anon: (archaic or literary)
- in a short time; soon

50:50 vision

80:20 insight

Missing opportunities

I specialise in missing opportunities, and I say that with some pride. Missing opportunities on purpose isn’t quite as daft as it sounds. And what I actually do is make sure I’m not around when an opportunity comes calling. Let me explain.

I’ve spent the greater part of my working life so far, employed by – and often struggling against – one corporate bureaucracy or another. It’s included American and British cultures, and public and private sectors. But they’ve all had something in common.

To be honest, they’ve got lots of things in common, mostly undesirable from an employee’s perspective. But let’s concentrate on the subject of this blog – missing opportunities.

Shortly after your boss has been on a management training course, he will start to say:

“Don’t think of it as a problem, think of it as an opportunity!”

They … yes, it’s definitely a case of ‘them’ and ‘us’ … they exclaim this and we look up to the sky and sing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus with a tear in our eye. Then we’re expected to say in return,

“Oh gosh, yes … what a wonderful opportunity it is!”

If we don’t instantly get all positive, come the next annual appraisal we’ll get marked down as having an ‘attitude problem’.

So, in self-defence, I’ve practiced and become adept at ‘missing opportunities’. The very best way is not to be around when the opportunity arrives. This is easier than you may think, as it’s us, the workers, who see these ‘opportunities’ coming, and we often have some control over when it arrives on the boss’s desk.

Problem or opportunity?If by some ill chance you haven’t arranged to be elsewhere – anywhere – you must get to the “… its an opportunity, not a problem …” punch line ahead of the boss. You bound into his office with a cheery smile on your face and say,

“Hey, we’ve got this really great opportunity!”

Now you’ve turned the tables on them. They’re thinking, “Oh god, now what’s gone wrong?” … only they can’t say it – they have to go along with you and the whole ‘opportunity’ nonsense. Do this a couple of times, and your boss will know that you know it’s really a problem, not an opportunity … but they still won’t be able to say anything different.

Sometimes you come across a boss who thinks he’s really smart, and he’ll start saying,

“Don’t come to me with an opportunity, come to me with a solution.”

But we all know opportunities don’t have solutions, problems do. You point this out to them, and so they’ve lost either way.

Very soon, all this talk of opportunities will quietly disappear, and life will get back to normal. Until the next management training course. Think of all those opportunities you can miss!

I should point out in a spirit of even handedness and fair play, that it makes no difference if your boss is a man or women – they all go on the same management courses.


James – More anon …