Pretending to understand your boss
The new boss calls his team into a meeting room and delivers the speech he has spent his life preparing for. It is a moment of rhetorical genius, a rallying cry, a tour de force. Unfortunately, no one understands a word.
This is the situation facing one poor chap at a global bank. He is by all accounts a competent and impressive banker except for one fateful flaw — his team struggle to understand what he is saying, largely thanks to a thick Antipodean accent. He could be delivering the Sermon on the Mount or talking about his favourite brand of socks; they would not know the difference.
As a result, the bankers reporting directly to him effectively have two meetings. The first is with the boss, where everyone angles their head, squints their eyes and tries their very best to make out what he’s saying.
The other is without the boss, when they compare notes and try to piece together a coherent account of what he actually said. They are like Egyptologists deciphering a fragmented text, with the rather unfortunate caveat that when they complete their translation all they get to find out is how much work they have to do before they can go home.
The boss, who has no idea why everyone so attentively takes notes at every meeting, is very pleased with the apparent diligence of his subordinates. Or at least they think he is. It’s rather hard to tell.