From The Archives: BattleTech Storylines That Didn’t Make the Cut (April Fool’s)

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For April Fool’s this year, my list of BattleTech plotlines and story ideas and plotlines that were never fully considered.  Having been part of this universe for a long time, my sense of humor has been twisted rather tightly.  Most of these concepts and story ideas were discarded for damn good reasons, though in all honesty, I think that the powers that be missed some golden opportunities with some of the ideas I’ve toyed with over the years.  So, for a chuckle – here you go!  

Kerensky’s Coup:  When Stefan Amaris offers Kerensky the chance to serve under him – he accepts.  While the Usurper secretly plots Kerensky’s assassination, the old man kills the First Lord first and assumes control of the Star League.  The Rim Worlds Republic is shattered quickly as the SLDF units don’t have to fight their way into the Hegemony.  The Star League never dies. 

The last scene of Endgame is Katrina and Victor sleeping with each other.  (Oh come on, you’ve all suspected that she secretly loved him…)

Kai Allard-Liao slips into an Elemental suit to prepare to do battle, but can’t use it because it’s too damn big (LIKE IT WAS SUPPOSED TO WORK?).  He climbs out and is squashed like a bug under the footpad of a Clan Vulture. 

Nicholas Kerensky proposes the idea of the Clans and is then sedated and locked up.  “Single combat when I have a fully company of ‘Mechs at my disposal, what in the hell is he thinking?  Give up sex to reproduce using iron wombs?  And what is up with all that babbling about Smoke Jaguars?  What’s he been smoking?”

The Inner Sphere is invaded by giant intelligent chicken creatures.  They are not only wiped out, but served as dinner to victors.  (Courtesy of Colonel Wayne Waco Rogers Roasters) 

The “What if I had a Jihad and no one showed up?” scenario.  At the outbreak of the Jihad Outreach is reduced to radioactive slag.  Only problem, Wolf’s Dragoons isn’t there.  Uh oh.  They got intel on the strike and moved against Terra.  Double uh oh.  The Dragoons shatter the Word of Blake there and declare themselves at the ilClan.  

The “Liao isn’t as dumb as he looks,” scenario.  Mad Max Liao, suspicious of the wedding of Melissa Steiner and Hanse Davion – orders his military to invade the Federated Suns at the time of the wedding reception.  They catch the Davion forces on their staging worlds, unprepared, and inflict massive casualties.  The Federated Suns crumbles, ill-equipped for a defense.   

Jerome Blake IS The Master.  Using lost Star League tech, Blake’s brain is put in a cybernetic body and never steps down as the head of ComStar.  None of the religious mumbo jumbo ever becomes part of the ComStar culture.  ComStar essentially becomes a very big powerful corporation with its own army.  When the Jihad happens, its is ComStar putting an end to the Succession Wars.  

When Victor-Steiner Davion denies Trent a chance to command, Trent kills him.  “Any last words Mighty Mouse?”  

Kahn Ward is attacked by a marauding band of giant intelligent chicken creature which peck him to death.  

Primus Waterly named the First Lord of a new Star League.  Her plan to cripple communications works (Operation Scorpion,) bringing the Federated Commonwealth to its knees, then the rest of the Inner Sphere follows.  She kills Focht and establishes herself as the First Lord of a new Star League.  

House Liao’s ultimate betrayal.  During the Clan invasion, House Liao strikes at House Marik and Davion, taking out manufacturing centers.  Without arms coming in, the Clans crush the other houses and Sun-Tzu Liao has backed a winner, earning him a place of honor in the court of the Star League.  

The Outbound Light doesn’t find the Clans, they find the Wolverines.  Talk about oops! The Wolverines tip off the Inner Sphere about what happened to Kerensky’s children.  The Inner Sphere unites out of fear and armed with the intel given by the Wolverines – leads as preemptive strike into Clan space.  

Vlad kills Phelan Kell.  There should be more to this but just nurse it for a moment.  Ahh…

Devlin Stone is the son of Frederick Steiner (Focht) and Myndo Waterly.  She wasn’t killed, but has been the true force behind ComStar all along.  I know – scary…

Snord’s Irregulars launch a surprise attack on Terra at the end of the Third Succession War and seize the planet.  Cranston Snord becomes the new First Lord of a new Star League.  It’s like Pawn Stars, but with ‘Mechs. 

Jerome Blake doesn’t seize Terra – instead House Kurita does in a surprise assault.  With control over ComStar and Terra, it is a battle royale between the rest of the Inner Sphere and the Draconis Combine.  

Wolverines Triumphant.  Nicholas Kerensky is killed while fighting the Wolverines.  The Clans morph into a more benevolent society as Kerensky’s extreme weirdness is stripped away.  The caste system is dissolved.  The Clans become a unified peoples, still militaristic, but not so Klingon-ish. When they do invade the Inner Sphere, there’s no bargaining…it’s all out war.  

What if the scientist caste was on top in the Clan heirarchy?  Rather than the Warriors, the scientists rule the Clans.  Technology leaps ahead centuries by the time of the invasion.  Bio-BattleMechs and stuff.  Nastier weapons.  Uber-Tech.  

The Smoke Jaguars win against the Star League.  Victor’s head is held in Osis’s hands before the Clans.  The Nova Cats get VERY nervous as a result of their betrayal.  

The Nova Cats have a vision about giant Chicken aliens invading the Inner Sphere.  Everyone laughs at them.  

House Marik wipes out Wolf’s Dragoons as Joshua Marik takes the throne of the Free Worlds League.  He picks apart the loot from the Dragoons and uses it to rebuild the League into THE major force in the Inner Sphere.   He also figures out where the Dragoons came from and prepared his nation, but not the others, for the eventual invasion.  

Katrina takes X as a mate.  X = Kahn Ward, Thomas Marik, Lincoln Osis, Archer Christifori, or Sun-Tzu Liao. 

The Knights of the Inner Sphere put on the play Spamalot II.  I actually toyed with this script.

What if we never changed the universe?  So a company of patchwork ‘Mech defend an entire planet.  No factories, no regiments, and big merc units numbered twelve dudes and skimpily clad dudettes with ‘Mechs.  Ice ships, pirates, and salvage means staying in the fight.  

One word:  Cylons. 

ComStar’s network becomes self-aware and renames itself “Skynet.”  Short android copies of Victor Steiner Davion are sent out to kill the leaders of the Inner Sphere.  (I have to admit, I’m still fleshing this idea out, but you get the idea.) 

Kahn Ward loses his arm in battle and Clan scientists replace it with a chainsaw appendage.  

All MechWarriors in the universe have the “Ghost ‘Mech” capability that Morgan Kell demonstrated, and they use it a lot.  

The Word of Blake comes across a planet inhabited by giant intelligent chickens.  They use cybernetic implants on these creatures creating the Manei Cluckini, an army of killer chickens.  

“Everybody on Exodus…be back in one hour.”  Kerensky wasn’t the only one to go on the Exodus.  All of the major houses send out forces into the Periphery to create empires they might need someday.  Each of these mini-Exodus’s cuts ties to their home governments during the Succession Wars and all come back as unique distinct cultures to invade the Inner Sphere.  

Richard Cameron sees right through Amaris and pops him with his laser before the coup unfolds.  The coup never happens and Rim Worlds League is laid waste as a result of Kerensky learning of their deception.  

Rather than fight a bloody Civil War, Victor has Katherine assassinated.  The Federated Commonwealth remains intact going through the Dark Ages.  

What if Kerensky came home sooner?  Rather than the civil war that led to the Clans, the SLDF remained intact and prospered.  In Kerensky’s lifetime they came back to the Inner Sphere on a war to reestablish the Star League.  But instead of arriving in 3050, they come a century or two earlier.  

‘Mechs invade Endor.  While not a viable idea, I like the idea of crushing Ewoks. 

Three words:  Battlefield Nuclear Weapons.  Not as optional – as standard equipment. Range of six hexes, they destroy everything within 20 from ground zero.  

The Succession Wars don’t happen.  Hell, Terra was pretty trashed anyway.  Why fight for control of the Hegemony worlds?  When the Clans arrive they find house governments with massive militaries that had not been battered by three centuries of warfare.  Surprise!

Daleks invade the Free Worlds League!  A little Dalek-on-‘Mech action would be fun.  Question:  How many points does a toilet plunger ray gun do?  Answer:  5 but the range sucks.  

The arrival of Wolf’s Dragoons results in their immediate attack and destruction.  The Inner Sphere learns of the Clans from their databases and sets off to attack the Clans first (or better yet, feeds them misinformation about the Inner Sphere prior to their own invasion.)  

House Ward is part of Clan Wolverine.  Phelan Kell tells the Wolves that capture him that he carries the Ward bloodline in his veins…and they kill him.  

Return to suggested Clan Names That Didn’t Make It Past The First Cut:  Turkey Baster, Iron Scrotum, Killer Sloth, Pregnant Hamster, Viper-Poodle, Pap-Smear, Smoked Stoner, Jade Prostate, Mammoth Shrimp, Amorous Armadillo, Snow-Weasel, Emerald Ball-Crusher, Pink Flamingo, Black Hemorrhoid, Fire Frogs, Azure Zit, and Rabid Monkey. 

Instead of building NAIS, House Davion builds a ‘Death Star.’  (Imagine me doing the quotes in the air like Dr. Evil and it’s funnier…)

And finally…Adam Steiner from the TV Series becomes Archon!  What?  What do you mean we did that?  WTF?  Huh?  It was mentioned in one of my books?  Aw crudstunk…

Gaming Humor – D&D Fortune Cookies

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As I prep for our upcoming game session, I started thinking that someone out there should produce Dungeons and Dragons fortune cookies.  They would be a blast to have during a game session.  I’m sure someone will steal this idea for a Kickstarter.  With that in mind, here’s a list of suggested fortunes:

  • Today is a good day to reevaluate your alignment.
  • Fresh dice bring you new thrills.
  • You will confront Chaotic Stupid today.
  • Just because you don’t detect a trap, doesn’t mean there isn’t one there.
  • Never stand in front of a thief.
  • The one with the most treasure is the greater target.
  • Be cautious of the smiling NPC.
  • Your dice are conspiring against you.
  • The next dagger you experience will be in your back.
  • Beware NPC’s that seem too friendly.
  • Remember your character’s life may change with the next door you open.
  • Hit points do not replace common sense.  Proceed with caution.
  • “Rush him!” is not a tactical battle plan.
  • A virtuous damsel in distress may be neither.
  • Treasure without risk is no treasure.
  • Idle hands are usually in your pockets.
  • You are ten feet of rope short of what you will need.
  • Never trust the bar wench. The more beautiful, the more dangerous.
  • May all your hits be crits!
  • Your lucky number is 20.  Of course, that’s everyone’s lucky number.
  • Your DM is planning douchebaggery!
  • Your nagging feeling is taking the form of a saving throw.
  • Trust no bard.
  • Beware goblins bearing gifts.
  • By the time the dragon’s mouth opens – it is too late.
  • Liches Lie!
  • “Kill everyone!” is not a necessarily a strategy.
  • One of your dice are about to betray you.
  • Your hired help may have more than one employer.
  • It could always be a mimic.
  • To the undead, you are merely a recruitment opportunity.
  • Your plan makes as much sense as charging a gelatinous cube
  • Trust no thief that spends time away from the party.
  • Just because you own a flask of oil doesn’t mean you should burn the tavern down.
  • Always leave yourself a way out.
  • Carry only the treasure of real value.  A copper ingot is unworthy as treasure.
  • The loudest voice in the party is not always the one that is right.
  • The more virtuous the paladin, the more irritating the paladin.
  • There are no cuddly Drow.
  • True wizards never have to read up on the spell they are casting.
  • Water depth is important and needs to be inversely proportional to the weight of your armor.
  • Do not tempt fate by purchasing a new mini for your character.
  • When the DM checks for encumbrance, you are doomed.
  • What appears safe and innocent is the opposite.  Use caution!
  • Beware long flavor text!
  • Sometimes it is better to kill the horse than try and target the rider.
  • Burning the village is not often required, but is quite often fun.
  • Specially painted miniatures mean death stalks the party!
  • The true heroic character is defined by those he vanquishes.
  • Spectacular heroics invite spectacular (often lethal) responses.
  • There’s never a healer around when you need one.
  • Leave no body un-looted.
  • Insulting a dwarf rarely ends well.
  • There’s never a ranger around when you need one.
  • Just because you didn’t hear anything on the other side of the door does not mean it is safe.
  • It’s formation, formation, formation…
  • Your last thought will be, “I am going to melt that die!”
  • You cannot disbelieve yourself to safety.
  • Not everyone is worthy of raising from the dead.
  • Friendly halflings usually aren’t.
  • Everyone whines about needing healing – take care of yourself first.
  • You are out of spell components – pray that the DM doesn’t notice.
  • Summoning a demon rarely solves a problem but can create two new ones.
  • If it looks like a cult, and kills like a cult, it is a cult.
  • Did it ever occur to you that map you bought may be inaccurate?
  • If your fate is dependent on a nearly impossible die roll, then don’t do it.
  • There’s a difference between immunity and resistant.
  • Left is right, right is wrong, when choosing a path in a dungeon.
  • A dragon’s value is the sum of its harvested organs.
  • Never fight a vampire in the dark.
  • Listen to your dice – you are not that lucky.
  • If you could see behind the DM’s shield, you would not sleep at night.
  • The DM’s smile does not bode well for you.
  • Runes explode.  Write it down.
  • Not all pits are created equal.
  • Make sure there are no survivors.
  • Caution is slow and often in the difference between life and death.
  • Unleashing a fireball from the rear of the party is one way of thinning your party.
  • Beware bards who play bagpipes – always.
  • Dungeons are built for a reason.
  • If it appears soft, cuddly, cute and harmless – kill it quickly.
  • Not all princesses are worth rescuing.
  • While you are sure you have one more charge in that wand, the fates are not.
  • Remember – cursed items also are magical.
  • Death awaits you around the next corner.
  • The more complicated the plan, the hungrier the dragon.
  • Every now and then you need to inventory what is in your possession.
  • Distractions are the number three cause of death in any encounter.
  • A member of your party is planning something stupid.  You know who…
  • Your gut says charge but the math says retreat.
  • Loaded dice are a thing.
  • Be thankful there are not food spoilage charts.  That stuff in your haversack reeks.
  • The more complicated the puzzle, the more deadly the results.
  • The idea may sound clever, but check his Wisdom to be sure.
  • Just because the label says “healing” doesn’t mean you should trust it.
  • Death stalks those about the level up.
  • Rust monsters were created so the DM could strip you of armor class…no other reason.
  • If you didn’t fight for it, it has no real value.
  • Arson, looting, pillaging, serial killing, wanton destruction…yet you call yourself heroes.
  • There are always secret rooms in a temple.
  • The DM knows you fudged your Intelligence roll.
  • Be the hero you always wanted to be…not what the idiot sitting next to you wants.
  • Your DM is using loaded dice.
  • Rule #5  Never let the dumbest person in your party plan the battle.
  • The loyalty of hirelings is subject to the dangers you make them face.
  • You are one die roll away from a critical miss.
  • Your excitement says “Yes, yes, yes!” but the math says, “Run the fuck away!”
  • If you think the monsters are bad, you should know what your fellow players have in store for you.
  • Everything wandering is out to kill you.  Strike fast and true.
  • There are no experience points in real life.  That’s why we play the game.

Workplace Humor – Things we send in email and what they really mean

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My buddy Kevin (Dude) sent me three of these last week.  I decided to harvest my own inbox and expand the list.  Note:  These interpretations are my own and in now way reflect my employer, co-workers, etc.  If any of my colleagues recognize the use of these phrases, well, that’s on you.    

  •  “I have attached this slide deck to assist you in understanding…”  You are so stupid, I prepared supplemental material with pretty pictures to make it easier for you. 
  • “Per my previous email…”  You clearly didn’t read or understand what I wrote you before, so now I will repeat it. 
  • “Per our agreement…”  You violated something you agreed to, now I must explain to you what it is. 
  • “I suggest a face-to-face meeting…”  We need to stop firing these idiotic emails back and forth.  Let’s sit down so I can call you ‘asshole’ to your face. 
  • “I am copying in (Name) for his perspective.”  We’ve already met and agreed you are an asshat.  I’m copying him as written proof of that diagnosis.
  • “It is imperative that we…”  This is important and it is embarrassing to all of us that I have to explain that to you. 
  • “I’m circling back to you on…”  You didn’t respond to this last time, so now I have to nag your sorry-ass about it again. 
  • “I’m curious as to your thoughts on this…”  Make a decision – ANY decision.  Just take a stand for Pete’s sake. 
  • “To reiterate…” I am repeating this…again – because apparently you are slow. 
  • “Moving forward…”  Don’t ever bother me with this shit again.
  • “Respectfully submitted,”  The exact opposite.  “Hatefully submitted.”
  • “This was helpful.”  I wish you had sent this to me weeks ago when I asked for it. 
  • “Sorry to bother you again on this subject.”  I’m sorry you chose to blatantly ignore me. 
  • “Thank you for your explanation.”  Receipt of your lame excuse is acknowledged. 
  • “I’m not sure my last message was received…”  Oh, it was received…you just didn’t respond.  I’m not going away dickhead.
  • “I apologize for the misunderstanding…”  I am deeply and sincerely sorry that you are an asshole.
  • “It is difficult to find a time that works for both of us…”  It’s not my fault you can’t manage your calendar. 
  • “As I understand it…”  This is reality as I know it.  God only knows what you think.
  • “I look forward to our meeting.” There goes an hour or more of my life flushed down the toilet.
  • “Thank you in advance…”  You have a to-do item – just fucking do it.
  • “I hope you don’t mind…”  I don’t care if you mind – do your job.
  • “I realize that you are busy, but…”  I don’t appreciate you ignoring me in the last four attempts to get you to respond.
  • “Your comment on _____ is fair…”  Okay, you made your point – I made a mistake.  Thanks for bringing it up again just to make me feel bad. 
  • “Just a friendly reminder…”  I presume you have the onset of early dementia, it makes it easier for me to cope with you not doing what you need to. 
  • “Let’s action this…”  Stop replying to the email string and do some actual work!
  • “You may not be aware of the history…”  Your decision was stupid, now I have to explain to you why; complete with historical context. 
  • “It might help you to know the background…”  You are about to do something stupid, so let me explain why you shouldn’t.
  • “No action required.”  I am sending you this to cover my ass.  Just play along and now one will get hurt.
  • “I understand your role…”  I LOVE you mansplaining to me what you do. 
  • “I included you on this email string to make sure you were in the loop…”  This is part of your job – so stop whining about me emailing you about it.  And the only loop I want to see you in is a noose. 
  • “Brilliant!”  You actually responded correctly and on-time.  You get a star. 
  • “With all due respect…”  Prepare yourself for my explanation as to why you are tragically wrong. 
  • “FYI” I am covering my ass here. 
  • “Please advise…”  There’s a button on the email called, “Reply.”  Give it a try. 
  • “According to the system…”  I hear what you are saying, but the data says something entirely different.
  • “Just to clarify…”  I will use smaller words this time since the big ones clearly overwhelmed you.
  • “Any updates on this?”  I’m not going to let this slide, douchebag. 
  • “I’m sure you are already aware of this…”  I’m sure you are completely blindsided by this…so allow me to be the bearer of bad news. 
  • “I’d like to point out…”  Let me explain just how wrong you are. 
  • “Don’t hesitate to reach out to me on this…”  I am pretending that I will give you the time of day to re-read this email to you.
  • “Per our operating model…”  We put together a mysterious and complex process, didn’t involve you, didn’t communicate it, but expect you to follow it. 
  • “We need to give this the appropriate level of due diligence…”  You might actually have to read this. 
  • “Great!”  You finally understand…it sure took long enough. 
  • “I want to make sure we avoid this in the future…”  I know that you are prone to repeating the same mistake that led to this email, as such don’t make me kill again.
  • “This is a high priority…”  This is a high priority for the next hour or two, then I will be distracted by the next thing that is a high priority. 
  • “Apologies for me not…”  You caught me!  I’m impressed enough to admit it. 
  • “It has been a pleasure…”  Clearly I am into S&M because this has been torture.
  • “Thank you for your valuable input…”  You’ve made your point, please shut up
  • “I want to make sure we are on the same page…”  Frankly, I’m not sure you’re reading from the same book. 
  • “I was hoping we could collaborate on…”  I need someone to do the work so I can claim credit for it. 
  • “I don’t want you to feel like you’re being excluded…”  But you are. 
  • “I thought you might want to see this…”  Someone is screwing you over and I’m willing to bet they haven’t told you. 
  • “Would (insert day) be convenient?”  You need to get this done before that day or I swear, I will come after you.
  • “Many thanks!”  Fuck off.
  • “Best regards!”  Don’t ever contact me again. 

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Stages of Your Alleged Career – Entering The Triangle of Apathy

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That triangle above Disillusionment – that’s the Triangle of Apathy (trademark pending) 

Anyone who has read my book, Business Rules – a Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords, knows I am not a fan of the use of the word “career.”  While it applies in some specialty fields, in others it is a self-perpetuating myth.  People have jobs.  They desperately try and string jobs together to tell a story, but often it is a hot mess more than something that is cohesive.  Many people want careers, but in the real world, they have a job.

I have not mapped years to this because it varies for people.  Some people might burn through all of the stages in a matter of five years – some twenty.  Your results may vary.

So what are the stages of this mythical beast called a career?  Here’s my summary, for your reading entertainment.

Idealistic Stage.  You are young(er) with a twinkle in your eye and a bounce in your step. You believe that your long hours of hard work will be recognized and rewarded.  You go above and beyond to kick ass and takes names later.  Initially, it seems to work, encouraging more of this behavior.  Your first promotion or two creates the illusion that you are doing the right things to get ahead.  You confuse management with leadership at this stage.  Hell, it doesn’t matter, you are just happy to do your job.  There are a few older bitter employees, and you mock them openly because you see yourself smarter and more energetic than them.  Your “career” is not just about the paycheck, it’s about the challenge and the thrill you get as your learn new things.  The money is just as way for you to measure how well you are doing, like a ranking in a video game.

You find a specialty at work that intrigues you, and you become an expert in it.  It excites you to become the master of something.

When you go on business travel, it’s a party paid for by the company.  Your interests outside of work are limited because work seems awesome.  In fact, the things that make you happy and the relationships that seem to matter are all tied to your job and you don’t care. You identify mentors who you respect and they give you useful advice.  It is hard to imagine working anywhere else because the values of your organization seem to align with yours personally.

You are building your network in the organization…meaning you engage with many peers and form relationships that may help you in the future.  It is easy to do since many of you are just starting out.

Life is good because you can manage it.  Work and life get blurred, but that’s okay. You have a lifetime to sort that out.

Questioning State.  As you move higher in the organization, you notice that the behaviors that got you rewarded are taken for granted.  Upper management simply expects you to work long hours, they expect it from everyone.  You notice that some people that are promoted don’t share your work ethics or values.  Some advance because they are talented brown-nosers who kiss ass more than work.  You see people who advance based on technical skill rather than leadership capabilities.  Adding to this, the pace of promotions begins to slow down.

The company makes changes to your benefits and compensation and for the first time you question those changes. You notice that some people you respect either move on to other companies, or lose their jobs in one of the many reorganizations you start to experience/feel.  You see entire teams gutted, seemingly for no reason.  Still, you want to believe that the organization you work for cares about you – so you overlook most of these indiscretions, but a nagging voice in your head makes you wonder if you are a valuable member of a team, or merely a commodity.  You begin to ponder what your value is from the company’s perspective.

That thing you became an expert in…you realize you need more.  So you reinvent yourself, becoming an expert in another field.  For a short time that fulfills your joy, but it seems to fade fairly quickly.

The corporate rules becomes blurry and confusing as to what is expected of you as ambiguity becomes a competency.  You are confused by what you see, but cannot fully articulate what is happening.  You begin to question how the organization is run and who is leading it.

Money means a lot more at this stage of your career because you are more settled, have more responsibilities, and want/need more stuff.  You begin to notice that some people are treated better financially those others with bonuses and other incentives, and it bothers you because they are not distributed equitably.  It was probably always this way, but now you start to notice it more and ask, “Why?”  It’s not an overriding concern…yet.

You get to go to training, but much less often than earlier in your career.  It’s not for lack of desire, but there are always budget and timing questions that seem to block you.  You are hit with counters to your request like, “If you think you can afford to take three days to go to training in the middle of this critical stage of the project, go ahead.”  You become the bad person for even suggesting to take time off.

You still are working just as hard as you did, cranking up the long hours, but you are beginning to question if it is worth it.  Work-life balance starts to creep in as an issue.  You still travel without questioning whether it is needed or not.  You begin to question the bureaucracy and rules that you ignored earlier in your career.  Your pool of friends at work is starting to drain and it is harder to bring new people into that dwindling circle.

Disillusionment Stage. You feel as if you are a marked man or woman.  Your manager cannot tell you how to advance or grow in the organization because they are fighting to save their own phony-baloney jobs.  You see long-time friends and colleagues lose their jobs to downsizing, rightsizing, outsourcing, etc. When the promotion list comes out, it is something that infuriates and frustrates you.  “How could that imbecile get promoted and I can’t?”  There doesn’t seem to be any rules to follow or path to walk that can get you promoted.

You want to change jobs but the tentacles of your life and organization hold you tightly.  You have debt in life, you need to keep your medical plan, you don’t want to sacrifice your retirement plan by starting over at a new company, or you are so much older that other organizations won’t bother to interview you. (If anyone out there believes that age discrimination isn’t real, you’re a fool.)  Where you used to be comfortable with work and life blending together, now you want them separated.  You hate going on business trips at this stage of your corporate life because you have started to develop a life outside of work as a means of mental escape from the depressing grind that work has morphed into.

Training you want to take is expensive and the company refuses to send you…after all, why train someone who may only use those skills for the few years remaining in your careers?  At the same time, they ding you for not having the right skills.

The publication of the annual promotions list is a source of frustration and anger.  “How could they promote her?  He couldn’t find his ass with a flashlight and both hands!” are typical comments.  You are no longer sure what to do to progress or grow in your role because the rules are constantly in flux.  Despite this, people come to you to ask career advice and you do your best to help them.

Money plays a role here at this stage too.  You begin to compare notes with others and can see how you are not earning what you feel you deserve.  It makes you angry, but leadership brushes it off when you raise it with them.  “I can’t talk to you about what another person is making.” At this stage, money has become less of a necessity (you make enough) but more of a way to gauge yourself against others.

That network you built back when you were idealistic…it is dwindling.  RIF’s, layoffs, and outsourcing have cost some of your work-friends their jobs.  Some make sense, others seem random, almost arbitrary.  This has you wondering what leadership in your organization is thinking, if anything.

Your days are filled with PowerPoint slide decks and meetings to plan other meetings.  You think and speak in bullet points, even at home.  Vacation and holidays are often rushed, squeezed in between work deliverables, but deeply cherished.  You still check email while off, doing it in secret from your significant other.

In this stage you start to question business travel.  “Do I really have to be there live for two hours of meetings?”  You have a ton of points for hotels and airlines, but don’t seem to have the time to use them.  Your personal life seems suddenly to be more important than, “working for the man.” The things that make you happy are outside the office.

You are in an emotional prison, unable to move up in the organization, living in fear of layoffs, watching incompetent and unskilled people pass you by.  Your last mentor is contemplating suicide and blaming the company in the farewell note. As your company plays with your benefits, you feel powerless and impotent.  You won’t work an hour of overtime at this point; why bother?  Distrust in the organization is your default setting, and with good reason.

Your use of Linkedin supersedes your use of other social media.

Office 3

Survival Mode or “Shawshank Redemption” Stage. Less-than-subtle comments to you like: “We could hire three kids of out college for what we pay you,” or “I can move your job to India for a quarter of the cost,” are your “inspiration” at this stage.  You feel as if you have given the organization so much that you merely want to see this ride through to the bitter end.  That and you still cling to some of the values you had when you first started there.  You want to be back at the early stages of your career when you understood the rules of the game and it was fun to play.  You keep hoping that the leaders will go back to those ideals you cling to.

It helps to know where the skeletons are buried, mostly because you dug a lot of the holes over the years.

Your decisions are always weighed against, “Can they use this as an excuse to let me go?”  You have become that older prick you used to joke about in the organization.  Everything becomes clinging to the thing you have grown to hate, simply because it is a paycheck.  Your moments of inspiration and glimmers of hope are quickly squashed by others in leadership.

Vacations and holidays are seen as sacred time where you completely disconnect from work.  Money means less at this stage of your “career.”  This is more about survival.  You have been complaining of your pay for so long your expectations are appropriately low.

The publication of the promotions list has you seeing people there that you have never heard of.  Your personal network can be counted on one hand.  Many show signs of PTSD, having barely survived countless layoffs and reorganizations.  They are, for the most part, institutionalized – apparently trapped in their roles.

Your mentors have been all laid off, fired, or escaped.  Your circle of friends at work has shriveled to a handful. You actively work to avoid business travel because you have come to hate airports, hotels and people.  Work is a prison where parole consists of reductions in force. Each time the axe is swung you secretly hope you are on the list.  You know the layoff packages in your organization as well as your pension plan.

When there’s a workplace shooting on TV and people say, “I don’t know how that could happen,” you find you possess the answers.

If you look at the chart above, mapping your disengagement increase, your engagement at work decrease, and your salary, you can see that the optimum period comes during the disillusionment period in the small triangle you see on the chart.  I name this little spot the Triangle of Apathy…where you still care about work, but realize the futility of that caring.

Things You Need to Get Answers on Before You Leave The Interview

Bobs

I hate fluff articles with similar titles that give you worthless tips for interviews like, “Tell me why you like working here”?”  Bah! No one cares because the answer to that question ls likely to be pure BS anyway.

At the risk of being blunt, there’s some things you need to get out of an interview, but usually don’t ask because they can seem edgy.  Still, getting this information is important.  How you get it in your line of questioning, that I leave to you.  Also you need to focus on the 2-3 questions that are most important to you personally.

What’s next in this process, and when?  Usually an interviewer will inform you of this as their way of saying, “we’re done with this interview.” If they don’t, you need to know what the next steps are and what the timing is for those steps. Timing can be important, because it tells you how important this role is.  If they want to fill it fast, it is more likely mission critical.

Who’s the decision maker? Organizations often have rounds of interviews, one with a recruiter, one with the hiring manager, sometimes a technical interview, sometimes team interviews, and so on.  Their belief is this ensures they get the best candidate; when in reality it spreads out the blame for hiring bad candidates to a larger group of people.  As such, it can get confusing as to who is the individual that actually is making the judgement call as to your joining the company.  If you don’t know this, ask!

Why didn’t this position get filled from within?  This tells you how important promotion from within is, if they provide training, etc. I asked this recently and got, “Oh, we have several in-house candidates that we like, but we always like looking in the external market.”  In other words, they may just be wasting your time because of a stupid policy. Probing at this can tell you a great deal about how the organization views their people.

What would be my career progression if I were offered this job?  In other words, how long until I can promoted and to what role or position?  Will I have freedom to change career directions, or is this seen as a niche role with little room for growth?   What I always want to know with this question is, “How much flexibility will I have with my career path?” What you want to find out is simple – is this a company that has an up-or-out approach to careers, or one that sees you as a long term asset they want to nurture and grow?

What does your company do to retain talent? Does this company even care enough to try and keep its best performers? The companies that really do care have program in place.  This is also a good question to determine if the organization you are interviewing with is one that cherishes experience, or promotes more of an “up-and-out,” mentality towards its people.

Does your company have any outsourcing initiatives or efforts to move jobs overseas?  I know of someone who hired into a job, only to find out that the seat was vacated because his predecessor had already been told the role was being moved to India.  You need to know if you are entering an environment that is harvesting jobs for outside vendors or to send overseas.  While this is not a deal-breaker on its own (the role you are interviewing for may not be impacted) it can tell you a great deal about the morale and focus of the staff.

What is your employee review process like?  The response to this question tells you something about how the tentative organization evaluates its people’s performance.   How you will be evaluated often drives the type of work you do.  Best to learn that before you are offered the position.

How many hours are there in a typical work week in this position?  Are you going to have time to have a life?  Is this place a sweat shop?  Chances are they will tell you, “it varies,” but you should probe a little further.  “So what is the high end and the low end?”

What is your turnover rate in this role?  You can give a recruiter an aneurism with this question, so I saved it for last.  This is how many people leave this job.  It tells you about the culture and the kind of longevity you can expect in this position.  If people are staying for a long time (a low turnover rate) then it is probably a pretty good place to work.

Bear in mind, the recruiter or the hiring manager may lie through their teeth in response to these kinds of questions. If nothing else, it can give you something to bitch and whine about when you discover the truth, “When I interviewed they told me I could have a career here…those bastards…”

I have been told that some recruiters might react negatively to one or more of these questions.  I try and not live my life around what upsets recruiters.  Well, do you really want to work at a place that won’t share this information with you up-front?  If nothing else, shame on you for not getting this information in your interview.

Some author humor: You know you are a writer when you…

writers-meme

I write in a lot of different genres, from true crime to sci-fi to military history.  Over the years I have accumulated a lot of experience in being an author.  This list covers a pretty wide variety of those genre’s.  It is intended for my author friends out there to give them a moment of self-indulgence.  As such, I present the following:

You know you are a writer when you…

…carry on conversations in your head (or out loud) with people that are either dead or who never existed.

…hate math but when you look at your Amazon author’s ratings you want to get into full algebra mode to try and figure out your book sales, ratings, etc.

…delete more words than ever appear in print.

…begrudgingly admit when an editor catches something you missed.

…wake up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea…and in the morning you can only remember having the brilliant idea, not what it was.

…you look at an editor’s comment about a paragraph and say, “That’s cute, but there’s no fucking way I’m changing that!”

…have stacks of research and notes all around your PC and can find any single page in less than 20 seconds if called upon.

…experience dread when sitting at a lonely table at Barnes & Noble to autograph books.

…spend six hours reading to get three sentences of content and consider yourself productive.

…have referred to an editor as, “That Fuckity-fuck-fucking-fuck-faced-fucker.”

…don’t express emotion when a person in your life dies, but you weep when you kill one of your favorite characters.

…are writing stories in your sleep.

…critique other writer’s sources and footnotes.

…have told someone, “Yes, everyone has a novel in them.  That doesn’t mean they were meant to put it on paper.”

…think the character you are describing is George Clooney but the fans think it’s Jerry Lewis.

…are accused of having subtext in your work that doesn’t exist.

…devise new ways to procrastinate.

…get excited to learn a new feature of MS Word.

…have seen comments from an editor and said things out loud like, “How in the hell can you have a problem with the word ‘red’?”

…get into arguments with fans about continuity errors.

…get into arguments with characters that don’t really exist outside of your mind.

…can watch TV and know when a suspect is lying on a true crime show because you have studied how to spot it.

…name a character after some douchebag in your life, just so you can enjoy killing the character (slowly, without mercy.)

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…read your own words and physically cringe.

…see something on TV and you’re sure they lifted it from one of your works.

…hide Easter eggs in your manuscript just to see if readers find them.

…wince when someone sends you an unsolicited manuscript and expects you to read it and provide detailed input – by Wednesday – pro bono.

…have standing instructions to destroy your personal journals upon your death.

…consider caffeine the top of your food pyramid.

…have asked yourself, “What would my character do in this situation?”

…have boxes of research material you can’t toss because it was so hard to get in the first place.

…have been days when you have not seen sunlight because of your craft.

…lost your temper when someone has asked for a free copy of one of your books. “Can you shoot me a PDF of your latest book?”  “No.  Fuck no.”

…you own a hoodie that says, “Basically a Detective.”  (true story – thanks CrimeCon!)

…engage in debates with people about the range of lasers, particle projection cannons, and rail guns.

…have toys in your workspace to spark creativity.

…have spent 15 minutes rewriting a sentence only to delete it.

…know the archivists at the National Archives by name (or they know your birthday.)

…take notes of people’s personality and physical quirks to use later in your stories.

…own maps for planets that do not exist.

…have nightmares because of things you are writing.

…have books on your shelf that you wrote that you have not opened in years – and when you do, you critique your own work.

…secretly believe your characters are meeting and plotting against you.

…question other people’s/character’s sanity, but never your own.

…have debates with yourself over how a sentence can be interpreted…and lose the argument!

…appreciate why Hemmingway drank so much when he wrote.

writers2

…have flipped-off the PC monitor after reading an idiotic review on Amazon.

…know the tunnel system under the Library of Congress as well as your own basement.

…go through Facebook for photos of people to use as characters in your novel.

…have to ask someone what day it is because you were so busy writing, you are no longer sure.

…never feel alone because of the voices in your head.

…get calls from your police friends asking, “Did you see that shit on TV?”

…can’t cook breakfast but have a solid understanding of forensics psychology and/or quantum mechanics.

…define a great day as, “having scored at the National Archives!” and It has nothing to do with sex.

…meet other authors and realize that there’s a reason you work in your home office alone.

…look forward to meeting your fans and dread it at the same time.

…repeat yourself often because you can no longer distinguish the conversations in your head and the ones you say out loud.  (true story)

…can’t remember the last time you ate, but can describe the last meal your character had in intimate detail.

…are actively considering taking up alcoholism because it might help hone your craft.

…you can’t change the oil on your car but you know when a fusion reactor doesn’t sound right on a BattleMech.
…have written up reviews of reviews you have received.  “Your review of my recent book demonstrates a third grade understanding of grammar, at best.  While I don’t use the words, ‘flatulating butthead,” often, they seem to apply in your case.” Or, the more popular, “Does your mommy know you are on the internet?”

…are caught by your spouse looking at pictures on your PC, and it isn’t porn, it’s autopsy photos.  (true story)

…read an interview where you are quoted, but you were never interviewed by the writer.

…cringe at questions about book production.  Example:  “When will this be available in Australia, as an audio book, in French?”  Rant Mode Engaged:  We are writers, not publishers.  We don’t know this shit.  We are the LAST to know this shit.

…are convinced that white van parked for three hours in front of your house is the FBI or Virginia State Police surveilling you. (true story)

…count comic books and movies as “research expenses.”

…watch a true crime show and mentally pick up on all of the procedural mistakes.

…have spoken in the voice of one of your characters, hopefully when alone and in private.

…like a book for things that no one else does.  “The plot structure was unorthodox and cool…I’m SO stealing it for my next project.”

…consider among your best friends, characters you created. Sidebar:  Do not use them for references on job applications.

…you get hang-up phone calls from burner phones and are convinced it is serial killers you have written about.  (true story)

…are unsure what day it is because you are so in-deep with a writing project.

…spend your whole life waiting to be recognized and asked for autographs, only to find each one to be an awkward and sometimes disturbing encounter.

…are recognized for something you wrote that you put little effort into; while the work you are most proud of is hardly read by fans.

…have missed one or more meals because of a sentence that is being a bitch and refusing to be written correctly.

…study things that most other people do not, just so you can be accurate.  Example:  Geographic profiling algorithms.

…have had an argument with a fan over a character you created, and killed.  “How could you have killed her that way?”  “You do realize that she’s not a real person, right? And I killed her because I created her!”

…have made someone uncomfortable at a dinner party when they ask you about your latest project.  “…and she was brutally stabbed repeatedly for a dozen times.  The splatter pattern was everywhere…”

…realize your search history on our PC ensures you are going to go to jail.  Examples:  Ligature strangulation.  Time to asphyxiate an adult.  Moving dead bodies.  Decomposition of human remains.  Unsolved serial killing sprees.  Murder kits. Note:  My wife is the safest person on the world.  If anything happens to her, I will go to jail on my search history alone.

….apply what you learned about police interrogations and spotting liars into your day-to-day interactions with other people.  “Oh, she’s lying, listen to how she responded by my question…”

…have no idea what kind or size of engine is in your car, but can rattle off the fusion reactors and manufacturers for every model of BattleMaster BattleMech ever produced.

…have maps of WWI battlefields (or similar locales) laying around your office because you never know when you might need them.

…experience both excitement and sheer terror when a new book is released.

…struggle telling people at your day job what you do at night.  “Technically, when I’m not here, I’m out fighting crime…”

…admire when another author gets it right!

Things to do to Annoy Your Dungeon Master (and other players) – D&D Humor

DM1

 

With Gen Con looming next week, I started pondering things that could be done to irritate dungeon masters and other players.  Now, I would never encourage anyone to try any of these.  They are written solely to give you a laugh.  Also, if you are a player at my table and try any of this – you are SO TOAST.

Enjoy and share!

  • Insist on looking up every spell, rule, etc., regardless of how trivial – then read them out loud, to the benefit and ire of everyone.
  • Take your time selecting the right die to roll, like five minutes.
  • Bring your phone to the game and spend an equal amount of gameplay sending texts – including to other players and the DM.
  • When you defeat an enemy, take their miniature, drop it to the floor, then stomp on it – hard.  “Take that!”
  • Insist on regular “pencil inspections.”
  • Accuse another person at the table of having loaded dice.  Demand a statistical test of 100 roles to prove it.
  • Insult the dungeon master in-character.  ‘Douchebag.”  “Did you just call me a douchebag?”  “No, that was my character talking to himself.”
  • When your dice fail, set fire to them – AT THE TABLE.
  • Quote rules accurately – from other game systems than the one you are playing.
  • Shake your dice for a minimum of 30 seconds before each roll.
  • Critique how other players or the dungeon master have painted their miniatures.  “I would have used a Strong Tone wash, but that’s just because I think appearance is important.  I guess you were going for more of a third grade result with that orc.”
  • Deliberately roll your die so it goes off the table – and then always say, “Critical Hit!” when you pick up.
  • Insist that other players keep their “cursed dice” away from yours.
  • Take a victory lap around the table every time you are victorious.  Insist the other players follow you.
  • Misuse pop culture references, preferably at the wrong time.
  • Only respond with questions.  “Are you using your long sword?”  “What makes you think that?”  “I need to know what weapon you are using.”  “What do you think I’m using?”
  • Go out of your way to jostle dice on the table after rolling in hopes of a better result.
  • Use a character creator app on your phone but don’t print out your sheet for the game.
  • Use an ink pen for your character sheet, and re-copy it after every encounter.  “Just a few more minutes guys…”
  • Bring your own dry-erase marker to alter the maps drawn by the dungeon master…during the battle.  “There’s no tree there!”  “There is now!”
  • Bring your own musical accompaniment on your phone and play it when it will be the most disruptive.
  • Break out playing cards and poker chips and use them during combat as if they have some sort of game impact but explain nothing.  Example:  When you take a hit, count out a number of chips and toss them down in front of the DM.
  • Demand the Dungeon Master, “show me that rule,” on every action in the game.
  • Paint your miniatures – during the game.
  • Come up with your own character classes.
  • Experiment with the amount of cologne you can wear just prior to the start of play.
  • Blatantly “borrow” (steal) dice from others at the table.
  • Eat two cans of beans three hours prior to the start of play.  (Remember Blazing Saddles?)  Corollary:  Ask other players to pull your finger – often.
  • (For US Players) Start using the metric system for all measurements.
  • Move your miniature, then move it back.  Then move it a different direction, then move it back.  Do this no less than eight times for every move you do – never taking your fingers off the mini.
  • Inform your other players what they did wrong in the previous turn.  Make a point to rub their nose in it.  “Only a real moron would have done what you did…”
  • Doze off.
  • Leave the game to go to the bathroom — and take the rules book with you.  Eeww…
  • Every time you roll a hit, say, “As foretold in the prophesy…”
  • Your first action in any city should be to plot burning it to the ground.
  • Three words – Lick Your Dice. Four words:  Lick the DM’s dice.
  • Cast magic spells that do not exist.  “But I have Orc Explosion in my spell slot…”
  • When in a city, insist on purchasing a 12 foot pole, “because 10 feet is never enough.”
  • Map your parties progress, on a four-by-four foot square piece of graph paper.
  • Doodle on the game map.  Use a Sharpee.
  • Refer to all of the other player’s characters as “Moron.”  “So If I understand what Moron is saying, we should search this room for traps.”
  • Deliberately pick the wrong dice to roll, then question it when someone catches you.  “Are you sure that’s not a D12?”
  • Have your character play dead every time there is an encounter.
  • When your character is in a local tavern, immediately poison the beer and wine even the drinks of the members of your party.
  • Switch chairs with anyone at the table that goes to the bathroom or leaves the room…act as if nothing odd has taken place.
  • Wear a hat the symbolizes your character.  If you don’t own a hat, make one at the table.
  • Play a bard and sing any of your responses to any questions you have – even if the songs don’t rhyme.
  • Bring the wrong rule book for the game but constantly be flipping through it as if you are looking for something in particular.
  • When you quote from the rules book, hold it upside down.
  • Don’t move on from a room in a dungeon until you have checked every crack and crevice at least five times.
  • Challenge the DM every time you defeat an enemy.  “Really?  That’s all you’ve got – some lame ogre?  Throw something at us that can actually do some damage.”
  • Look into the space and not respond until questioned.  When prodded, respond, “Sorry…this theater of the mind was boring, I was looking for a new channel…”
  • Tell the dungeon master to “grow a pair” when your character defeats a monster.
  • Whenever the dungeon master starts providing flavor text, IAIA  – Interrupt and immediately attack.
  • Bring coconuts shells to the game and clop them together every time your character mounts a horse to ride (ala Monty Python).
  • Point out the historical errors in armor and weapons in your game.  “You know the broadsword would not have been available in the same period as the cutlass…”
  • Refuse to be drawn in with all obvious plot hooks.  “Save the princess?  Screw her, she got herself into that tower, she can get her ass out on her own.  Why would I risk my life for her?”
  • When you get a bad die roll, use a Sharpee to change the number to a more favorable one.
  • Create colorful backstories for your characters that create nothing but problems for the other players and the DM/GM.  “Oh, my character screams any time he witnesses magic being used.”
  • Play inappropriate sound effects from your phone at critical points during the session.   (I leave the definition of “inappropriate” in your hands.)
  • Create your own character classes, skills, talents, etc., without the foreknowledge of anyone at the table.  “I’ve got this guys, my character is a Fifth Level Mime.”
  • Have your character speak in the voice of:
    • Scooby Doo (or Shaggy)
    • Gilbert Gottfried
    • Casey Kasem
    • Any of the cast of Family Guy (except Meg)
    • Harry Caray
    • Lurch
    • Ronald Reagan
    • Bozo the Clown
    • Adam West
  • Creature your own units of measurement and call out distances in those.  “I am 32 half-heads away, so I should be in range.”
  • Use finger-paints to record damage or treasure on your character sheet.  “I use red for hit points because it’s the color of blood…”
  • Incorporate visual effects such as fireworks, smoke bombs, etc, into your role playing.
  • For every hit point your character takes, do a shot of tequila.  When you are healed, make yourself throw up.
  • Call “Dibs” every time a creature is killed.  Proclaim it loudly!
  • Instead of miniatures, use live insects to represent monsters.
  • Create a new feat – pyromania – and use it.
  • Say, “That’s not how we do it in my gaming group,” when this is the ONLY gaming group you play in.
  • Claim you always have advantage.  When pressed, get creative.  “I have advantage because my character was dipped in awesome sauce as a child.”
  • Claim you want to rest up for a night’s sleep, every hour on the hour.
  • Twenty-minutes into play tell the DM, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t make it tonight to play.”  Remain seated.
  • Harvest pointless organs from your victims.  “Would you like to see my collection of orc sweat glands?”
  • Use a paintball gun with red paint to simulate damage to the party by shooting the other players…(PS.  They really hate this one.)
  • Wear a t-shirt that reads, “My Dungeon Master Sucks,” to the game session.
  • Proclaim “I loot the body!” before the battle begins – every time.
  • Initiate a belching contest at the game table mid-session.
  • Have your bard practice music during his watch at night to deprive the other players characters their rest.  “So the bagpipes are not soothing to sleep by?  Good to know…”  (Technically speaking, playing a bard is irritating enough.)

Office Humor – Things to never put on your resume’, CV, or cover letter

resume

Thinking these things is okay.  Putting them in writing…not so much.  Enjoy!

  • Meet with me and prepare to be dazzled.
  • If you have read my resume’ to this point, clearly you recognize the talent I can bring to you and your team.
  • I am loyal to a fault.  Please feel free to contact me at my current work email or phone number.
  • I am available for interviews after 10:30am.
  • While my availability could be interpreted as having been fired or laid off; I want to assure you, my departure was completely voluntary and even if it wasn’t, I was not the only one affected.
  • When I leave my current position I am sure productivity and morale will drop dramatically, but I am willing to take that risk to join your organization.
  • On Resume’:  Career Goals – Work for a company not as screwed up as the one I currently work for.
  • I am willing to relocate, but only if you pay for it.
  • My current company promised rapid advancement, but never delivered, despite my protests on the subject.
  • I am in high demand so you may want to extend an offer based on my resume’ alone.
  • I feel bad about looking for a new role since the place will fall apart without my leadership.
  • My attorney and I look forward to your offer letter.
  • You may reach out to my current manager as a reference.  She is the one that encouraged me to pursue other opportunities.
  • My reason for desiring a new position is that my current employer refuses to recognize the brilliance I bring to the table.
  • I am content in my current role, but they refuse to promote me, despite my acts of personal heroism in the office.
  • I don’t come cheap.
  • I take teamwork seriously, even after hours.  I have played a pivotal role (cleric) in a Dungeons and Dragons party for the last six years of our current campaign.  If that isn’t teamwork, I don’t know what is.
  • On Resume’:  Accomplishments:  Earned over 450,000 Marriott points in the last year alone.
  • My reason for leaving my current role is that my employer is asking me to work unreasonable hours, such as starting at 8am.
  • This is your lucky day because today you have discovered me!
  • While I may lack all of the skills and experience you are looking for, I make it up with a can-do attitude!
  • The following are sample comments from my last performance review…
  • I am not bragging, but I could probably do your job more effectively than you do.
  • I am pursuing other career options at the time because my current company undervalues my contributions and have restricted our expense policy.
  • You are so fortunate to be reading this resume’.  I am sure you will be promoted based on the offer you are about to tender me!
  • I am pursuing a new company because I was not promoted when others, who were clearly inferior, were.  (Note:  If this was a good excuse I would be changing jobs annually.)
  • I am the kind of person that is always growing.  Last year I took over 195 hours of learning alone!
  • According to Google, your company would be a perfect fit for my personality and work style.
  • The hours I work are not nearly as important as what I bring to the table…something my current employer simply doesn’t understand.
  • After reading my attached resume’, you will realize that I have made your decision to fill this role easy and quick.  When should I start?
  • I am willing to travel as part of this position, but I won’t go to the following countries…
  • Once your meet me face-to-face, I’m sure you will wonder, “How did we get along before she got here?”
  • On Resume’:  Career Goals:  Work for an organization that compensates me for the brilliance I bring to the team, rather than silly things like profitability, billable hours, or delivering tangible work product.
  • I feel sad in looking for another job because my current employer is bound to go out of business without me.
  • I look forward to your call.  I have several questions about your company’s mission statement.
  • If this position doesn’t pay at least (insert dollar amount) then you do not need to read further.
  • I assume your company is pet-friendly.
  • On Resume’:  Career Goals – A salary consummate with the lifestyle I so richly deserve.
  • My involvement on a recent engagement persuaded the client to add three more staff to our team, just to assist on my deliverable!  Imagine what I could do for your firm.
  • Because of the demand for me, I will need a written commitment in advance regarding promotion
  • Before we proceed with your inevitable offer, I need to know the details on your medical benefits.
  • I see my applying for this position as a chance for you to live up to your company’s value statement.
  • My division lost less money last year than the other divisions because of my leadership.
  • Please use this phone number, not the one on the resume’.  That line has been disconnected.
  • On Resume’:  Hobbies include political protests that are against key social issues, macramé, visiting serial killer murder locations.
  • I am moving on in my career because my mother feels my current employer undervalues my contributions.
  • The gaps in my resume’ are no reflection on my work performance, a lot of people were laid off during those periods.
  • My staff often referred to me as “The Head Honcho” which tells you how influential I am.
  • I am pursuing a position with your organization because my mentor suggested that I am a solid fit for your company.
  • One of my strengths is I won’t compromise my values, unless you pay me enough.
  • On a Resume’:  Words used to describe me – “Dynamic, Innovative, Challenges Authority, and Undervalued by Leadership.”
  • Your days of searching for a perfect candidate are over!
  • Just to clarify, any images you find of my on the internet were NOT put there with my expressed permission.  I am seeking legal action against those who posted those photos and please do not hold those images against me during the hiring process.
  • My mother asked me to ask you the following question…
  • On a Resume’:  My low GPA reflects instructors that were sub-par and unreasonably early class start times.
  • If you don’t hire me, I encourage you to contribute to my favorite charity _______________.
  • You don’t want to look back five years from now and say to yourself, “I had a chance to hire that guy and didn’t.”
  • I don’t want to say I walk on water, but I can cross a lake without getting wet.
  • I am excited to see what your signing bonuses are and how they compare to the rest of the industry.
  • Because of legal reasons I cannot travel out of state or be available on weekends…but other than that, I’m your new go-to-guy.
  • While my title seems rather ordinary, I have been called, “the glue that holds this place together.”  So consider that in your decision making.
  • If you were to Google me you would see the phrase, “Anti-Authoritative Risk Taker,” which just about sums up what I can bring to your company.
  • In search of perfection?  I’d say you’d found it with this attached resume’.
  • I suggest you keep this introduction letter, because my autograph is bound to be worth a lot in years to come.
  • I am unavailable on weekends for work due to court-required community service.
  • I can save your company a lot of money in terms of recruitment – simply hire me right now based on the attached resume’!
  • Before we get too far, what is your company’s expense and travel spending limits?
  • Frankly I should be much further in my career, but my manager leaves a great deal to be desired.
  • It should be noted that several of my references are leaders in our industry.
  • My anger management instructor said I am the most improved in her class, which should count for something.
  • I am seeking a new career trajectory because I was falsely accused of telling the truth about the incompetence of my manager to her supervisor.
  • My ratings have been a three for the last few years, but in fairness, a three at our company is a five at other companies (per what we have been told by our leadership.)  So I’m basically a five…
  • I feel it is time for a move, and your company was the least objectionable option.
  • Resume’ Personal Information:  Weight, 197lbs, Height, 6 ft.  Able to bench press 230lbs, highest ranking team member of the Red Cobras Squad on Call of Duty 4.
  • I am currently pursuing a degree, so I will need to know your tuition reimbursement plan in advance of accepting an offer with your company.
  • Think of it this way, you are hiring someone who is likely going to be your boss someday.
  • I hope you can be flexible with interviewing schedules, my father wants to take part in those discussions and he is quite busy.

Like these?  Check out my book:  Business Rules: The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords

What Everyone is Thinking (but not saying) About Your PowerPoint Presentation…

PowerPoint
And we all know how things turned out for Ned Stark…

I make no small qualms that I loathe PowerPoint almost as much as I hate attending mindless meetings.  PowerPoint has reprogrammed generations of people in business to think in poorly written, vague bullet points.  While some might argue that it makes us be concise, it reality it is a crutch for people that perform crappy presentations.  Some teams actually use PowerPoint decks as reading material…I guess Word was too complex for them.  Morons.  PowerPoint is to documentation what an abacus is to a computer.

I had a manager once, (She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named) who was so obsessed over PowerPoint, she was concerned about people reading them.  “What if this gets forwarded to the wrong person and they read it?”  So we had to create slide decks for this harpy-from-hell that could be understood if you knew nothing about the subject of the deck.  Seriously.  It wasn’t as if we had plans for making an atomic bomb in your basement in the decks we produced.  I have long suspected that she stupidly fretted over someone reading her material without her being in the room to bask in their praise over what she had produced.

I spend a lot of my corporate life in mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations under the guise of being productive meetings.  The majority of PowerPoint decks are mediocre at best, and at worst, they blow chucks.  I have actually started to shift to doing meetings without PowerPoint.  What I have found is that people are so conditioned to seeing the tool in a meeting that it confuses them when you don’t put up slides.  They get nervous and visibly uncomfortable – which I love.  “Aren’t you going to put your slides up?”  “Fu*k no.”  People have actually frowned at me when I tell them that I don’t want to use slides to make my point.  Presentation is an art form that has been corrupted by the evil programming elves at Microsoft.  This PowerPoint/mind-control is so sinister it could be a plot in a James Bond film.

Having vested much of my day-job in meetings under the dull glow of PowerPoint, it is time for me to impart some knowledge.  Let me share with you what people are likely to be thinking, but not saying, during your next sucky PowerPoint presentation:

  • Really?  Forty-six slides to make your point?   That many slides makes me wonder what you are really up to.   What are you hiding?  I’ll bet I can find it.  Game on!
  • Clearly what you define as important has no bearing in reality, as evidenced by your presentation.
  • You can stop reading me your slides.  If you were going to read them to me you should have just sent them to me in an email.  This may shock you but I learned to read years ago.
  • You said, “I’ll keep this short…”  and that was an hour ago. We all want to kill you and some are taking notes on how to do it.
  • We should make prisoners at GITMO sit through your presentation.
  • Pointing out that your slide is hard to read tells me you don’t care.
  • Based on your slides, you clearly worship Satan given that the devil is in the details — which is where you are taking us.
  • Your bullet points read like a drunken teenager’s text messages.  You seem to be a vowel or two short here.
  • A six-point font?  What is this, an eye exam?  Can’t you see we are all squinting?
  • If you are going to use clip art, at least don’t use 1992 quality clip art.
  • No, your graphic does NOT make your point clearer.  In fact, it achieves quite the opposite.
  • Making something bold and red insults me a little.  I know what is important.
  • When I read that slide I keep asking myself, “What is he/she trying to say?”  Even re-reading it leaves me confused.  A bit of my soul is dying inside me as a result.  I hate you.
  • I am not paying attention to what you are saying because your font choice is distracting me.
  • All of your arguments are invalid because of your spelling and grammatical mistakes on one slide.
  • Your use of graphics is making me cry on the inside.
  • Incorporating meaningless buzzwords and phrases does not help your presentation.  You’re not fooling anyone.
  • This all sounds peachy-keen – what does it cost?
  • Don’t blame the projector for your failure to organize your thoughts.
  • If I had wanted to read a book, I would have brought my Kindle.
  • It is hard to believe that we paid you to produce such a hideous slide deck.
  • This presentation is so dull, I am imagining innovative and creative excuses to leave the room.
  • I have done the math.  It is impossible to cover the number of slides you have left in the time we have allotted.
  • My four year old could have produced a better graph, and she’s limited to crayons.
  • Presentations like this is why I am on anti-depressants.
  • I wonder how much it cost us in your time and effort to put together this travesty of a slide deck?
  • Rarely has so much effort gone into presenting such a lie.  You should be congratulated – or shot.
  • I am waiting for the right moment to destroy your entire premise so that the audience will see me as the genius I believe myself to be.
  • It’s probably a bad time to let you know your fly is open.
  • If your graphic can’t fit on a slide, it’s not worth us looking at.
  • I love your material but your abuse of transitions between slides qualifies as a war crime.
  • We’re about due for someone to raise a meaningless point or analogy in an attempt to ruin the hard work you put in on this presentation.
  • If they had told me in business school that I would be doing this for a living (watching your PowerPoint) I would have pursued a liberal arts degree instead.
  • We are all silently curious…are you going to make a point sometime in the next hour or so?  Seriously, any point will do.  Just pick one…please!
  • Oh, I see you Bob – checking your watch.  We both want this to end.  Who in the hell still owns a watch? More importantly, what time is it?
  • If I could take a nap right now, I would. The fact that I am not asleep is worthy of a spot-bonus.
  • There are at least three people watching this presentation that will tear it apart just to be assholes.
  • Your illegal and unethical use of several copywrittten images only makes us hate you a little bit more.
  • Oh joy, you’re using an acronym that no one in the room knows.  You should know, it doesn’t make you any smarter.
  • Because you didn’t follow the company standard template for PowerPoint, I am ignoring everything you are presenting on.
  • It is only a matter of moments before someone questions the validity of your data.
  • My only concern with your presentation is that I wonder if I can muffle my fart – and if I do, can I muffle its smell?
  • Out of your 26 slides, there is only one that matters.  Why didn’t we just start there?
  • Do you realize that you have the wrong audience in the room (on the call) for the material you are presenting?  Do you care?
  • This presentation is all that is between me and a much-needed trip to the bathroom.  Please hurry…
  • As I watch you flip through these slides I cannot help but think that we need to improve our recruitment and hiring standards.
  • I should have had a friend send me a text so I had an excuse to leave this meeting.  Lesson learned…
  • This is an hour of my life I will never get back and will completely forget by the end of the day.
  • I can, and will, derail your entire presentation with a single question – just to prove I can.
  • My phone is vibrating in my pocket and that is much more exciting than this slide show.
  • It would be nice if you told us at some point what the purpose of this meeting is.
  • Please God, don’t let someone say that we need to have another meeting on this subject.
  • Nothing makes me more nauseous than someone saying, “I’ve run out of time, let me go through the last eight slides in two minutes.”
  • You didn’t build in time for questions?  You really thought your material would answer every stupid thing we could come up with?  Really?
  • Why are the boring presentations always scheduled for late in the day on a Friday?  Why are you always the one presenting them?
  • The colors you have chosen are making my eyes bleed on the inside.
  • It’s bad enough your slides are dull, but your droning makes me want to start cutting myself again.
  • The person you rehearsed this with lied to you…it sucks.
  • I am smiling at you only because it makes you think I care.
  • An appendix to your horrible presentation?  And it’s longer than the presentation?  This just became a homework assignment you douchebag.
  • If you’re going to deflect questions to the end – you’d better leave time to answer them.
  • Stop saying things like, “As you clearly can see…” or “This slide points out…”  Let me be the judge of what your slides say or don’t say.  Otherwise, why have me here in the first place?
  • Having our graphics team make a pretty graphic of your material is akin to polishing a turd.

 

Work De-Motivators – Things That Sap Morale in the Workplace

Dwight5

I have learned over the years more about de-motivation than actual motivation.  Usually I obtain this knowledge while fulfilling the role of “whipping boy” for less-than-able managers (not at my current employer of course!)  What I have discovered is that when you look at what kills motivation you often can gain the important knowledge – what DOES help spur motivation.  Bear in mind I’m work in Information Technology, so my perspective can be slightly skewed – sometimes more than others.

So, in an effort to expand our knowledge, here are my big de-motivators list – in no particular order:

Seemingly random decisions by leadership.  The word “seemingly” is important here.  It’s actually pretty rare when a leader makes a totally random decision.  There’s almost always some reasoning behind it – some context for the decision.  Often times though, I’ve found, that the decision is communicated and not the reasoning or context of why the decision was made.  Without understanding “why” something is being done, the only conclusion I’m sometimes left with is that the decision was made by pulling it out of their collective asses.

Cutting back training. I worked in the auto industry – so I understand what tough economic times are.  Yes, you do have to cut expenses from time to time – and training is the proverbial victim of this.  Training is one area I am sensitive too.  Training is a pact between the organization and the individual. Training individuals says, “We see you being around here for a while and want to optimize you.”  When training is constricted to the point where it isn’t happening – the effects on many people is that they don’t believe that the organization cares about them as individuals.

Leap before you look leadership.  “Any jackass can burn down a barn,” or so the old saying goes.  Making a decision without all of the pertinent information can sap a team’s motivation.  I have seen current management buzzwords about “fail forward,” where people are willing to make mistakes to learn from them.  This kind of thinking creates the illusion of innovation, when in reality it is frustrating to the staff.

Analysis paralysis.  The opposite of leap before you look – this de-motivator is a lack of decisions making.  Sometimes the decisions are easy to make – but analysis paralysis is a major drain on the energy of an organization.  The quest for absolute perfect knowledge and buy-in is often the same as not taking a stand at all. Managers who constantly look for more data are often fearful of making the right decision.

Promotions that seem…well, crazy.  We’ve all been there when the promotion list comes out and we say, “What the hell?”  When promotions are given out to, well, morons of individuals whose only competency is killing senior leadership’s butt…it can be highly demotivating.

No apparent roadmap of where we are going.  I am most effective when I know what I am working towards.  I don’t need all of the details, but I like knowing a little bit of the end-state vision.  When I understand how my work gets us all further towards a goal – I get a sense of satisfaction.  Pretty simple really.  When I have no idea what the goal is I have no idea whether I am part of the problem or part of the solution.  Managers who say it is not about the destination, but the journey, are just deflecting that they don’t know where they are going.  Have you ever taken a family driving vacation, with the kids, in the summer, with no destination in mind?  In fact, a lack of vision can lead people to not take any steps at all out of fear they might be doing the wrong thing.

The Teflon Factor with leaders.  When presented with an issue or problem, a good leader will take an active role in resolving it.  A de-motivating leader will look to his or her team and say, “You people all have a problem.”  Accountability is a critical element of motivation of teams.   People look to managers/leaders to be in the same boat they are.  Managers that deflect issues down to their team erodes motivation of those teams.

Rewards and recognition applied unequally.  A messed up rewards and recognition system has the exact opposite of its intended purpose.

Conflict avoidance.  Some managers harbor the illusion that all conflict is bad.  That’s not true at all.  Conflict can often be protective.  Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but sometimes it forces people to deal with organizational or people issues that have to be resolved for the team(s) to grow.  Dodging conflict, ignoring conflict – these things drain organizational energy.

An attitude of, “You should be thankful you have a job…”  That’s odd, I thought I had a career?  When under pressure, some managers resort to the attitude of, “you’re lucky we keep you around.”  First off, let me tell you if I feel lucky.  Secondly, nine-times-out-of-ten when someone has told me I’m lucky I have a job – I feel quite the opposite.

Micromanagement.  There are times we all need a little direction…well, all of you…frankly I’m good.  Seriously though, some “leaders” think that leading means telling everyone how to do their job.  Most employees don’t need that.  They need a manager to run interference for them, remove obstacles, not tell them what color to make a Times Roman font in PowerPoint so that it stands out.

My purpose was not the come across negative…snarky, yes, negative, no.  If you look at this list you can see some gems on what provide motivation – the exact opposite of these:

  • Provide teams with concrete decisions and why they were made.
  • Invest in your people (train them).
  • Make informed decisions.
  • Make timely decisions to respond to the business.
  • Lay out a convincing and compelling vision of where the organization is going
  • Leaders need to hold themselves accountable to their teams.
  • Apply rewards and recognition fairly and proportionally to the value of the work being rewarded.
  • Employ constructive conflict techniques to resolve issues.
  • Let employees tell you (and the rest of the organization) that they are glad to be part of the team.
  • Tell your people the results you want and let them amaze you as to how they do it.

Thoughts?  Rebuttals?  Recriminations? Did you like this?  Go read my book, Business Rules, The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords.  (Catchy title eh?)