Tough at the Top


Accounts appeared in the press recently of a report published by the Institute of Directors summarising the results of a questionnaire that had been circulated at random among some of its members, 5,000 out of a total of 32,000. Replies were received from 61 per cent. of these.


The investigation, carried out by the Institute’s Medical Research Unit, is part of a long term programme to “define occupational hazards,” and to give a picture of a top executive’s daily existence. More than two-thirds of those questioned stated that they arrive at work by 9.30 a.m., travelling in cars—self-driven except for 6 per cent. Another one-fifth travel by public transport. More than half work late hours and at home, and some work on Saturdays.


Three-quarters stated that their holidays last year were not more than three weeks. Less than 10 per cent. work less than a full day and 90 per cent. spend three-quarters of their time in executive work outside the Board Room.


In their replies 64 per cent. of the directors attributed their success to experience alone. Only 14 per cent. had a University degree. And although more than 60 per cent. of directors may attend a “Business Lunch” once or twice a week, a third lunch at work in staff canteens and dining rooms.


In reporting the above, the Daily Telegraph (27.10.59) had this comment:—

  The average Company Director’s job may have certain compensations, but it is far from enviable from the point of view of long hours and punishing effort . . . Life is indeed tough at the top.

The firms employing these directors, according to the report, are not extremely large undertakings judged by present day standards. 50 per cent. have a capital issue of less than £10,000 and only one-fifth have more than £1 million employed capital. These figures would eliminate most of the large combines and state-controlled industries.


Most of these directors who have a “tough time” are with firms who have to face keen competition in the business world and to quote the article “their position is far from enviable”—as it is for the majority who have to work for their living.


The Director-General of the Institute, Sir Richard Powell, is reported as saying that: —


  To pin down the occupational hazards of executive life it was necessary to know how a man spent his day both at home and at work. The answers, and we have only quoted those of most general interest, will provide our medical director, Dr. H. Beric Wright, with a basis for further research, the aim of which is to keep the director fit and on top of his job.


Well! Well! Keep fit! Most of us lower down the wages scale are below par; and millions of working hours are lost through sickness and injury. Now we see it extends to those “at the top.” In this rat race of an existence the highest possible efficiency must be maintained. Although they have a higher standard of living than most, how many would be secure if their job folded up? We have an idea they would be annoyed if told that their interests are identical with the interests of the rest of the working class.


When we read of those “at the top” we might ask “the top of what?” They may be at the top in the way of remuneration for looking after the interests of their employers, as are Service Chiefs, Cabinet Ministers and others, but those really “at the top” are those who own sufficient wealth to enable them to live without having to sell themselves to an employer. This is the dividing line by which one can judge to which class one belongs; Socialists say that all people who have to sell their energies to an employer are members of the working class.


Picture the “City Gent” complete with bowler hat, rolled umbrella and Daily Telegraph, after fighting his way into the “sardine tin” of a railway carriage, managing to get the above-mentioned article within reading distance. Perhaps he will feel better when he is convinced that those at the top (which he hopes to reach) have a tough time of it.


There is no mention of the real “top” —no mention of private planes, seagoing yachts, palatial residences, and all that money can buy. That “top” is above the clouds. Don’t trouble to look.