The Caramel Crunch (25 January 2020)

Over at Caramel (Learner at Love), CARAMEL has started a new prompt. I’d like to see her prompt do well, and I had some time today to write a post, so here we go…

The prompts are called the Caramel Crunch and so far are centered around a moral question. For your convenience I shall repeat her question.

Your boss wants you to tell a difficult client or a customer something that is clearly misleading. It feels dishonest, but your boss suggests you find a way to couch your words so that you are not telling a blatant lie.

Okay, time for the real deal. This week I must admit I’m a bit stumped. It’s easy enough to see the issues:

  1. is telling a lie the same as concealing the truth?
  2. are you comfortable being, let’s just say less than frank, with someone?
  3. are you sufficiently uncomfortable that you’d maybe risk your income because of it?

I guess for (1) I’d say pretty much. But I know a lawyer would disagree. The truth is not the same as the whole truth. Plus this is how people sell things to us, the world over. Highlight the good things, and hope you don’t notice the crap.

For (2) I’ve never been in that position, but I’d for sure be uncomfortable, I guess most of us would. Even a so-called white lie (i.e. harmless, but that gives me an idea for another post one day, do you notice how the words black and white are embedded into certain phrases in our language?) makes me uncomfortable.

Lastly, again, I’ve never been in the situation.For me, the answer was always easy. There was always someplace else I could go, if a client was an asshole. Took me twenty years to work out that every client was an asshole in one way or another.

But I’m conscious that I was always sitting pretty. I was lucky enough that I could pick the things which were important, and give ground on the little issues. For me, dishonesty would’ve been a biggie, and I’d have walked.

I’d also judge that if a boss wanted me to be dishonest, that’d be grounds to walk. The end client wouldn’t even come into it. Most of my clients, though, were internal and I always tried to do my best by them. And, maybe the fact that none of this ever happened to me is a good thing?

But what do you say when your next meal depends on what you say?

Sorry, a wishy-washy answer this week. I realise that I’m privileged to have my easy view, but a lot of people aren’t so fortunate. Maybe you can come up with a better answer? Follow the link to see what it’s all about.

The Caramel Crunch (18 January 2020)

Over at Caramel (Learner at Love), CARAMEL has started a new prompt. I’d like to see her prompt do well, and I had some time today to write a post, so here we go…

The prompts are called the Caramel Crunch and so far are centered around a moral question. Her question this week is here, but for your convenience I shall repeat her question.

You are out with some good friends having drinks. One of your best friends makes a joke that seems racist. Your friend doesn’t normally seem to show any attitudes that indicate racism. Do you let it pass? Or do you speak out against the offensive joke?

That’s an easy one. You say something. You don’t need to be nasty, but it needs to be clear (a) that you don’t find their comments acceptible, and (b) why. If they’re as reasonable as CARAMEL says, maybe they’ll go away and think about why you got upset? Either way, they’ll know not to speak like that in your company again.


I’ve actually experienced this. Not exactly the same, but similar. Not about race – fortunately for a white guy in the UK, it isn’t normally an issue – but picking on physical characteristics to imply that a person isn’t as good. And not with friends. There is a comedy-news programme in the UK called Have I got News For You. And, not long before he won a General Election, Boris Johnson won an election to become the leader of the Conservative Party, and therefore Prime Minister. As part of that election process, there was a series of debates among the contenders.

At the time, I followed Have I Got News For You on Facebook. The day after one of these debates, this photograph appeared:

I took a screenshot because I wanted to include the caption. I hope you can see it okay – it reads

I can lead the UK, insists man struggling to sit on stool.

The picture is of a guy called Sajid Javid. It obviously didn’t harm his career that much, as he is now Britain’s Chancellor (Finance Minister).

I complained. The implication of the caption was that Javid was sitting on the stool wrongly (no, I never knew there was a wrong way to sit on a stool, either) and that this physical characteristic made him unfit to run the country.

I am absolutely sure that running a country requires many exceptional intellectual talents, but somehow I doubt that how we sit on a stool is one of them. The particular problem here is that there is very real discrimination against physically disabled people in the UK – that their physical disability means they lack the intellect to do a particular job. So all this post did was to reinforce a stereotype.

As you might imagine, 99.9% of the responses to this complaint were this is a comedy feed – get over it. But I could see the problem, even if 99.9% of people could not. And when something is wrong, you gotta say something, don’t you?

No, I don’t follow that feed any more. I’m sure it makes no difference whatever, but I don’t want to see that nonsense when I log on.

The Caramel Crunch (12 January 2020)

Over at Caramel (Learner at Love) [a misnomer if ever there was one – she seems like an out-and-out expert to me 🙂], CARAMEL has started a new prompt. I’d like to see her prompt do well, and I had some time today to write a post, so here we go…

The prompts are called the Caramel Crunch and so far are centered around a moral question. Her question this week is here, but for your convenience I shall repeat her question.

You can’t find work in your local area that pays enough to support your family in your current lifestyle. But you have been offered a well paid job hundreds of miles away from home. It will mean being away from your family for extended periods but it will help you to pay for their education and health expenses.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

I must admit I have never had this exact experience, but two come close.

My first experience was about ten years into my career. I had not long chosen the path of being a consultant, and was only with my second client. I lived around thirty miles away from the client’s site, so commuted morning and night.

However the client also had another supplier. The supplier was basically a body shop – they charged handsomely to put people in place. I’m generalising severely here, but the quality of such people was usually not very good, because the company used a large number of fresh graduates who were still learning the trade. In fact, one of the reasons the company brought me in was to provide some expertise and direction.

The people who worked for this body shop were mobile, their contracts said that the body shop could ask them to work anywhere. That clause would never have been acceptable to me, but we all make our choices. Having said that, when they were sent to a client’s site, it was normally to the same site for a year or two, so assignments were quite long-term. Their clients were usually big companies, this particular client was a High Street bank.

The people from the body shop were both men and women, single or married, children or not. Every Monday, they had to travel to the site, they would put in a week’s work, and then on Fridays they would go back home.

So I was able to observe this pattern of working at close quarters.

What can I say? People did it, they even seemed to enjoy it, for the most part. I think there was an element of freedom from Monday – Thursday, then the security of family at weekends. Indeed, for some of them, Thursday was very much going-out night, and many of the staff would enjoy the night clubs in the local city before going home the next day. Over time, these people became friends, and I joined in the tradition. In fact it was on one of these drunken Thursday nights out that I eventually met my future wife.

So whilst I was careful in any of my contracts to reject any kind of movement which wasn’t mutual (I was quite happy to agree to a mutuality clause, knowing full well that I would never agree to a client’s request), some people were prepared to do that, not only to do it, but to enjoy it.

My second anecdote did actually involve me. When I had a few more years under my belt, I decided to work up in London, and eventually had a string of clients up there. London is a nice, round 100 miles from home.

My situation differs from the question because I did not have to go to London. I went there because that was where the head offices were. The work was generally better paid, and a lot more interesting. In IT, there are basically two-and-a-half world capitals: London, New York and to a lesser extent, Sydney. So, London was where it all happened. But ultimately, working there was a choice.

I chose to commute between home and London. The journey took 2-2½ hours, each way. Each day. So while I suppose I did work away, my choice was to spend time each day on the train. For me it was good – it was obviously long hours but I was able to mix the hustle and bustle of the city with life in the country. There was nothing better than waking up on Saturday or Sunday and to be staring out at fields.

Incidentally, many of my clients were international companies. They would sometimes ask me to go to meetings at sites in other countries. Probably, 95% of these I ducked – I was travelling enough already! It never came up, but you can imagine that if somebody had asked me to work way for a prolonged period, I would’ve sooner just work someplace else – I was fortunate to be in a position to do so.


So, the question. Let’s remind myself again.

You can’t find work in your local area that pays enough to support your family in your current lifestyle. But you have been offered a well paid job hundreds of miles away from home. It will mean being away from your family for extended periods but it will help you to pay for their education and health expenses.

I think I’d certainly be prepared to give it a chance. I am not sure I’d want this arrangement to be particularly lengthy, but I wouldn’t reject it out of hand. It can be quite a tolerable experience. A bit of distance might well be good for a relationship, in any case. Might make people realise what they’re missing.