Office Humor – Funny Job Titles

Eyes
The Corporate Overlords are watching…

I’m involved with a fantastic little startup game and publishing company.  We started talking about job titles and I said I’d take a look at compiling some humorous ones that reflected our roles.  I figured it was worth sharing since some of these are pretty funny.

Thinker of Deep Thoughts

Chief Visionary (aka Chief Vision Officer)

Brand Warrior

Chief Amazement Officer

Artistic Ninja

Organizer of Random Thoughts and Erratic Activity

Maestro of Mayhem

Timeline Overlord

The Voice of Reason

Chief of Prophesy Fulfillment

Chief Idea Ambassador

Lord god Genius in Charge

Digital Sorcery/Sorceress

Chief Concept Exorcist

Director of Astonishment

Digital Experience Director

Ringleader of Creative Operations

Abstract Concepts Coordinator

Master Universe Builder

Chief of Time Travel Operations

Entertainment Seer

Director of Entertainment Fulfillment

On-Demand Adult Officer

Alien and Technical Design Champion

Chief Agitation Officer

Head Unicorn Wrangler

Ambassador of Buzz

Chief Trouble Maker

Prophet of Events That Will Never Happen

Director of Idealism

Generalissimo of Nonexistent Future Military Forces

Director of World Creation

Chief Awesome Officer

Director of Dream Fulfillment

Head Word Wrangler

Chief Wonder Delivery Agent

Director of Awe-Inspiring Feats

Oracle of Inspiration

Coffee Guy

Chief Creativity Evangelist

Chief Catalyst Agent

Chief Scoundrel

Chief Security Stormtrooper

Director of Underdog Concepts

Warlord of Ingenuity

Director of Adventure Management Operations

Social Media Sorcerer/Sorceress

Concept Alchemist

Idea Jedi

Czar of Creativity

Master of Underling Staff

Director of Everything Starting With the Letter E

Self-Designated Adult In-Charge

Director of Initiative

Chief Idea Smuggler

Director of Synergistic Creativity

Space/Time Specialist

Concept Wrangler

Ink Magician

Sith Lord of Security

Director of Office Supplies and Beverage Distribution

Head Office Rogue

The Money Guy/Gal

Dispeller of Myths and Bad Ideas

Director of Brainstorming Operations

Ringleader of Genius Concepts

The Head Game Guy

Mastermind of Mischief

Now, I just need to pick the right one for my business cards…

Real World Lines for Your Resume’ (office humor)

EyesI recently updated my resume’ for what seems like the hundredth time and as I was doing it my snarkiness took over.  I started wondering, “What if people updated their resume’s with the actual skills, experiences, and work they do?” So I started jotting them down and after a few weeks, I came up with a list that made me laugh – and I hope you’ll enjoy it too.  Of course, none of these apply to my current employer…because that would be both wrong and ignorant.

So here’s the list of lines for your resume’ reflecting the real world…feel free to use them as you see fit:

  • Active target of management amusement/abuse yet oddly productive.
  • Demonstrated creative solution creation on teams that collectively couldn’t master tic-tac-toe.
  • Able to dodge multiple attempts to compromise integrity.
  • Strategic influencer of weaker minds and souls.
  • Gifted with ability to detect and point out bullshit.
  • Successfully debated managerial incompetence with senior leaders (with charts and examples) without them knowing it.
  • Objective perspective regarding hopelessly fouled up projects.
  • Possessor of the burial locations of the bodies of the victims of the Corporate Overlords.
  • Developed a system for liquidating and stockpiling strategic office supplies from a locked supply cabinet.
  • Served as “the voice of reason” in the technological equivalent of a lunatic asylum.
  • Artfully dodged responsibilities that would have further imperiled my career opportunities.
  • Successfully led department snarkiness and sarcasm team to the semi-finals three years running.
  • Altered my perception of the phrase “world class” to reflect more of a real-world understanding.
  • Found new ways to entrench my antiquated ideals of employee motivations.
  • Deflected mental abuse levelled for being right while those about me were not.
  • Successfully led a massive reorganization effort on a team that was never organized in the first place (which, when you think of it, is remarkable).
  • Maintained a strong social media presence despite oppressive first amendment defying censorship policies. (makes me sound like a patriot, don’t ya think?)
  • Actively suppressed the use of sound effects to augment my discussions with senior leadership.
  • Did not attempt to assassinate a former abusive manager for over 1427 consecutive days!
  • Reorganized the voices in my head so they are more in sync and consistent.
  • Demonstrated the ability to not lose my focus despite the fact that my career is in flames and spiraling to the Earth at breakneck speeds.
  • Identified by leadership as the “go-to” person when they duplicate the mistakes of past leadership teams.
  • Realigned my values to a lower level to be in line with the incompetents that dare to call themselves my peers.
  • Converted my work-related rage into a series of memes involving coworkers, farm animals, and the kama sutra.
  • Consistently showed up at work despite the urge to seek professional mental help.
  • Despite the odds, was able to find humor in the misery and suffering of inferior colleagues.
  • Led significant IT organization effort to file or delete the 243 messages in my inbox.
  • Avoided abusing the video conferencing capability despite strong urges to do otherwise.
  • Reworded successive leadership communications so that the manager in question did not come across as a third world dictator, (and not a word of thanks in return).
  • Developed algorithm for calculating the number of minutes until my retirement/parole.
  • Spent two days annually taking learning that was mandatory but had no bearing on my work or lifestyle choices.
  • Developed creative alternatives to the dress code. (I purchased a straightjacket for use on video conference calls, referring to it as “my afternoon sport coat.”)
  • Successfully deployed an attitude of complete ambivalence to my career which went almost entirely undetected.
  • Mimicked attentiveness when leadership forced attendance to Town Hall meetings.
  • Devised complex project plan for dismantling, shipping, and reassembly of an Aeron chair from our office undetected.
  • Created alternatives to the use of the phrases/words, “Flip-flop,” “managerial incompetence,” or “waffling” in regards to leadership announcements/decisions.
  • Willing to sell out everything but my values in order to survive.
  • I am freewill flexible!  You tell me my opinion and that is what I also believe, until you leave the room.
  • Skilled at changing direction, sometimes hourly, in support of leadership whims.
  • I am a dedicated worker – I had soul crushed and served as croutons in the cafeteria years ago.
  • Assumed full responsibility for the bad career choices I’ve made in the last two years despite complete innocence on my part.
  • Significantly increased my personal productivity by forgetting my Facebook password.
  • Began executive documentation effort regarding decisions, directions, and priority setting…code name “War Crimes”
  • Solid foundation for HR policies as they relate to workplace abuse (mostly experienced-based).
  • Devised sophisticated system to update my availability status in Skype with phrases that confuse the weak, timid, or leadership.
  • Adjusted the virtual target on my back so as to make me more difficult to hit.
  • Established new levels of evaluation and critique in regards to apparent random changes in direction by management.
  • Conduit for bad decisions and horrific communications.
  • Convinced myself that I was better off doing what I was doing rather than doing something that would attract too much attention.
  • Regularly demonstrate knowledge sharing principles when repurposing the work of others into my PowerPoint presentations.
  • I team well with those I deem worthy.
  • Established an informal communications network to augment the lack of formal communications by those in charge.
  • Possesses the ability to distinguish the level, depth, and potency of bullshit when presented in a PowerPoint format.
  • Maintains ethics and values throughout mental incarceration.
  • Misdirected inappropriate levels of abuse to other parts of the organization so as to spread the workload of abuse reconciliation.
  • Preserved the illusion of managerial leadership by suppressing the urge to point out how our leaders have been economical with the truth.
  • I possess an innate sense of where “the line” is and straddle it often to the discomfort of others.
  • Executed a prioritization schema in lieu of leadership making up their minds and doing it themselves.
  • Instituted health program aimed at increasing the blood pressure of my immediate manager.
  • Expert at sheltering management’s egos from the impact of their less-than-perfect decisions.
  • I have been successfully pointing out the painfully obvious for the length of my career.
  • Demonstrated ability to locate and attract flawed characters that might otherwise cause havoc in other parts of the organization.  (I believe a thank you is in order.)
  • Ability to form semi-functional teams from quasi-dysfunctional individuals with competing egos, agendas, and directions from management.
  • Able to see the morale uplifting humor in the shortcomings of others.
  • Able to incorporate often conflicting priorities into an otherwise dead-end career path.
  • I possess a healthy and natural distrust of PowerPoint as a communications channel.  I even have a deck that proves this.
  • Possessing a disproportionate amount of business sense in comparison to those that use the word “peer” in describing our working relationships.
  • Communications skills – able to interpret messages from leadership into things that are both directional and entertaining.
  • I have banked up karma enough to offset almost anything short of waging war.
  • Raised the bar on creative witticism and insightful (often entertaining/humorous) observations into the operational workflow of the organization.
  • I demonstrate marked self-control given the daily if not hourly challenges to my career, sanity, and well-being.
  • Actively assisted in shifting the misplaced blame for several outages towards the designated scapegoats, thus increasing morale of the guilty parties.
  • Equipped with ability to suppress the urge to introduce reality into discussions and embrace the nuance of random blame assignment.
  • Retention and application of the history of the organization into current events, where applicable.  Example:  “This is exactly like the last time you threw me under the bus.”
  • Demonstrated extreme tolerance with individuals who are distracted easily by shiny objects.
  • I have been consistently proven correct on a number of flaws (and flawed individuals), despite the personal displeasure it brought me.
  • I have a detailed comprehension of the stakeholders that control every aspect of my career, yet have a stunning and surprising lack of influence on their activities.
  • Teaming skills – providing the staff with insightful often ironic comedic insights into topical issues and management communications.
  • Willing to risk my career to propagate morale boosting messages…like this list!

If you enjoyed this, pick up my book, Business Rules. #corporateoverlords

Case Study – The Demise of Alien Dungeon (and All Quiet on the Martian Front)

All Quiet
Three Legged Stompy Fun

Back in May of 2013 Alien Dungeon launched a Kickstarter to fund a new miniatures game, All Quiet on the Martian Front – aka AQotMF.  This was a miniatures game of the Martian invasion of the world, ala H. G. Wells, with a hint of steampunk.  Taking place prior to WWI in the mundane world, the Kickstarter was a big success, receiving over $300,000.00 of the $50k target goal. The rules for the game were written by Rick Priestley, a seasoned game writer.  There was a lot of promise here.  Prototypes of the miniatures appeared in the Kickstarter leading us to all believe that the company had laid out all of the groundwork to be successful.

My Martians

They delivered product too, albeit many months late.  Some of the products, like some the big land battleships were not delivered, and other product was cancelled outright – with offers of gift certificates for replacement products.  These were issued two months prior to the company’s ultimate demise.

And now, Alien Dungeon is off-line, apparently out of business.

So what happened?

In reality, I don’t know.  I can surmise what happened though, based on my decades of experience in the gaming industry.  The company has become a case study in how business models can fail.  First and foremost the game itself was relatively good.  There was strong evidence that it had not been fully thought through however.  Some of the game mechanics didn’t work well.  New units were introduced but not included in the initial game rules, indicating that they had not considered the future growth of the product.  There were a lot of pages of addendum on the company’s now defunct web site just to try and prop up the product line.

There was a lack of organized play.  I know a few companies out there that survive without organized play, but it helps sustain a product.  At GenCon there were a few games of AQotMF, but darned few.  I couldn’t find any games at local hobby shops.  This was usually a sign that the game was not being supported well in the hobby shops – which was the case.  Even their presence at GenCon was sketchy at best.

The company struggled with the production of the miniatures, which led to months of delay in getting the product out.  Even when we did get them, they had flaws that should have been caught in the production process.  Assembling the minis often required finding a PDF of the vague instructions online and even then they didn’t got together well.

There were hints early on of problems as well.  We were promised a PDF of the rules, along with the hardcover rules sets.  Getting these out is useful because it allows gaming groups to pull in new players.  Ernie told me, “You have no idea how hard it is to create a PDF.”  Seriously.  It’s actually pretty simple. I started to get the impression that this was a one-man operation.  Two and a half years later and we still don’t have the PDF of the rules – and likely never will.

There was no advertising for the game that I ever saw either.  Advertising gets your product out there for new gamers.  Word of mouth alone rarely works.  Alien Dungeon didn’t seem interested in promoting its game line strongly.

I spoke with the owner of the company, Ernie, at GenCon.  His frustrations, as expressed to me, were with the ungrateful gamers.  When I pointed out how late the product was, and some of the flaws, he reacted with, “I communicate more than most companies do.”  So we, as the gamers, were the problem?  I came away thinking, “It’s just a matter of time.”  Ernie seemed downright agitated when I spoke with him. Shouldn’t he be interested in what someone with decades in the business has to say?  I’ve been involved with eight different gaming systems, from GDW to FASA etc.  I know a little bit about the industry.  I tried to explain to him some of the work that needed to be done to the rules, tweaks really, and got, “The rules stand as is.”  The face of the company was an angry man, never a good sign.

Ernie assured me that he had experience in the toy business, which was what he was concentrating on, i.e. the miniature kits.  At the time that didn’t resonate with me, but now it does.  The toy business isn’t the game industry.

When some of the big miniatures were released, Alien Dungeon admitted they had dramatically underestimated the cost of them.  This is Business 101 stuff, and they failed at it.  Combined with the delays on the other miniatures and you got the sense that this was a small operation with little experience in gaming.

When Alien Dungeon started handing out gift certificates for late products, it was a sign that the products were never coming.  The company kicked off another new Kickstarter for a fantasy game which failed horribly.  A few weeks later, they closed their doors.

I’ve come to see Kickstarters as great ways to get gamers into a new game system, but they can’t be your sole means of funding a game system or building your player-base.  You have to be prepared to produce the game with your own funding.  The Kickstarter should be the means of getting your game into player’s hands to generate some good buzz.  The age of relying on Kickstarter alone to fund your company start-up for gaming is fading and fading fast.

Kickstarters are great for getting a core group of people into your game but you have to view it as a starting point.  It’s not enough to run demo games at conventions to spur interest.  You need a mix of game related fiction, sourcebooks, miniatures, and support it with in-store gaming.  In other words, you have to have a pipeline of products.  Alien Dungeon got caught in a vicious cycle of trying to get their products out that were promised in the Kickstarter.  They had an erratic growth pattern.

The sad part of this is that AQotMF is actually a pretty good game system at its core. It needs some work with the rules, but it has great potential.  Now, however, the remaining fan base has been left with no communication, no product info, no pipeline, and no hope.  Hopefully someone will pick this product line up and dust it off, but it may already be too late as fans are beginning to shed their inventory.  What is interesting is that a number of individuals have begun to reproduce knock-off products on Shapeways.com (a 3D printing website), allowing players to continue to expand their armies, albeit at a cost.

When players start a new game system, they are investing.  You have to treat them like investors.  You have to establish a solid product line, a pipeline of exciting stuff, and encourage them to play the game (and in turn, suck in new players in the process.)

Who knows, maybe Alien Dungeon will reopen its doors.  Anything is possible…but in reality, they have already done a lot of damage to the IP and to the fan base.

The Leadership Lessons of Star Trek

Trek Leadership
LEAD!!!!

I learned a lot about leadership from Star Trek.  Stop laughing, I’m serious.  We are all influenced by our cultural tastes and Star Trek was a big one for me.   I’m not embarrassed about liking Star Trek, but at the same time you won’t find me at Star Trek conventions wearing a homemade uniform either.  That doesn’t mean I don’t own a uniform…but that’s a different issue.

Setting aside the JJ Abrams rebooted movies and even The Next Generation; the best of the Star Trek movies is Star Trek II, the Wrath of Kahn.  You can debate me, but you’d be wrong.  One of the subtle themes in the movie is the concept of the no-win scenario.  It is a test for all starship captains (leaders) where there is no way to win.   A ship contacts you in distress.  If you go to rescue it, you have to violate  treaty.  If you ignore it, the crew dies.  If you do go after it, the Klingons attack and destroy your ship.  The movie opens with this test and the young trainee crew is all “killed” undergoing the test in a simulator.

Admiral Kirk explains that it is a test of character.  It is not a test that is meant to be beat, it is a measure of how a leader deals with a situation where there is no positive outcome.  “How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.”

The no-win scenario has strong ties to managing in an IT department. Often times we are forced to choose the lesser of two evils.  Sometimes the solutions we pick are not a winning scenario, but one that simply works.

The lesson of the no-win scenario is to think, be creative, and turn a bad situation into a good one.  When confronted with what he did on the no-win scenario, Dr. McCoy piped in.

“Lieutenant, you are looking at the only StarFleet cadet to beat the no-win scenario.”

“How?”

Kirk: “I reprogrammed the simulation so that it was possible to rescue the ship.”

“What?”

“He cheated.”

Kirk:  “I changed the conditions of the test.  I got an accommodation for original thinking.  I don’t like to lose.”

“Then you’ve never faced that situation, faced death.”

Kirk:  “I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.”

Well, there you have it, from the words of a model in leadership.  James T. Kirk’s suggestion is simple, don’t believe in the no-win situation.  Find a way, even if you have to cheat, to make it a success.  Don’t accept that something is impossible.  You may have to bend a few rules along the way, but in the end what matters is the success.  No-win is not a situation that is acceptable.

There are a handful of other old-school Star Trek leadership lessons worth pondering, just in case you’re wondering…

The Prime Directive calls for non-interference.  From an IT Department perspective, it seems that the same should apply to end-user community.    We should all seek to be as much non-interfering as possible with our users.

Ultimately it is your friendships and relationships that resolve problems.    Everything is fixed if you know the right people.  You can have all of the processes and procedures in the universe, in the end it is people that get things done.

Always start out with your phaser set to stun.

Some missions are dangerous.  Make sure you don’t wear a red-shirt on those missions (don’t draw attention to yourself).  As a side note:  73% of the crew fatalities in the original Star Trek were extras that wore red shirts.   59% of these deaths were due to transporter (technology) failures…go figure.

When all logic fails, trust a hunch.

“Remember…”  Don’t forget your corporate culture or history.

Always have Scotty (a great tech) nearby if something is broken.

Engineers always lie about how long it will take to do something so they can appear to be “miracle workers.”

Remember the Klingon saying:  “Only a fool fights in a burning house.”  When you are in the middle of a “crisis” personal arguments will usually not solve the problem at hand.

A good friend will tell you when you’re behaving badly.   We all occasionally need someone to tell us we are not being good corporate citizens.  Kirk, Spock and McCoy were an excellent support team.  They shared frank comments with each other and kept each other in check.  We all need that kind of peer support.

Don’t put all of your ranking officers in one shuttlecraft.

Feeding the Tribbles doesn’t solve anything…it only makes more Tribbles.  (If you bring in bagels, you only get more people who want bagels)

Vulcans don’t lie – but they can exaggerate…so can co-workers!

Technology will fail when you need it the most — but almost always factors into being part of the solution.

“The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.”  As I have deployed technology solutions over the years, this little gem has gotten me out of a lot of potentially bad situations. You can expend a lot of efforts responding to “the one,” and sometimes lose sight of “the many.”

Don’t compromise your ideals.  We see this constantly in Star Trek.  Don’t give up on the values you hold dear.

Humans are illogical.  Don’t try and change or fight that.  Embrace their illogic.

Sometimes diplomacy involves a good fight.  Constructive conflict is how organizations grow and succeed.

“Insufficient data does not compute!”  Sometimes you need more information in order to proceed.  Captain Kirk didn’t kick back and wait for perfect information, he got just what he needed and took action.

If you’re going to go; boldly go…where no one has gone before…

Enemies are often invisible.    Often the things that cause technology problems are under the radar.

“I  canna change the laws of physics Captain!”  Best read with a Scottish accent.  No matter what, you can’t ask for the impossible.

There are times the Captain needs to beam down, and there are times he/she needs to let his/her people go down without him/her.

“You’re pushing Jim.  Your people know their jobs.”  There’s a good leadership lesson right there about micro-management.  Let your people do what they do best.

Anything can be fixed if you can travel through time.

The Vulcans have it right – “live long and prosper.”

Sometimes a Captain has to put himself/herself at risk for the sake of the crew.

Scotty’s great line from Star Trek III applies to any project:  “The more you over-think the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.”  Simple counts!

“Come, come, Mr. Scott. Young minds, fresh ideas. Be tolerant.”

Always explain complicated technological issues with a plain-English analogy so that people can understand what you’re talking about.

Performance Review Humor

Beware the Corporate Overlords are watching!
Beware, the Corporate Overlords are watching!

Regular readers of my blog and books know I hold the review processes in many organizations in contempt.  Most reviews don’t drive outstanding performance but serve to document reasons why a person isn’t advancing or their failures.

Here are some funny phrases that have been circulating the web for the last few years.  These are phrases used in reviews and their humorous interpretations.  I’ve taken the liberty of expanding the list where appropriate.

A CHANGE LEADER:  Loudly Indecisive.

A HISTORY OF STRONG PERFORMANCE:  Consistently under-challenged.

A KEEN ANALYST:     Thoroughly confused.

A VOICE OF REASON:  Won’t shut the fuck up

ACTIVE SOCIALLY:  Drinks heavily, may have a problem.

ALERT TO COMPANY DEVELOPMENTS:     An office gossip.

APPROACHES DIFFICULT PROBLEMS WITH LOGIC:     Delegates stuff he/she is responsible for.

AVERAGE:  Not too bright.

CALM UNDER FIRE:  Too dazed and confused to act.

CANDIDATE FOR FAST-TRACKING:  I will do anything to get this person assigned to another team.

CAREER CENTRIC:  Is bitching he/she wants a promotion.

CHARACTER ABOVE REPROACH:     Still one step ahead of the law.

COMMUNITY FOCUSED:  First out the door for happy hour.

COMPANY-FOCUSED:  We will never get rid of this bastard.

COMPETENT: Is still able to get work done if supervisor helps.

CONSCIENTIOUS AND CAREFUL:  Scared.

CONSULTS WITH SUPERVISOR OFTEN:  Nagging pain in the ass.

CREATIVE THINKER:  Wanders off on his/her own.

DEADLINE FOCUSED: Doesn’t get along with other human beings.

DEEP THINKER:  Paces the office when a crisis emerges.

DEMONSTRATES QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP:   Has a loud voice.

DESERVES PROMOTION:    (or anything else – just get him or her away from me!).

EMBRACES CHANGE:  We have broken his/her will.

ENGAGES CO-WORKERS:  Sends out weekly joke email.

ENJOYS JOB:  Needs more work to do.

EXCEPTIONALLY WELL QUALIFIED:  Has committed no major blunders (to date).

EXPRESSES SELF WELL:  Spends days on Facebook

FLIGHT RISK:  Spends hours a week on Linkedin and job search sites.

GETS ALONG EXTREMELY WELL WITH SUPERIORS AND SUBORDINATES ALIKE:  A coward.

GOAL ORIENTED:  Toots his/her own horn – even when not appropriate.

GOES ABOVE AND BEYOND:  Tramples on others careers to advance his/her own.

GO-GETTER:  Mindlessly wanders around the office every hour or so trying to look busy.

GOOD ORGANIZATIONAL KNOWLEDGE:  Knows where the bodies are buried, may have buried them himself.

GREAT PERSONALITY:  Has photos of leader having sex with a goat…candidate for promotion.

HAPPY:  Is paid too much.

HARD WORKER:   Usually does it the hard way (and complains about it)

HIGHLY FOCUSED:  Unwilling to change.

HIGHLY PROFESSIONAL:  Owns a suit and wears it occasionally.

INDIFFERENT TO INSTRUCTION:     Knows more than superiors and lets them know it.

INSIGHTFUL:  Points out my flaws.

INSPIRES OTHERS:  Incites revolution with the other peasants.

IS UNUSUALLY LOYAL:     No other team will touch him/her.

JUDGMENT IS USUALLY SOUND:     Lucky.

KEEN SENSE OF HUMOR:     Knows lots of dirty jokes and shares them.

LEADERSHIP MATERIAL:  Spine and soul have been removed.

LEVEL HEADED:  Refuses to panic while his peers do.

LEVERAGES KNOWLEDGE:  Steals ideas from others.

MAINTAINS PROFESSIONAL ATTITUDE:     A snob.

MANAGES UPWARDS:  Criticizes superiors.

MENTORS OTHERS:  Gossips

METICULOUS IN ATTENTION TO DETAIL: Anal retentive to a fault.

NEEDS MOTIVATION:  Has stopped responding to verbal abuse – physical abuse may be called for.

NIMBLE:  Has dodged multiple efforts to lay him/her off.

NOT A DESK PERSON:     Did not attend or complete a university education.

OF GREAT VALUE TO THE ORGANIZATION: Turns in work on time.

OFFERS FRESH PERSPECTIVES:  Can’t shut up about the last place he worked.

ORGANIZED:  Uses agendas on conference calls.

PROMOTION CANDIDATE: Tells me what I want to hear – especially about myself.

QUICK ON HIS/HER FEET:  Never in his or her office when I need them.

QUICK THINKING:     Offers plausible excuses for errors.

REACTS DYNAMICALLY TO CHANGING SITUATIONS:  Panics easily.

RECOGNIZED LEADER:  Instigator of others.

REQUIRES WORK-VALUE ATTITUDINAL READJUSTMENT: Lazy and hard-headed.

RESPECTED BY HIS/HER PEERS:  Has dirt on co-workers.

RESULTS FOCUSED:  Wracks up a body count to get the job done.

RESULTS ORIENTED:  Steps on the toes of others to get the job done.

RIGID:  Doesn’t listen to anything other than the voices in his head.

SELF MOTIVATED:  Gets things done despite a lack of direction.

SHOULD GO FAR:   Please!  When?

SLIGHTLY BELOW AVERAGE:  Stupid.

SPENDS EXTRA HOURS ON THE JOB: Miserable home life.

STEADY:  Uninformed.

STERN DISCIPLINARIAN:  A real jerk when under pressure.

STRATEGIC THINKER:  Manages upward well.

STRONG ADHERENCE TO PRINCIPLES:     Stubborn.

STRONG MOTIVATOR:  Is not above beating his team members

STRONG UNDERSTANDING OF OUR CULTURE:  Knows where the bodies are buried.

TACTFUL IN DEALING WITH SUPERIORS: Knows when to keep mouth shut.

TACTFUL:  Knows when to shut up.

TAKES ADVANTAGE OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO PROGRESS:     Buys drinks for superiors.

TAKES PRIDE IN WORK: Conceited.

TEAM PLAYER:  Refuses to sell out the other guilty parties.

THINKS OUT OF THE BOX:  Doesn’t steal the credit of others.

TIMELY:  Panics at exactly the right time on a project.

UNLIMITED POTENTIAL:  Will stick with us until retirement, God help us all.

USES RESOURCES WELL:  Delegates his/her work.

USES TIME EFFECTIVELY:  Clock watcher.

VERY CREATIVE:     Finds five reasons to do anything except original work.

VOCAL:  Yells at others.

WELL ORGANIZED:  Needs more work to do.

WILL GO FAR:  Related to someone in senior management.

WORKS WELL VIRTUALLY:  Logs onto his/her computer at least once a day.

ZEALOUS ATTITUDE: Highly opinionated.

Please feel free to check out my book, Business Rules, if you found this funny.

Beating a Dead Horse

There are options...
There are options…

Beating a Dead Horse

There is a phrase that is used in business about “Beating/Whipping a dead horse.”  This is often a euphemism for pushing forward on a topic or initiative that is a dead-issue.  But what are the options in lieu of beating a dead horse?  Are there alternatives to make the dead horse more functional or revive it?  Here are some suggestions…

  1. Change riders.
  2. Appoint a committee to study the horse and its lack of performance.
  3. Buy a bigger whip or an additional whip.
  4. Arrange to visit other locations to see how they ride dead horses.
  5. Lower the standards so that everyone is required to ride dead horses.
  6. Threaten the horse to improve its performance.
  7. Appoint a team to prepare a plan to revive the dead horse.
  8. Blame a different rider for riding the horse to death.
  9. Blame another horse.
  10. Create a training session to increase our riding ability.
  11. Compare the state of dead horses in today’s business environment.
  12. Pretend the horse is not dead.
  13. Change your definitions or rules by declaring, “This horse is not dead,” hence you are whipping a live horse.
  14. Hire outside consultants to ride the dead horse.
  15. Harness several dead horses together to increase speed and pulling power.
  16. Get several riders to pick up and carry the horse.
  17. Provide additional incentive funding (more sticks – more carrots) to increase the horse’s performance.
  18. Review industry knowledge to see what other riders do when their horses die.
  19. Purchase a software package to make dead horses run faster.
  20. Go to social media and set up a Kickstarter to raise money to revive your horse.
  21. Revisit the performance requirements for dead horses.
  22. Downsize the dead horse to replace it with a dead donkey.
  23. Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position.
  24. Promote the rider to another horse in hopes that the results will not be the same.
  25. Shorten the track so it looks like the horse went farther before it died.
  26. Remain on the saddle and wait for the horse to be resurrected.
  27. Tell everyone at the stables that you believe that the horse is alive, well, and running better than ever.
  28. Ask the horse how it feels about being dead.
  29. Assure others that the horse’s demise was always part of the plan.
  30. Outsource all horse riding to another country.
  31. Document how the horse died and call it “knowledge.”
  32. Reorganize the placement of the saddle and tack on the horse with the belief that somehow the horse will ride again.
  33. Proclaim that you never thought that horse would have gotten as far as it did and declare the ride a stunning success.
  34. Add an additional rider or two to supervise the horse.
  35. Pretend you never wanted the horse to be ridden in the first place.
  36. Surround the dead horse with three other dead horses and pretend that it is merely moving with the pack.
  37. Shoot the horse’s trainer and owner.
  38. Ignore the dead horse.
  39. Put the same rider on a different dead horse on the same track and hope that the results are not going to be the same.
  40. Request Federal stimulus dollars to resurrect the horse.
  41. Blame the people watching the race for not cheering on the horse enough.
  42. Tell everyone that, “this was never a horse race.”

Be sure to check out my book, Business Rules:  The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords

The Dreaded Performance Review Season

ForcedCurveRatings

What ratings really mean…

Tis the Season For My Moaning…

It is that time of year for me – performance reviews.  I hate this annual exercise.  It is a reminder for me, annually, how little control I have over this alleged thing called a “career.”  (Go read my book Business Rules for more on careers)  I rate the experience somewhere between ingrown toenail removal and root canal in terms of fun.  I enjoy supporting my people in the process, slugging it out for ratings, making the case for promotions, etc. I simply detest the overburden associated with my own career and my hatred of rating against a curve.

It’s not that I get bad ratings and I’m just angry as a result.  I’m bitter for far more complicated reasons than mere numerical ratings.   I dislike the whole annual discussion about my career.  I’m over fifty and it feels at times like they should be playing a funeral dirge during discussions of my future.  The opportunities for promotion and advancement dwindle more (in my mind anyway) every year.  And stop telling me I own my own career.  I can’t tell you the number of times previous managers have hosed me out of job opportunities or assigned me to teams, departments, and managers without any control on my part.  It is a tad depressing and one of the chief reasons I have fostered a career as a bestselling where I have some degree of control over my own destiny.  (They never should have encouraged me to take ownership of my career…I interpreted that very differently than they did.  Ha!)

The Dreaded Bell Curve

There’s more to my dread of performance reviews.  I hate the fact that we do performance reviews against a curve.  Many organizations force employee ratings against a bell curve.  In other words, the majority of the people get a rating near the middle (let’s say a 3 out of 5), with fewer people getting higher or lower ratings.  Forced ratings mean there are target numbers for each rating and managers have to hit those numbers.

Forcing employees into the curve does several things. First, it makes managers compare employees against each other.  On the surface that sounds fine, after all management loves it when we battle each other and not them.  Often it is hard to make some comparisons because of the nature of the work, the type of work environment, etc.  It is also very difficult to have any degree of consistency between managers.  The standards of comparison for one manager often varies greatly when matched against another peer manager.

All it takes is one person to break ranks for the entire system to be corrupted.  In the real world, that breaking of ranks is often for good reason.  “Hey, my entire team pulled off a minor miracle over the last six months – they all deserve a higher rating.”  Sometimes, however, the manager in question is simply ignoring the curve in the ratings distribution because, well, they are a douchebag.

So managers break rank with each other and chaos ensues.  If everyone adheres to the bell curve, you can make the forced ratings work.  It doesn’t make them right – it means they work.  In the real world, there’s always a rogue leader who comes in and ranks his people all 4’s and 5’s and tries to force his/her colleagues to sacrifice  their high ranked employees to give him/her the numbers they need to fit the curve.  In some cases the use of forced ratings against a curve becomes more of a negotiation and bidding war between managers than a fair system.  “You just need to lower Bob’s rating to a three so that I can give Judy a four.”

Reviews roll up in the organization.  So while your immediate work team may have met the curve, other teams may not have.  When the curves are rolled up, there are inevitable “adjustments” i.e., a handful of people who were rated at 4’s or 5’s get bumped down to meet the curve.  In some organizations this is done without the consent and discussion with the manager – meaning that at some point in the process, a manager gets a surprise in the form of:  “You thought Sally was a four, but the higher-ups have moved her to a three.”  This can set the manager up for a frustrating discussion with the employee, especially when the manager doesn’t agree with the change in rating.  “I put you in for a four, we all agreed to it, but someone knocked you down to a three…and I don’t know why.”

Forced curve ratings, in my thinking, are less about employee performance but more about making the numbers work against the statistical curve.

Organizations try and justify the curve with lines like, “our standards are very high, so a three here is equal to a five somewhere else.”  That sounds all fine and dandy, but in reality most employees understand the reality of this ploy.  Salary increases are tied to ratings.  If you can force most people to a curve, you play out less in salary increases. It’s that simple.  It’s a numbers game.  It’s a close race as to what frustrates me more:  the fact that it is just a ploy to pay less, or that the organizations don’t think we know it is plot against us for getting raises.  Also, if other places would rate me a five, why wouldn’t I want to go and work there?  Apparently they recognize excellence and you downgrade it.

Oh and don’t try the math explanation to justify the curve either.  I’m sure many of you have heard this. “If we give the majority of our people 4’s and 5’s then the overall raises are lower.”   If you accept that – then why present the argument about a 3 here is equal to a 5 elsewhere?  I have a Master’s degree in Human Resources – so don’t try and sway me on employee performance rating systems.  I have studied this stuff.

What Employers Have Forgotten

All of these games around bell curves and ratings overlooks one thing.  Most employees just want to be recognized for their contribution.  They want a pat on the back.  Sure a raise validates the effort they put into work – but recognition is more important.  When you tell employees that their best is only worth a mediocre rating because you use a strict system that plays mathematical games with their ratings, employees tend to get a little pissed off.  “If the work I did is exceptional, don’t diminish it by telling me that everybody is expected to be exceptional – that exceptional is the norm.  I work with these people, so don’t try that stuff with me.  If I did five work – rate me a five.”

A LOT of organizations used forced ratings against a curve and I contend that while they achieve the organization’s goals, I’m not sure they are a good way to accurately rate and evaluate employees.

As I plunge into this season I put aside my personal feelings and gird my loins for battle.  While I personally dislike the rules I am playing under, I do my best to leverage them for my people.  In terms of my own review, I’m considering selling tickets since it’s bound to be funny if history holds true.

I took the liberty of putting together a typical bell curve with ratings of 1 (time for you to pack your stuff) to 5 (god-like) and the typical employee perceptions of where they are (and what they are thinking) along the bell curve.   For those of you that hold the force curve ratings in contempt, welcome to the party.

So, how do you feel about performance reviews?  Do you dread them as much as I do?

Twenty-Two Things We Want To Say to Our Bosses But Don’t

Eyes

I came to realize that there are things we want to say to our bosses but can’t (or won’t.) Most of us don’t want to shoot our careers in the foot or we are not sure how stable our “leaders” are when given honest feedback.  Face it, our managers are perched on a fickle stratum of the corporate ladder.  Even the ones we like sometimes just do things that make us wonder what is happening.

So starting a few years ago I began jotting down little things we all think but never say to our illustrious and fearless leaders.   Here’s the list:

It isn’t all about you.

Managers sometime bathe themselves in the thought that work is all about them, their careers, their worries, their little feelings, etc.  The center of their universe is themselves, a shining beacon for all mankind.  Ugh!  I understand the rampant narcissism in managers, but often times they forget that their job is not to get the next job – but to help develop their staff and get actual work done.

We don’t care about your career, your next promotion opportunity, etc.  We will feign caring if it will make you feel better.  We’d much rather talk about our career opportunities, or lack thereof.

I hate when you tell me how to do my job.

I have no issues with you telling me what you want done and when.  What IS frustrating is when you tell me how to do it.  At that point, why not just do it yourself?  When you do this you are presuming that I don’t know how to do the work; or that you know the best way to complete it.  Worse, you’ve reduced my contribution to being nothing more than a cog in the corporate machine.

Who knows, my way might be better, faster, or less costly than yours. If I don’t know how to do it, I’ll ask.

Just because you’re in charge doesn’t mean you are capable of doing all of the jobs under you. Oddly enough most of us are doing jobs that we trained for and have some experience doing.

I know what you’re up to.

You think you’re getting away with skipping out of the office every Wednesday early to play golf when your calendar reads, “Senior Level Meeting?”  I know.  All of us working for you know.  No matter what little scams you may be contemplating, we are all over it.  Heck, we even joke about them behind your back.

My career success is dependent on you (which is why I may be screwed). 

Companies enjoy saying things like, “you own your own career.”  It absolves them of any responsibility and guilt for your career being mired.  In reality though, your success is directly tied to your manager’s ability to get you the right opportunities or position you for advancement.  If your manager fails in this role, you will be stalled career-wise.

It’s not about the number of hours I work…it’s about my contribution.

There are very few jobs where the number of working hours actually matter.  In this age of 24×7 connectivity, you are essentially on a digital leash every hour of every day.  Managers like to point to things like, “Look at Mary, she worked twenty hours of overtime last week,” as a measure of productivity.  In the real-world, Mary may have worked 20 hours of OT because she is plain slow.

I don’t care how hard or long you work.

This may shock you, but I don’t care if you worked a 70 hour week or if your vacation was interrupted.  It doesn’t impress or dazzle me.  You get paid a lot more money than I do so that you will have to put up with that bullshit.   Your long hours or hard work doesn’t inspire me.

When you claim credit for my work, a part of me dies inside.

True story.  I had a manager who got a promotion to an executive level job.  He went on to tell me that it was, in part, based on a project I had worked on – a project I ended up getting a mediocre rating for.  The rat-bastard got promoted because of the work I did – despite his constant interference.  I would have gotten it done much faster if he had not interjected with his weekly random changes of direction.  While I know this was his twisted way of saying, “Thank you,” it ended up as a miserable fail on his part.  Yet he claimed credit for my work and that helped him make a case for his promotion.

Every manager gets to bask in the glory when one of his/her people do well.  Know this: When you take credit for that employee’s work, you crush a part of their soul.

You can be replaced.

Managers are so cute when they believe they are indispensable.  Many harbor this illusion along with the thought that their staff are easily replaceable.  The really dumb ones try to convince their employees of this myth.  Silly managers.

The reality is the higher up in the proverbial corporate foodchain you are, the easier it is to find some self-absorbed egomaniac who can replace you because your skills are more people based rather than technical.

If you think this place will go out of business if you leave, you are sadly mistaken.

Don’t overestimate my loyalty.

True story again.  When I was a kid I worked at a Drive-In movie theater.  I liked my boss but eventually I got a better job and moved on.  My boss generated paychecks for me long after I was gone, cashing them himself, and used the money to help repair the run-down theater.  When I found out and demanded he stop, he told me I was disloyal to him – but agreed to stop breaking the law.  When I discovered he was still doing it, the assistant manager and I contacted his manager and got his ass fired.  Yeah – I was a bad ass kid at 16.

Loyalty is intangible at work.  It takes a long time to build up and can be wiped out in a matter of seconds.  Just because I seem to like you and listen to your stories about work, don’t presume that loyalty goes much beyond that.  When a manager starts making decisions based on his or hers interpretation of employee loyalty, they’re doomed to fail.

You sometimes sell me out and I despise it.

Sometimes office politics kicks in and you feel the need to compromise your team or individuals.  We get it.  Know this; we hate it.  A spine is a terrible thing to waste.  When we talk to you one-on-one you are very formidable and tough sounding.  Then you go off wimp out.  Please grow and maintain a pair.

You’re not nearly as perfect as you think you are.

To hear you tell it, you are God’s gift to managerial excellence.  Oddly enough you are not perfect.  Most people aren’t.  Sometimes it is downright entertaining to hear you pontificate about how good you are in your role and how invaluable you are.  Most of your staff would love to have a double of whatever it is you’re drinking.

You, however, make mistakes.  Most of the time we let your blunders slip (okay I don’t, but the other team members do).  In some cases we cover them up to protect your delicate ego.

When you say one thing and do another, I secretly plan your murder.

It’s called consistency and you might want to try a cup of it now and then.  When you tell me to do something one way, then contradict that and have me do it another way I find myself plotting your demise.  Flip-flopping, waffling, and changing direction only serves to sow the seeds of unrest with us peasants.

We talk about you behind your back. 

Sometimes we get together and say good things about you, so stop being paranoid.  More often than not, we just validate your current level of craziness with each other.  If it makes you feel better, you are often the focus of your staff’s conversations.  Usually these calls start with, “Can you believe he did that?” and go downhill from there.

When you force me to a social activity, I stick a pin in your voodoo doll. 

If you make me go, it’s not social.  Look, I spend way too much time with people at work as it is.  When you force or compel me to attend after hours events under the auspices of “team building,” I know what you’re up to. This is just a way to squeeze more work time out of me with the promise of simulated fun.  All we do at these things I think, “how can I get out of here without being noticed?”

My time is just as precious as yours.

So when you make me prep for a 7am call, then cancel it after hours the night before (so I don’t find out until 6:45am) I tend to get a little testy.  Oh, I understand that something came up but I could have enjoyed that extra twenty minutes of sleep. Oddly enough, despite our pay differences (which are vast), my time away from work is exactly as important as yours.

You are completely predictable. 

We all know what you’re up to.  Your name and the word “sly” don’t come up often in the same sentence.  After four weeks your staff have pretty much figured you out.  Despite your delusions of being James Bondish, you’re closer to Mr. Bean.   You are not as complex and sophisticated as you think.  Your direct reports have all figured out what your trigger point, hot buttons etc. are.  Sometimes I say stuff just to initiate an overreaction on your part.  (It’s one of the few fringe benefits I have in my job).

This is not a bad thing.  Because we know you and your work traits, we work better as a team.  We’re more efficient and can anticipate what you are looking for sometimes before you know it.

I can tell when you’re not paying attention – and I sometimes take advantage of it.

I know you think you can multitask but no one can.  One certain days, I can jingle my car keys and you will drop what you’re working on to watch them.  Your distractions may be insulting but they also provide us with opportunities.  To be blunt, you have no idea the things I have recorded you agreeing to (wink!)

I respect you – to a point.

Despite your idiosyncrasies I do respect you.  But only until you abuse that respect or give me good reason to question it. Oh, and don’t expect me to demonstrate that respect. I don’t want to look like a boot-licker.

You are more inconsistent than you realize.

Your inconsistencies provide us fodder for talking behind your back.  Even I have to admit, it is funny when you complain to us about the budget while you are on a business trip.  It is hilarious when you tell us there is no money left for training, when we all know you are going to a class.  We find it amusing when you tell us we can’t afford to get something done at work, while you are in the car service on your way to your next trip.  The sad truth is we look for those quirky little inconsistencies between what you say and what you do.  It gives the staff something to whine about.

Just because your boss doesn’t appreciate you – doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pat me on the back every now and then.

With most employees there is very little from turning a frustrating day of feeling unappreciated into a climb onto the roof with a high powered rifle to pick off their manager and co-workers.  It’s a remarkably thin line between the two mental states.  Occasionally, you need to tell me how well I’m doing and acknowledge the hard work I’ve done.  Whether your boss does it for you is irrelevant to me.

You’re not the only one with a crazy boss. 

Think about it…think about it…ah ha!  You got it.

Despite all of this, we have your back. 

I have stood up for you when you weren’t there.  While you have a love fest with yourself, there are others in our organization who are, shall we say, less appreciative of your contributions.  I will never admit it to you, but I have defended you. When others criticize you, I defend you.  The reason is simple – I have EARNED the right to be critical of you – they haven’t.  That, and a modicum of loyalty.

Like these?  Check out my book, Business Rules:  The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords.  It’s a shameless plug, I know, I get it.

Guidelines for Sharing Your Workspace

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Companies everywhere are moving to a more shared workspace approach to office space.  In these models the majority of the staff are flexible workers.  They don’t have a permanent physical office or cubicle but share these resources, checking into them like hotels.  The theory is that these kind of work environments are more productive.  Shared work environments often do away with cubicle walls (barriers) and sometimes even have highly mobile furniture to allow easier collaboration (as long as you collaborate directly over a power supply).  That’s the theory.  Personally I think it is a move to reduce real estate costs.

With the rise of virtual workers, sharing office space has become more important.  It is a parking spot for a virtual employee when they are forced or drawn into the office.  Like any new concept however, the corporate overlords are struggling to determine what defines good shared space, how it is managed, etc.  Curse you overlords!

Regardless of your thoughts about this kind of work environment; their implementation means you often get a desk in open workspace that has been used by dozens of people in the last few weeks.  So here are my real-life tips regarding sharing workspaces:

  • When you arrive, treat your office space as a crime scene after they have removed the body.  Pretend the police have just taken away the victim and you have to clean the place up.  Go CSI on the cubicle/office and clean it up with disinfectants.  Wipe down the desktop, the arm rests on the chair, the phone (buttons, receiver, everything).  I saw a phone once that had dirt and grime literally caked into the buttons.  One of my friends even sent photos of it around so we knew not to use that space.  It was as if this person had been working in dirt then placed a few hundred calls.  Ew…
  • Just because someone left something on your temporary desk, doesn’t give you the right to toss it.  Sometimes people resist sharing workspaces by leaving so much stuff there that no one is willing or able to use the desk.  It’s a passive resistance ploy that is incredibly lame.  While you shouldn’t toss that four months of invoices cluttering the desk, you do not have to leave them exactly where they lay.  I once just neatly put all of the stacks of paper on a desk I was using into a one pile (resisting the urge to shuffle them all) and dropped them in a drawer.
  • If you use the last of any desk supplies, replace them.  I know this sounds third grade, but common sense is a rarity these days.
  • You can adjust the workspace to fit your needs.  Adjust the chair or monitor as you deem appropriate.  The goal is that you are productive, not uncomfortable.
  • Keep your voice down.  Most of these transient/open floor plans don’t allow for privacy.  Often times you are sharing an office with multiple people.  If you are loud, you’re going to be hated by your colleagues.  You may be cool with being obnoxious and silently despised – or burned at the stake as a team building exercise.  Really, it can go either way.
  • It’s okay to tell someone when they are violating your space.  You don’t have to be mean about it.  But if someone is making it hard for you to work, politely say something.  Be courteous.  Glaring at them doesn’t work – it only serves to confuse some people (the slow learners).
  • If you are talking about something confidential, don’t do it where everywhere can hear you.  I actually shared a cubicle (a double-wide) with someone who was putting an employee on notice for an infraction.  That’s the kind of thing you need to do when no one can/will listen in.  Find a conference room or some quiet place where you can deliver bad news.
  • No speakerphone.  No.  No.  Only exception – if you hotel into a n enclosed office, period.
  • Everything is amplified in shared space.  If you make two personal calls in a day people will say things like, “He’s on the phone all day talking to his friends.”  Be aware of this and use it to generate the right image of yourself.
  • Shared spaces are not the best for meals.  No one wants to watch you eat.  And sometimes your choice of food, and its aroma, can be treated as chemical weapons.  Pungent foods in a shared community workspace don’t bring people together…they often lead to the locals breaking out torches and pitchforks.
  • If someone has left personal stuff in the shared workspace, leave it alone.  Some shared space is used 75% of the time by one person so you are apt to see family photos or company bric-a-brac on the desk.  Pretend it’s not there but don’t move these items or even touch them.  Show a little respect.
  • Don’t leave a note for the next person using the desk.  “To the Person Using My Desk – Hey, I was missing all of my paperclips. Thanks!”  As a point of order, I hadn’t used the desk before so I didn’t know who had used up or looted her paperclips.  If paperclips were such a hot issue, she should have sent that not back in time with a warning, “Don’t steal my paperclips.” Unless it’s a health/safety risk (Hey, there’s no caster on the chair and you may tip over!) don’t waste your time in leaving a note.  PS.  For the record, I added to the sticky-note left about the paperclips.  “Tomorrow I’m stealing all of your pens!”  That’s just how I roll.
  • Remember – your habits from home don’t translate well when you’re in the office sharing space.   At home you may put your feet up on the desk, put in earphones and relax to AC/DC at full volume, or spread out your work all over the place (including the floor).  In a shared space, this is just plain awkward and borderline rude.
  • The drawers are not a scavenger hunt.  If you don’t need to look in them, don’t.  And what you find there was not put there for your amusement, consumption, or outright theft.

One final thought you need to keep in mind – it’s not your space.  Sure you are using it for a day, but tomorrow someone else will.  Want to know more helpful corporate culture or career tips – check out my book:  Business Rules – The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords.

Ten Signs It’s Time To Consider A Change At Work

Ten Signs It’s Time To Consider A Change At Work

Blaine Pardoe – Author of Business Rules:  The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords 

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If you’ve read my books, you know I’m a big believer that your career is a concept you largely create in your own mind.   How you mentally string together your various jobs to form a story – well, that’s up to you.  If you want to call that a career – knock yourself out.  What you really have is a job and your personal skill set.

I’m also a big believer that what makes an outstanding employee in many organizations is your ability and willingness to reinvent yourself from time-to-time to adapt to a changing organization.    Some of my best friends at work have dramatically changed their roles in the organization every few years, each time growing personally and professionally.  Many of us get that feeling in our gut when it is time to take on a new job or new responsibilities to stretch ourselves.  If you can do that in your current organization; awesome.  If not, there are always other opportunities out there if you are patient and persistent.

The key is to not wait for “leadership” to recognize the gifts of your skills and experience.  Waiting for your manager to have an epiphany about how valuable you really are is a wonderful way to waste time.  You have to cowboy-up and take matters in your own hands.

So when do you do need to contemplate changing up?  Here are the tips to help…

  1. Your role and job function hasn’t changed in years.  The reality is you can only go so far in your current role.  If the scope or nature of your job is not expanding, chances are pretty good you’re not ripe for advancement doing the same thing day-after-day.  Organizations are always hesitant to promote people whose responsibilities simply haven’t grown.  It’s not enough to be doing your job very well.
  2. The competition is passing you by.  People hate to refer to work as competitive, but it is.  Frankly, you and everyone at your rank, are potential candidates for the next tier up in the organization.  Whether you like it or not, while you may get along just fine – you are competing for leadership’s attention.  That’s not a bad thing – it’s reality.  When you see colleagues you hired in with (or came after) winging on past you, it is time to consider a change.
  3. When your work no longer excites you.  If the job you are doing no longer is challenging you, forcing you to think, change, or adapt – then it’s time to consider refreshing your career.
  4. The opportunities for change or growth are small or dwindling.  Org charts are a lot like roadmaps when it comes to potential jobs.  When you look upward on the org chart, are there even roles there that you can see yourself in – ones that inspire you?  No?  Well then, it’s time to look at a lateral change of job to better position yourself.
  5. Your manager is not in your corner.  A good manager should be an advocate or sponsor for his/her people.  Unfortunately there are a lot of bad managers out there.  They are either focused on their own twisted job aspirations or zombie-like administrators that are like ticks on the corporate hide.  If your manager is not out there helping you along the way, it is time to find a new manager.
  6. There is risk in staying where you are.  Let’s face it, no one’s job is safe anywhere.  Organizations are constantly reevaluating their business models, structures, and the bottom line (“I’ll take Outsourcing for $200 Alex…”) and often times employees are seen as “blood sucking overhead.”  Mergers, acquisitions, reorgs, re-reorgs, and economic turmoil all can make you ponder the corporate tea leaves and wonder, “Am I about to buy the farm?”  That doesn’t mean you have to leave your organization, but it may mean you should start considering what other job opportunities exist which might be safer.
  7. Your role is dependent on technology that is at risk of evolving or going away.  Can you imagine being in the pocket pager business when mobile technology took off?  I had a friend that was.  It was brutal, but there were people that clung on in jobs there regardless, determined to slug it out – as if pagers were due for some sort of comeback.    Don’t be that guy/gal.  Sometimes it is something industry-wide, sometimes it’s just your job.  Be aware, not ignorant.
  8. Your job can be performed by someone else (perhaps in another country) for a substantially lower cost.  The era of companies viewing their employees as long-term assets/investments has come and gone.  All that matters now is the bottom line.  If your job can be done cheaper somewhere else, even if the quality is lower, you need to contemplate a refresh/reboot of your job.
  9. You are working yourself to death.  Part of this is the fun of a tightened economy and the fact that organizations are willing to have you work 18 hour days if they can get away with it.  Some of this is stress…like working for a four-star douche-bag who uses you as their personal human dart-board.
  10. When it stops being fun.  Do you remember having fun at work?  I do.  If that seems like a long ways off, a fading memory at best, then there’s something wrong.  You spend 8-15 hours a day at work – time away from your family , friends, and things that matter.  If you can’t enjoy it – it’s time to change it.