The Antonio Horta-Osorio story highlights yet another elephant in the boardroom

Just punch Antonio Horta-Osorio’s name into Google and you will see a wide range of reactions to this story. These include warnings about heat and kitchens, the importance of delegation, the value of a COO as well as many column inches on sleep.

However, the biggest surprise is how tolerant the reaction has been to what used to be a major taboo issue: struggling to cope. Thanks to AHO, and his courageous Chairman for backing him, this elephant has been comprehensively outed in the boardroom. They have done for work-place stress what Stephen Fry did for bipolar disorder: smashed the taboo. Millions of individuals will benefit. Clever businesses should seize the opportunity to revise their policies on workplace stress. Performance and well being will soar if they do.

For this reason AHO and his Chairman get my vote for greatest contribution to business in 2011.

Ciaran Fenton
Fenton & Co LLP

The proposed legislation on “protected conversations” is in danger of missing the point

Lucy Kellaway (Lucy Kellaway) and others have recently commented on the proposed legislation in respect of its pros and cons from a practical point of view. Fair enough, but there is an opportunity now to start to reflect in legislation the reality of the workplace in the 21st. Century, that is: we are all micro-businesses selling our services to organisations, which are themselves merely coalitions of these micro-businesses for increasingly brief periods, and we are doing so in return for cash and “soft” benefits. The “conversation” required, whether protected or not, is the reframing of the “deal” between ourselves and organisations. What do we need from the organisation? What does it need from us? On what terms? It’s that simple except that it requires an Adult-Adult transaction – not a Parent-Child transaction as in days of yore. If this reality were reflected in legislation, then Lucy Kellaway’s view that we all need to be told to pull up our socks from time to time can and should still happen but more in the nature of a breach of an SLA rather than a “telling off”.

Ciaran Fenton
Fenton & Co LLP