- Preface the first: no sympathy cards are needed. This is observation, not experience.
- Preface the second: sarcasm follows.
If you’ve read Slacker Manager for any length of time, you know that I like to think about ways to be more efficient while expending less effort. It occurred to me that I haven’t seen a good explanation of how to really screw up the first few months at a new job, and especially not with a focus on how to do it fast and well. So here we go.
If, for your own twisted reasons, you wish to set some kind of a speed record for hire-to-fire, you’re going to want to set up your scenario properly. It is very important, therefore, to find a healthy organization and trick them into hiring you. I’m defining “healthy organization” broadly as one that is slow to hire and quick to fire. Generally speaking, they’re slow to hire because they are trying very hard to find the right person for the job. With enough practice and materials, you can probably fool them into thinking you are that person. There are ample resources to help you with this, from resume polishers to headhunters, all the way to the 100 Day Plan. I won’t spend time on this part except to say that getting into the right organization will help expedite your round trip.
Once you’ve landed the gig, you’ll need to set up your environment appropriately. Fill your new workspace with much self-congratulatory paraphrenelia. Pictures of the family don’t count, nor do standard framed diplomas. However, for a fee, your alma mater may provide you with a beautifully framed, super-sized diploma. That counts, provided it is supplemented with sufficient supporting material. This material must not be hodge-podge. Random snapshots of you with various movie action heros are fine, but they must be in line with your other materials. For example, if your politics lean leftward, all your visual materials must support this cause. Include buddy pictures of you and Al Gore chained to a tree and a super-sized autographed McDonald’s bag from Morgan Whats-His-Name. On the other hand, if your politics lean toward the right, then candid hunting pics with Dick Cheney are great, as are tastefully framed receipts from your large political contributions. The point is, you’ve got to ensure consistency of message. The message, of course, is that you are quite important indeed.
Now you’ve got to begin scouting the lay of the land. There are essentially two ways to do this, both are equally effective, though I think one is more efficient than the other. It’s probably a personality thing. The first option is to make exactly no effort whatsoever toward getting to know your
adversaries fellow stakeholders. Do not look into what’s important to them, or what initiatives have been tried and discarded, or what history hath wrought. Just don’t. The second option is to do exactly the opposite: get to know everything about everyone, especially all the hotbutton issues. Then begin to press the hotbuttons on a regular basis. I’d advise you to take the first option, since it’s the path of least resistance, but your personality may take you the other direction. Both approaches will work very well in your race to the pink slip.
In your personal interactions, do not overlook the power of being relentlessly aggressive. Always challenge everything. Be the devil’s advocate and take this role very seriously–it’s not a game. The devil, after all, is not to be trifled with.
If you find that at times you lack the energy to be relentlessly aggressive, then be relentlessly defensive. Admit no wrongdoing, no mistakes and no complicity. Point fingers. You know the old saw about when you point a finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you? That’s a convenient coincidence–ignore it.
If you are the proud recipient of advanced degrees, certificates, or high ropes course endorsements, do not overlook opportunities to flaunt these qualifications. Include all the appropriate initials in every single email. On your business card. On your office door and the obligatory nameplate on your desk. If you are so lucky as to have a name like L. Hawthorne Thistlethorne III, use the whole thing. If you have a doctorate, request that you be addressed (in all circumstances) as Doctor Thistlethorne. If someone insists upon being informal with you, insist back that they use your proper first name: L. Hawthorne. Yes, it is awkward to say. That is the point.
Let’s turn for a moment toward more sartorial matters: monograms. Do it. Milk it. Monogram the dickens out of yourself. Secure the services of a tailor for your monograms and mention, “My tailor…” in casual conversation. Choose an unusual, yet illegible, font, or design one yourself. Request that the tailor not limit the monogram to your initials. No, you need to have the whole nine yards in a prominent place, such as the cuff of your shirt or blouse. It may take two or three wraps around the cuff, but you want to be sure to get the whole thing on there: L. Hawthorne Thistlethorne III, M.B.A., PhD., DMin, C.P.A. A.B.D, Delegate to the U.N. And so on. Consider a tasteful monogram tattoo near the small of your back.
When you email, always do so in the heat of the moment. Remember to be aggressive and/or defensive, but also embrace hyperbole, gross exaggeration and mischaracterization. Be sure to pad your “To:” and “Cc:” lists extensively so that nobody is left out. Unless you’re talking specifically about them, in which case you should not include them.
Pepper your speech with phrases from other languages. Latin is a good start. Ergo, ergo (be sure to pronounce this “AIR-go” and not “ER-go”). After uttering the phrase, be sure to pretend you said nothing at all, or else explain the phrase with some impatience, and/or a patronizing tone. Ergo (dryly now: “That means ‘therefore'”), ergo. Consider the liberal use of “air quotes” while speaking (further, consider throwing some personal style into your air quotes, such as one palm facing out and one facing in).
If you work in close proximity to your
adversaries colleagues, listen to your voicemail on speakerphone. Take many personal calls. Play your music through desktop speakers. Don’t blast it, but do play it as loud as you need. If you like a particular song, don’t be bashful about it. Stick that thing on repeat and let it run all day.
Write prodigiously and focus on the problems in other departments. Write memos or scathing emails about how to solve their problems. Be sure to reference earlier advice in this post regarding email and personal interaction. Give unsolicited advice liberally, to all within earshot or easy reach of email.
Say yes to nearly everything. Agree to far more than you can reasonably deliver, and remember to be agressive and/or defensive about it. Say no only to projects that are really important, and cite your overloaded schedule as evidence of your inability to take on any more projects. Keep a handy list of potential scapegoats to blame for your inability to deliver.
Using these stealthy and little known techniques you may be assured of brief tenure at all but the very worst organizations, irrespective of your ability to perform required duties. I hope this has been helpful for you. If you have questions about these techniques, please hesitate to ask, because I really don’t have time for you right now.