Corporate Survival Guide: Substance Secretion

A critical battlefield tactic is to know something that the enemy does not. It's crucial as an element of surprise, leverage in negotiations, and having a general feeling of superiority. This is just as true in corporate life: knowing things that other people don't can make you feared, promoted, and more attractive, in a secret-agent kind of way.

Of course, the trick with knowing secret things is actually finding them out. This can be a very difficult task, depending on where you fall in the pecking order. You may not actually be invited to meetings where people are discussing important things. Important people in the corporation may not know you as anything other than that person that keeps walking by their office nodding knowingly and saying hello while mis-pronouncing their name. And you don't actually know enough about the company or core business to even know what is important.

Fortunately, it is sufficient to just pretend that you know things. By definition, a secret is something which you don't tell people (although you can and should taunt them with it, do distinguish it from something that you just didn't happen to say). The difference between actually knowing something and pretending that you do is irrelevant. If the net result was that you didn't tell someone something, then the fact that you didn't know anything about it to begin with shouldn't matter. As long as that person thinks you did; that's the key.

You should begin honing your secret-keeping skills as soon as you enter the corporation. You want to become known as someone who knows things. You also want to be seen by the really important people as someone who can keep a secret.

Until such a time as you actually have any knowledge of anything interesting, which may never happen, you need to practice your secret-broadcasting skills, which I refer to as the "I have a secret!" strategy. Keeping fictional secrets is an entire portfolio of techniques, some of which I'll describe here:

Confidential documents
It is important for people to see you handling secret papers. Of course, one piece of paper looks like another from any distance, so you'll need to emphasize that the documents are terribly important through clever and subtle acting and props.
I suggest you buy several red folders at an office supply store, and a couple of larger red portfolio cases as well. Then affix and appropriate, large label to these objects, saying things like, "Confidential!," "Secret!," "Really Important Things!," "Don't Tell Anyone!," "Destroy After Reading!," "Never Reveal Contents, on Pain of Death!" Use as large a font as you can to make the labels readable from across the room. And try to avoid embarassing misspellings.
Now, the important part: Shuffle papers in and out of these folders frequently, moving them between the folders, or taking them out and reading them and putting them back, or else emptying them from the folder into the shredder. Be sure to stand up and walk around when you're doing this to make sure that you're seen. Whip your head back and forth as you do this, on the lookout for corporate spies.

Cryptic conversations
The key to keeping fictional secrets is never revealing them. But of course you have to have people know that you know something, so dropping hints is required. Have conversations with co-workers, or complete strangers in the company, which hint at something interesting but never reveal it.
"Hey, did you hear about the... Ah, never mind. Can't say."
"Are you privy to the...?"
"Did you see the Feinster memo? Unbelievable!"
Nonverbal conversations are sometimes just as good. When you pass someone in the hall, give them a knowing look and a nod, with maybe a secret smile and a wink. Try not to look like you're having a seizure.
Finally, one-way conversations can be fantastic for creating illusion. Dial your office phone from another phone (making sure you set your office phone ringer on the loudest ring). Now, answer the phone and proceed to have half of a top-secret conversation. Speak loudly and stand up if you can.
"Hello, this is Smithers."
"Yes, sir, I understand."
"Absolutely, you can trust me. Not a word."
Now, continue standing and looking around, making sounds like, "Whew!" and "Boy!" At this point, you try to catch someone's eye, and smile while shaking your head. Ideally, someone will ask you, "What was that about?" But this is not critical, as you can always say to the larger room, "I bet you're wondering what that was about, but I can't tell you because it's a Secret!"

It is important to dress the part of a secret-keeper. Dark sunglasses and a low-brim hat, worn at all times inside and out, are mandatory. A trenchcoat is also helpful, and can be useful for transporting and exchanging the red confidential folders discussed above. Finally, buy some handcuffs and clip yourself to your briefcase. Be sure to not lose the key, as this makes for tricky and potentially messy bathroom experiencies.

Practice all of the above techniques every 2 minutes or so, to make sure that you get maximum benefit from minimum substance.

There are many more, of course, and I'd like to tell you about them, but I can't. They're secret.


Little Jokes for Wednesday

Q: What do you call a group of people that talks too much about losing weight?
A: A dietribe

Q: What do you call spices that are so hot they hurt?
A: Pepper and assault

Q: What do you call a mean hippie?
A: Incensitive


When I am King: Phoney Manners

When I am King...

Violators of mobile phone etiquette in bathrooms will be subject to arrestroom.

I spent some quality time in a company bathroom the other day and overheard someone in one of the stalls talking on his phone, obviously in a conference-call meeting. The disturbing part for me was not that someone called into a meeting while taking care of personal business. Heck, that's what mobile phones are all about, right? No, the worst part was that the guy wasn't on mute; he was actually participating in the meeting whilst otherwise engaged.

Perhaps he was just trying to be a "can do" guy.

Now maybe he figured he could mitigate the situation by avoiding making unpleasant noises while unmuted. And if he were in his bathroom at home, I'm sure that would have been possible. But in a bathroom with 10 toilets on a busy floor in a full building right after lunchtime? I don't think so. I know I made a point of flushing at least a dozen times just to drive the point home.

You would think that mobile phone etiquette like this would be common sense, especially in a professional situation, like not picking your nose during an interview. Or not practicing nude sunbathing at the company picnic.

But apparently this kind of common sense isn't common with many mobile phone owners. How many times have you seen people talking to someone on the phone while the grocery store cashier is trying to get their attention to sign the credit card slip? Or blaring away on their phone while sweating on a machine at the gym, thus spraying the atmosphere simultaneously with bodily fluids and unwanted personal information? Or, of course, talking on the phone while driving slowly in the fast lane or turning in front of you without a signal because they couldn't be bothered to put the phone down to pay attention to what they were doing?

Clearly, it's time for the government to step in to enforce decent behavior. When I am King, it will be illegal to talk on the phone at inappropriate times. Because our agents can't be everywhere at all times (although they'll try), it will be up to all of us to enforce these laws. Punching in the nose will work for many situations when you need someone to put the phone down, as it will both get their attention and dislodge the phone or headset. For driving phoneblabbers, our roads will be repaved with material that scrambles conversations and makes phone calls impossible. And for the bathroom situations, special company toilets will be installed that can be triggered by the IT department which have reversible flushing systems that act like a cross between a bidet and a fire hydrant. If someone can't manage to get off their phone, we can at least make sure they get off the toilet.


Geek Jokes 0100

I wonder:

Do software pirates sing C++ Shanties?

Has linear algebra transformed our lives?

If you use a bold font in your IDE, are you programming a strongly-typed language?


Corporate Survival Guide: The Art of iculation

As explained in an earlier article, communication is the most important activity in the corporate battlefield, apart from constantly sucking up. Your ability to communicate clearly and effectively will determine how fast and high you will rise in the ranks as well as whether the waiter at lunch brings you what you thought you asked for.

Many people talk about communication skills. There are books on the subject, and videos, and seminars, and entire university majors and departments founded on it. But none of these sources covers the basic element that is so critical to the corporation: using big words. It is not good enough to "speak clearly." Instead, you want to "articulate effectively." After all, does anyone in a corporation ever "go pee?" Hardly. Instead, people "will return momentarily," probably with moist hands and suspect spots on their slacks.

You will often have to resort to big words and phrases that others use, but ideally you will invent unique words and phrases of your own. You will know that you have been successful when you hear these same words and phrases repeated by others. They are not doing it out of respect or because it's the best choice of words in a situation, but rather because they didn't understand what you said and thought they should. This is exactly the result you are aiming for. If people understand you then they will also understand how little you know. But if you can confuse them with words and get them to just believe you because it's easier than admitting they have no idea what you're talking about, you win. This is the general strategy of CEOs and politicians the world over.

Because this skill is so important, I'd like to spend this article reviewing some new words that you can use. At the same time, you should see if you can try to invent words of your own:

Rationalitation: This could mean an active form of rationalization, or trying to actively justify something. This is actually a common occurrence in management circles today, with most meetings consisting entirely of fervent rationalitation as everyone tries to blame everyone else in the room and then, in an attempt to compromise and break for lunch, blame groups and people not present at the meeting.
Usage: "It seems that some people here [look around the meeting room pointedly at this point] engage in a policy of rationalitation, while others, like me, enjoy a fluid energizing of pursuance."

Cooperzing: This word could be used to describe the effort of getting partners to work with you. Or converting slums to condos.
Usage: "I'm in the process of cooperizing both our partners and those who work with us."

Tentinaciousness: This word imparts a state of being actively tenuous.
Usage: "I encouraged my group to proactively pursue an attitude of prudent tentinaciousness."

Fractionaligurgitation: This word could mean something about an adverse reaction to market segmenting. Or a fourth-grader's reaction to a math worksheet.
Usage: "As you can visualize on the present slide, market factors are causing widespread fractionaligurgitation in our Eurpoean market."

FRTD: While words are important, acronyms are sometimes even better. They combine the advantages of an incomprehensible word with a quick delivery. And nobody will ever call you on an acronym, because they assume that it's something they should know and they don't want to call attention to their knowledge gap. Generally aim for four-letter acronyms to avoid mistakenly choosing an existing three-letter acronym. Also, that extra letter will impress your audience all the more.
Usage: "Did you see the FRTD report? Unbelievable numbers!"

Remember, success in business is not based on what you know, or whether you know more than the other guy, but rather on the fear by that guy that you know more. Communication is a weapon in the war of words. The bigger and more confusing that weapon is, the more afraid your foe will be.


When I am King: Stamp of Disapproval

When I am King...

Postage will become easier to manage.

Every year or two, the U.S. Post Office raises the price of a standard letter stamp. This seems reasonable; the price of everything is going up, and that includes letters. I'm sure my words and bill payments are more valuable this year than they were last year, and I bet my Mom appreciates her birthday card 3 cents more than she did 12 months ago.

It's not the price increase I mind, but rather the means of changing it. Here's how it usually works: You have about 67 stamps in your office drawer at home, perhaps because you didn't have as many friends to mail holiday cards as you hoped. Then the price of a stamp goes up. This makes all of your old stamps about 2-3 cents shy of what they need to be, so you go to the post office to get a roll of new stamps, plus some penny stamps to use with the old ones.

A few months go by and you look in your desk for a stamp and come across the old ones and the new ones, but you don't know which are which. That is, you don't know which ones cover a letter now and which ones are just a ticket to a 'return-for-postage' experience. And here's the best part: *the price is not written on the stamps*. That's right, the post office apparently thinks it's a good idea to avoid putting numbers on many standard letter stamps. Maybe they find it tacky and are shooting for the experience of the menu in a fine and unaffordable restaurant.

You muddle through this situation (maybe like I do, by simply avoiding sending any letter), a couple more months pass, and the post office again declares a new stamp price. You go through it all again, and pretty soon your desk is full of stamps of arbitrary value, none of which you can distinguish from the other ("Do I use the wavy flag, or the really wavy flag?"). Every occasion of mailing a letter becomes an ordeal as you try to sort out the postage and end up putting a couple of random stamps on the letter, hoping it's enough, but knowing that it's probably much more than that letter is worth.

We're not becoming an email society because email is faster, or easier, or even free. It's because we can't stand the stress of dealing with stamp uncertainty any longer. And those postal workers that went nuts with guns a few years ago? They were probably just trying to stamp some letters.

When I am King, there will be a solution to this madness. Instead of arbitrary stickers that represent money, letters will be stamped with actual money. Coins will be minted with sticky backs to make them easily affixable to letters. No longer will you wonder how many stamps you need to get to 47 cents; you simply paste 47 cents onto the letter. This adhesive coinage will have other uses as well, such as preventing the annoying sound of loose change in your pocket, since your coins will all be stuck together in a single metal lump. As postage prices rise even more, envelopes will become a thing of the past and people will simply write letters on dollar bills, prompting the Hallmark slogan, "If you truly love someone enough, say it with cash."

Sending letters should not be this complicated. This stress and confusion must be stamped out.


Corporate Survival Guide: CPUser

As a Soldier of Bureaucracy, it is important for you to have a computer system commensurate with your position of importance. It doesn't matter what you use it for, but it needs to be as large and powerful as possible so that everyone that sees it knows how important you must be.

Chances are good that the only thing you'll need a computer for will be writing presentation slides for meetings nobody attends, surfing the corporate benefits site, and watching hilarious cat videos on YouTube. Nevertheless, you need people to be awestruck with the size of your system.
Ideally, you will have a laptop. This allows your importance to travel with you. You can take your awesome system to every meeting, meal, and bathroom break, enabling you to impress more people in the company in this way. A suitable laptop will be one that is roughly the size of a small yacht. You may need a small team of Sherpas to carry it around the building for you, but this will impress the masses even more.

Regardless of whether you have a laptop or desktop system (or, even better, both), you will need a computer display in your cube. It is not good enough to have a monitor just large enough to show an application or two. You need to be able to run at least ten applications simultaneously, all completely visible at once. How else could you see whether anyone has sent you a critical meeting notice or forwarded jokes to your inbox at the same time as you're watching another "America's Funniest Dog Videos" episode and doing a refresh on your FaceBook site to see if you have any friends yet? For this reason, I suggest you forego a typical computer monitor and instead request a large-screen television, preferably 60" or larger. This display will dominate, or even overrun, your desk space, proving to everyone around you just how busy you must be.

To ensure proper operation of your system, you may want to have the IT department construct raised flooring in your cube for the extra cabling or cooling ducts that could be required. You won't ever need these capabilities, but you want people to think you might. Also, that extra few inches boost will raise you above your peers and give you the ability to see whether your bosses are in their offices, probably waiting anxiously for a visit from you and your amazing laptop.