The spectacle of a life lived through four eyes

I’ve been a contact lenses wearer for about 35 years now. Practically a lifetime of living with little discs of silicone hydrogel attached to my eyeballs. Needless to say, they’ve been life-changing and have allowed me to do all sorts of things that I couldn’t do when I wore glasses – like getting my first girlfriend when I was 15. You see I grew up in an era when glasses weren’t cool, especially when they looked like this:

LiabilityGuy aged 14.

As you can see they took up at least 1/3 of my tiny, teenage face. Given that my eyesight sits at minus 6.5, the glass had to be relatively thick and heavy, so much so that I had to wear bigger shoes to counterbalance the earths gravitational pull, which was determined to drag my face into the ground.

For those readers who have 2020 vision (nothing to do with the year of the great plague), to experience minus 6.5 vision you have to rub Vaseline into your eyeballs, drink a bottle of gin and open your eyes underwater. I always fancied a nickname at school. Something like “stud” or “killer” but these amazing eyeglasses earned me the moniker “goggles”. I realise now why they are called spectacles, as that is indeed what I was.

A future so bright

My mom (rest her soul) thought it’d be useful if the lenses darkened in the daylight. Having emigrated from Newcastle Upon Tyne in the UK some years before, sunlight was somewhat of a novelty to be both embraced and feared. This little piece of optometric wizardry did wonders as the sunglass effect only made my optical aids more pronounced. You can see that polarizing effect in the photo above. This had the impact of making me look a bit like Puck from Maya the Bee (a popular kids tv show in the eighties). Also good for girlfriend acquisition.

Puck the Fly

Meet the optometrist

You may be wondering where this is going? The contact lenses (this time a genuinely great suggestion from my mom) not only saved me from a life of celibacy but also helped me establish a lifelong relationship with the optometric industry. I viewed these professionals as ocular messiahs, capable of raising even the most awkward of individuals out of social death.

Earlier this week I decided to change optometrists. My old one was pretty good but I felt that having just turned 50, a fresh pair of eyes was needed, so to speak. It had been a while since I had the full barrage of tests and assessments, and I was amazed at how much technology filled the small consulting room. I was pleased with this and looked forward to not having any of the antiquated, uncomfortable periscope equipment wrapped around my head whilst I pretended to be able to see the letters on the wall. Isn’t it strange how when one is faced with an eye test, one feels an incredible urge to squint, strain and wildly guess at the letters to pass the test even if it comes at the expense of landing up with the wrong prescription.

A life sentence

In my case I think this stemmed back to that fateful day at school in Grade 4 when the government appointed optometrist came around and tested everyone’s eyesight. It was of course that pivotal test failure that led to the commencement of Puck Goggles Colman’s six-year prism sentence (see what I did there?).

Unfortunately, despite the tech-packed lab in my new optometrists office, I still landed up with the steampunk equipment on my face. It appears that this remains the go-to for eye specialists, which seems odd especially given that my current practitioner looked decidedly millennial. I guess I was hoping for some science-laden beam of light that would shine through my eyes and immediately figure out what I needed to live a normal life. One without eventually having to train our French Bulldogs as guides. If you own one of these hounds you will also know that they are lovable, snoring, fart-bombers with terrible eyesight of their own. All three of us would be dead at the first traffic light.

Archie and Dot – not guide dogs.

Spot the difference

I tolerated the uncomfortable Mad Max binoculars for what seemed like hours whilst we both played a game of spot the difference. If you’ve been for a professional eye test recently (not one at the licensing department of despair) then you too will have played the game. You are presented, one-at-a-time, with approximately three million lenses all mysteriously, repetitively numbered from 1 to 6 and must spot the undetectable differences between them. Failure to do this means your prescription will be wrong and you’ll spend thousands on the wrong spectacles or contact lenses. This I believe is what happened to me the last time I got my eyes tested. Rather than admit that I flubbed the expensive game, I ended up wearing a prescription for years that I’m sure was perfect… for someone else.

The outcome of this week’s game was somewhat fruitful. I have been told that I need multifocal lenses given my advanced age of 50. Yes, contact lenses do come in a multifocal version although the costs are decidedly eye-watering. I’ll be experimenting with these in the hope that I gain twenty-twenty in 2022.

See you soon. I’m the LiabilityGuy.

The most disgusting thing you’ll ever eat

When I travel to a foreign country, I like to sample the local dishes but whilst we were in Paris and Rome earlier this month, something happened to me that made me question my adventurous nature and the way in which Google and Wikipedia conspire against unsuspecting travellers. This blog was written the night after this life-changing event…

“Last night Christelle and I visited this quaint little bistro outside our apartment in Paris. To put things in context, we’d spent the entire morning in transit from Rome, then walked about 16km exploring the city, as one does when one is living in an actual postcard world. Earlier that day, at lunch time in fact, we had this incredible vegan meal (I see you raise an eyebrow, vegan? LiabilityGuy? Never). But yes, I actually ate a vegan burger from this place called Hanks and it was so good. I’ll definitely have another if given the opportunity.

But I have to say that being raised in South Africa and not having consumed meat with my mid day meal, left me feeling, well lets just say a little unpatriotic. So last night we stopped in at the bistro down the road from our apartment. I was pretty hungry and didn’t fancy the usual array of French nouvelle cuisine. That’s when this dish caught my eye; a local delicacy called andouillette. It’s pronounced Andoo-yett apparently. I spotted it on the menu and did a quick wiki search. I didn’t open the full wiki page on my phone so this is what I saw:

“Andouillette is a coarse-grained sausage made with pork, intestines or chitterlings, pepper, wine, onions, and seasonings.” Admittedly I should’ve been a bit grossed out by the intestines bit, and I had no idea what chitterlings are but they sounded cute. I also thought “aren’t all sausages encased in some sort of intestines?” So I ordered this traditional sausage. 

Christelle and I engaged in some holiday chatter while we waited. We’d really been having the best time and not a single bad meal. Until now.
Let’s just say the sausage announced its arrival by a peculiar aroma not dissimilar to that of a dead, rancid wild boar’s butthole. Not that I’ve been that close to a pigs ass, except this one time when I visited parliament on a school tour but that’s a story for another time.

In any event this freaking sausage arrives with string on both ends. You know to hold all the goodies in. And by goodies I mean intestinal stuff and get this, it’s actually the colon. No not the punctuation mark, the part of a creature that processes actual crap. The smell emanating from this dish was so disturbing I was transported back to my school days and was reminded of how when your mom had packed you an egg sandwich, you felt obliged to tell everyone that you had an egg sandwich so they didn’t think you farted when you opened it.  I almost apologised on the spot to everyone in the restaurant in the hope that they didn’t mistakenly think I’d had shit my own pants. My inability to articulate this in French, held me back. As well as a strong gag reflex.

So I’m sitting at a tiny French table with my vegan wife and this 12 inch smelly sausage. (I’ll let you think about that image for a bit before I move on). Ok?

Being a die hard Anglo Saxon warrior there was no way I was not going to eat this thing. At 18 euros it had an appeal that almost surpassed my desire to throw it out the window and alert the authorities. Almost. Fortunately the pungent porky also came with chips and some lettuce with a weird dressing so I figured I’d be able to mask the flavor if it was as bad as the scent.

If you’re a human being you’ll know that much of what you taste is processed through your nasal passages, this being one of the reasons why you can’t taste your food when you have a blocked nose. As I dissected the beastly banger, the smell seemed stronger. And it was at this point that I noticed my wife holding her nose. I digress here to remind you, the reader of this tale of gastronomical woe, of the fact that my wife is a vegan. Her sensitivity to strange carnivorian scent cannot be over emphasised. I should also mention that the size of the average table in a Parisian bistro is just slightly larger than a postage stamp. She could not have gotten closer to this meal even if she had ordered it herself.

The smell definitely appeared to be getting worse as I cut into it. I contemplated sticking some fries up my nose to conclude my meal without gagging but instead opted to eat them the traditional way, hoping to use the dish they came in to cover the sausage, blocking some of the putrid aroma.

Fortunately this was not necessary as the waitress appeared and I indicated for her to remove the leftovers (1/2 of the sausage). We paid and left the restaurant. On the way home whilst being subjected to ridicule and disgust by my wife, I went back into Wikipedia and read the entire post which goes onto say, “True andouillette is rarely seen outside France and has a strong, distinctive odour related to its intestinal origins and components. Although sometimes repellent to the uninitiated, this aspect of andouillette is prized by its devotees.”

I’m the Liability Guy and I have just two pieces of advice:
1. If something tastes and smells like crap, it is quite possibly crap. Don’t eat it. Or you may die with actual crap in your mouth.
2. Wikipedia is not the lazy reader’s friend. If you don’t open the whole page you may land up in shit (or shit may land up in you).”

Setting your Out-of-Office message without being a douche

I bet you’re one of those lucky people. You’ve never been this organised. You’ve probably run through the checklist, making big swishy ticks like an eager driving test invigilator whose palm just got greased.

  • Leave applied for a month ago (and approved) – check
  • holiday booked – check
  • desk relatively clear – check
  • email inbox up to date – well as much one can be up to date. It’s a bit like trying to stop running water with a sieve.
  • Out of office message engaged – ah…

I’m only going on leave next week and I still have a bit of time to formulate the perfect “out-of-office” message. Is there such a thing as a perfect out-of-office mail you may ask? The answer to this age-old corporate conundrum, is in this masterpiece of literary genius you are already reading. Ok I’m not sure if the question is actually age-old but the literary genius bit is definitely true.

Perhaps a good starting point here is to explain the Out-of-Office facility, just in case you live in the Outer Hebrides and have never owned an email address. In fact if you live in the Outer Hebrides you probably won’t be reading this on a phone or computer, more likely then you are reading this in hardcopy as a tattered, yellowing, piece of parchment with a treasure map on the other side which you extracted from a dirty beer bottle floating past the island you’ve been marooned upon. If that is the case, read no further, turn overleaf and start digging.

The Out-of-Office (OOO) message was invented by Microsoft in the 80’s although rumour has it, it was called the OOF back then. Mysteriously no one knows what the “F” stands for although anyone who has returned to the office after a month off, is likely to have determined their own definition for the “F”. Perhaps it should be renamed the WTF message once you turn it off after your vacation?

I think we can all agree that it’s actually Bill Gates’s fault that most of us suffer under the tyranny of an inbox throughout the year so I guess in a moment of extreme guilt he thought it’d be a good idea to create an automatic message that helped remind your customers and colleagues that you actually don’t give an “F” about them. It’s an amazing tool that allows you to delegate and irritate two different sets of people at the same time (your co-workers and your customers).

I’ve always felt that the OOO or OOF was a cruel automated gloating system. You’re wading through a quagmire of mail, looking for some way of moving your own pile of electronic despair to someone else’s. You’re lulled into a false sense of security and achievement as you press the send button. Then, almost as if you fired a boomerang shaped missile into cyber space, it bounces right back into your digital mailbox.

“Hi there, I’m sorry but I’m out of the office at the moment. I’ll return in 3 weeks. If your mail is urgent, please forward it to (insert name of hapless colleague). If not, I’ll attend to it when I return. Have a great day. Regards.”

There are hidden meanings in this email that may be invisible to the average email slave. Let me help you decipher this. Think of me as the enigma machine LiabilityGuy. The true message appears with the hidden meanings in red below:

“Hi there, I’m sorry but I’m out of the office at the moment. Hey asshole. I have no idea who you are, hence the reason for this impersonal, automated salutation masked as a friendly greeting. I’ll return in 3 weeks. Note that I’m not openly telling you I’m on holiday but unless people take lunch for 3 weeks at a time in your company, you can assume that I’ve probably saved up all my leave for this extremely long holiday. I’m gloating at the fact that you, mere mortal, used up most of your leave with a day here and there during the year, and now you have to work and read this, the electronic equivalent of being “flipped the bird” in the traffic. If your mail is urgent this is important because if you are like 90% of the contacts in this mailbox you’ll email me for any old random shit that you could probably resolve on your own within a few hours, let alone weeks, please forward it to (insert name of hapless colleague) As a bit of a joke, I’ve forwarded my mail to a colleague that has absolutely no idea what I’ve been working on for the past few months. This means that you’ll spend 3 weeks trying to explain yourself by which time I’ll be back at work dealing with this in person. If not, I’ll attend to it when I return. See previous comment and note the clever way all choices have a single outcome Have a great day. Regards. As I’m typing this glorious message I am laughing loudly. Not just any laugh but a deep, taunting, gloating, belly laugh at the fact that by the time you read it, I’ll be tanning my cheeks somewhere exotic (which means anywhere but in the office where you need me)

I realise we all need a break and that the OOO is probably the best way to make sure people know you won’t be attending to their mail within the usual 5 seconds of receiving it. You know those people that email you and then call immediately afterwards to make sure you received it. That call is important because in spite of major technological advances in digital communication, these individuals assume email is as reliable as the homing pigeon or the stagecoach postal service. Bandits lurk behind every data boulder, ready to jump out screaming “Stand and deliver”. Hands up if you thought of Adam Ant a second ago (if you don’t know who that is, go and ask your mom).

Seriously though, if you think about it, the Out of Office message could use a bit of an overhaul. I’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts :

  • Don’t forget to update the message to cater for the current period you’ll be away. Nothing worse than receiving an out of office message from someone that suggests they’ll be back from leave, 6 months ago. Really, do you own a time machine and you’re actually going to come back before you leave?
  • Don’t forget to change the content of the message to keep it current. Ladies, if you were on maternity leave 3 years ago, your clients and colleagues do not want to be reminded of this historical fact every December. This is not Facebook moments…
  • Do tell your colleagues if you are forwarding mail or redirecting senders. Most people receive way too much mail already. Adding another mailbox to one person’s load unexpectedly is evil. Dante would’ve allocated a 10th circle of hell to this, entitled Inbox Inferno if he lived in the 21st century. I’m not sure if one can prepare for an email avalanche any more than one can prepare to be shot in the face but I guess its just common courtesy.
  • Do explore the latest Microsoft advancements in the “Auto Reply” video. There are some good tips that will help you avoid upsetting clients and colleagues.

Above all, remember that unless you manage your Out-of-Office effectively, you are really turning the company’s problem (of you being away) into the sender’s problem. Not a sustainable solution.

I’m the LiabilityGuy and I’m out of the office…

Does kak weather really come from Cape Town?

Why do people think all kak weather is made in Cape Town?

I was at a cocktail party in Joburg the other night and one of the other guests spent a good fifteen minutes going on about the dodgy weather in the Cape. He rounded off the conversation by demanding an explanation as to why this terrible weather not only existed, but also why we, the people from the Cape, insisted on bringing the miserably, inclement, climatic condition to Johannesburg. Basically that all cold and wet weather came from Cape Town in some sort of magical suitcase of cloud and cold miggie-piss (for those of you outside SA, this translates to “midge urine”). I wonder if that would need to be stored in the overhead stowage bin on the plane or in the hold?
Of course as we were having the conversation, it happened to be a glorious spring evening in Jozi. I enquired as to whether the Cape was also to be blamed for that glorious weather. “No that comes from somewhere else”, he mumbled as he stuffed another hors d’oeuvre in his mouth.

One doesn’t expect to meet a qualified meteorologist at a financial services soirée yet they do seem to be scattered about the place at practically every insurance function, lurking undercover until some unsuspecting Capetonian makes themselves known.
As you may know, I am from Johannesburg originally so I may have engaged in this western-province-bashing pastime loved by so many Egoli residents, before I moved. It is for this reason I thought it’d be worthwhile doing some research on the origins of the weather in our country, with a view to uncovering the source of our problems. A bit like Livingstone trekking through the bushveld in the early 1800’s. Perhaps providing travellers from the south west of the country with some ammunition for fending off aggressive armchair weathermen.
So it turns out that the unique climate in South Africa is primarily caused by three factors;
1. The warm Benguela current on the east coast of SA
2. The cold Agulhas current on the west coast of SA
3. The relatively high altitude of Johannesburg 
When a cold front develops, it actually starts out at sea and then moves through the Cape and up across the country often bringing cool, even wet weather. Do we make this weather in the Western Cape? Actually not, we do make a great many strange things such as wine, fruit, cheese and Helen Zille. But not the weather. The Cape is really the first place to receive the cold oceanic  weather that hits South Africa. It then does its best to warm it up as it travels inland, saving the rest of the country from certain death due to hypothermia.
Conversely when it is warm in Johannesburg this weather often originates in the north. No not Sandton but actually in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe makes all the warm weather for Johannesburg in Harare. “Thank you Bob” or as they say in Shona, “Ndinotenda asshole”.
I’m sure you’ll all agree that you’d rather have the locally filtered and ever-so-slightly warmed, democratic weather than the imported, dodgy, dictatorial stuff.
I trust this puts the meteorological matter to rest once and for all. 
You’re welcome.

A tale of two cities – the life of the corporate commuter.

It’s been almost 3 and a half years since I moved to Cape Town from Johannesburg. Read my earlier blog, the Jozifugee when you have some time.

A lot of people find it strange that I don my suit every Monday and head off work. Not because I’m going to work of course, nor because I still wear a suit (even though most of the profession I work in have gone for less formal attire). People find it strange because I live in Cape Town and have my office in Joburg. Whilst many South Africans file into the traffic on our congested roadways, I squeeze myself into a cigar tube with 200 strangers who are doing the same thing I am. We are the corporate equivalent of a migrant labour force.

So what’s it like, and why do I do it?

I’m a liability specialist by profession and they need those more in Jozi than they do in Cape Town. I see you scratching your heads trying to figure out how someone could be an expert in liability. I mean you’ve heard of asset managers. And assets represent the other, nicer side of the balance sheet right? I’m in insurance. The kind that companies buy to protect themselves against law suits. Kind of like a paper Barry Roux. I put it to you.

I digress. I do that a lot so bear with me. I moved to Cape Town to be with my wife. Well she wasn’t my wife at the time but my courtship plans were being seriously hampered by the 1400 kilometers between us. So I left my job in Jozi and set off to the republic of Cape Town. Regrettably my time in the mother city was marred by beautiful scenery, friendly people and a generally rewarding lifestyle. “Awful”, you must be thinking. “I could see why he’d want to start working in Johannesburg again.”

Jozi, the city of gold. The place I grew up in and have spent 91.5% of my life. Now I see you thinking, “What a precise fellow the LiabilityGuy is, he must be good at his job, lets place all our liability business with him.” The number is actually accurate as I spent the first 3 years of my life in the UK and then a year in Cape Town before the commute started. So guess you could say I’m working  back in my home town.

“Hey what about the girl, the one you semigrated for?” you may ask. Well she’s a commuter too now. We both take the red eye to Jozi in the morning on Monday. We don’t however travel on the same plane. Joburg, being the brilliant, sprawling metropolis that it is, has two main airports and we travel to different ones. I recall when we first started doing it, the strange looks from fellow passengers as we kiss and say goodbye on the airside of the security checkpoint. A regular scene from Casablanca. Here’s lookin’ at you.

The advantage of spending unusually large helpings of time in an airport is that you get to know people. I’m on first name terms with some of the security people. I mean if a dude’s gonna feel you up twice a week, and he’s not your doctor, might as well introduce yourself. Speaking of airport security, here are some tips:


  1. Make sure you put all your metal shit in your bag so you don’t have to frantically pat yourself down looking for the phantom coin that keeps setting off the scanner. Your fellow travellers will love you.
  2. For goodness sake, don’t lock your laptop in a case that requires you to input a Fibonacci sequence and a retinal scan before you can remove it at the X-ray machine. Your fellow passengers will not love you.
  3. In SA for domestic flights you generally don’t need to remove your shoes at security check points. That’s a foreign thing and is likely to attract undue attention, particularly from the sniffer dogs that are likely to think you’ve got hidden quantities of anthrax in your socks. The security people will not love you.

Life on a plane isn’t too bad if you’re organized. I’ve got the very good fortune of having the wonderful Stef in our office who always gets me the emergency exit seat. This I’ve learnt gives you loads of leg room but does generally mean you’ll be seated next to a giant, the kind of person you secretly curse when they sit next to you in a normal seat, “why don’t these meaty monoliths sit in the emergency exits?”. Well they do actually.
I tolerate this, being a slight person myself. Firstly because I’m grateful for the leg room and secondly because I don’t want to get thrown out the exit in mid flight by a giant.image-1-3 Incidentally, I’ve noticed that most of the giants would not be able to squeeze out of the little emergency doors, blocking people from leaving what would probably be a flaming cigar tube in a crisis. The airline crew always ask if you’re willing to assist in an emergency but they don’t tell you that involves stuffing the 200kg Neanderthal through a veritable eye of a needle before you can avoid certain death by incineration.

About 4 months ago we also got an apartment in Joburg. This really has made life a lot easier as I no longer have to travel with a suitcase. That suitcase really was a source of much irritation. Lugging around a small house like a tortoise. An endless cycle of packing and unpacking every week. The circle of bag-life. Furthermore I found that the wait for my bag on the conveyor was almost as long as the flight, only without the comfy chair and sweaty giant.
If there’s any advice I can give to anyone commuting, its that you have to get a home base where you can keep your clothes and recharge your batteries. Unless you’re a politician and can afford to stay in the presidential suite of your hotel, an apartment is the way to go. Furnished is ideal so you don’t need to worry about buying two of everything. We found this great place close to my office. It comes with this old, retired caretaker guy who insists on calling me by the name Colin. I corrected him a couple of times but now I’ve just settled on Colin. Colin Colman. His name is Charles but I call him Fred for that is a good name for a caretaker.image-1-4


I also have no car in Jozi. I recall a few years ago, not having a car in Joburg meant you were stranded with perhaps the only upside being the reduced likelihood of being hijacked. If you wanted to go somewhere you’d have to put your life in the hands of a taxi driver. This privilege of being nearly murdered in a twisted, mangled mess of metal would also cost you a small fortune. Thankfully this is no longer an issue.

Uber is the most brilliant service I’ve encountered. It’s really made an enormous difference in my life. It costs me about R60 a day to get to and from work. For 4 days a week that’s just R240. I can’t buy a car for that and I was spending more than that on petrol. I also get to chat to a different driver each trip. Here’s an interesting stat. I’ve done about 250 trips so far this year and have never had the same driver. It’s a shame really because the most engaging conversations are always cut short by the end of the journey. This does get irritating because it’s a bit like watching an episode of a great series and then never seeing what happens next. “You see sir the only way we’ll be able to sort out the economy and government is…ok here you are, bye” or “I’m so pleased to meet you sir because I think I know the true meaning of life and it’s …ok here we are, have a good day”. Again my advice is get an apartment as close as possible to your office and use uber. Your life will be better.

So if you ever find yourself in the position of travelling constantly between these two spectacular cities (or any others), don’t complain, embrace the privilege and be the best Jozifugee you can.

I’m the LiabilityGuy.

The whole tooth and nothing but the …

I really had a fabulous week. It all started with breaking my oral accoutrement. That’s nothing dirty by the way, I’m just hoping if I use the word oral in a blog, I’ll get loads of Google hits. I lost a tooth.

Actually the broken tooth thing started several months ago. I was eating a box of smarties (next time, empty the smarties out of the box first, I hear you cry). Anyway, I was eating smarties and one just cracked my tooth, a right incisor. Surprisingly there was no pain. Pain, I’ve learnt is the sole reason I visit my dentist. The absence of which I took to mean said visit was not required.

This assumption of course was coupled with the ridiculous notion that I have the miraculous ability to heal myself and even grow new teeth in my mouth, a bit like that invincible cheerleader in the tv series Heroes.

No not Debbie from Texas. That cheerleader had the somewhat miraculous ability to grow many things in her mouth, none of which were teeth.

So predictably my tooth did not heal and eventually decided that it was time to leave my mouth, like a teenage upstart moving out of home. I pray it has gone to a better place. Perhaps being ground up and sold as an aphrodisiac to endangered rhinos in the Kruger park?

Losing a tooth at my age (forty something) got me thinking about politics. I’ve had full control of my dental constituents for well over three decades. Of course I realise that my enamelled friends didn’t elect me after I spent billions on campaigning but that doesn’t mean they didn’t rely on me for their wellbeing. I’ve been more than happy to use them every day, even posing with them in full view for the occasional selfie. But, in many ways I guess I’ve taken them for granted, often ignoring their problems, imagining that they’ll somehow fix themselves and that they’ll be with me forever no matter what. The reality however is that once a few unattended cracks started developing, it was only a matter of time before the system crumbled and the once loyal inhabitants began their exodus.

Blured text with focus on PROTEST

If I don’t take action and invest in the wellbeing of my gum-dwellers now, I’ll be a lonely, old toothless wonder, desperately trying to remind whomever will listen about the glory days when I could smile confidently without drooling all over myself.

Fortunately my dental quandary can be remedied before the rest of the pearly voters start planning their exit strategy. Granted, the lost tooth will be replaced by a 3D-printed ceramic implant and no-one but you or I will know that it’s not part of the original team but I guess that’s what makes for an interesting coalition.

I’m the @LiabilityGuy and its never too late to care…


Time to say goodbye – Treating Employees Fairly

You know how to recruit good people right? But do you know how to say goodbye to them?

I read an article recently about changes in the employment environment over the past 10 years. The author wrote that he’d attended a corporate presentation and the CEO was talking about how he’d been with the company for 25 years. Two younger men in front looked at each other and commented about how awful that must’ve been. Practically a life sentence.

The message in the article was clear;  millennials (age 20 to 30 aka Generation Y) probably won’t stick around in a job for as long  as their Generation X predecessors, and a business can only expect to keep top performers for as long as they feel they are being challenged and are making a difference in the world. Money is a factor in making any job more attractive to any age group but there is a growing body of articles and studies to suggest that to the younger generation in particular, remuneration is a bit further down the list than it may have been for their parents.

We must accept that our rising stars in business are probably only going to be with us for 3-5 years even if they’re presented with growth opportunities and told how much the company values them.  A recent report in Fast Company found that 60% of millennials who leave their jobs in less than 3 years, do so because of a poor cultural fit. It is also true that this group of employees place a lot more stock in being treated like valued individuals and not just heads in a corporate office plan.

As employers perhaps we should be acknowledging that this new relationship could be relatively short term, certainly by prior standards. By 2020 this group will make up half of the workforce in most countries. If we’re going to find ourselves in a new era of shorter term engagements, a more transient workplace perhaps, then businesses should prepare for how they conduct themselves when departure becomes imminent. Not only does every business require a strategy for attracting talent but it should also have a clear idea as to how it says goodbye to its good people.

You may ask why? Why should an employer care how an employee feels after they log off the network for the last time?

There are a number of reasons why this matters in the 21st century. One should remember that if a good employee moves on, then its the right thing to do to send them off with a blessing. When we talk about sending them off with a blessing that includes the way they are discussed internally after the move. Poor leaders, and I’ve witnessed this myself, do not support employees moving on and the worst kind will often set about trying to sully the reputation of the soon to be former-employee, during the notice period and in fact long after their departure from the business. This actually reveals more about everything that’s wrong with the business rather than any previously unnoticed shortcomings that the former employee may have. This also guarantees that re-employment in the same business will never happen in future.

Don’t get me wrong, not every employee is a loss to the business but when a high performer moves on, any attempt to chip away at their reputation will only be perceived as “sour grapes” by the remaining employees. They may very well be left wondering if its worthwhile giving their own best efforts, if they too may be the subject of such treatment in future. I know some organizations where merely mentioning the name of the dearly departed employee is frowned upon, almost as if the moniker itself conjures up the Voldemort of the office.

Its natural for remaining employees to engage in a bit of blame shifting. They may genuinely be frustrated with the additional workload that could come their way or perhaps the training burden that will inevitably be foisted upon them when the replacement joins. Junior staff and other former colleagues will of course largely take their lead from the seniors in the team and it would be massively inappropriate and unprofessional to see character assassination from the CEO or other high ranking employees.

Hard work and committment in the preceding years can’t and shouldn’t be erased as a method of dealing with the exit. In my own experience true leaders do not take the loss of a once-loyal employee personally. It’s not an affront that an ambitious employee seeks greener pastures or more challenging terrain. Even the case of employees joining the opposition it is actually a tremendous compliment to the business when the organization is viewed by competitors as a fundamentally sound training ground.

The best attitude any business can have is to let good workers go with best wishes and the hope that they’ll continue to be ambassadors of the brand long after they leave, even if they’re joining a competitor. Remember that as an employer you may never get the good ones back again but the ones that have left may end up sitting next to your next star performer in their new office environments. A business reputation isn’t just about earning the respect of a customer. It’s also about attracting talented stars of the future.

Death by rumour

Social media exposes a lot of employers. Millennials in particular know how to research the online profile of a business before they join. Most prospective employees will engage with others who may have worked at the business before. The modern day job seeker may not only provide references to the prospective employer but may in fact do their own research by communicating with former employees. Simply typing the name of the business into the LinkedIn platform produces a goldmine of reference points, both past and present. Type in the name of your company and you’ll be presented with a long list that includes the staff who’ve moved on.

Managers with a modicum of emotional intelligence shouldn’t need to be told about this. Its about doing the next right thing and encouraging people to grow, even if you aren’t around to enjoy the future benefits of their work.

Remember that if you continuously destroy the fruits of a great worker’s labour, you will eventually land up with way-more compost than fruit.

I’m the LiabilityGuy.

(watch the Apple video below which appeared in the original article by Zen Workplace)

Teenage kryptonite. The death of SuperDad

I’m a father of two teenagers. A boy, sixteen and a girl, fifteen. They haven’t lived in the same house as me since they were two and three years old. I’ve always tried to be the most involved dad I can in spite of this separation. I’m sure even residential parents of teens can relate, but lately it seems that as they grow bigger, so my hero status shrinks with frighteningly, inverse-proportionality. The teenage years have proved to be kryptonite to my SuperDad alter ego.

I’ve been emotionally relegated. No longer do I feel I am the strongest, funniest, smartest, most magical father alive. Now it often feels like I’m the uncool, taxi driving banker who can’t, or perhaps shouldn’t dance. Ever.


In fact after some of my regular trips up to Joburg I have to say I left feeling energized by my new job but somewhat floundering as a father.

I moved to a different city last year (2013) in May. I’d really decided that I wanted to move to Cape Town from Johannesburg almost a year before I actually did it. The long distance relationship I was in had reached the point where cohabitation with my now fiance, had become a necessity for us both. The actual delay in relocating though was informed by a number of factors; obviously finding a job was important but I also needed to make sure my children were going to be ok with the transition. I recall being completely petrified to break the news to them. Fearing that they were going to fall to the floor, gnashing their teeth, hysterically crying and hanging onto my legs, begging me to stay.

So after deliberating for weeks as to how I would share this traumatic information, I took the afternoon off work, picked them up and took them to lunch. The news of my impending move was delivered over dessert at the local Spur restaurant and was received with all the sorrow and emotion of a child whose just learnt that the square root of 64 is 8.

After the lack of emotion had dissipated, the non-event-void was gratefully replaced with a question. Primarily about whether or not I could drop them off at a friend’s place after lunch. I politely reminded them that I’d taken the afternoon off to spend time with them, possibly in the comfort of an air-conditioned cinema. This news was not received quite as well as the news of my relocation. In fact a debate ensued between the two as to whose turn it actually was to spend time with me.


It was then that I knew they’d be just fine without me. In fact in subsequent conversations I learnt that they were almost relieved that I was going. Not because they wanted rid of me but because they both knew I was moving to live a healthier lifestyle with the woman I love (whom they love too). It turns out my young children worried about me. Worried about me being alone in Joburg and spending nearly every waking moment in the office.

This week, the obvious finally hit me. My children really are growing up. My secret wishes to keep them young and dependent upon me are no match for the inevitable passage of time and the bio-chemical wizardry of Mother Nature.

I recalled how after my mother passed away when I was 21, I often worried about my father. These worries were often coupled with immense guilt that I was enjoying myself out with friends whilst he sat at home alone. These feelings only left me some years later when I knew for sure that he was ok (largely after he met the wonderful woman who is now my stepmom).

So it would appear that losing my godlike, hero status with my children is not nearly as important as us all acknowledging that things must move forward. My children must be free to grow up without worry and guilt just as much as I need to allow them their space to spread their wings.

Grown Up Family

I’ll keep my SuperDad cape folded neatly in the cupboard, secure in the knowledge that I can slip it back on whenever my flourishing offspring need me to.

For now I am content in just being me, the LiabilityGuy.

So far South its North – Sub’urbanville

Since I’ve  been here I’ve learnt that there is a certain stigma attached to the northern suburbs of Cape Town.

I cannot fathom this. I grew up in the southern suburbs of Johannesburg which also has a stigma attached to it. The two places are nothing alike. Growing up in the South, in the eighties was interesting. I grew up with lots of Lebanese, Portuguese and Greek kids, so it was a fairly olive-skinned, cosmopolitan environment although I’m pretty sure no one has ever used that phrase to describe the area. There were kids in my class that were much older than me in standard 6. Some had been “kept back”, several times. I got in a fight with a fellow student once who had a spectacular mustache. Apparently she looked a lot like her father, who’d run off after his chop-shop (not a butchery) had been raided by the police.

Anyway I digress. Durbanville is amazing. It has a unique charm and the folks are generally very friendly. In fact at a four-way stop, one can sit for several minutes with drivers in all four directions waving each other on and then subsequently getting pissed off because the offer has been met with a counter offer to proceed first. Perhaps this aggressively polite disposition has something to do with the fact that the place is practically surrounded by wine farms and everyone is permanently drunk?


In the latter part of the 18th century, the town was actually called “Pampoenkraal” which translates into “a circular enclosure for pumpkins”. I would imagine the local folk resented being associated with a comical Halloween vegetable and the name was changed to D’urban in 1836, after the Governor of the Cape at the time. Unfortunately a further name change necessitated itself when the locals became frustrated with sunburnt stoners seeking the town’s KZN namesake, Durban. And so we have the derivative, Durbanville – creative little fuckers, those town fathers.

They grow grapes in Durbanville and also very large people. I’m not a very big fellow, height-wise. I’d say I’m probably average height, in any other part of the world. Here I am a Lilliputian in a land of Gullivers. I often feel like a child when I’m standing in the queue at any of the local stores. Even Woolworths. Where I am often the only male in the store. Even then I’m still the most vertically challenged person around. An English People-Mcnugget.

giant queue

People in Durbanville speak a variety of languages. Most folks are bilingual and both English and Afrikaans are spoken fluently. Apparently the schools are dual-medium. This is a term that I had not heard before I moved here. When I first heard it I thought it must be some kind of seance involving two psychics. It turns out its a process where the teacher communicates in both languages to the scholars. Perhaps reminiscent of the safety demonstration on a 1980’s SAA flight. My Afrikaans is improving although Christelle has forbade me from speaking it. Apparently I sound something like a throat cancer sufferer with a hot potato in my mouth.

There is a hardware store up the road from our new house. The store presents one with a very interesting shopping experience although I’ve noted it’s a bit fishy. I mean no disrespect to the owners. The place sells some good quality tools and also fish. Yes you read that right. They also sell fish. Dead ones. Packed in ice. To eat. It’s a wonderful idea, shopping for power tools always makes me want to indulge in gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals.


Seriously though, the area is truly beautiful. We often go running around the town and into the surrounding wine farms. It is on the winding dusty paths of the vineyards that we wage weekend war with the mountain bikers for control of the FOOTpaths. These cyclists intrigue me, for they complain bitterly about the inconsiderate drivers on the roads and then act like two-wheeled tossers themselves. It is wrong to generalize, perhaps only 90% of them give the other 10% a bad name.

So I don’t really know about this whole northern suburbs thing……..If I think about it, I have come from Johannesburg which means Durbanville is technically in the south. Problem solved.

I’m the Liability Guy and unless you live in the North Pole, you’ll always be south of something.