back to article BOFH: Why, I LOVE work courses. Please tell me more, o wise one!

"... and so we thought that you might like to attend this two-day workshop in effective leadership techniques," the Boss burbles, rounding off the professional goal-setting exercise that company policy obliges him to do with me and any other contractor with a contract that's rolled over for more than five years. "Well to be …

  1. AbelSoul

    "My name is Philip."

    "Yes, but Dave's easier to remember. Anyway Dave...."

    Outstanding and, of course, stolen for my own purposes.

    Cheers and thank you for reminding me that pub-o-clock is nigh!

    1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: "My name is Philip."

      There's also this marvelous exchange:

      A: "Well, Peter - can I call you Pete? - the principle of the connected society is that all parties to the transaction have a clear understanding of their role in it and its progress towards an ultimately successful completion at which point a committed transaction can trigger an API-driven response resulting in a zero-touch high-efficiency payment execution in the cloud ..."

      Q: "You can't call me Pete, because I'm David. We still haven't settled the question of legality, though."

      A: "Oh, look, I'm sorry Pete, I have to be on stage in three minutes, but I'll be happy to field your question offline. I'll get my girl to reach out to our lawyers and get you in touch."

  2. IHateWearingATie

    Am I the only one...

    .... who thinks that course sounds like a good idea. Two days of pissing around eating my bodyweight in biscuits and cookies, surrupticiously web surfing at the back of the meeting room paid for by the client.

    What's not to like?

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: Am I the only one...

      My experience is those courses require "team building exercises" where its difficult to not go into a Coma before the next you must take these three items over the river and you only have two places (They don't like the lob everything to another equally bored person over the "raging river "oddly).

      1. Mutton Jeff

        Re: Am I the only one...

        Human Pyramids!!! noooo

      2. pepper

        Re: Raging River

        Well, I always suggest killing the most hated Dave or Debbie(Slagathor if either one is really called like that), using their entrails to build a trebuchet or catapult(whatever is fancied) and then pling everything over to the other side, head to the winchester for a cold pint, and wait for this whole thing to blow over.

    2. Dave 32

      Re: Am I the only one...

      Well, it really depends upon the cuteness of the administrative assistant (which, of course, depends upon the quantity, and, perhaps, the quality, of the beer).


      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Am I the only one...

        @Dave 32

        Is that you, Philip?

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. sandman

    Been there, done that

    I remember a "team bonding" exercise in the US where we had to say which historical leader we most identified with and which living person we most admired. The Americans took it very seriously, but the UK contingent not so much ;-) Personally my answers were Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) and, since we were in the US, Fidel Castro...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Been there, done that

      The Americans did seem to suffer from a lack of a sense of humour at times like that... at least in my experience. I got an even worse reaction at a course on sexual harassment.... They also didn't like me pointing out that I only got 98% on the security questionnaire because one of their answers didn't match the answer they gave in the presentation linked to on the first page....

      All this brings back memories of office cricket played during a PRINCE course.....

    2. Florida1920

      Re: Been there, done that

      since we were in the US, Fidel Castro...

      Lame. You should have gone for Che Guevera. He tried to convince Fidel to nuke the U.S. There are so many non-PC choices today, but selecting most of them would get you picked up by Homeland Security.

      1. Chad H.

        Re: Been there, done that

        Che did not succeed in convincing him however, suggesting his leadership skills were sub par.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Speaking of Che

          "Ernesto 'Che' Guevera, commonly known as el Che, was an Argentinian T-shirt tycoon."

          TL;DR Wikipedia

      2. fandom

        Re: Been there, done that

        Way I heard it was Castro trying to convince Khrushchev, what would be the point in convincing Castro who had no nukes?

        1. wowfood

          Re: Been there, done that

          Personally I'd go with captain janeway. First of all, when blasted to the delta quadrant with no way home, she not only kept her crew together, she managed to unite two opposing factions who effectively wanted each other dead.

          Then under her command they continued to make their way home as best they could, while taking on the freakin' borg. The borg who were able to eliminate several of starfleets most advanced ships with a single cube, and during their travels, janeway was able to take out numerous borg cubes and spheres using her single intrepid class ship.

          Even better? Not only against odds does she take out a random cube here or there, but with a little help from the inside she WIPES OUT THE BORG!

          The single most dangerous enemy to date, and janeway wipes them off the face of the universe. One leader, one starship, vs a collective of millions of minds, with thousands of ships each of which was more deadly than the voyager. And she wiped them out.

          If anyone were an inspiring leader, it's her.

  4. Fortycoats

    O'zapft is!

    Although this glass is a bit small..... you need a proper Maßkrug :-)

    Servus aus Bayern!

  5. Buzzword


    "the professional goal-setting exercise that company policy obliges him to do with me and any other contractor with a contract that's rolled over for more than five years"

    Careful, you're at risk of being considered an employee under IR35 legislation!

    1. hplasm

      Re: IR35

      "Careful, you're at risk of being considered an employee under IR35 legislation!"

      I think you forget just who you are dealing with here...

      1. TitterYeNot

        Re: IR35

        "I think you forget just who you are dealing with here..."

        Indeed, I believe the last HMRC inspector to visit BOFH is still at the bottom of the lift shaft, buried under a 3 foot thick layer of SA103 forms...

  6. Chazmon

    'where accurate artillery shelling and friendly fire are just descriptions of the same thing.'

    You owe me a new keyboard and a certain amount of professional dignity... (well ok just the first one)

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime
      1. DropBear

        Re: Gratuitous webcomic quote

        Been there, done that. Just ask Milo from Catch-22 - "What's good for M&M Enterprises is good for the country"...

  7. GlenP Silver badge

    Just what I needed this afternoon, thanks Simon!

  8. chivo243 Silver badge

    Goals, Milestones

    and headstones... Please don't ask me to develop professionally again. It took ages for the last seminar to be flushed out of my system with Beer!

  9. Yugguy


    I once had to suffer a team-building exercise based around hostage rescue.

    My intitial suggestion of "fuck him, lets go down the pub" was not taken up.

    We had cap guns, remember them? Except when they ran out we had to shout "Bang!"

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: BANG!!

      'My intitial suggestion of "fuck him, lets go down the pub" was not taken up.'

      That's the trouble with leadership courses. Everyone wants to be a leader instead of following the one with the best ides.

      1. Marshalltown

        Re: BANG!!

        Julius Caesar died in March on 'ides.'

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Re: Hostage Exercise

          Went on once at a paintball site back in the 90's.

          We were supposed to 'hole up' in these huts and protect the hostages using effective communcation.

          My leadership skills were questioned when I shot the hostages* in the head and told everyone we should go outside and lay an ambush for the idiots thinking we would still be in the huts.

          *mannequins were hurt during the making of this anecdote.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. fajensen

            Re: Hostage Exercise

            Heh - Former Job, We had a paintball event with Alcohol Ad Libitum. Conveniently enough the bar was next to the re-balling station too - so one would have 1-2 drinks at the bar per load expended and pretty quickly this team-building thing turned out to be OK.

            The teams were supposed to "execute the strategies of our leader(s)" - however - we sort of executed our leader instead. When he rushed forward "over the top", brimming with motivation and speed from many hours of Iron-manning - he got about 200 paintballs right in his back (and quite a few more from the oppo when he turned to yell at "his" team). Honest mistake, of course.

            As punishment for next year HR got involved: We got the MBTI test + "Theory", with team formation according to MBTI-properties, the solving of many riddles (which are quite transparent to people who hack code all the time) and the part where you have to describe where you noticed the different "personalities" in play. Enhanced Interrogation all the way!

            There was a bar afterwards so we did a little challenge for ourselves - run through the park between the hotel and the water and do naked swimming in November. As an incentive last one in shall be known as weakling@ ....

            After that "they" gave up on us and just held a regular piss-up instead (with the minimum of content required for tax-relief claiming purposes).

  10. ma1010

    Brings back memories

    I favour the way-way-back-in-the-rear strategy, where accurate artillery shelling and friendly fire are just descriptions of the same thing.

    Reminds me of a manager I worked for once. Perfect description.

    Thanks for the memory, Simon! Now that it is a memory and not a current reality, I can laugh.

  11. T. F. M. Reader

    "real reasons for plying administrative assistants with alcohol" - have a pint, Simon!

  12. Blitheringeejit

    Box ticked

    Now that I've read this excellent summary of a leadership course, I am presumably properly qualified and thus excused from going on any such courses for at least 5 years.

    Now that's the kind of service I (don't) pay my Reg subscription for - pint for Mr T!

    (And that's T for Travaglia, not the other much less scary one.)

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The only good management course I can think of was one where somebody had discovered the size of the last contingent's bar bill & set out to better it. No beer icon because to do that needed the contents of the top shelf behind the bar.

    However, there was one so bad it turned out for the best. My reaction led to me being offered early retirement the following week.

  14. Farizu


    The depressing thing is that Simon was pretty much spot on about what such courses involve. The REALLY depressing thing is that I'm booked in for one next month, and someone seems to have taken the precaution of removing all the sharp objects from around my desk.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Well..

      "I'm booked in for one next month"

      Don't be depressed. Simon's told you how to handle it.

      1. Trygve Henriksen

        Re: Well..

        Google for 'Teamwork T-shirt' and get one of those where they're 'displaying' a baseball bat. Show up with one of those to the course...

        Team building exercises - Can't live with them, and can't bury the instigator out in the woods...

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Well..

        The really depressing thing is that there may will be a room chock full of keen eyed earnest types who will lap up the whole pile of c**p with joy and willing enthusiasm, expecting you to take it all seriously, to ignore the obvious flaws in the magical thinking that counts for research and God help us all, do serious role play.

        But the really really depressing thing is when they come back into the workplace, full of fizzy enthusiasm and try to act on all that nonsense.

    2. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: Well..

      Be brave! We're all here for you.

      Highly relieved that we are not there!

  15. Martin Summers Silver badge

    Effective leadership doesn't come from a course, the irony that the leaders they pick out as examples probably never went near a leadership course in their lifetime doesn't dawn on them. Leadership comes from natural ability not a course, you can't make someome something they're not. The best you'll get out of any managers attending these things when they return is implementation of a tidy desk policy (which I sodding hate with a passion).

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Tidy desk policy.

      "A tidy desk is the sign not a tidy mind."

      "No it's not. An empty desk is the sign of an empty head."

  16. Herby

    I'm sorry Dave...

    ...I'm afraid I can't do that.

    Somehow this quote seems entirely appropriate here.

    Reminds me of the time my boss went to the users group meeting in Hawaii, and offered me some silly component seminar as a consolation prize. I declined. Just a few years later I discovered he had spent some $$$ on something inappropriate which got him the axe. My BOFH career started early.

  17. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    I have a feeling this will not end well

    "I am fairly certain that about the time my Munich flight departs, the PFY will be setting his scrotum on fire and reaching for a size 10 Nike"

    I rest my case

    1. Camilla Smythe

      Re: I have a feeling this will not end well

      What.. You mean the PFY scores with some hot bird with all the attributes of his desires and, to avoid being sexist, more whilst Simon finds himself in some German Bar involving Rubber, Blokes and no Top Shelf?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I have a feeling this will not end well

      Both out of the office at the same time. Dangerous. They might get back to find themselves out of office. Return of Gina?

  18. Mark 85

    Team Building..... fond memories....

    We had an exercise involving "disaster recovery".. a surprise exercise by manglement.

    The phone rings, and a voice "A plane has crashed into your building. Tell us what you will do to resume operations."

    Me: "Where did the plane hit?" "How big a plane?"

    Them: "Middle of the building, a 737". (It should be noted that our building was next to the airport.)

    Me: "Don't care. I'm dead. <click>".

    10 minutes later.. <ring> "You know this is an exercise and the whole team is waiting to help?".

    "I'm dead. Send in the morgue team <click>"

    This went on for another half an hour before they figured out they'd picked a) the wrong scenario and b)the wrong guy to play games.

  19. The_Idiot


    The delicate art of being dragged kicking and screaming by those you are supposed to lead in the direction you want them to go.

    An extra 9999999 points (or pints - there's no o in leadership :-P) if they 'somehow' (Big Evil Grin) think it's their idea and that they talked you into it :-).

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: Leadership

      Scenario: 'communications' meeting.

      "Tim, {pseudo-boss} didn't you once suggest we could move Joe's {real boss} office... No, that'd never work".

      Later, Tim has gone and Joe is permanently fixed where he was - nicely out of sight of the worker bees.

  20. John Crisp

    Those sending you on the course are a) least qualified to be giving instructions and b) need it themselves

    I call bullshit :-) Can't make a silk purse....

    Class column

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds Familiar

    I could attend as many of these sort of courses as I like, all complete touchy feely bollox.

    But any mention I make of anything technical that might actually be useful in my current role, not a hope, we have to pay real money for those, the bullshit we do for free in-house.

    "No idea. As I usually choose Hitler or Mussolini – for the salutes – I get asked to leave around then."

    This will be used should they finally force me to attend another!

  22. Unicornpiss

    Thank you!

    ...for brightening a Friday that felt more like a Monday. Cheers!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least you get out of the office

    Here at the ChickenShitCompany we just get to be patronized by content-free mandatory courses from the ChickenShitCompany "University" (yes, they call it that!) without ever leaving our desks. Of course, there is no time code for watching this dross so it must be done on client's time - or in your own spare time. Even though the company is big on ethics or at least says it is. I once showed some family members some of this sickly and feeble material (thinking they would laugh) but they just got really concerned I was actually involved in a cult. Most of the US-oriented creators are so immune to satire - or any form of critical thinking - that they cannot see that most of their content actually looks like parody - a sort of reverse Poe's law applies making it impossible to take their earnestness at all seriously.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: At least you get out of the office

      Ah, I see you also work for Big [color redacted]. AC for obvious reasons?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: At least you get out of the office

      Interestingly enough, this is exactly the same at AnotherSadGuy, a competitor of ChickenShitCompany in AUS

      They offer you all of these at-your-desk training/certification sites but nowhere to book the time, so the client account gets slugged with the cost

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: At least you get out of the office

        "They offer you all of these at-your-desk training/certification sites but nowhere to book the time, so the client account gets slugged with the cost"

        Technically known as fraud. Whenever I am made to book time to a customer that didn't involve work for the customer I make a special note of it and make sure I get an email from someone saying I should just do it. It's come in handy a couple of times now.

  24. Primus Secundus Tertius

    I like the 'leading from behind' approach. I presume it comes from the Duke of Plaza Toro, the Gilbert and Sullivan character: 'he led his regiment from behind, he found it less exciting'.

    The only courses I was ever sent on were to use up the training department budget or to meet some other quota. Nothing to do with what might have been useful to me professionally.

    1. Teiwaz


      The only teambuilding course I was sent on resulted in the group going on an alcohol fueled raid on the hotel kitchen at two in the morning and stealing a wedding cake.

      The course ended the next morning, lucky, as given another day, we'd have been looking for a monastery to raid, a day after that we'd have been building longboats.

  25. Sarah Balfour

    I'm just trying to picture a guy with a 70cm (27.6") waist and a 105cm (41.33") gut.

    Do dude kecks go that small…? If so, how'd the fuck would he get 'em over the belly…?!

    Does not compute… this is Blighty - who the fuck measures in centimetres, anyway…?!

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      Do dude kecks go that small…?

      Whatever, it could as well have read "0.2 furlong"; most of the male population is blissfully unaware of it's waist measurement. I had to measure just now, I wouldn't even have landed it within 15 cm (and I'm pretty slim).

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I remember it well...

    They had one of "those courses" at the last place I worked. All new starters were required to attend. They kept trying to send me, but I always managed an excuse not to go and they gave up in the end.

    Rumours that I managed to get out of the last attempt by throwinging myself under the wheels of a car resulting in several broken bones and six weeks off work rather than go have always been strongly denied.

    PS My Boss did visit me in hospital, not to show sympathy I think, but to check I hadn't made it all up.

  27. Evil Auditor Silver badge


    What, no mentioning of Maslow's pile of steaming crap hierarchy of needs?

    After hearing about this intellectual construct once too many in one of those "leadership trainings", I eventually gave up on them, refusing to attend another one since. There is one thing though which I've learnt in those trainings: leaders are definitely not created in leadership trainings. At best, they fuck with the brains of second class managers, putting silly ideas of staff motivation in their heads, that wouldn't even work with dogs. Let alone with highly-skilled, cynical engineers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maslow

      Team Leading Software Engineers is like herding cats...

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: herding cats

        all you need is a fire hose.

  28. CheesyTheClown

    Pretty sad

    Why would anyone work for someone like that? I have never been so desperate as to need to work for someone who wears a tie

  29. Dr. Mouse

    Brilliant, as usual. Shame I'm a week late...

    "No idea. As I usually choose Hitler or Mussolini – for the salutes – I get asked to leave around then."

    This reminds me of an old friend (may he rest in pieces). He was a top notch programmer earlier in life, but had failed to keep his skills up to date and was unemployed. The job centre sent him on several courses, one of which was, basically, maths for idiots.

    During this course, one lesson was on division with fractions. One answer came out as 8.5, and the teacher explained that you had to apply the result in context. "For example," she said, "you can't have half a child."

    His answer, which prompted the teacher to ask him to leave and never return, was, "Tell Jamie Bulger's parents that."

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm surprised this sort of BS would be permitted by their director.

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