Another Reading from the “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives

I received such an overwhelming response from the last publication of excerpts from this handbook that I delved back in to find another.

In my book, “160 Degrees of Deviation: The Case for the Corporate Cynic,” I wrote about a fellow named Al Reynolds. Al held a black belt in the procedure outlined in the following chapter. This is so outrageous and perverse that the chairman of the “Supreme Council” of the bad executives society himself could have only written it.

Chapter 3 Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right, Unless You Know How

Do you ever need to get away with something, get a leg up on a peer, or enhance your own power or prestige? Just remember the old adage that you were taught as a child by your parents, teachers, or clergyman: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” A simple example went like this:

Mom put out a plate of cookies for Johnny and his brother Billy. Johnny got there first and ate all of the cookies. Billy complained. Mom told Johnny that he was wrong. Johnny made up a story that he didn’t know that the cookies were for sharing. He may have felt bad for a moment because he’d been caught but then savored the fact that he had gotten all the cookies. The next day, Mom put out another plate of cookies. This time Billy announced that he would eat all the cookies because Johnny had eaten them all the day before. Johnny complained. Mom intervened and told Billy that it would be wrong for him to eat all of the cookies. Mom explained that two wrongs didn’t make a right. Johnny and Billy shared the plate of cookies. Billy remembered this valuable lesson. Johnny remembered getting more than his fair share of cookies.

The vast majority of managers and employees in your company are decent and honest folks. They’ve all learned Billy’s valuable lesson. If they have children, they’ve probably even had occasion to teach it themselves. It’s your job to remember Johnny’s valuable lesson. If you work this lesson just right, you will be able to exploit it every time.

Keep in mind that the wise “Mom” has now been replaced by your boss or to whomever you report. Your peers and co-workers are Billys. Turn defeats into victories and unintended consequences into rewards. Timing is everything here. Just like Johnny, you need to be the first to break new ground, push the limits or bend the rules.

Here are some examples from our test companies that will illustrate the concept:

Betty managed a department that gathered data from field locations, processed and summarized it and then reported the results up the corporate chain. During the goal-setting phase of her annual performance review, Betty was challenged to provide the summary results on a faster timetable. The reward would be a big raise the following year. Instead of the reviewing the internal procedures of her own group with an eye to improving productivity, Betty sent new schedules to the field demanding faster reporting cycles. She had even invoked the word “corporate” several times in her memo’s making it seem as though all of this was coming down from on high. This newly compressed timetable created huge problems for the field operations. Their staffs were working a tremendous amount of overtime and running into scheduling difficulties to meet the new deadlines. Betty had made sure that her own group’s processing time was unaffected. It was all on the backs of the field operations. By Betty’s next performance review, the plan had worked so well that she received a huge increase and her achievement was written up in the company newsletter. Department heads from the field were furious and bombarded corporate headquarters with protests. Corporate officials listened to the complaints but asked why no one from the field had questioned Betty about the new requirement. If the problems were indeed so serious, why hadn’t the departments complained earlier? In the end, it was decided that Betty had perhaps overstepped her authority a little. That was wrong. The field operations departments hadn’t questioned or complained about it soon enough. That was wrong too. Two wrongs did not make a right. Betty bought a huge new home with her raise.

Sam was the Real Estate Director. Three years ago, he was assigned to purchase some property for a new distribution center for the firm. Sam was in a real hurry to close the deal. He wasn’t as interested in the terms or conditions as he was in the hoopla that would be created by a quick close. He had even bypassed some internal control channels to grease the deal through faster and taken it directly to the president. Sam’s plan worked and he was publicly lauded by his boss and received a promotion. After analyzing the details of the purchase, the CFO publicly criticized Sam for making a bad deal. The terms of the sale included the purchase of an adjacent parcel of unusable land. As a result, the company had overpaid and was stuck with an empty parcel. Sam explained it away as just another one of those unfortunate “exogenous variables” that always crept into a transaction. How was he to know? The president and the rest of the senior staff felt that the CFO’s public chiding of Sam was too severe. Besides, the CFO should have known in advance about the deal anyway and it was the CFO’s fault that he missed the opportunity to review the contract before it closed. Sam was wrong and the CFO was wrong. Since two wrongs didn’t make a right, Sam was exonerated. He enjoyed his new title and salary.

A year later, a real estate developer came into the area and property values soared. The empty parcel was now worth fifty times what the company had paid for it. The developer contacted the company and offered a generous bid for the unused parcel. Sam seized upon this offer and ensured that the huge return on the investment was communicated directly to the president. Rumors quickly spread that Sam was to receive a huge cash bonus for his masterful skill as a real estate speculator. Of, course he did nothing to dissuade the accolades. Those who remembered the original deal and Sam’s explanation of how the additional parcel had come to be purchased were irate. It was wrong for Sam to receive an award for something he had virtually nothing to do with. These protests were countered by the president as being equally wrong. Sam had been exonerated and his deal turned out to be great for the company. Sam bought a BMW and vacationed in Spain.

These are just a few examples for you to draw from. Always remember that what may seem wrong to your co-workers and others can be equally right for you. Even if Mom thinks you’re wrong, an equally wrong response by your co-workers will be adjudged as negating yours. If you get away with this enough, others will begin to expect it from you. You’ll gain a reputation as someone to be reckoned with. Play it right and you can’t go wrong.

Be Johnny on the spot and enjoy the cookies!

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2 Responses to “Another Reading from the “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives”

  1. Marti Says:

    How true. So many people where I work are the true do-nothing types who wait to take credit for everything.

  2. thecorporatecynic Says:

    It’s a shame, Marti. The business world is made up of many types. Find your way into a better stituation. There are companies that recognize good hard working people.

    Thanks for dropping by and visit again soon. You’re always welcome here!

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