Occasionally I get asked to advise those embarking on a career in management. Well it certainly isn’t my style to be straight laced but I’ve never ceased to be amazed by those who take themselves a little too seriously. You had to be there to witness the look of horror on a certain recruiter’s face when I shared a few gems of wisdom garnered over twenty years in management. I considered the presentation to be such a success that it now forms the basis of one of my stand-up routines.
1 Never walk without a document in your hands
People with documents in their hands look like hard-working employees heading for important meetings. People with nothing in the hands look like they’re heading to the canteen. People with a newspaper in their hand look like they’re heading to the toilet. Above all make sure you carry loads of stuff home with you at night, thus generating the false impression that you work longer hours than you do.
2 Use computers to look busy
Any time you use a computer it looks like work to the casual observer. You can send and receive personal email, chat and generally have a blast without doing anything remotely related to work. These aren’t exactly the societal benefits that the proponents of the computer revolution would like to talk about but they’re not bad either. When you get caught by the boss and you will get caught your best defence is to claim that you’re teaching yourself to use new software to save valuable training expenses.
3 Messy desk
Top management can get away with a clean desk. For the rest of us it looks like we’re not working hard enough. Build huge piles of documents around your workspace. To the observer last year’s work looks the same as today’s work; it’s volume that counts. Pile them high and wide. If you know somebody is coming to your desk bury the document you will need half way down in an existing stack and rummage great when he or she arrives.
4 Voice mail
Never answer your phone if you have voicemail. People don’t call you just because they want to give you something for nothing, they call because they want you to do work for them. That’s no way to live. Screen all of your calls to voicemail. If somebody leaves a voice mail message for you and it sounds like impending work, respond during lunch hour when you know that they’re not there, it looks like you’re hard-working and conscientious even though you’re being a devious weasel. Which do you think came first, the telephone or the telephone-answering machine? Exactly. You are being a luddite if you answer the telephone, holding back progress and showing tremendous disrespect to the inventor of the answering machine.
5 Looking impatient and annoyed
Always try to look impatient and annoyed to give your bosses the impression that you are always busy.
6 Leave the office late
Always leave the office late, especially when the boss is still around. You could read magazines and storybooks that you always wanted to read but had no chance as a child – I missed out on Tin Tin. Make sure you walk past the boss’ room on your way out. Send important emails at unearthly hours and during bank holidays.
7 Creative sighing for effect
Sigh loudly when there are people around, giving the impression that you are under extreme pressure.
8 Stacking strategy
It is not enough to pile lots of documents on the table. Put lots of books on the floor etc (thick computer manuals are the best).
9 Building vocabulary
Read up on some computer and technical magazines and pick out all of the jargon and new products. Use the phrases freely when in conversation with bosses. Remember: they don’t have to understand what you say, but you will sound impressive.
10 Have two jackets
If you work in a big open plan office, always leave the spare jacket draped over the back of your seat. This gives the impression that you are still on the premises. The second jacket should be worn whilst wandering around elsewhere. When it is not being worn hang it in the cleaners’ cupboard. Get the cleaners’ permission and strike up a friendship with the cleaners – remember they are the ones who know what is going on.
11 Most important
Make sure your boss isn’t looking over your shoulder while you’re reading this.
Hang on a minute
Or more importantly instead of getting ‘all corporate’ and throwing a fit at the sight of such subversive advice, if you are an aspiring middle manager take pleasure in the fact that you have been warned about the antics of others. Of course if you are a leader in waiting you might want to reflect on the fact that all of the strategies outlined are a response to a management style which values control and draws its strength from a macho culture – a culture which sadly still prevails in too many organisations.
All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson