Category Archives: News

Conference call goes smoothly

Teams from both sides were left puzzled today after a conference call went off without a hitch. The interim meeting between Simeon Partners, a consultancy, and their client Organic Taste Foods was scheduled to take place over the phone, and the conference call went perfectly.

“I’m gobsmacked to be honest,” said Simon Chambers, of Simeon Partners. “I knew something was up when everyone dialled into the conference call successfully and on time, but I never would have guessed that everyone would actually be audible, let alone that no one would talk over one another.”

Organic Taste Foods were similarly surprised. “There were no crossed wires at all, we understood just what they meant, first time. I found myself hissing down the phone to make up for the lack of distracting background noise!”

We contacted Audiomax, the conference call operator, who said that their engineers are looking into the issue.

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Outbreak of workplace friendship

A London investment firm has been incapacitated by an outbreak of friendship. Simeon Partners, an alternative asset management company, alerted the authorities as soon as the infection was detected.

“We didn’t hesitate,” explains Partner Jim Bonham, “we know how dangerous workplace friendship can be, so immediately took steps to combat further spread.”

It soon became clear that the root of the problem was amongst new members of the Grad scheme. Despite trying to interact exclusively as detached professionals, trainees Peter Finch and Nicholas Ince accidentally got to know one another beyond the usual workplace pleasantries. Given its infectious nature, friendship quickly spread, and soon a number of the graduates began to like each other as people, not merely assessing each other as productivity centers.

HBR spoke with Peter: “I’m not sure how it started, but stilted small talk became meaningful conversation, and we began to talk about things we actually cared about. When we realized it was happening it was already too late.”

It wasn’t long before multiple members of Simeon were going out for non-compulsory after-work drinks, and even seeing each other at the weekend. Friends and family were quick to express their concern, with Nick’s girlfriend particularly perturbed. “It just seems weird to me, choosing to spend time with your colleagues when you don’t absolutely have to,” she explained.

Simon Hodgson, Managing Partner at Simeon, says that the main issue is that due protocol was not followed. “In the event of a friendship in the workplace, our HR policy requires those involved to communicate it, which did not happen in this case. We were left with no choice”. For the time being, the relevant parties have been quarantined in an attempt to suppress further spread, but Snapchat communication is proving problematic, with the Grads communicating extensively via a range of Emojis.

“Who knows,” wonders Simon, “they may actually form a meaningful lifelong friendship, after meeting as colleagues. I hope not for their sake though, what an embarrassing story to tell the grandkids.”

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Hawthorne Helpdesk bans Facebook

Employees at Hawthorne Helpdesk had reportedly been spending too much time on social media and streaming videos, prompting management to block the websites altogether.

“It’s a real pain, actually,” explains Account Executive Harry Simkins. “I used to spend about 60 percent of my time trolling people on Youtube comment threads, but now username 14yroldboybutbetterthanyou is lying dormant.”

However rather than the boost in productivity that management hoped for, the move has actually just increased the range of online extra-curriculars. “It’s so annoying, I’ve been forced to start reading improving articles just to get through the day,” says Executive Assistant Amy James. “I’ve even started taking Mandarin courses, when all I want to be doing is judging my friends’ beach bodies on Facebook.  Those mean comments won’t write themselves”.

The change has had severe negative effect on some members of the office. Sales rep Jim Wilson has been particularly struggling. “I’m becoming so well rounded as a person,” he tells HBR, “I’ve completely lost the ability to do banter with the boys. If I learn another useful and interesting fact I think I’ll go mad.”

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Driverless cars LikeHumansDo

Championed by tech giant Google, driverless cars are widely purported to be the future of the road transport industry.  However not everyone is in favour of the driver-free revolution, with some members of the public expressing concerns around privacy and more importantly safety.

While some may see this lack of wholesale acceptance as a barrier for the industry, some manufacturers are addressing these concerns head on.  LikeHumansDo is a driverless car manufacturer based just outside Cambridge, part of so-called Silicon Fen.

Founder Ben Rickman started making driverless cars in 2012, after several years spent as a Postdoc at the University of Cambridge’s Engineering Department. His aim was to build a computer that could act as the ‘perfect driver’, and his creation, e-Fred (after Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred) was more than up to scratch, with a flawless record in all public road tests.

However after speaking to members of the general public at various trade shows, he was dispirited. “They just didn’t trust the computer as much as a human being,” explains Ben. “It soon became clear that we would have to re-focus on creating a driverless car that drives exactly like a person.”

Ben and his team approached their task with renewed vigour, building additional features on top of the original e-Fred prototype. “We started with the basics, building in a tiredness feature that would steadily reduce alertness over time. We also found we could perfectly mimic a driver taking his eyes off the road by periodically turning off all e-Fred’s sensors.”

Over a painstaking period of months, LikeHumansDo developed road rage, late indication and occasional drunk driving into e-Fred’s arsenal. The driverless car’s performance in public road tests went down accordingly, much to the team’s pleasure. “Where previously we had no accidents, our car is now performing precisely at the level of an average human,” said Ben, describing the vehicle lovingly as “a danger to itself and other drivers.”

The car is still in the final testing stages, but overall Ben is delighted: “It even blows its horn when older drivers are slightly slow to pull off from traffic lights, and will occasionally stall in the middle of a junction. e-Fred is a car that your everyday driver can relate to, and I’m sure they will sell like hotcakes.”

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University graduate surprised by job offer

A university graduate has been both surprised and delighted to receive a job offer at a major accountancy firm.  Jack Williamson, 22, received a call last night from the HR manager informing him that they would like to make him an offer and “look forward to having him on board”.

This came as quite a shock to Jack, who explains that as far as he remembers the interview couldn’t have gone any worse. “I mean it didn’t start well, when I forgot which department it was I was applying for. I’ve made so many applications now that I don’t know what’s what!”

Even once he’d worked out which job it was he was interviewing for, he still felt he didn’t do very well at all. “There was definitely a period where the only word in the English language I seemed capable of using was ‘like’, and my definition of Depreciation would have made an 4-year old blush.”

He thought it had gone from bad to worse when his attempt at humour was met with frosty silence. “I was offered a cup of tea, and said no thanks because Tea is for mugs. I thought that was an excellent bit of workplace friendly banter, but I don’t think my interviewer agreed.”

So Jack was more than a little surprised to learn that he had got the job after all. “I’m just not asking any questions, to be honest. I’m sure I’ll work out what’s what while I’m there, before they realise the mistake they’ve made!”

In other news, university third year Will Jackson has been turned down from his job application, despite reportedly “smashing” the interview. “I’m not too downhearted,” he told HBR. “I’m sure the bloke who got it must have been some kind of rock-star.”

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IT manager rumbled

The IT manager at a small stationery company has been revealed as a fraud. Tim Johnson, 45, has been at Swindon Paper Services for 25 years, but will now be leaving the company in search of a new opportunities after it was revealed that he actually has no idea how computers work.

“I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did, to be honest,” Tim told reporters. “I was originally a sales manager, but was made Head of IT because the MD said we needed one, and I’d once managed to fix the fax machine.”

“We barely used computers at the time, you see, and as we went more and more digital no one thought to check whether I knew what I was doing.”

His colleagues admit that they were slow to catch on. “He types with one finger, which should have been a give away,” says Jessica, 34, “and sometimes he’d just be sitting there staring at a blank screen for hours at a time. I don’t know how we didn’t clock it!”

Tim credits his longevity to one simple rule, “turn it off and on again”. “People love that stuff! And somehow it seems to work. I’d also keep ordering computer type stuff, like servers and things like that. The funny thing is we’ve got all these servers and I still don’t know what they do.  But somehow I’ve got a whole room for them!”

Meanwhile, Swindon Paper Services are looking for a new IT manager. “We wish Tim the best of luck, of course,” said MD Ted Vickers, “but now we need an IT man for the modern era. I want big data, and I want it now.”

Despite having been posted on the community centre notice board for two days, the company is yet to receive any applications for the role. Tim holds no grudges. “Good luck to the new guy. It’s a pretty cushy job, though it might be more difficult if he actually has to do some work.”

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Startup founder an ok guy

Industry onlookers have been left puzzled this week by the growth of a startup founded by a well-balanced, reasonable individual. Jermaine Dixon, 29, an MIT machine learning PhD, released his recommendation app after finishing his doctoral thesis, and has seen huge user growth, despite the fact that he is neither narcissistic nor arrogant.

Bill, his former college roommate, has expressed surprise at his success, wondering how he has managed to build a business despite the fact that he respects women, and doesn’t have an egomaniacal streak. “I mean he’s the cleverest man I’ve ever met, for sure,” explains Brandon, “but he has never sent me any misogynistic emails, not even one.  I’m not sure how he’s managed to build a business at all.”

His parents are as shocked as anyone, having despaired that his well-rounded social life would doom him from the start. “He worked incredibly hard, but he also managed to maintain friendships and family relationships, and was never snappy or rude,” reports his mother, Carolyn. “We’re just astonished, really.”

In terms of future plans, Jermaine plans to wait 12 months, then sell the business, giving most of the proceeds to charity.  However he did admit that he would probably use some of the money to buy a Prius to replace his 20-year-old station wagon. Our industry insider was relieved: “I knew it, a new car. What a selfish t***.”

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Machiavelli lives: Employee dodges printer scandal

With a remarkable sleight of hand, an Account Manager from Bristol has got away with not re-filling the office colour printer, even though the light was flashing.

Sally West, 34, says she thought she was rumbled when colleague Jane Wilson remarked that the Xerox never had any paper in it. “I don’t know, but her tone was quite accusatory,” she confided in HBR. “So I thought that it was best to play a defensive game, and feigned even greater outrage.”

That worked, initially, but Sally worried that she wasn’t out of the woods, so casually mentioned to Jane that she had seen Sales Rep Jim Foley fail to fill up in the past. “Jane’s the biggest gossip in the office, so word soon got round, and Jim was widely shunned at the lunch table. To be a non-filler is a pretty dirty word round here.”

So Sally lives to print again, but what has she learnt from the whole experience? “I suppose I should feel bad,” she explains, “but if I’ve learnt anything, it’s to deny everything. The best part is that I’ve never filled the printer up!”

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Paul’s Pet Insurance gets off to a bad start

Local businessman Paul Whitaker has not had an enjoyable 2014.  Paul is the MD of Paul’s Pet Insurance, a small pet insurance business in the North West of England.  Historically, springtime has been business-time at PPI, as that is when the company starts its telesales campaign. However this year, the company has not seen the usual seasonal uptick in new business.

“We’ve kicked off the campaign, just like we always do,” reports Paul, “but the response has been a lot more frosty than usual, and we just can’t work out why.”

Numerous members of the sales team report being instantly shouted at down the phone by irate consumers, despite the company’s tried and tested friendly opening line, “Got a pet? Hi! Let’s talk PPI!”

Paul thought it was bad luck at first, but after trying a few potential customers himself, he soon became downcast. “Before I’d even mentioned our excellent canine cover, people I’d never spoken to before told me to stop harassing them, and one man even called me a scam artist! I’ve never been so insulted in my life.”

Paul is not one to give up easily, however. “We’ve had a few knocks, but I’m optimistic that it will get better,” says Paul.  The team even has a new recruit to help them with their efforts: “My cousin from Nigeria is visiting, and he’s a genuine Prince! If he can’t help us make a few sales, I don’t know who can.”

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Tesco removes sweets from the checkout

Tesco recently announced that it will be removing sweets and confectionery from checkouts in its stores, after a survey showed significant customer support for the move.  This has been met with approval by the Public Health Minister Jane Ellison, as well as by various health groups.

However Lily Simpson, 8, Director of children’s think tank Kidz, feels that Tesco did not sufficiently canvass children in making the decision.  “In many ways, the sweets at the checkout were one of the last bastions of children’s confectionery, the perfect opportunity to slip something into mum’s shopping trolley.  Now that’s gone.”

Lily is of the opinion that this is part of malicious larger campaign against children’s taste buds.  “Sweets are delicious,” she explains, “and now we just can’t get our hands on a Dairy Milk for love or money. Our vending machine at school is a flavour-less hole, thanks to that blasted Jamie Oliver, and now this!”

Meanwhile the healthy replacements at the Tesco tills have not been well received: “I swear to god if my mother tries to give me another pack of dried nuts I will scream.”

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