Grey suits, grey hair, grey is the colour of management. Grey comes in many shades from the gravitas of silver grey to deceit of dark gray. Like shades of gray subtle differences in management behaviour distinguish pain from pleasure. How else would you describe the rollercoaster ride that is senior management recruitment: the frustration, the anticipation, the pain of rejection the joy of success? How would you describe the annual appraisal but a game of tease – maybe I will, maybe I won’t give you that bonus. I know you want it now, convince me you deserve it. What is a management restructuring but a way of gently but firmly forcing you to adopt a new position, moving you out of your comfort zone, testing your flexibility and willingness to please? And through it all you must convince that your passion is undiminished.

These one-offs can be satisfying but have their limitations, for prolonging the agony it is hard to beat the cuts. Even the most experience manager can be taken by surprise at just how far these can go.

Blair McPherson is the author of UnLearning management and other books on whipping people into shape