Armando Iannucci’s film ‘The Death of Stalin’ isn’t liked by everybody. And it’s a tough, fine line between laughing and crying when savagery and cruelty of such magnitude is lampooned – brilliantly, and uncomfortably.

(Different opinions here from the Telegraph and the Guardian)

Comedy usually does a better job of exposure than pious judgement, and this film bubbles with behavioural truths that feel horribly familiar…to our work lives today.

Over reaction?

We use the terms ‘power struggle’ and ‘power vacuum’ about our workplaces quite naturally, and without alarm. A sort of tired familiarity. But something else is involved in power abuse that is worth a closer look: the creeping infantilism that invisibly and inevitably engulfs those who work for (is it ever ‘with’?) tyrannical, powerful bosses.

In the film we see the most powerful men in the land (vast power, vast land) reduced, as a group, to functional incapacity – even the wiliest of them – by the sudden absence of the feared authority figure who has defined and circumscribed every aspect of their existence. ‘With hilarious results’ as movie trailers like to say.

There is nothing hilarious about having become so used to acting on instruction, or acting to double guess the reactions of the issuer of those instructions, that nearly all personal agency has gone. Next time I work with a senior person who suggests that others ‘aren’t up to it’, I’ll wonder for a moment “Have you made them so?”.


From ‘The Death of Stalin’ Director: Armando Iannucci



T80pxtreeom Lehrer, creator of darkly humourous songs, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Lehrer) famously declared ‘satire’ dead when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.  He said that a place well beyond irony had been reached.

Perhaps it’s happening again.

A group was talking in the café the other day about the patchy wi- fi, which led to grumbling about missed calls, which led to how essential the ‘phone was, which led to discussing cell phone addiction…

Guess what?

There’s an app for that.

There is an app for you for if you are addicted to apps. Its called ‘Break Free’. http://www.breakfree-app.com.   It will help you ‘maintain a healthy digital lifestyle’ apparently.

Titter ye not.

Are you sensing a small loss of awareness here? A small loss of a sense of irony?

Loss of irony is a teeny tiny warning sign.
It’s a warning of the imminent loss of being able to see another’s viewpoint.

How so?

Deb Gruenfeld, social psychologist from Stanford, studies power in organisations and its effects on our emotional intelligence. In the ‘E’ and ‘Fan’ experiments in 2008 (http://www.cnbc.com/id/25271065/) she and her colleague looked at how participants wrote an ‘E’ on their foreheads after having been primed to feel powerful or less powerful. Those who felt powerful were 3 times more likely to write from their own perspective – ie the letter was backwards/ meaningless to anyone else.

And the participants could see nothing questionable about this at all.

Emotional intelligence, the skills of comprehending and connecting with others, of seeing things from another’s viewpoint, had been corroded by feelings of power.

Back to the app.

So powerful is the power feeling from having an app to solve stuff, that another perspective, a perspective that might be alerted by irony to something going awry, begins to disappear.

Emotional Intelligence? There’s no app for that. There really isn’t.
Penny Hunt is author of ‘Managing resistance to change’ and ‘Support your team through change’ available from Pearson