Glorious D. Schmidt lived ever in anticipation. Every day he would proclaim to his wife, and child, was a fresh opportunity to “get things right.” This was no facade, Glorious was a true believer. His faith was such that it actually confused him, when day, after day, life was painted in mundane tones; hints of gilt edges to rather washed out clouds, never really took.
Now the curse of the optimist is to be the natural foe of most of humankind. Glorious, oblivious in his bonhomie, thought the ennui amongst his project team at the Office for National Statistics, measured only his failure to inspire … yet. In reality, the other workers of the Sustainable Development team had simply long since abandoned hope. Glorious seemed to them a particularly cruel reminder of when they too, had hope.
Every morning Glorious gathered the team for motivation. There would be music, there would be readings. The staff had, initially, resisted rostering for the inspirational reading. That resistance had faltered in the face of promised group chanting or singing. The reading, they democratically pronounced, would be stimulation enough.
“Is he for real?” the Liverpudlian intern had asked, only yesterday, of anyone who didn’t avoid her gaze lest they be saddled with any responsibility. “Shhh”, one grizzled 30-something veteran had hissed, “talk too loud, and Glorious will identify you as an enthusiast!”
That was not to say Glorious lacked any allies, they were simply too few to hold sway. Ever the optimists, Glorious and they, would conjure explanations for their colleagues’ lack of drive. “Colin,” Glorious had informed his deputy Olivia, “must have quite the hard home life, his shirts are never ironed. I suspect just being in this office every day is a victory. Let’s make sure he knows we appreciate him.”
Colin never forgot that week, it would haunt him for some time. When he never again entered the office looking dowdier than the newest of pins, Glorious and Olivia shared a surreptitious high five; Colin knew he was appreciated, it was making him preen.
The staff, probably, could have forgiven their boss, if anything they ever did mattered. Every week, every day, their work was published and drawn on by politicians local, national, and international, and even when not massacred by self-interest and idiocy, it never led to anything. They could present the starkest results, the most horrible measures of inequality in the nation, in the world, and what difference did it ever make? If the people they were meant to serve didn’t care, then why the hell should they?
It was known, in hushed circles, as the 6-month inflationary bubble. New staff would come in, and in 6 months their dreams would burst hard on the spike of international apathy. Yes, they could take satisfaction in the technical side of their work, many were peer-reviewed authors in their own right. There was certainly a career path, and many ultimately sought refuge with the capitalist enemies of their youth.
They thought they were getting real, Glorious thought they were giving up; and it was all his fault. He would do better; every day was a fresh opportunity to get things right.
The thing was, Glorious understood all this. He knew he was an optimist. Too often the optimist is taken as a dreamer living in a non-reality. The main body of his staff thought he didn’t see what they saw, didn’t understand the futility. They were wrong, he saw it all, he just understood that they hadn’t succeeded … yet.
Everything changed when Olivia got transferred into the senior civil service. She and he had wept at their separation, but Olivia simply couldn’t have turned down those terms and conditions. Who needed a caravan when you could have a holiday home or two?
In her place, the powers that be, and an apparently reluctant Glorious, set Jane. After their first day working together Jane proclaimed Glorious to be a lunatic. At home that night, Glorious told his family that he anticipated some work was required for him and his new deputy to enjoy a positive working relationship. “Glorious,” his 14-year-old daughter had offered, “have you considered that she might be right?”
She might not have used that exact language, but in the morning, she hugged her dad and kissed his cheek, and he knew everything was going to be just fine.
Jane’s approach to motivation was quite different to his. When Harriet the sub-team leader for Sustainable Cites and Communities had opined that they knew very well the changes required to make Birmingham fully sustainable inside 6 months, Jane asked her, “Why are you bitching to me about it? If no-one is paying a blind bit of notice out there” pointing out the window, “the f*** do I care?”
So, it was that the team of mostly passive pessimists, led by a rampant optimist, met the raging realist.
A week into Jane’s tenure she started grading their inspirational reading performances.
On Wednesday Colin was graded as, “a f***ing limp fish.” If he’d unsuccessfully self-pleasured himself for 3 minutes in front of the crowd, it would have been just as inspirational. Jane was Australian, she grew up telling lethal spiders and snakes just thinking about invading her home, just where to f*** off to.
That night Glorious had opined that Jane’s aggressive strategies were like to alienate some of the staff. Over the dinner table, his daughter had assured him that, “this is exactly what your office needs, dad. A kick up the bum. Take me, sure I’m smart and pretty, but I learned to succeed through a combination of your inspiring belief, and mum’s timely foot in my backside.”
Jane took little time to analyse the pattern of office days. She was particularly dissatisfied with the 30 minutes after the daily motivation. The staff tended to, “hang around like a bunch of stunned mullets” and if they had that time to waste, she could fill it with rotating 1-to-1 staff reviews.
The staff got busier, output improved, and the powers that be duly sent down their approval. Glorious, the missives read, was making demonstrable improvements to their efficiency. If the trend continued they would have to seriously consider increasing the team research budget. Even their motivational reading performance got better.
Jane duly adopted, or abducted, the Liverpudlian intern as her assistant. Fernanda soon succumbed to Stockholm syndrome, and was duly christened “Mini-me” by the meaner minded. Faced with a double threat of “why don’t you get of your arses?” more and more got on board with Glorious.
Glorious for his part, was able to extend some protection to those staff who developed a new enthusiasm for their work. He was able to commission new work from them, which only weeks ago had been met with resistance and assurances of inevitable working time directive violations. If you were working on one of the boss’s moon-shot multivariate analyses or information theory projects in particular, it was hard to be accused of a lack of enthusiasm or ambition, even if was by proxy.
These changes started to bear fruit. One startling result emerged, cross-validated across several pieces Glorious had independently commissioned. If their figures with right, and Glorious assured his team they were the best in the world (Jane promised them death if they weren’t), then introducing an unconditional basic income was a potentially potent net benefit to the UK economy. It promised transformation for the many, assuming their numbers were correctly crunched.
Sure, the step-wise regression hadn’t been so clear, it kept indicating that the prevalence of fish ownership was a key variable in implementation outcomes. Those results were quietly binned. Even if it wasn’t a product of Norman’s excessive recreational drug use, there were, “limits to what we can pragmatically suggest”, and those words belonged to Glorious. Jane, reasoning that if Schmidt couldn’t buy it then there was a snowball’s chance in hell of anyone actually sane would, let it slide.
Excited by this socially relevant discovery, the staff started talking about it, to each other, to their families, to their friends. Inspirational readings started to show a theme. Two months, 2 days, since Jane started work, on Monday morning, Anqi, coding supervisor, spoke of Gandhi’s powerful message to the world. On Wednesday, Marouan, from sampling, spoke of the life of Mother Theresa, and how she deserved to be listened to more. Sensing a trend, Jane volunteered for the Friday reading, on the theme of “Stopping whining like little bitches.”
“It’s a truth well known down under, that a bunch of drongo bludgers was likely to get jobbed if they didn’t stop crying.” So went the opening line. When Salamu complained that he was not a “Drongo,” Jane assured him she hadn’t been referring to anyone in particular, nor even anyone present. If, however Salamu kept wasting her valuable time instead of doing his job, his new title would be “unemployed.”
Glorious passing by this tete-a-tete chanced to ask Salamu if he would like to help head up the new social media outreach team, Salamu said he’d be delighted. He went so far as to clasp the boss round the shoulder and ask if they could discuss the details right now.
That evening, he’d spoken to his wife of his concerns over people motivated more by fear than a desire to do good. She assured him that this firm female hand would steer his ship right, indeed it was needed. Jane was making his every new day into the success he hoped for. His daughter assured him that, “you’re still the one who believes in everyone most, Dad. She’s just giving you the chance to get them on board!” Or, at least, that was the message Glorious extracted from her actual words.
That Friday, Glorious decided to try, once more, to instigate the team Haka. Only this time he envisioned it for YouTube. Not only would it be inspirational and team-building, but it would get their message out there. When this was discussed at the Monday morning senior leadership meeting, Salamu, the newest member, expressed approval of the “direction of travel”, but was “unsure this was quite the right strategy.” Synchronous winks from Jane and Fernanda alike, and he manifested quite the conversion.
3 months later the team was riding high. Their YouTube channel had risen to almost 75,000 subscribers, and they were making the news internationally; and not just the 30 second good cheer story after 29 minutes 30 seconds of depression. Glorious was in demand, and the enthusiasm of his team of expert statisticians was the envy of the entire office. He was being parachuted in for workshops with other working groups who “lacked fire”. He always took Jane with him; she always left Fernanda in charge.
When, 3 years later, Glorious was offered the role as Director of the O.N.S. he turned it down, suggesting that Jane be offered the role in his place. Salamu, now a social media celebrity in his own right, since Glorious had stepped down as Haka leader, should take up a new role as Office head of motivation.
As for Glorious, he was going into politics. Yes, the O.N.S. was now delivering a strong message, yes, the people were listening, but their leaders were still resistant.
#ItsgoingtobeGlorious was already trending.
6 months later, Glorious moved into his offices in Westminster, the newly appointed M.P. for the Scottish Borders, after a shock upset of the sitting member. That very day, Jane visited, bringing Fernanda with her; his new parliamentary secretary. Glorious asked Fernanda if she wouldn’t mind stepping out, as he had some confidential matters to discuss with the Director of the O.N.S.
When they were alone, Glorious turned to his wife and said, “Well, this all worked out well darling. Every day really is another opportunity to get things right!”
Jane S. Schmidt replied, “Well fuck me dead, we did it. Turns out you don’t have Roos in the Top Paddock after all darling.”
Glorious P. Schmidt M.P. soon to be C.B.E. simply felt … Glorious.