An analogy in business is like…

…taking a hammer to my head and hammering non-stop.


I get that analogy can occasionally be a useful tool for explaining something. But it can also be so horrendously misused by employers who’ve done some kind of mini business course and think the best way to communicate is through telling silly little stories.

Whilst doing the most depressing job I’ve ever done, for the most depressing company I’ve ever worked for (telesales for Muse magazine, in a dusty office in Wimborne Minster that took me two hours to drive to each morning. They’ve since gone under) the boss would try to train me to sell advertising space for his crap magazine using analogies like this:

So, imagine the guy you fancy – muscled physique, clean-shaven, nice tan. He owns a plane, a Bentley, all the women are chasing after him. But you want him. So what do you do? You sell yourself. You tell him what it is that makes you different to the other ladies.

Ok. I’d think. But what if I don’t fancy muscly, clean-shaven men, with a tan, who drive planes and Bentleys? And what if I don’t tend to sell myself to potential suitors, preferring to just find common ground, converse and then realise that there’s something good going on between us?

An analogy can only ever work if you can relate to it. It has to be tailored to appeal to you.

But also, my boss’s analogies were a pile of shit because I wasn’t selling something wonderful to someone even more wonderful. I was selling advertising space that didn’t, and wouldn’t ever, exist to tiny local businesses.

This would have been more exact:

So, imagine someone is on the brink of homelessness because their cupcake business is suffering so badly during the recession. You desperately want to sell them a pack of lies; to pretend that you’re going to make their life sweeter than buttercream icing. How do you do that? By telling them that you’re their saviour! And all they have to do is give you their last £100.

That, it should be noted, is not an analogy. That is what was actually happening.

In my opinion, the best way for employers to communicate with their employees is to build a rapport. That means identifying the employees likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses – and using them to help you to understand the person.

There’s never any need to build highfalutin analogies to explain a situation. A simple, straight-to-the-point explanation will always win over some long-winded story that vaguely makes a point at the end.

There is one man, however, who writes a good analogy: advertising guru Dave Trott. So if you feel inclined to use this method of explanation in business, forget your one-day ‘how to be a super employer’ course and instead have a read through some of Trott’s gems here.

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