T&D World Magazine

Rick's Rules of Survival

Are you tired of being manipulated by your boss as he tries to squeeze every last drop of productivity out of you? And, at the same time, does your boss provide you with too few of the resources you need to do your job right? Are you ready to fight back? Good.

Of course, your manager might think himself more than equipped for the task of managing you. After all, he was selected to take the executive course at Harvard Business School. He's been schooled on how to provide “positive discipline.” He's had bucket loads of internal management courses, including “How to Manage the Difficult Employee.” He can quote Jack Welsh, Ken Blanchard and Jim Collins. He's read sophisticated tomes including Who Moved My Cheese? and The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey. But with a few of Rick's Rules, you'll be equipped to take on your boss.

Make Your Boss More Tired Than You Are

I learned this technique from my daddy, who was an engineer designing landing gear for Lockheed C-130 and C-141 cargo planes. Daddy realized early on that the guys working in the plant could make him or break him when it came to getting work done. One day, the guy who ran the counter at the tool crib let Daddy in on one of his secrets: “If my boss dumps extra work on me, I make sure he is more tired at the end of the day than I am.”

To tire the boss, ask him to repeat his request, and then repeat it back to him incorrectly, deliver something other than what he requested, have other departments call him, ask for more detail, that sort of stuff. The next time he is looking to dump a task on someone, he'll walk right past your desk.

Try Malicious Compliance

Some bosses ask you to take on a project that you know is doomed from the start. Instead of fighting it, cheerfully agree to tackle the boss's initiative, all the while letting everyone know this is your boss's brilliant idea. When the project goes south, he goes south with it. But it takes acting skills to pull this off, so you might want to sign up for a theater class at the local junior college.

Be the Ultimate Team Player

You'll want to use the team player technique when the boss has had enough of your antics and finally says, in effect, “Just do it” — although likely couched in executive speak. Wait a few days, then say, “I'm so glad I am on your team, where our opinions are affirmed. Our approach fits so well with that portion of our mission statement that says, ‘Success comes as we pull together to meet our common stretch goals.’”

Call His Bluff

Realize that a boss who uses his authority, will, ultimately, lose it, so wait until you are asked to do something really dumb and maybe even unethical. Even better, if it is outside your job description, then take your stand. Stating something like, “I'm probably reading this wrong, but this request doesn't seem to fall within the ethics guidelines as outlined in our employee handbook. Let's go together and chat with human resources to make sure we are in compliance before I give it my all.”

Use Management Speak

The manager who doesn't know the business is often reduced to speaking like a parent. He puts words in your mouth by saying things like, “We have to get this right. We have to stay under budget. We have to hit our delivery date.” Typically, this type of manager is reduced to tracking spreadsheets and peering over Gantt charts. Don't take the direct approach with this manager; instead, turn his “we” language against him. Start your sentences with “we,” as in, “We wouldn't want to rush this if it results in cutting corners in safety.” Or, “We need to make sure our team is properly trained.” Sometimes, a “you” is in order, as in the face of an impending catastrophe, you might ask: “Are you sure you really want me to do that?”

Dole Out Credit Where Credit Isn't Due

When something goes right, head to the back of the line. Make statements like: “We couldn't have pulled it off without strong support from management,” “My manager protected the budget and that made all the difference” or “My boss pressed to get the engineering help we needed.” Remember, your goal isn't to get the credit. Your goal is keep good, challenging work flowing your way, and that happens when you make your boss look good.

Realize You Might Be the Problem

You may not want to hear this, but you might be that self-serving, problem-causing boss. And since you don't want your employees applying Rick's Rules to you, consider ditching your Theory X management style.

Thriving is so much more satisfying than merely surviving, so create a collaborative work environment where your team can focus on making your company financially healthy and your customers happy. Then those who report to you can set aside Rick's Rules for another day and another company.

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