It’s a Friday. I’m at lunch. Possibly the only thing I do with any sense of professionalism. I’m with two of Melbourne’s younger female up and coming marketing movers and as we pick our way through the dips, Koftas, Falafels, pickled turnip and the occasional bit of green stuff, the conversation turns to the projects in hand.
We are planning some events and I stupidly ask about one of the other speakers. I’ll call him Mr. Smooth, cause that’s what they called him. The flood gates open.
“I hate him, but someone else on my committee thought it was a big deal to get Mr. Smooth on the event and they’ve already asked him. When I was at xxxx Telco, his agency was pitching and wanted us to OK a budget for $250,000 for a TVC. It was a round the world ad, you know, and I could see them getting all their holidays in for nothing. As the MD left the room, he whispered to me that he liked the idea but wouldn’t pay more than $20,000 for it. So he left me to negotiate with them. Over the next few days I got them down to $120,000, but the MD still wouldn’t come at it, so I was working out what I could say to them, when I got a call from our MD again. He said “You tell that fucking ad agency guy that if he rings me up again and tells me how to run my business and how he knows more than me he’ll never see anybody from xxxx Telco again. I thought it was your job to keep those pricks from hassling me, what do I pay you for?’ And hung up. So I’ve got to ring Smoothy and I told him what the MD said word for word. He didn’t even say ‘sorry for going over your head’. Two years later, I’m at another company and I’m at a pub and out of the blue, in walks Mr. Smooth and gives me a big hug and says how he’s always really liked me and walks out again, like we were best of mates. Then I find out a couple of days later his lot are trying to pitch for our account. So I hate him. Shallow and sneaky and got a hide like an elephant. And thinks he can just ride over people and that we’re all so stupid. And he’s got a massive coke habit. And he tries to fuck all the girls in his office and, and, and-”
Which seems like a nice intro to my article on dirty tricks. Do they happen often? Do they happen to you? Do you practice the dark art of the stab in the back? What are the rules of engagement? What are the no-no’s? Is it vital to go through life occasionally stabbing those around you or can you sail on blissfully through the business world like an angel skipping over clouds, propelled by gossamer wings?
I hate to admit it, but I think business in Australia requires a steely heart, a lack of any sense of guilt. I was recently in New Zealand, where there are far fewer people and they all know each other and you just can’t get away with being nasty, because people will warn each other. I could feel a genuine sense of community. But here, in good old OZ, the warnings may be false, the target may be obscure, the game is played with no holds barred and the prize is often survival in the company you’re in, while the other guy ends up getting the package and driving cabs around North Sydney.
Does this Machiavellian behavior stem from our country being founded by convicted criminals, who’s only means of survival was to rat on their fellow inmates? Is it because the whole structure of our legal system and society was put together by the morally bankrupt, money-grabbing second sons of the English aristocracy? Is it because we are led by a Prime Minister who can laugh at his promises made only weeks earlier, before the elections, because he seems to the old and frail (scared by his media – too frightened to open their doors and hearts to anybody) to be the slightly better option of two evils? Or is it modern day? Is it how humans have come to be? Are they as dirty here as anywhere and I’m just looking at sweet little New Zealand through the rose-colored glasses of my holiday mood.
Who gives a frig? Lets get on with some of the tactics. Because ‘Ours is not to reason why, ours is just to do or die’. And yes, call me juvenile. Call me crass.…
Things worth considering as you’re scrambling up the corporate ladder:
(Supplied by some very helpful readers – I did an email survey)
Help them look stupid…
Influence how they dress
Nothing makes a person seem one thing or another more, than what they are actually wearing. If a person is edging on the loopy side anyway, encourage them to dress to accentuate that; “hey you looked great in that green and orange checked shirt you had on at the barbie – you ought to wear that work.” Or the boring person, who really needs a giddy-up, “John, grey and black always look more professional. Only idiots wear bright colours to work. Pick up your game mate.”
Ruin their presentations
Give them a couple of really strong coffees the morning before they present. Or ask them if they feel nervous and not to worry about how they look. Others are
A) Slipping a laxative into your colleges coffee before he/she presents
B) Give them the squeaky chair or the very low one
C) Talk or cough during their presentations.
D) Delete their latest version of the Power Point Show and have the one with the boo-boos all through it come up.
Deliberately editing your college’s documents creating spelling and grammatical errors. How do you spell there’s? Their’s? They’re’s? Where does the apostrophe go?
If you can’t get to the editing role, on some computers you can just switch the power off, so they lose their work. “Owww. Shit John, I wish you wouldn’t leave the chord there, I’ve hit my shin. Oh, hell, mate, I didn’t mean to blow the power.”
Broadcast their stupidity to the world
Media Training is especially good – encourage your colleague to be ‘courageous’ in interviews. Tell them not to bother about appearances, “hang it, you look more natural without make-up” etc. And tell them if it’s an important subject, the punters need the full argument. So they rabbit on for a full two minutes. This works brilliantly on say Today Tonight, where a 3 second sound bite is thought to be letting the interviewee bore the audience.
(You’ll be amazed how many people will follow you if you lead by example) Don’t sit near them. Don’t listen when they speak. Interrupt when they are mid sentence. Never make them coffee. Walk off when they tell a joke. Invite everyone else to a team lunch but them.
Or create a diversion whenever they try to get attention. My ten year old is a master at this. So is John Howard.
Play tricks on them…
Leave messages that someone from the (Hillsong, Scientology, Mormons, Orange people) Church rang up, say once a day for a week.
Or log onto your college’s email and send around gay porn to everyone in the office, including the CEO, who of course, may be gay. This works very well in major banks, city councils, government departments and other locations where political correctness is liberally mixed with our favourite old stand-buy, sheer hypocrisy – on the surface everyone is PC, underneath, they all make jokes about each other and you’re giving them plenty of material….
Attach your colleague’s phone receiver to the handset with double sided tape. Then ring them – fun watching them getting upset trying to answer the call…
If you really hate them, put super glue (dries clear) on their house or car keys so they won’t get in the lock.
Make their life revolting
Rub a bit of dog turd under your college’s desk so when employees and executives walk past they think he’s one filthy bastard. Another along this line is the old smelly keyboard. You slice a green prawn thinly, slide into the back of the key-board and then wait a few days as it slowly goes off.
Rearrange their diary schedules. This is great fun if they use an electronic diary and very easy if you know how to work the office intranet.
Keep them in the dark
Never give them all the information. Organize WIP’s (Work In Progress) when they are on the road…
Make them an addict
Plant drugs (you can just use out-of-date vitamins from your home bathroom) and/or needles in your college’s draw. The real ones are sometimes hard to source; you could ask them for a contact. This could be done subtly, say in the lift with their boss. Or you could place an empty vodka bottle in your colleges draw or pour whisky on the carpet near their desk so it stinks for weeks. Shocking waste, but very effective.
Make them a thief
There’s always stealing a bit of petty cash and blaming your college. “I know there was $47.63 in there, I was going to buy stamps and we didn’t have quite enough for a whole 100 packet. Now there’s only $27.63. I know I’m not losing my mind, who’s been tickling the till? Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to imply anyone is dishonest. It could have been the cleaners…”
Make them the bastard
Raise issues about their grip on reality. Question their morals in front of half a dozen colleagues (say by asking which is more important, lying or winning?) then just raise your eye-brows.
Make them lazy
Pretend a business call keeps coming in and claim your colleague never follows it up. “Look, I know they are a bit low on their sales levels lately, may-be they aren’t so motivated since they got the big pay rise?”
It’s almost essential to encourage ‘positive ambition’ in colleagues. Nothing wrong with them telling people their real dream is to be an actor or to join the SAS. Or drop travel brochures on their desk. Tahiti looks good…
Publish their job on Seek. ‘Hey John, looks like someone’s not sure about your performance…’.
Bitch about them
To everyone in the industry, while playing the nice guy. “Did you see the way she dresses? If you’re going to eat pies and chips all day, don’t wear hipsters.” Or, “I said no to those shoes five years ago and she’s supposed to be an ambassador for our company… She never makes coffee, does she think she’s above us? She was really rude to the water machine guy the other day, I was so embarrassed…”
Steal from them
Take their money. For example, in Ad land, there was the Television Production Head who worked in cahoots with the production company creating bogus crew invoices and pocketing the proceeds. Made a fortune. Eventually caught. See point 4 on sucking up. He spent lots of fun nights in jail.
Or go to lunch with them and forget your wallet. Go to the footy and disappear when it’s your shout. I know an accountant who hasn’t paid for a beer at the footy in 20 years. Hi Phil, how’re the Bombers doing?
Some bastards even take their old company’s confidential data to the new company. This is usually a breach of employment contract. But many is the ad agency born out of this evil wedlock.
Leave them hanging
Never give your colleague all their messages. Or tell their clients they’re sick when they’re not, they’re at lunch when they’re not, they are in the loo with the MD, a mastiff, a midget, a mirror and some white powder…
Be the real prick
Help negotiate the MBO (management buy-out) and then sell out your mates when you actually sell the company to a third party. On that issue, the old ‘buy the company and say the whole time you’ll be keeping all the staff, then sack most of them’, is typical too. Should be a law against it. Then again, if there was, they’d have to put half the boards in jail.
Your Own Career
On sucking up – the two-faced twin brother of the stuff above. The five most used are:
- Always buy your boss a birthday present, suggest an anniversary present, remind them of the diner party they should be organizing or the thank-you note they should send.
- Always work longer hours than your boss, then take off when she’s not around
- Buy the exact same suit/t-shirt/shoes as your CEO. You can say ‘snap’ in the lift and complement him/her on their taste. “Gee Joan, the work-outs are really toning you up. Have you been skipping lunch too?”
- Have similar interests to your key superiors “That’s fascinating Susan, I’ve always been captivated by South American butterflies. The “mytongueisrightupyourbumus” was the first I collected when
I was only 8…” I’ve known people to change footy teams and even codes (how could you really like Rugby if you’ve been brought up on an intelligent sport like Aussie Rules?) to get them up the ladder.
- Most people think using sex is a virtual guarantee of riches and power. Then there’s the saying ’sleeping your way to the top means you’ll get it in the bottom’. This may appeal to some readers.
Do any of these seem familiar? Have you been stabbed right royally before? (One wonders why that saying exists? Then the richest people in Europe didn’t get there by being nice. Fancy having someone beheaded just cause you fancied their sister, like Henry 8th) Or are you a stabber? The office arsehole? You know if you are. You’re the one always justifying the means by the end…
On reading this, what’s the career lesson for the rest of us? We who try to do the logical and right thing, most of the time? It’s judge people not on what they say, or how they seem to behave towards you, but on exactly what they do for you and your career. If they help you, help them. If they don’t, well, you have a few options to consider above.