Who Moved my Blackberry: Lucy Kellaway

Every so often I’ll start a blog, and I’ll say something confident and positive, like “I’m going to update this once a week, and it’s going to be dynamic and people will like me!”  Then I’ll forget I have a blog, and I’ll leave it alone for approximately three years, at which point someone will ask what happened to my blog.  “Oh yeah!”  I’ll exclaim, scratching at myself like a simpleton.  “I have a blog!  I’ll get right on that!”  This is exactly what’s happened here.  No apologies, my failure to blog is just a character flaw in this digital age.  If you think this blog is a random, scattered failure, you should see my Facebook page as well as the rest of my personal life.   Anyway….

At the risk of sounding unpatriotic to my flag waving, “’Murica” shouting country-people, I have always enjoyed English authors more than their American counterparts.  I stumbled upon Who Moved my Blackberry by Lucy Kellaway without knowing anything about the author, or the backstory behind the fictional co-author, a character named “Martin Lukes.”  Apparently, if you’re in England and you read the Financial Times, you’ll be familiar with Lucy’s column, which features a Marketing Director Named Martin Lukes, and his updates about his life at a fictional corporation called A and B Global.  I just know that I really liked the cover of the book, which featured a fake coffee ring and a blurb declaring the novel to be an epistolary tale.  I thought “I don’t get enough emails during the workday.  I should totally read more at night in the form of this book.”  This is the sort of stunning decision making skill that I demonstrate right before I get myself worked up with too many projects.

The entire book is written as a series of emails and text messages from Martin Lukes, and they detail his desire to be a big hotshot in his industry.  We never learn what that industry is, or what, exactly, Martin really does all day.  This may sound boring, and at this point in my life I don’t know that I would have enjoyed it as much as I did initially.  I mean hell, sometimes when I look back at my week I can’t remember what I do all day.  Tweet, mostly.  But when I first started reading this book I was quite conscious of my numerous, crazy daily tasks and I was working for someone who did all of his neurotic, pedantic, boastful communicating through email. The person I worked for had applied to be partner about ten thousand times and kept getting rejected because he’s pretty much a giant doofus.  He was about the same age as Martin Lukes, and I definitely enjoyed reading about the downfalls of a character who so hatefully parodied many of the qualities I couldn’t stand in my then boss.

If you’re a giant bitch, as I am, and also enjoy snickering at people who use terms like “cross-functionality” and “facilitate corroboration for best practice,” you’re going to enjoy cringing with delight as Martin Lukes decides he’s going to try to take his career to the top. I think that’s called schadenfreude, which you’d think I know since I’ve been in a German band for three years, but the only words I know are “Ein Prosit,” and I just know they’re my favorite words because they’re followed by beer drinking.   I have a suspicion that besides “kindergarten” and “schadenfreude,” all other words in German just mean “here, drink this beer.”

The plot of this book is pretty simple, but because of the nature of the narration, anything more complex would have just been lost.  The joy is in the characterization and the 21st century business language that Lucy Kellaway writes so fluently and beautifully.  Martin decides he wants to become a director in his company so he hires a life coach, and we watch as he tries to incorporate those lessons into his rapidly disintegrating life.  In the book, Martin is the world’s biggest hypocrite.  He encourages his wife to work alongside him in another department, then criticizes her for wanting to develop her own career.  He says he’s competent and professional, then starts an affair with his secretary.  He constantly tries to kiss up to his bosses for promotions, then immediately throws them under the bus when dirty doings are revealed.  The company and his personal life are crumbling around him, but he lacks the ability to see beyond his own personal desires.  Basically, Martin is an idiot, he speaks entirely in management terms, and he’s hilarious.  Lucy Kellaway paints an incredibly accurate picture of every irritating, useless, untrustworthy person you’ve ever worked with, and it’s delightful.

Rather than outline the simple plot, I thought I’d end this review with some life lessons I’ve learned from Martin Lukes.  These may seem obvious, but haven’t we all violated our own rules of common sense in the past?  I mean, that’s how I ended up breaking my tailbone, and it still hurts 22 years later.

Lessons I Have Learned from Martin Lukes:

  1.  If you must shag your assistant, don’t do it on your desk.
  2. ESPECIALLY don’t do this if your wife works in the same company.
  3. Work emails are not personal emails, and they are not private.  This may seem obvious for things like job hunting or conducting clandestine affairs, but I’m actually really surprised how many people are shocked by this revelation.  Both in the book, and also in real life.
  4. February is the best month to give up drinking, because it’s the shortest month.
  5. If you’re going to email some gossip or trash talk about someone to someone else, just go ahead and double check that “to” line in your email.
  6. Don’t introduce your hormonal teenage son to your business colleague’s overly mature looking yet still underage daughter.
  7. White chocolate and most lattes are SOOOOO not Atkins friendly.
  8. Life coaches are total BS.
  9. If you surround yourself with people who are just as incompetent as you, you might look comparatively smart.

If you’ve violated any of these lessons and would like to share in the comments section, please do so, so that we may all laugh at your misfortune.  That is, if I remember I have a comments section, which I will probably remember right about the time someone asks me about my forgotten blog.

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