"Managing People with Morecrofts"

Should M sack James Bond? – Dismissal another Day

by Thomas Sutherland


The new James Bond film is released today so, before heading to the cinema for the latest blockbuster, what better time to explore whether James Bond is actually a good employee? 

But hold on!  Before tackling the bad employee bit, is Bond even a good secret agent?  I mean, really?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive Bond fan but even I notice that he always seems to get captured by the villain, nearly always uses his real name, uses awful disguises (Roger Moore as a clown in Octopussy being a particular highlight) and every hotel and casino owner in the world seems to instantly recognise him at first sight!

So, not the most secret of secret agents then.  But what are main challenges facing M in employing James Bond and keeping him out of mischief?  

Let’s start at the top.  He destroys everything that Q-branch gives him.  I mean, literally, everything!  From cars to pens to watches, James has destroyed them all!  Most employers require their staff to pay for equipment they have broken through wilful neglect, so it is likely that 007 would be surely lacking for funds once Q had got round to invoicing him!

007 also wracks up quite the expenses bill!  From 5-star hotels to caviar and from Aston Martins to casinos, 007 is skilled at spending money in order to avoid staying unseen and ensure the villains notice him.  So, basically, using his employer’s money to ensure he doesn’t fulfil the ‘stay hidden at all times’ part of his job description.  Not exactly what M had in mind…

I’m also pretty sure that MI6’s code of conduct doesn’t allow for excessive drinking on the job, especially when handling a dangerous firearm.  Whilst I can confirm that a Vesper Martini goes down smoothly, it’s not exactly likely to improve on-the-job performance and could theoretically lead to Bond’s dismissal.

Talking of performance requirements, Bond fails to protect the two most important people in his life – his wife and M.  Not only does his wife die within minutes of their marriage in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond takes M to Scotland in Skyfall purely with the goal of protecting her from the villain only for M to die in his arms due to Bond’s absence from her side.  Not only that, but to actually use M as bait for the villain by purposefully posting hints at her location?  Not exactly the behaviour of a model employee to their boss… 

Saying that, Bond has a fairly unique relationship with M.  Rather uniquely in a manager-employee relationship, 007 decides to break into M’s house and hack into her computer in the same film.  Notably, he is warned never to do so again by a steely faced Judi Dench, but I would imagine he’d be warned (or worse) by a disciplinary panel in real life!

Bond also had a penchant for ignoring M’s direct orders.  Not only does he attack MI6 staff who try to restrain him, he has a habit of escaping from MI6 against their will even killing unlawfully in Licence to Kill after refusing to return his firearm to M.  The irony of that film title being that it was the only film in which 007 didn’t actually have a licence to kill!

007’s flirting with Moneypenny could also land him in hot water if the day should come that Moneypenny takes offence to his advances.  M’s description of Bond as a ‘sexist, misogynist dinosaur’ in Goldeneye sums up the obvious risk of a disciplinary for sexual harassment in the workplace.

All of this is without mentioning the criminal damage, numerous driving offences (surely damaging a shiny Aston Martin is unlawful?) and failure to pass MI6’s fitness tests in Skyfall.

And finally, just to introduce some employment law procedure, I remember rolling my eyes at the scene in Casino Royale where Bond sent an email of resignation to MI6 on a boat in Venice and announced he was free for the next few months.  Of course, in real life, Bond would have to work a notice period under his contract and arrange for the return of the equipment he hasn’t already lost and broken!

James Bond then.  Awful employee, average spy, great film character!  Just remember, this blog is for your eyes only…

Find out more about Thomas Sutherland here.