The Weekly Grind 3

January 16, 2015

Our agony uncle on theft, Germany and whether or not you’re going to hell


Q. I stole a colleague’s iPhone the other night for a laugh. (We were drunk.) Now it’s two days later, and he’s reported it missing to the police. I feel that if I admit to the ‘crime’ it’ll look a bit pisspoor, and I might even get tarnished with a ‘prankster’ tag. But I also feel bad about the theft. What should I do?

A. I guess having been brought up on a diet of US lawyer shows where every character has an echoing void where a conscience should be, and the aim of the game is to see how far you can screw everyone else without getting caught, you might be forgiven for thinking that theft in the name of japes is fair play now, rather like threatening sexual assault against a well-endowed female colleague and dismissing it as “just banter”. Grow the f*** up and admit the crime now if you want to save your friendship and hopefully the Police will just caution you for wasting the time they’d otherwise spend filling in forms and persecuting dole-fiends for rolling a spliff. If your bowel-shivering cowardice eventually persuades you not to do the right thing, I hope this minor example of juvenile idiocy gnaws at your soul like a fetid maggot, your hair falls out and one of your testicles decides to reinsert itself into your pelvic area so that your gym-mates nickname you Hitler.

Q. A secondment in Germany: a good or a bad idea?

A. Have you ever been to Germany? Personally I hate it. What I hate most is that instead of the narrowed eyes and lip-curled sneer one has come to expect from most customer-facing employees when you interrupt their busy schedule of filing their nails or updating their Instagram selfie album, Germans actually engage with you, smile and assist, in perfect English. That, and report you to the police for failing to recycle garden waste in the correct bin. A secondment in Germany would be bearable, granted, if you didn’t actually have to live there, or, more accurately didn’t have to eat there, given that every dish sounds not only unappealing but rather a description of some exquisite torture about to be visited upon you: kalbfleisch? It speaks only of suffering. Secondments – like any foreign adventure – are useful in the sense only where they further your eventual career goal. So, if your firm is based in the City and you want to be a partner, your aim should be to stay as close to the beating heart of the firm, rather than be exiled to Dusseldorf (twinned with Reading – nuff said). When – or more accurately if – you are allowed to return, your “experience” there will be immediately discounted by anyone who has not been through the same thing (ie everyone else). If you are tempted by an interesting foreign diversion, keep two things in mind. One, keep it as short as possible. Anything longer than a year and you’ll be there permanently or seriously out of contention on your return. Two, make sure you get absolutely the maximum benefit for YOU out of it. Work like a dog, make yourself indispensable and make sure you make as many contacts as possible where you are, and keep in touch with them. Oh, and report regularly back to base whether required to or not. This is one instance in which you won’t be seen as an oily swot if you are always thinking, “How am I going to get a gold star out of this?”

Q. I’m a lawyer, but my sister’s a banker. All other things being equal, which of us is the least ethical? 

A. Dear God, what it is with youth and ethics? Unless you’re a human rights lawyer and your sister works for a banking charity building wells in Africa, the bad news is that you’re both headed for a sizzling poker in the back passage at the End of Days. On the assumption you’re not, and that both of you have become corporate wage-slaves, let’s examine the facts. Her industry ruined the world economy, forced millions of people into poverty and made the rich significantly richer. Your lot invented the ‘structured products’ which allowed them to do it. Her industry lost billions and has subsequently been fined millions for offences most of us would go to prison for, but for which bankers only occasionally lose honours. Your lot have simply continued to make money out of the whole catastrophe, acting (and billing) invisibly on all sides.  Your sister is part of an industry one of whose leading proponents was described by Rolling Stone, no less, as a giant vampire-squid sucking at the face of humanity, or some such colourful metaphor. You, meanwhile, are part of the industry which inspired Legally Blonde. You are definitely the “winner”. On the other hand, while you will only make handsome lottery wins every year in the statistically-unlikely event you make partner, she will make more money than God, so she’ll have a cushier life. It might even be enough to buy her way out of the Iron City of Dis and join Lucifer’s legions. You, however, my friend, you are guaranteed a place in the front ranks, bearing Sergeant’s stripes. NG

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