As the number of clever, competitive foreigners soars in the City, so does the cliche-filled banter about perceived personal habits. And it’s not just the British who are guilty of this.
No, the foreigners give just as good as they get. They boast about huge tax breaks and whine about British girls smelling of hamburgers, while the Brit boys snigger about the vodka-bingeing, child bride-marrying antics of a Russian back-office colleague.
However, the HR manager finally decided that she’d had enough. So concerned was she that the raucous behaviour would lead to possible legal action, she decided on a radical approach.
A diversity forum, no less, where everybody received an invitation encouraging them to chat about their cultural foibles in a non-threatening environment. There was even a reference to cultural costume being acceptable if desired, although this option was only allowed for the duration of the forum and not for the rest of the day.
The forum got off to a good start as the HR manager treated us all to a riveting and lengthy explanation about diversity and the importance of tolerance of others.
The moment of truth came, however, when she asked us what we thought so far. One particularly raucous sales team boy spouted: “What a load of cobblers! That’s just for birds, shirt-lifters and tax-dodging foreigners.”
As the room erupted in to a frenzy of whistles and table slapping, the HR manager stood her ground, desperately trying to keep her face from taking on a contorted look of impending anaphylaxis.
As the only other female in the room, she glanced over at me, with a glinting eye-signal invitation to back her up.
Remembering her previous track record towards me, I devilishly declined the offer and sat back to enjoy the showdown.
After what felt like an eternity, the HR manager piped up with: “Well, a room full of witnesses will now be testament to the seriousness of your disgusting attitude.”
Sales Team Boy retaliated with a Cheshire Cat grin and a wink, as he leant back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. Everyone else was still guffawing as she walked out of the room, only hesitating momentarily with almost comedic timing to retrieve her jacket when the pocket got caught on the door handle.
Later that afternoon, she was overheard lamenting the tale to her friend, my boss, who decided on her own version of diversity management. “What did you expect from a bunch of fat and ugly men who probably feel threatened because you’re a woman?” she sniped, as HR manager lapped up her pearls of wisdom.