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Queer as folk

Stuart White

In medieval times (around the 15th to 17th centuries), a weird psychiatric disorder swept through Europe. Many people believed that they were made of glass and were likely to shatter into pieces with even the slightest brush of contact with another person – I am not joking!  This order was later named the “Glass delusions” and if you don’t believe me check out the research journal “History of Psychiatry”, where it is recorded.

Because of this belief people went to great lengths to protect themselves, changing lifestyle habits, patterns, thinking – believing that coming into contact with another human being would be catastrophic. A medical account reported in 1561 described a patient “who had to relieve himself standing up, fearing that if he sat down his buttocks would shatter.

This man constantly applied a small cushion to his buttocks, even when standing.” On a grander scale and as if to add credence to the condition, King Charles VI of France refused to let anyone touch him, and even wore reinforced clothing to protect himself from “shattering”!  

People thinking like this may sound utterly ridiculous today, much like the world being considered flat, yet it was a real belief for some people at that time.  And compare it to the twentieth century concept of the glass ceiling – the political term used to describe "the unseen, yet unreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements. 

Of course it’s not meant to be taken literally – a physical barrier which can only be broken through by smashing the glass, but could it not just be as delusional as the mediaeval folk who thought they were potentially breakable and fashioned out of glass?

I’ve been giving this some thought recently because my latest passion is coaching. Well when I say ‘latest’ I don’t want to sound like a butterfly flitting from fad to passing fad.  I am really referring to my interest being peaked and developed in the past few years as I increasingly appreciate the impact that coaching has on people development. My interest is also heightened the more I have worked with coaching as a coach and being the recipient of coaching.

There have been quite a few managers who have lain on my proverbial couch to ponder over where they might be going wrong or how they might get better results and be more effective. Someone asked me the other day what was the most common “issue” brought to the coaching table and I found this very difficult to answer because people are so considerably different and unique. As coaching is founded on the principal of unconditional positive regard which basically means your client or the coachee is respected for their individual worth and uniqueness of people and this includes not categorising them.

Unconditional positive regard is a term used in counselling but it has been brought into the coaching space (coaching has in fact developed from many of the principles of therapeutic counselling). It requires that coach suspends any form of personal judgment, and accepts the client, regardless of the content of any disclosure they may have made. Typically in everyday life judgment is made in a very short amount of time, and overcoming this instant reaction can be difficult for many people. A coach however, should have undergone specific coaching skills training to be able to provide this unconditional form of support.

Now I can’t claim to have ever been presented with a person with “glass delusion” (not that I would judge anyway) but I do encounter many people with limiting beliefs. Just to get the definition out of the way a limiting belief is something we believe about ourselves which isn’t true and it gets in the way of our progress, happiness, effectiveness…whatever, one of which is that proverbial glass ceiling.

Common limiting beliefs can include thoughts such as:
I can’t tell the truth because I may get judged.
I don’t want to ask for what I want because, what if I get rejected?
I can’t trust people because I’ve been betrayed before.

In the workplace these might look a little different:
I can’t progress because I am a woman.
I can’t pursue my dreams because I don’t know what I’d do if I fail.
I can’t do X because of Y…
I can’t do A because of B…

The coaching challenge is often to explore if people are carrying beliefs about themselves which are actually self-limiting. And just as we know with absolute certainty that the glass belief is false today, we can find out what beliefs we are carrying which are preventing you from living a great life, being a better manager/parent etc.

I can’t help think about Bruce Jenner, the Kardashian celebrity husband and former Olympic decathlon who lived his life believing he could never be the woman he thought he was and in effect living a lie, albeit a very successful one in many ways. His becoming a her and making the cover of Vanity Fair this month, as quite a beautiful Caitlyn, has made many stop to think that the greatest barrier of all is the one we put up in our heads.

Sometimes we think there is a glass ceiling of sorts and lets face it being trapped in a woman’s body might represent the ultimate one. Caitlyn Jenner has shown that even at 65 years of age, it may exist only in our minds, albeit helped by some hormones, a tracheal shave and boob job.

And somehow I don’t think the reborn Ms. Jenner will be letting any glass ceiling stand in the way of her and her successful new life.   And for sheer personal motivation and inspiration, it puts a whole new take on the phrase ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’.

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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