Archive for the ‘The “Double Secret” Handbook’ Category

The “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives nears Completion

June 20, 2008

Every story needs a beginning. If you smell a new book coming on, you’re right! Ever since I began writing the various chapters of The “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives last year, I’ve had that in mind. Of course, there’s several more chapters tucked away as well as the ending and self-test. I just thought that I’d share Chapter 1 with the readers. This has been a work in progress. Believe me, there’s no end to the material that’s available.

Chapter 1 Welcome to the Society for bad Executives

Well you’ve finally made it! Whether you’ve slimed, backstabbed, double-crossed, kissed-up (or just got the call from your old pal Chad or Biff), you have arrived. You are now an executive. Feels good, doesn’t it? You are now smarter, sharper and indeed a better human being than those that you’ve left in the dust. You must be! You got the job and they didn’t.

So what’s the first thing on your agenda besides ordering $50,000 of new office furniture or taking two or three lavish but useless business trips? Why, keeping, consolidating and increasing your power! To accomplish that you may need some support and we’re here to help. We’re the Society for bad Executives. We’re an elite and clandestine organization known only to those chosen few. There are no dues, meetings, secret handshakes or subscriptions. The only requirement is secrecy and strict adherence to the standards we’ve developed through many years for wreaking havoc on organizations and the workers who are employed there. Our organization is so top secret that our members do not ever get to see the roster or formally meet each other. It only makes sense. You may have to turn on another member someday. That’s too bad for them. It’s a dog eat dog world. You’re in it for yourself and only the best of the worst survive.
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The main benefit of your membership is your personalized copy of The “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives. This tome contains chapter upon chapter of tips and tricks to maximize your hold on authority, manipulate your subordinates, suck up to your superiors and never (we repeat never) be held accountable for anything that goes wrong. It’s a must read for every executive. These are tried and true strategies and tactics that we’ve compiled from members over the years.

You’re probably wondering why we’re being so generous here. The answer is quite simple. We must perpetuate the executive’s image of power and omniscience. Power is what it’s all about after all. The power to dominate, manipulate, threaten, subvert and evade must be maintained and cultivated. The ability to speak with authority on all subjects, make snap decisions, shoot from the hip and never be wrong must be honed to a fine edge. You have a lot to live up to. The rest of us are counting on you.

How do we know that you can be trusted to adhere to our policies and never disclose your membership or share any contents of the handbook with outsiders? We don’t! If you had one shred of ethics, we would never have approached you in the first place. In the Society for bad Executives, our rule is quite simple: Transgress, and the full might of the society will be turned against you. Consider for a moment being demoted to the loading dock or a cubicle with absolutely no golden parachute or perhaps being publicly humiliated in front of your superiors or upstaged by (perish the thought) a subordinate. It can all be arranged. We knew you’d see it our way!

So let’s get started! Whether you’re the arrogant pompous strutting ass, the frenetic slick backed hair mile-a-minute talker or the quiet conniving little weasel, there’s a place for you in the Society for bad Executives. Go forth and make some pronouncements. Savor the taste of authority. Make them jump. It’s fun to be important.

Make us proud. We’ll be watching!

The “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives offers Words that Work

May 21, 2008

It took me over thirty years to understand this but the following chapter finally opened my eyes. When it comes to the use of words, rank has its privileges. I guess this is why I’ll never be asked to join the “Double Secret” Society for bad Executives.

Chapter 11 Powerful Words for Powerful People

As executives, we must be familiar with the true meanings of words and how they might be used to reinforce our power over lowly subordinates. This chapter will serve as a refresher course on the use of two terms that we’re all familiar with: Excuses and Reasons. We hear and use these words all the time but it’s important to use them properly and at the appropriate time and place.

Let’s begin with some dictionary definitions and then parse out the key distinctions

Excuses: explanations offered to justify something and to explain (a fault or an offense) in the hope of being forgiven or understood

Reasons: underlying facts or causes that provide logical sense for a premise or occurrence

Please note the key words and phrases here: In the definition of excuses, we find the words fault, offense and…in the hope of being forgiven or understood… In the definition of reasons, you’ll note …provide logical sense… and occurrence

Get the drift here? Those that offer or are accused of making excuses are at fault. Those that offer reasons are just stating facts.

Reasons are reserved for the powerful. Reasons are logical, intelligent, well thought out – perhaps even brilliant – like us. There’s no need to ask for any forgiveness. Our explanations are FACTUAL. On the other hand, those that offer or are accused of making excuses are doing so out of guilt. They know they’ve done WRONG. They should be begging for forgiveness.

Excuses connote failure. Holding the accountability for failure over the heads of your subordinates is a sure fire way to keep them in line. Their guilt will provoke them to work even harder. Your power to forgive (to be used only to keep certain individuals in your hip pocket) will validate your authority and superiority. Their squirming may even provide you with some well deserved entertainment.

It’s your role to offer reasons for failures or non-conformances. Again, reasons are FACTS. Reasons are explanations about events totally out of your control and tantamount to acts of God. You cannot be held accountable for these occurrences. There’s no guilt to be had.

It’s all so simple and it’s all about power.

Let’s practice some applications of the words excuse or excuses when dealing with subordinates:

You: “Why is production falling again?”
Them: “The equipment keeps breaking down. Because of all of the cost reductions and cutbacks, we’re holding it together with Band-Aids.”
You: “I’m tired of your excuses! You were told to increase production!”
Them: “Sorry, we’ll try harder.”

Or

You: “The financials are late. What’s your excuse this time?”
Them: “They compressed the reporting calendar again and increased the data requirements. We just don’t have the staff to support this.”
You: “That’s no excuse. You’re supposed to make it happen.”
Them: “Sorry, we’ll try harder.”

Fun Eh?

Now let’s practice the use of the words reason and reasons with your peers and superiors:

You: “Exogenous variables in the current market segment are the predominant reasons prohibiting us from increasing sales.”

Or

You: “The reason is simple. Had the macroeconomic climate been more amenable to our strategy, we certainly would have met our metrics.”

Best yet

You: “The reason for our lack of success is the pervasive culture of excuses within the lower levels of our organization. We’re aggressively and continuously assessing our workforce.

You’ll note that we’ve eliminated the need to detail the reaction from “Them” here. These reasons speak for themselves and will dazzle anyone. Notice there is a never is a need to be sorry or apologize. You have nothing to feel guilty about.

So there you have it. Now go forth and use these words that work for you. No excuses!

A Springtime Reprise from the “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives

May 7, 2008

The weather is finally starting to break. It’s been a long, cold and dreary winter – at least here at the office of the Corporate Cynic. The birds are chirping, the trees are budding and the tulips are in bloom. Thoughts turn to making those well deserved vacation plans. But before you get too excited about that respite from the daily grind, remember that there are those with “other” agendas.

I’ve decided to reprise a post from last summer that was catagorized under The “Double Secret” Handbook. Let’s see what some of your “leaders” might have in mind for you this summer.

Summertime Reading from the “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives
August 3, 2007

The security guard found a stack of travel brochures in the executive parking lot. He was shocked when he found this chapter of the handbook in the pile. He immediately turned it over to me for review. I swore him to secrecy.

Chapter 2 Ration that Pesky Vacation

Just when you thought that there were no more ways to squeeze that last of drop blood out of your staff, we’ve contrived a fiendishly clever method to achieve just that. The best part of it all is that you can point to company policies as being the villain here. It’s the best of all worlds.

What policies could be so useful to an executive who needs to impress their superiors with cost controls, instantaneous responses to their insatiable need for information, adherence to ever-changing deadlines and a high level of uninterrupted productivity? Why the vacation policies! It’s the Human Resources department’s fault that you’re strapped with having to deal with the cost and nuisance of staff being away from work on “vacation.” Employees are paid to work and not to be absent for such a non-value added activity. HR is the group that determined your staff members were due this silliness as a company benefit. They also came up with a variety of rules and policies regarding vacations. So whatever you have to do to manipulate those policies to get the results you want is really HR’s problem and not yours.

It’s an expensive proposition to keep additional staff to cover for those who are away on these boondoggles. You need to trim your budget to score points with the top brass. What about all those emergency requests, revised deadlines and meetings that arise constantly and out of the blue? You can’t disappoint your superiors by telling them that John or Betty is on vacation and the report or meeting will have to be delayed or postponed. You certainly can’t be expected to cover those contingencies yourself. You’re an executive after all and you wouldn’t even know how to get the actual work done to do it anyway. So let’s get down to the business of administering those vacation policies – the way you decide to interpret them anyway.

We all know that that the more tenured the employee, the more vacation time they are entitled to. It makes sense to rid your staff of all of the old-timers that have amassed a high level of vacation eligibility and replace them with new hires. Who cares about experience and knowledge. The veterans don’t need to impress anyone. You do.

So what if employees are told in offer letters, new hire orientations, or handbooks that they are eligible for paid vacations. We’ll bet that there’s a policy indicating that paid time off must be scheduled around the company and/or department’s requirements. Find that policy and keep it handy.

Since you’re in charge of your department, you’ll decide those requirements. They are quite simple actually: When you’re in the office, the staff needs to be there to support you. When you’re not in the office, they need to be there to cover for you.

Start with the managers and staff employees that report directly to you. These folks are always malleable enough to be convinced that scheduling their own vacations is a big no-no. They must be both openly and tacitly discouraged from doing so. These employees always feel a certain loyalty and responsibility to the company. They enjoy feeling needed and indispensable. They’d like to identify themselves with the executive team and many believe that by constantly giving their all, they’ll reap some reward down the road. They also fear for their positions. They have families to feed and mortgages to pay. This loyalty and fear needs to be exploited. They must be made to feel as though the company can’t do without them for even a week here or a week there – and certainly not for two weeks in a row. Use your powers of persuasion to discourage any thoughts of even trying to string two or three vacation days together. They must be subtly pressured and cajoled into believing that the company’s needs outweigh their own. Remember, if there is a “use it or lose it” vacation policy, once the magic anniversary date rolls around, they’ll lose any of that time they had coming. There will be no massive vacation accrual to deal with next year. If anyone gripes, feign some concern and then simply forget about it.

If they must be out for a day, be sure to jot it down so that your response to their next request might go something like, “Another vacation day? It seems like you were just off. How many vacation days have you taken already? I’ll have to think about that. Are you sure you really need to take off? We have blah, blah, coming up. Will you be ready? We really depend on you. OK (sigh), if you must.” It’s a guilt trip/ego boost/power play combo that puts the onus on them to consider all of those feelings about themselves, their responsibilities and their paychecks. They’re probably good, honest and caring people. We’ll bet you get the results you’re looking for out of 99% of them.

We all know what your thinking. What if your company is in one of those states that mandates employees be allowed to carryover or even (gulp!) be paid for accrued and unused vacation days? What if your company has such a policy even though not mandated by law? No Problem. Just fall back on the policy that allows you to schedule their vacations around the department’s requirements.

Start forcing you direct reports to take individual vacation days (or even “vacation hours”) when it suits your needs. If you know that tomorrow will be a day without any pressing requests, command them to take the day off as a vacation day. In fact, right after the next scheduled morning meeting might be a great time to order some staff out for the rest of the day as a half-day of vacation. Always make it sound like it’s a reward and your doing them a big favor. So what if it’s a Tuesday or Thursday afternoon. Work it right and you can eat up all of their vacation time without even a hiccup in productivity. If anyone carps about it, point to the policies and remind them that they work in a “fast paced environment” with “ever changing priorities.” No one will be able to say that they weren’t given the opportunity to use all of their vacation time. These are company policies. Your hands are tied.

Most importantly – always ensure that any task or work not performed while the lollygaggers are away is made up after hours or on weekends. Your direct reports are exempt from overtime. It won’t be a ding to your budget and they’ll learn the lesson of being away from work during the week.

In time, you’ll see a trickle down effect as managers who report to you begin to believe that what you’ve instigated is what the company wants. They will follow your lead. If not out of loyalty, they’ll do it to make everyone else suffer. Morale Schmorale! You won’t be around for more than another year or two anyway. Let someone else pick up the pieces after you’ve moved on.

Keep in mind that you’ve done everyone a favor here. You’ve kept costs down and productivity up. If your company has a policy of holding over or paying employees for lost vacation time, you’ve saved even more cost and administrative time and effort. The employees will have no vacation time to “lose” because of your efforts to ensure that all of it has been “used.” You’ve saved your staff the expense of hotels, gas, theme park tickets, airfares etc. They should actually thank you. But that’s OK. You can deal with their ingratitude.

That was a lot of work but well worth it. We see that you must attend the annual budget meeting in Orlando, FL this August. Hmmm, your kids will still be out of school and you need a well deserved rest after all of this executive decision-making. The stress and pressure of having to deal with all of these policies and rules is taking a toll on your psyche. Why not tack on some extra time in Orlando? Maybe a week or even two. Grab the frau and the kiddies and head on down. Hell, the company is picking up part of the tab anyway. Your department will be covered. You need a break.

A Lost Chapter from the “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives

January 20, 2008

Found in the mailroom in an interoffice envelope with the sender/receiver names left blank. The mailroom guy slipped it to me. We both got a good laugh.

Chapter 9 Teaching the Simpletons about Simplicity

It’s time to take a good hard look at the mindset of the lower level management and workforce within your company. Have you ever wondered why they just don’t get it, why they just can’t make things happen as quickly as you’d like or why they are perpetually failing? The answer is so blatantly obvious – they just don’t realize that everything is simple! They are the ones that make everything so darned difficult.

Perhaps you’ve just read the latest trendy book or article on the subject of success or attended a two-day seminar in Palm Beach or Jackson Hole. Maybe you’ve just come into the organization from another company that is considered successful. In any case, you were hired to “raise the bar”, to go from “better to best” and to search for “greatness”. You now know all of the secret buzzwords and acronyms and have memorized all of the key performance indicators. But the biggest secret of all is how simple it all can be – just like it was all spelled out in the articles, books and seminars or at your former company.

The workforce can’t see the forest for the trees. They haven’t grasped the concept that all are things simple. They’ve wasted their time on day-to-day tasks and just getting by. They’ve made being successful hard. The employees need motivation and a new direction. They need to be imbued with your confidence that it’s all quite simple. They need to become true believers as you have.

Let’s start with a new mission statement – a gut wrenching revelation from on high. Something like, “Folks, we’ve been complacent for far too long. We need to be more successful. All we have to do is be like other successful companies. It’s all quite simple. We’ll do what they do and we’ll be successful as well.”

There, now that you’ve communicated your new vision, it’s time to “talk the walk” or “walk the talk” or “walk the walk” or whatever one does next. Your attitude toward simplicity is key here. Here are some tips and tactics to help communicate just how simple this will all be. Your actions will speak volumes about your commitment.

– Don’t make a big deal about attending meetings. Just flit in and out. Your attitude about meetings will communicate the simplicity of it all. Stay only long enough to make a pronouncement or two about the items needing change. As an example, “The MALCON metric at XYZ Corporation is 9. We’ll need to start measuring ours against that benchmark. I’ll expect a progress report every Monday morning.” Make sure to never stick around to discuss the details. You’ve made it simple enough. So what if they’ve never heard of the MALCON metric before or even know how or if they can calculate it. It must be simple if XYZ Corporation can measure it. It’s just a number and your company’s needs to be the same or better.

– When you set new requirements or interject your words of wisdom, do so with the same aloof aura of self-confidence. While you talk about change, crunch on a mint or look out the window to feign disinterest in things so utterly simple. You need to show the workforce that it’s all quite matter of fact. The rest is up to them. They won’t want to be embarrassed by appearing not to think it’s simple as well.

– Not that you ever would anyway, but never ask in depth questions about how things are done or what is takes to change anything. Only ask for commitments on when the changes will be made. If they complain, tell them that they’ve worked too long and hard on making things difficult. Now they need to work smarter on making things simple. (How about that for a motivational line?)

– Never discuss the need for additional resources to change things around. Simply put, the resources are right there. Make it clear that you’re talking to those resources. So what if XYZ Corporation or the company that you just came from had more resources to facilitate change. You’re not comparing your company’s RESOURCES to XYZ’s or any other companies’ for that matter. You’re only comparing your company’s RESULTS to theirs. Tell the complainers that comparing results is “apples to apples” but that comparing resources would be “apples to tomatoes.” There, see how simple?

– If you decide that the workforce really needs help with the concept, suggest they read those trendy books about cheese or fish or some other food groups. You’ve read all of these books. They were simple to understand. After all, you understood them. You know the difference between apples and tomatoes.

Always remember that declaring all things to be simple is your department. Making things happen might be more difficult – but that’s their department. You’re doing your bit. It’s time that they stepped up to the plate and did theirs.

PS We never said that SIMPLE meant EASY. Don’t tell them that! If word gets out, watch out for the flying tomatoes.

The “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives goes over the top

December 30, 2007

I couldn’t believe this chapter when I read it! It was inserted between the pages of an employee policy manual. Someone had really gone through the book with a red marker, crossing out paragraph after paragraph and inserting notes galore. Scrawled in large print on the last page were the words, “Stop me before I change policies again!”

Chapter 8 Changing the Attitude of Ingratitude

Whoever said that high turnover isn’t good for a corporation? It’s good to be rid of those ingrates. Sure you’ve cut back on hiring and salary increases, trimmed benefits, outsourced and off-shored everything one could to increase profits (and executive bonuses). So what if the traitors have left in droves for greener pastures. You never needed those selfish malcontents anyway. Let the organization pare itself down. Now you can selectively restock the shelves with employees who are true believers in the brilliance of the decisions made by you and the other anointed leaders. Perhaps you don’t even need to replace them at all. You can easily get by with a reduced staff of hard working company patriots. If threats and fear no longer seem to be working, you just need to make those remaining loyalists feel secure, necessary and important – at least until you’re finished with them anyway. Let’s face it. Someone has to do the work

There are a few neat and relatively low-cost gimmicks that can work wonders by convincing your core workers that they work for a great company and actually have a voice and a stake in its success. Psychology works wonders with your kids. It will work with your employees as well. Help them help you turn them into committed zealots.

Solicit Unsolicited Testimonials
If you have a company newsletter or website, it’s time to showcase those employees who really appreciate all that the company has done for them. Take Terry for example. He’s the executive administrative assistant for the new Senior VP of Marketing. Terry’s been on board for six months and has followed his boss around to four companies during the last eight years. There’s an example of pure loyalty. Terry’s been involved in the color-coding of the office staplers project and even headed the “Name the CEO’s new goldfish” contest. He’s a real “go getter”. He always gets the deli order correct for the executive staff luncheons and never forgets that you like your tuna fish sandfish on whole-wheat instead of rye.

Have HR write some human-interest stories about Terry complete with a testimonial about how wonderful a place this is and what a great boss Terry has. Maybe even arrange for Terry’s daughter to be awarded a company paid scholarship to the college of her choice. Magnificent! This is a great teaching tool that will encourage the rest of the rabble to stay focused and loyal.

Use Selective Propaganda
Your company needs to state that it is committed to keeping its employees informed about the travails of the marketplace. There’s a world of useful information out there just for the taking. Salary and benefits surveys are always available for use in comparing your company to others. A little good-hearted and careful massaging of the statistics here and there can result in your company scoring in the top percentiles for employee friendliness when compared to industry or geographic data. We all know how poorly the workers are paid in Taiwan and how bad the health benefits are in Bangladesh. Don’t use Europe. Those employees get too much vacation and too many days off! Publish your findings frequently. Your employees need to be bombarded with how good they actually have it – even if there are only a few of them left. Hell, most of them don’t know the difference between the mean, median and mode anyway. It’s all well intended. They’ll feel better.

Conduct Employee Attitude Surveys
Now! Now! Don’t be afraid. We don’t really mean what the heading implies. There are attitude surveys and there are attitude surveys. We’re certain that you have a pal or two in the consulting business. Just explain to them that you’re convinced that your employees have a great attitude about the firm and you want to validate that fact. Good consultants might not be able to arrange for the survey results to tell you what you want to hear but wealthy ones will. Shop carefully as you would for a trial lawyer or PR firm. Publish the flattering results and voice your pleasant surprise and appreciation. Employees will eat this up!

Form Employee Values Teams
Here’s a gimmick that’s currently in vogue with a lot of companies in the same shoes as yours. The trick here is to form teams of employees to define the “values” of your corporation. Sure, you already know what the values are – but they don’t. You’ll need one of your most loyal, naive and starry-eyed minions to head up the program, someone who’s both charming and convincing. Make certain that the focus of the values teams is always centered on the “customer”. Your employees need to concentrate on the customer and forget about their own paltry needs and desires. Charter each team to come up with a list of values that they can identify with and affect through their behaviors. They need to be steered into defining those values in terms of providing “world class” service and ‘competitive” prices.

It’s perfect! Publicize those values and stress the fact that the employees themselves have defined them. What better way to gain everyone’s buy-in! Better customer care means harder work. Better prices means lower costs. (Heh, Heh, we all know what that means!) Hey, it’s the employees’ own ideas after all!

You see it’s not at all disingenuous, sneaky or underhanded. You’re a great leader in a dynamic organization. The remaining employees just need to understand that and not leave until you’re ready to cut them loose.

Hold on a minute! Your old frat brother Chad is on the phone. He still owes you one for trimming a few strokes off of his scorecard at the last business school alumni golf outing. He’s got an opening for you at his company. He’s offering nearly one and a half times your salary and almost twice the bonus. Get packing. You’re out of this low class dump. It’s a sinking ship and an unappreciative sweatshop. The sooner the better!

The “Double Secret“ Handbook for bad Executives Returns with a Vengeance!

November 11, 2007

I know it’s been a while since I uncovered another chapter from this tome. If you’ve kept up with my weekly posts, you know that I’ve had a lot going on lately. I just happened to find this one the other day. It was hidden behind a giant whiteboard in the senior staff conference room. There were so many notes, symbols and other hieroglyphics scrawled upon the board that it looked like the wall of an ancient Egyptian tomb. There was a big red note at the top that said “DO NOT ERASE.” It was all very impressive but actually quite meaningless. I did detect something about the NCAA basketball rankings but that’s neither here nor there (and for another post). I decided to poke around behind the board because there’s usually something “behind” these deceivingly important looking scribbles. Voila!

Chapter 7 Command and Control through Confusion

There’s a famous scene in the movie Patton where George C. Scott goes off on a tirade when his staff suggests slowing down the relief effort to rescue the troops under siege at Bastogne because of foul weather. Patton’s dramatic admonition of his staff ends with something like, ”…If we’re not victorious, let no man come back alive!” His officers are stunned speechless by this remark. At this point, Patton’s aide approaches him and whispers, “You know General sometimes they don’t know when you’re acting.” Patton looks at the officer and smirks, “It’s not important for THEM to know. It’s only important for ME to know.” Brilliant! In the Society for Bad Executives’ view, whether Patton’s troops actually relieved the airborne division is irrelevant. The important point here that he reinforced his image as a larger than life character and kept his subordinates in awe. Patton knew how to portray the power of his rank and office. He knew how to act like a general. That’s how we define leadership!

As an executive, you should always think of yourself as a dynamic general. Barking orders, dressing down your staff and acting like a Field Marshall prancing about with a swagger stick are all part of your personae as a leader. You are the anointed one and that’s how leaders act. In your case – it IS as important for THEM to know that you’re a powerful commander as it is for YOU to know it.

You should be constantly reinforcing your power and authority with your staff. They need to be as in awe of you as Patton’s officers were of him. But since there is no war, no battle or desperate rescue effort going on to provide a backdrop to showcase your larger than life status, you need to create some alternative theater that will keep all eyes directed to you. Your strategy of choice – confusion!

Yes confusion! Keeping your staff confused, guessing and off balance are the best ways to solidify your perception as the supreme commander. After all, it’s not important that they know you’re intentionally confusing them. It’s only important that you know you’re intentionally confusing them. See, you’re already beginning to think like a leader! Here are some good battlefield tactics to promote confusion amongst the troops so you can lead them through the fog:

Using the Wild Goose Chase. Sending staff members and teams off on useless missions is a great way to display your command authority. These are not wastes of time and effort if they result in those folks looking to you for guidance and affirmation. Think of these exercises as training tools. As a British member of the Society for Bad Executives once put it, ”We’re off on a fox hunt but it’s not about the fox. It’s the hunt that matters!” Good show!

Keeping Things Secret. Never share information with your staff. Information is power. Make them come to you for even the smallest nugget. Dole it out sparingly and ONLY when it make you seem like the font of wisdom that you are.

Analyzing the Analyses. Anything that can be analyzed can be over-analyzed. Direct the staff to tear reports apart looking for hidden clues. Command them to look at data sideways, upside down and inside out if necessary. Stress the importance of being “analytical” (whatever that means). You’ll let them know when they’ve found what you’re looking for. Even if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you will keep them busy trying to please. When you’ve become bored with the exercise, toss out a few rewards and punishments then simply move them on to the next assignment.

Editing with Extreme Prejudice. Make certain that all letters and memos emanating from your direct reports bear your personal seal of approval as well as your personal touches. You are the supreme editor-in-chief. Only you can understand the appropriate use of words given the context of the writing. Listen, we know you’re busy but it’s important to never let a communiqué go out without making some kind of a change to it. It can be as simple as substituting a single word like “mirrors” (your choice) versus “reflects” (the author’s choice). This will keep them on their toes, as they will never know what other common words you might substitute for theirs. It may even turn into a guessing game. But guess what? You’ll always win!

Talking Techno-jargon. This is akin to keeping things secret but can be much more fun. If there is a new term or acronym coined in the company’s inner sanctum, begin to use it liberally and as if it’s already public domain. Watch them squirm as they try to figure just what in the hell you’re telling about. Will anyone dare to ask?

Committing the Forces to Impossible Missions. Whenever you receive an assignment that needs to be delegated to the staff, never convey the due date set by those above you. Always shorten the timetable. Make the staff stretch. It’s good for them. It’s good for you too if you’re viewed by your superiors as a powerful decisive figure who can lead their troops to victory.

Remember, unlike Patton or a real military leader who is ultimately responsible for the lives and safety of their command, your job is quite different. As a business executive, you are only responsible for holding others responsible. You have a great job! That does not mean that you should not view yourself as Napoleon or Montgomery. Your troops should view you that way as well. It’s not important that THEY know otherwise.

Postscript from the Corporate Cynic: I always wondered why I thought of bad executives as “General Nuisances.”

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

August 3, 2007

The security guard found a stack of travel brochures in the executive parking lot. He was shocked when he found this chapter of the handbook in the pile. He immediately turned it over to me for review. I swore him to secrecy.

Chapter 2 Ration that Pesky Vacation

Just when you thought that there were no more ways to squeeze that last of drop blood out of your staff, we’ve contrived a fiendishly clever method to achieve just that. The best part of it all is that you can point to company policies as being the villain here. It’s the best of all worlds.

What policies could be so useful to an executive who needs to impress their superiors with cost controls, instantaneous responses to their insatiable need for information, adherence to ever-changing deadlines and a high level of uninterrupted productivity? Why the vacation policies! It’s the Human Resources department’s fault that you’re strapped with having to deal with the cost and nuisance of staff being away from work on “vacation.” Employees are paid to work and not to be absent for such a non-value added activity. HR is the group that determined your staff members were due this silliness as a company benefit. They also came up with a variety of rules and policies regarding vacations. So whatever you have to do to manipulate those policies to get the results you want is really HR’s problem and not yours.

It’s an expensive proposition to keep additional staff to cover for those who are away on these boondoggles. You need to trim your budget to score points with the top brass. What about all those emergency requests, revised deadlines and meetings that arise constantly and out of the blue? You can’t disappoint your superiors by telling them that John or Betty is on vacation and the report or meeting will have to be delayed or postponed. You certainly can’t be expected to cover those contingencies yourself. You’re an executive after all and you wouldn’t even know how to get the actual work done to do it anyway. So let’s get down to the business of administering those vacation policies – the way you decide to interpret them anyway.

We all know that that the more tenured the employee, the more vacation time they are entitled to. It makes sense to rid your staff of all of the old-timers that have amassed a high level of vacation eligibility and replace them with new hires. Who cares about experience and knowledge. The veterans don’t need to impress anyone. You do.

So what if employees are told in offer letters, new hire orientations, or handbooks that they are eligible for paid vacations. We’ll bet that there’s a policy indicating that paid time off must be scheduled around the company and/or department’s requirements. Find that policy and keep it handy.

Since you’re in charge of your department, you’ll decide those requirements. They are quite simple actually: When you’re in the office, the staff needs to be there to support you. When you’re not in the office, they need to be there to cover for you.

Start with the managers and staff employees that report directly to you. These folks are always malleable enough to be convinced that scheduling their own vacations is a big no-no. They must be both openly and tacitly discouraged from doing so. These employees always feel a certain loyalty and responsibility to the company. They enjoy feeling needed and indispensable. They’d like to identify themselves with the executive team and many believe that by constantly giving their all, they’ll reap some reward down the road. They also fear for their positions. They have families to feed and mortgages to pay. This loyalty and fear needs to be exploited. They must be made to feel as though the company can’t do without them for even a week here or a week there – and certainly not for two weeks in a row. Use your powers of persuasion to discourage any thoughts of even trying to string two or three vacation days together. They must be subtly pressured and cajoled into believing that the company’s needs outweigh their own. Remember, if there is a “use it or lose it” vacation policy, once the magic anniversary date rolls around, they’ll lose any of that time they had coming. There will be no massive vacation accrual to deal with next year. If anyone gripes, feign some concern and then simply forget about it.

If they must be out for a day, be sure to jot it down so that your response to their next request might go something like, “Another vacation day? It seems like you were just off. How many vacation days have you taken already? I’ll have to think about that. Are you sure you really need to take off? We have blah, blah, coming up. Will you be ready? We really depend on you. OK (sigh), if you must.” It’s a guilt trip/ego boost/power play combo that puts the onus on them to consider all of those feelings about themselves, their responsibilities and their paychecks. They’re probably good, honest and caring people. We’ll bet you get the results you’re looking for out of 99% of them.

We all know what your thinking. What if your company is in one of those states that mandates employees be allowed to carryover or even (gulp!) be paid for accrued and unused vacation days? What if your company has such a policy even though not mandated by law? No Problem. Just fall back on the policy that allows you to schedule their vacations around the department’s requirements.

Start forcing you direct reports to take individual vacation days (or even “vacation hours”) when it suits your needs. If you know that tomorrow will be a day without any pressing requests, command them to take the day off as a vacation day. In fact, right after the next scheduled morning meeting might be a great time to order some staff out for the rest of the day as a half-day of vacation. Always make it sound like it’s a reward and your doing them a big favor. So what if it’s a Tuesday or Thursday afternoon. Work it right and you can eat up all of their vacation time without even a hiccup in productivity. If anyone carps about it, point to the policies and remind them that they work in a “fast paced environment” with “ever changing priorities.” No one will be able to say that they weren’t given the opportunity to use all of their vacation time. These are company policies. Your hands are tied.

Most importantly – always ensure that any task or work not performed while the lollygaggers are away is made up after hours or on weekends. Your direct reports are exempt from overtime. It won’t be a ding to your budget and they’ll learn the lesson of being away from work during the week.

In time, you’ll see a trickle down effect as managers who report to you begin to believe that what you’ve instigated is what the company wants. They will follow your lead. If not out of loyalty, they’ll do it to make everyone else suffer. Morale Schmorale! You won’t be around for more than another year or two anyway. Let someone else pick up the pieces after you’ve moved on.

Keep in mind that you’ve done everyone a favor here. You’ve kept costs down and productivity up. If your company has a policy of holding over or paying employees for lost vacation time, you’ve saved even more cost and administrative time and effort. The employees will have no vacation time to “lose” because of your efforts to ensure that all of it has been “used.” You’ve saved your staff the expense of hotels, gas, theme park tickets, airfares etc. They should actually thank you. But that’s OK. You can deal with their ingratitude.

That was a lot of work but well worth it. We see that you must attend the annual budget meeting in Orlando, FL this August. Hmmm, your kids will still be out of school and you need a well deserved rest after all of this executive decision-making. The stress and pressure of having to deal with all of these policies and rules is taking a toll on your psyche. Why not tack on some extra time in Orlando? Maybe a week or even two. Grab the frau and the kiddies and head on down. Hell, the company is picking up part of the tab anyway. Your department will be covered. You need a break.

The “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives Strikes Again!

June 27, 2007

Interestingly enough, I actually had a run in with a character that must have read this section of the manual. I even wrote about the incident in 160 degrees of Deviation: The Case for the Corporate Cynic. At the time, I wondered where he had picked up some of his tactics and techniques. Later, I found this chapter rolled up in an old copy of Golf Digest in his trashcan after he had left the company.

Chapter Six When You Know that They Know that You Know that They Know

It’s taken you a long time to create and build your corporate personae. You have your cronies and network of stooges in place. You’re living the high life of the company power structure. You’re even considered a sage with your own loyal following. But just when you thought you were on the fast track to the very top, some upstart seems to be causing problems. This person is sharp and independent, solves a lot of problems and is really getting noticed by your superior and others. They are even starting to gain some respect amongst your own direct reports. It seems as though your status as a powerbroker and guru is being threatened. This is not good for your feeling of self-importance.

The worst part of it all is that you sense that this individual seems to recognize that you are not as brilliant and important as you’d like others to see you. You might even get the feeling that somehow they’re “on to you.” It’s nothing that they’ve said or done. It’s more subtle and unnerving. They appear self-confident, thoughtful and knowledgeable. They ask a lot of questions and spend time analyzing issues. They don’t seem eager to simply jump into the latest wild goose chase or react to problems in a knee jerk fashion. They are more interested in working hard rather than working the system. They are disinterested in the trappings of power. They just want to get the job done. You need to quash this upstart now before they ruin things for you. Quick action is needed here and a few tips for dealing with this threat can pay off down the road.

If the interloper is a peer or someone with equal organizational status, first try playing up to them with a saccharine display of fawning. You might be able to buy the party off with some well placed but insincere compliments. Who knows, they may even be as shallow as you are. Offer to take them under your wing. Try to make them an ally – but a never an equal.

If that doesn’t work, contrive some ways to show them up, particularly in front of your superiors. Beat them to the punch with data or answers to questions in meetings, especially when high level officials are present. Interrupt and talk over them. Pretend that they aren’t even there. If they are new to the company, use corporate jargon and acronyms known only to the insiders. If they openly question what your words mean, roll your eyes and shake your head. If they were so smart, they’d know what you were talking about. The point here is to portray them as a poor unfortunate and unimportant dolt.

Enlist your army of stooges to feed you information that you can use to lob mortar shells on them during meetings. This tactic might temporarily stymie and embarrass this pest. Even if the facts or data might be untrue, some damage will be done. The truth will vindicate the enemy later – but only after the meeting. You need to show this potential threat who the real boss is.

Concentrate on finding picayunish details in memos or reports that they’ve written and exploit them by striking lines through them or circling them in red ink. Peppering these documents with giant red question marks and then circulating them around the office is another tactic that might show them up as well.

When all else fails, a few well-placed rumors or gossip might also do some damage. You have to figure a way to get this person into your hip pocket and put them in their place. It would be coup to get this individual on your side – better yet beholding to you. That would send a real message to rest of your peers and subordinates.

But if nothing seems to work, if the upstart appears not to care about or even ignores your overtures to join the fold or your attempts at embarrassment and intimidation – BE CAREFUL. They may know that you know that they know. They’ll be waiting and prepared for the next ambush. A direct confrontation will not work here. It may be time to rethink your long term goals.

PS Have you pre-paid your annual dues to the Society of Bad Executives?

A Bombshell from the “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives

May 3, 2007

The Supreme Committee must have been working overtime on this chapter. Well, maybe not. I’m sure some minion was assigned to this. I found this chapter taped behind one of those pictures of a soaring eagle on the wall of an empty office.

Chapter 4 Great Performances with Performance Appraisals

It’s that time of the year again! The dreaded performance appraisal forms are stacked up in your inbox. You’ve managed to amass a large contingent of direct reports with a massive organization beneath them. It’s a true reflection of your power and prestige in the organization. But now all of that has created a lot of work for you. What nonsense! You already know who you’re good employees are – and the bad ones as well. How dare Human resources burden you with useless paperwork! You have many more important things on your mind, like building an even larger empire. Hmm, that might result in more of these cumbersome forms to fill out. Keep reading, we have a solution for that.

This is an annual event and probably the only time of the year Human Resources has any real power whatsoever. For some strange reason, your boss may have bought in to this tripe so there is really no way to avoid it. But there are ways to mitigate the drudgery and perhaps even use it to your advantage.

Dealing with the paperwork:

1. If your boss is a stickler for completing reviews on time, insist that your direct reports review their employees in accordance with the timetable set by HR. Do not allow them any slack. You’ll score points if your department turns in all of their appraisals either on or ahead of time. This is all non-valued added activity. Evenings and weekends provide perfect opportunities for your staff to work on these.
2. Remind your direct reports that the sum total of their employees’ overall ratings must be distributed in a nice bell curve. HR loves that stuff. You know that the traits, behaviors and attributes of any group of human beings are distributed that way. You learned that somewhere. Have your direct reports complete a summary sheet and keep you updated. If the results do not fit the curve, press your subordinates until they do. Just make sure that those you have chosen to be the “winners” and “losers” are rated as such.
3. Insist that your direct reports complete their own appraisals as well, particularly if the forms are complicated and require a lot of thought. You don’t have time for that. Let your subordinates think that they are actually having a say in the assessment of their performance. You can make them change it all anyway if you don’t like what they’ve written. The key here is to get all of these forms off of your desk and into someone else’s hands.

Dealing with goals and developmental plans for your own staff:

Goal setting

Never mind that the instructions on the form state that goals should be concrete, measurable and attainable. Who is in charge here anyway? The goals you set for your direct reports must be intentionally vague. You need to keep them guessing as to whether or not they are doing a good job. If you provide concrete goals, your staff will focus on them. If vague, they’ll work harder on everything!

Measurable? You’ll be the judge of that! How are you supposed to manage without exercising your personal discretion? You know how quickly people fall in and out of favor with you. Sometimes it’s even on a daily basis. It’s important that you measure personal loyalty too – and there’s not even a section for that on the form. As we all learned while coming up through the organization, people turn into suck-ups, saints and workaholics during the five or six week period prior to their annual appraisal. You’ve practiced that yourself during your rise to the top. Do not allow your staff to get away with that! They’re supposed to act that way all of the time.

Attainable? There must be “stretch.” Your staff needs to go for the gold! If the results exceed expectations, you’ll be able to take most of the credit anyway. If they fail, it’s their own fault.

Developmental plans

1. Make sure that you are not on the hook for any tasks associated with any developmental needs of your direct reports. After all, they need the development and they can take care of it themselves. If they need a seminar or training, let them find it. You may or not approve it. That’s your prerogative.

2. Remember, these reviews also give you the opportunity to “counsel” your staff about their personal habits and behaviors. Do not put any of this in writing. Plant seeds, wink, and nod. You can conveniently forget about all of this later if you need to.

Conducting the appraisal meeting:

1. Always schedule the meetings at the last minute, when your subordinates are off guard or tired and worn out. Make sure that you’re fresh and well prepared. Talk fast and try not to let them get in a word edgewise. The goal is to get them to sign off on the form and get it back to HR as quickly as possible.

2. Members of your staff who argue or refuse to sign their appraisals claiming that the reviews are not fair portrayals of their performance do not deserve to be part of your team. Their unflinching belief in your innate ability to judge them cannot be called into question. If they have somehow managed to amass documentation in an attempt to refute your assessment of them, you must question how they are spending their time. They are paid to work and not to waste time keeping records to defend poor attitudes.

3. However, you do not need issues with HR during this time so diplomacy is the key. Sometimes a little “sweet talk” goes a long way. A veiled threat may even be needed to straighten out a real malcontent. At any rate, start making plans now to expunge them before their next appraisal.

4. Remember, get the forms signed, sealed, delivered and forgotten about. You’ve done your job.

Whew, that was a lot work! Now it’s time concentrate on you. The annual executive “bonus” distribution is being considered right now. You have five or six weeks to become a suck-up, saint and workaholic. It will be over soon. Good luck!

More from the “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives

April 15, 2007

Found this chapter neatly folded and tucked away in a copy of Execution. An apt hiding place?

Chapter 5 Tips and Tricks for Saving Face

We all know that while it’s rare but sometimes you may find yourself in a tricky position with subordinates or peers. You’re busy and important and it could happen that you may have given out some bad information, promised something you couldn’t deliver or sent someone on a time wasting wild goose chase. While it’s more likely that the aggrieved party may have simply misunderstood the brilliance of what you said or what you meant, you may be confronted or challenged from time to time. Even if the accusations are true, you cannot afford to appear guilty or God forbid apologetic for such transgressions. That would result in a loss of face and be perceived as a sign of weakness. You must retain you personae of prestige and power no matter what the circumstance. To help you overcome such dilemmas, we have devised several techniques for not only extricating yourself from these situations but also solidifying your position and authority. You’re probably already familiar with these simple formulas but a quick review is always helpful.

Fast-Talking

Suppose you suspect that a subordinate or even a peer may confront you over something they think you said or did. Have a plan. Prepare a speech in advance. It doesn’t even have to be about the issue at hand. “Fast-Talking” is something you’re already familiar with. It requires speaking a mile a minute without coming up for air and completely ignoring the other party. Remember, the outcome here is to cause them to forget about their petty issue and focus on your power.

This technique works very effectively when confronted in your office or in a public area. Once you’ve started, never allow the other party to get a word in edgewise. If you must take a breath and they begin to speak, cut them off immediately. Your words must be delivered in a sharp staccato manner, like a machine gun. Avoid any eye contact. Act frenetic and move around a lot. If seated, shuffle papers and stand up and walk around. Show no emotion other than “passion” about the subject you’re talking about. Once satisfied that they are now stunned and speechless, leave the area quickly. Always mutter something as you walk away with your back to them. Look up to the heavens and shake your head in disgust as your words trail off and you disappear. They’ll think twice about confronting you again.

The Shocked Stare

If ambushed and not prepared, the strategy is to freeze and stare them straight in the eye. Do not show any emotion and do not blink. Appear to be slightly shocked. The moment they stop to take a breath, immediately interrupt them and in a cold and clinical manner and say something like,” I can see that you’re very agitated. Please try to compose yourself.” That should shut them down for a moment and give you enough time to either change the subject or leave the area without further comment. If they persist, switch to Fast -Talking. Hell, if you can pull this off in public or better yet during a meeting, you might really embarrass the poor SOB. After all, they have the problem now.

The Bombshell

Suppose you get a tip or suspect that you may be confronted or challenged by a peer during a meeting in which your superiors or higher-level management will be present. As a seasoned executive, you should always have some little tidbit socked away for just such a situation. You know, some embarrassing statistic or bit of gossip that will deflect attention away from you and onto someone else. Timing is everything here so ensure that the bomb is detonated right before your antagonist has a chance to speak. Mention it in passing and act naïve. Make it sound like an innocent remark. So what if you have to finger a colleague. Your prestige is at stake. Even if it’s not true, the temporary damage will get the focus off of you. They’ll be vindicated later – after the meeting. If the peer against whom your innocent remark was directed raises a fuss, use the shocked stare technique. It was just an innocent remark. Why are they so emotional? Do they have something to hide?

The Shill

Here’s another technique that works very well in meetings. It’s a little trickier and does require some teamwork. Teamwork really pays in business you know. Here’s where you call in a favor or convince someone of influence to help you out. This person must be prepped for in advance. You might try giving them a sob story about how the aggrieved party really has it in for you and how they are intent on destroying you, your career, family, pet dog etc. Lay it on thick. Sympathy is a powerful emotion that you can conjure up in people.

All you require of your shill is to wait until your antagonist begins their attack upon you and interrupt them with the words, ”That was a cheap shot!” The impact of those words coming from a third party will quickly take the steam out the attack. Others may even nod in agreement. An apology may be called for – but not from you.

We hope this little refresher will provide some tools guaranteed to save face in a variety of situations.

PS from The Corporate Cynic. Guaranteed to save face all right – both of them!