosses are lazy creatures, so it’s hardly surprising to learn that they don’t like to soil their hands at the coalface – although they do love the expression “at the coalface”. They drop these words into the conversation quite regularly to make it sound like they understand how their department works. In reality, they don’t want to learn the latest technology because that way (a) they can’t be called on to fill in for anyone else, and (b) they can demand other people drop what they’re doing and bail them out, thereby reinforcing their position as ‘The Boss’.

All of the above examples are taken from my own experiences.

Image link:

Mrs B reaches breaking point

I felt so sorry for a friend of mine when she told me the following tale of woe : “I’ve got terrible earache but I can’t get an appointment with the doctor. They told me he was booked up for the next fortnight so I just gave in and came home.”

She was really suffering with her ears,  but was boiling with anger inside at being fobbed off yet again. Mrs B is a kind-hearted woman, who has had a few knocks in life. Her coping mechanism is to be pleasant and polite to people, in the hope that they will be nice back. The problem is that it doesn’t always work.
The pattern usually goes like this. By the way, these incidents didn’t all happen in the same day:
·         Mrs B goes to surgery, tries to make appointment, is told the doctor is too busy to see her, gives in and comes home.

·         Mrs B goes to a shop to return an item of clothing. Even though she has the receipt and is entitled to a full refund, she grudgingly accepts a credit note which she has to spend in the same shop.

·         Mrs B asks a shop assistant to scan an item for her as the shelf ticket has fallen off. The assistant, who has a hand-held scanner on her trolley, looks straight through Mrs B and tells her to go and ask at the customer services desk... where there is a long queue. Mrs B joins the queue.

·         Mrs B, who by now has had enough, goes to Tesco to buy a few groceries. As she is leaving the store, she is temporarily blinded by the sun. In front of her is a well-built youth with a shaven head. She walks past him towards the car park then, suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she sees him running towards her. Mrs B screams and makes a dash for it, shouting “Help, he’s after me,” and throws a trolley in his path. She reaches her car in hysterics. Everyone has stopped to look at her. Well-built youth limps over to Mrs B, accompanied by the store manager. It turns out he is the security guard. He had given chase after the alarm was set off by a youth stealing an expensive mobile phone. They’d been watching him on the security camera but, thanks to Mrs B’s intervention, he got clean away.

·         Mrs B is banned from Tesco.

This is a perfect example of the straw that broke the camel’s back. By the time we get to the Tesco incident Mrs B is feeling well and truly downtrodden, persecuted, ignored – no wonder she thought someone was out to get her.

So, this is what I keep in mind if I need to complain, or make an appointment, or exchange an item, or generally have any dealings that require a request from me to another human being:
·         Know exactly what you want the outcome to be and how to put that into words, for example: “I would like to make an appointment to see a doctor today, or tomorrow at the latest.”

·         Be certain that you are entitled to have what you are asking for: “I have a thumping earache which is giving me pain and keeping me awake at night.”

·         Don’t be fobbed off, keep repeating what you want, clearly and calmly until you get it. If you have  to,  use different words or phrases to convey the same meaning. This stops you sounding like a parrot. So, “I have a terrible earache, please make me an appointment to see a doctor, preferably today.” Or, “I understand the surgery is very busy, which is why I will accept an appointment tomorrow, but I’m in too much pain to wait any longer than that.” ... and so on.

·         Don’t get angry or emotional. Bursting into tears will make you look pathetic and even more of a pushover, whereas shouting: “I pay my bloody taxes, give me an appointment now!” will get you nowhere.

·         Don’t get personal: “I’m telling you that I need an appointment today, you stupid cow.”

·         Don’t be sarcastic: “Perhaps you can have another look to see when the doctor is free, if it’s not too much trouble.”

Stay calm and stick to those bullet points, and you’ll get what you want almost all of the time.
Here’s a case in point. This week, I took on Tesco and won. Customer services went from point blank refusal to exchange an item, to full refund, apology and admission that they’d got it wrong. All because I stuck to my guns and kept my nerve. You try it.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Never give up

My favourite quote of all time is Persistence, by Calvin Coolidge. In just 62 inspirational words, the 30th President of the United States lays down the ground rules for a fulfilling and successful life. “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence...” he begins.

Churchill said much the same thing, only this time in just five memorable words: “Never, never, never give up.”
Overnight success is rare, so rare that when it happens, we gobble up all the fascinating details, believing that one day it could happen to us. Look at Twiggy, little Leslie Hornby  from Neasden, who was discovered after hairdresser Leonard tried out his new style on the 16-year-old waif.  A photo of little Miss Hornby sporting Leonard’s new crop cut was spotted on the wall of his salon by a fashion journalist, and within weeks she was hailed in the national press as “The Face of ‘66”.

She was short by modelling standards, just 5ft 6ins, and her androgynous figure was worlds away from the elegant silhouette of the 1960s’ graduates of Lucie Clayton’s Modelling Academy. Yet Twiggy rose to become an icon of the modelling industry.
Another twist to this story is that Twiggy gave up modelling in 1970, aged just 20, at the height of her fame. She took a gamble and turned to acting and singing... and it paid off – two years later she won two Golden Globe awards for her role in The Boy Friend.

Twiggy is still very much in the public eye, she models alongside Myleene Klass for M&S, even though she’s 62 – and has recently released a CD of her favourite songs. She may have been an overnight success, but her persistence has helped her carve out a lifelong career.
Two decades after Twiggy’s discovery, Kate Moss was spotted in the departure lounge at JFK airport by a Storm model agency scout. She too was deemed  far too short to cut it, and was dubbed “the anti-supermodel of the 1990s”, but look at her now – an overnight success who, at 38, is still a fashion icon.

Now I’m not saying that Twiggy and Kate did it all by themselves – they obviously had people with great connections helping their rise to fame. However, the interesting thing about their stories is that they bucked the trend, seized the fame and used it to get what they wanted out of life.
For those not so lucky to get that helping hand at the start of their careers, persistence is even more important. Identify what it is you want to achieve and make sure everything you do – no matter how small – contributes towards that goal. Visualise your dreams then  start making them come true. Goals, after all, are simply dreams with legs on.

Persistence paid off for 2010 X-Factor winner Matt Cardle. His success may have seemed to have come from nowhere, after all he was working as a painter, postman, milkman, bricklayer, you name it, when he auditioned for X-Factor. Yet, behind the scenes, he was putting legs on those dreams by playing in venues all over the Eastern Counties, starting some five years before his X-Factor triumph.
I remember seeing him in 2006 with his band Darwyn, playing at Banham Cider Shed. It was obvious that he had talent, but then so do a lot of young musicians. He persisted though, kept writing his own material, kept believing in himself, and now, his debut album Letters has gone platinum.

A little luck goes a long way – but persistence is the secret ingredient that makes dreams come true. And now for that quote in full:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’  has solved, and always will solve, the problems of the human race.”
- Calvin Coolidge

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Can I borrow you for a second?

Some expressions, innocent enough in themselves, can make your hackles rise, set your teeth on edge and start the heart pounding. For me, those words: “Can I borrow you for a second?”, particularly when uttered by a certain individual, can only mean one thing – “Come here while I patiently explain to you why, yet again, you’ve failed at your job.”

Worst of all, you never hear those words when there’s plenty of time to make amends. No, it only happens on deadline or a few minutes past, just after you’ve released the last page to the printers, breathed a sigh of relief and fetched a tray to make everyone a  tea or coffee.
“Can I borrow you for a second?” is the last thing you want to hear. It means phoning the printers and asking them to wait because you have to send the front page again. It means rewriting a perfectly acceptable headline in less than a minute, and ending up with something far sloppier than the original because it’s been done under duress.

“Can I borrow you for a second?” is far more than the sum of its parts. It says “I’m the boss and I can make you do whatever I want.  Don’t argue with me because you will never win, and don’t think for one second that you can relax while I’m in charge.”
Bosses like this are exhausting. They sap your mental strength because you lie awake at night worrying about going to work, and they sap your physical strength because you inevitably end up working longer hours in the vain hope of pleasing them.

The main problem is that they don’t actually have enough work to do themselves. Obviously, they can’t admit this, so, to justify their inflated salary, they have to micro-manage the department, make you redo perfectly acceptable work, sneer at your efforts and set you up to fail.
This has to stop right now. Picture in your mind’s eye the last time you were hauled over the coals by this bully. Remember how it felt, see yourself vividly in that situation, experience the emotions. Now pull out a little, so you are watching the scene  more as an observer. Play the whole thing again and notice how you start to feel more detached from the action.

Now, here comes the best bit. Pull out still further, put a frame around the whole scene – you decide what that looks like – stick a cowboy hat on your bullying boss and make him wear Alan Partridge-style hot pants. You know, the kind he was wearing while gyrating under that disco-ball. Next, you’ll need a soundtrack – my favourite is the Benny Hill theme – so play that throughout the whole scene and make your boss do a silly dance to it every now and again.
After a few goes at this, I promise their ability to strike fear in your heart will diminish considerably. Next time they  ask you to change a headline (or the equivalent) right on deadline, take your time and don’t be rushed. They’ll soon stop doing it when the bosses upstairs start questioning why the paper keeps coming out late.

I’m setting the scene in a newspaper office, but the principle applies in any line of work. Get off the treadmill, stop that futile exercise of trying to please and appease this bully, look after your health  – and don’t let the bosses grind you down.