Your company is in the same company as every other company, from Aardvark Amalgamated (totally made up) to Zyxware Technologies (totally real), if it has memorialized a series of core values.
These values may be hidden in a drawer somewhere—their dust bunnies breeding like, well, bunnies—or relegated to a PowerPoint presentation viewed only during new-hire orientation, but they’re there. And you’d be doing yourself a favor to track ‘em down and read ‘em up because they are, ostensibly at least, the building blocks of your company’s cultural foundation.
Or they’re woefully outdated and in desperate need, like perhaps this column is, of a complete rethink and rewrite.
Regardless of industry or geography, most core values tend to look alike. Overlay those of a pharmaceutical behemoth on those at a media startup and you’d be playing Hocus Focus to find any differences. It’s a standard yet palatable fare of collaboration, creativity, diligence, candor, passion, esprit de corps, etc., et al., ad infinitum.
What about the unwritten about, unspoken about, underbelly? You know, those cultural bad habits all companies wish they could shake? Those pet peeves and toxic peccadillos? Those—and this is all in good fun, mind you—rotten-to-the-core values.
Wait for someone to get fired and then blame everything—and we’re talking everything—on that person. Missed the quarterly revenue budget? Her fault. Product delayed? Pffft. He screwed it up. Got an angry customer, vendor, or employee? Oops, she did it again. Everything that ever went wrong in the past. Everything that is going wrong right now. And of course, for good measure, everything that will ever go wrong in the future with no discernable statute of limitations.
Don’t stop until that gravestone is super-soaked.
And if you love grave-p***ing, you need to add the fine art of “absentia annihilating” to your repertoire. This is where you and your cohorts scapegoat whatever person or department is not represented at one of those big CTJ meetings that flare up in the wake of a crisis. The lesson of this lesson? If you’re not there to defend yourself it means you’re automatically guilty.
This is named after the Russian author of War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and other titanic tomes that American school kids have been required to read, and have pretended to do so, for generations. In this context, Tolstoying is when you write a 500-word email to a colleague, even if that colleague occupies the office or cubicle next to yours, rather than—gasp!—picking up the phone and calling him or her or—egads!—actually, you know, prying your butt from your chair and having an actual face-to-face conversation.
Not only does this waste someone’s time boring through your mountain of purple prose, but it increases the probability of misunderstanding your message.
Want to really mess with someone? This is a can’t-miss douche move: Invite a co-worker to a meeting without checking his or her availability; or, to make matters worse, check the scheduled and double-book ‘em anyway. And your dupe, being nice and sweet and unsuspecting, will likely accept your invitation in the blind, assuming you did what you purposely didn’t do. Then, when the dreaded hour arrives, he or she is the one that looks like a jerk for blowing off one of the commitments.
Nothing stings more than being on the receiving end of an old-fashioned, 32-toothed, large-mouthed, Cheshire-cat-style grin f***. Here’s how you do it: 1) Wait for a fellow employee to ask you for help with something; 2) Agree with such outsized enthusiasm that he or she walks away feeling not only relieved, but energized by the prospective collaboration; and 3) Do absolutely nothing.
That’s the G to the F mic-drop moment.
It’s like that scene in The Social Network, when Zuckerberg agrees to build the website for his classmates at Harvard, then plays hide-and-seek for an entire semester. Congratulations, Winkelvoss twins. You just got grin f***ed, Ivy League style.
Also known as “Tom Sawyering,” in reference to Mark Twain’s pubescent protagonist tricking his friends into whitewashing his aunt’s picket fence. But no matter what you call it, the rotten-to-the-core value is the same: If there’s something you don’t want to do, palm it off on an unsuspecting co-worker, preferably one whose nose doesn’t mind getting a little brown from time to time. Keys to this are convincing the mark—as Sawyer did—that the assignment will benefit them somehow, or at the very least, be a lot of fun.
Dangle a little cheese on the trap… and let it snap.
This is a bulletproof technique if you’re trying to suck the oxygen out of your company’s culture. All you need to do is praise employees, especially subordinates, to their face and then rip them to ribbons when they’re not around. Works like magic. Black magic, but magic nonetheless. First off, two-facing always gets back to the victim, and second, it doesn’t take long for the people you’re lavishing with compliments to figure out that when they’re out of the room, they’re getting pilloried as well.