When Heide and I sat down some months ago to bandy ideas about for a comic novel partially set in Hell, we both latched onto the idea of Hell being run like the very worst of bureaucracies. It’s not a new idea but we liked it. We wanted it to be an awful bureaucracy not in the sense that it was evil, but in the sense that it was stupid and ineffective and pointless (cf Hanlon’s Razor). One thing we wanted to include was ‘performance management’ which, in many people’s experiences comes across as a sadistic pantomime of carefully orchestrated criterion-based tortures. I even blogged about it.
This week, Heide wrote the performance management scene that we had discussed last year. And I feel compelled to reprint it in its entirety here because… well, because… if it weren’t for the fact that the two characters are demons and the workplace they are in is Hell, you could picture this exchange happening word-for-word in any number of corporate establishments around the world right now.
Gutterscum’s Performance Management Review
Toadpipe and Gutterscum sat at either side of a table, and they both had a copy of the review document. Toadpipe scanned through his copy, checking details. Gutterscum gnawed the corner of his copy, his eyes darting about nervously.
Toadpipe cleared his throat.
“Gutterscum, we’ve met before to talk about your performance, in fact I will record the fact that this is our twentieth meeting.”
He made a note.
“So let’s talk about the targets that you’ve been working towards. The first page of the document that you have there is the agreement that you signed when we set your objectives. You agreed at that time that you accepted the targets we came up with.”
“You said I had to sign it.” Gutterscum mumbled.
“Yes,” said Toadpipe, “I said that we needed to agree and we both had to sign to say so. We set you targets that were challenging but achievable. Let’s take the first one. Torment to achieve levels of misery of grade five or higher. I have here the documented evidence that shows that your average level of torment is graded at misery level two.”
“I work in the Pit of Masochists, they don’t get miserable, they love being tormented.” Gutterscum complained.
“You have similar working conditions to many other demons,” Toadpipe said.
“But my victims can be really difficult! They try to trick me into giving them extra punishments.”
“Clients, not victims. Remember that you had behavioural training to equip you with the correct language. It’s important to remember that we’re providing a service. Shall we move on to the next measure? Rate of torment will not drop below twenty clients every hour. We all know that this is an important measure, as it ensures that there is an optimum period of recovery and anticipation between intense periods of torment. The CIA provided us with lots of research for the optimisation that we’ve implemented. The records here show that your average rate of torment is eighteen clients per hour.”
Gutterscum sighed and looked at the floor.
“Those masochists slow me down. They snatch my pitchfork so that they can stab themselves.”
“We’ve given you lots of support in this area, Gutterscum. We’ve arranged for surprise inspections to observe your techniques. We’ve assigned you a mentor who meets with you twice a day.”
“But that stuff just makes me get further behind.”
“Now, Gutterscum. We’ve been over this in lots of these meetings. If you can’t maintain a positive mental attitude, even after the behavioural training, then it’s hardly surprising that you’re struggling with your targets. I can see no option at this point other than putting you back into basic training here at the college.”
Gutterscum nodded, that wasn’t so bad.
“After a period of reflection.”
Gutterscum’s head snapped up.
“Er, what does thay mean?” he asked.
“It means that we’ll be cementing you into the foundations for a hundred years, so that you can think about your continued employment with our organisation.”
Gutterscum’s mouth moved wordlessly for a few moments and then he shrugged.
“Be nice to get away from those masochists.”
Toadpipe stood and shook his hand.
“Good man. Well it’s been nice helping you through your development.”