Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Shell-Shocked: Stalin and the KGB

In my experience I have worked for more poor leaders than I have good leaders. It is almost by bad example that I have learned "what not to do" when leading my own group of people. As I reflect on my past and current list of bad leaders I clearly see one who is the crème de la crème of poor management practices and behavior. I look back almost 10 years ago to my time working for a gem of a boss I’ll refer to as Stalin (named after the former cold hearted Soviet leader).

Stalin would enter my career by being promoted to Director of my department. I had known Stalin for many years and was very familiar with her tactics as I had interactions with her from time to time. Like the real Stalin she was both ruthless and ambitious, a combination that spelled doom for anyone who worked under her. She was also completely paranoid and employed KGB (Cold War Soviet Secret Police) management methods to ensure her people didn’t revolt.

Her KGB approach would ensure her complete control, as she constantly needed to know what people were doing or saying at all times. Some examples of her KGB methods included:

  • Stalin had hand picked several of "work moles" to infiltrate the various management groups within our large department. The "work mole" would come into your group as a new hire of Stalin’s. They would attempt to blend in, all the while compiling information to report back to Stalin. The "work mole" in my group was named Nancy and she was very clever.

  • Any managers that were not "in line" (as she would say) with her commands were frequently belittled in front of the group. . I can remember one massacre meeting in which she, one by one, pointed out the faults of each team member in the room. She’d break you down, but never build you back up. This ensured conformity with her dictatorship as the weakened cannot rise up against the strong.

  • She would setup interogations or "fish sessions" in which she would at first act like she was just getting updates on your work. The "fish sessions" would slowly evolve into her attempting to pry information out of you about other members of the team. She used "smear tactics" as she would make up something derrogatory that a fellow co-worker said about you to see if you would then spill your guts about that employee. She was always looking for an angle to take advantage of people and situations.

I had been under her KGB rule for over 2 years when I tried to lead a revolt. My fellow managers had always looked to me for guidance and assistance. Many of them came to me and we began to discuss how bad things were and how sick we were of Stalin. The stars seemed to be in alignment as we had a new VP who was very interested in learning about each member of management. Although, I would normally follow the chain of command, this was not possible in this case as Stalin was a dictator and would not take my comments about her leadership seriously. Dictators don’t listen to reason, they send you off to some deserted wasteland and leave you to die if you remotely oppose them.

Our new VP had gotten to know me and was impressed by my work. During one of his visits he had asked if I would like to go to dinner with him to "talk about the department". During our dinner he had eluded to Stalin’s dictator style and asked for my comments. At first I was aprehensive in answering questions about my boss as I always believe in the chain of command. But then I thought about the past two years and how badly my co-workers and I were treated. I spilled my guts on her. I didn’t feel good about it, but I felt it necessary to overthrow our ruthless dictator. My VP assured me he would look into the situation and try to make things better for all of us.As I said, Stalin was paranoid and caught wind of my dinner with our new VP, through her "work mole" Nancy. She called me in the next day to "fish" about what I had discussed with our VP. Despite her "fishing" I stayed strong and left the interrogation unscathed.

My downfall in my revolt efforts came with one sentence said out of frustration. Since my meeting with the VP, Stalin had been increasingly cruel and demanding with me. She had called me one day before she was flying out to Ohio on business to rip me out about an email I didn’t copy her on. Upon ending our conversation I slammed the phone down and uttered "have a nice trip, I hope your plane crashes!" I’m not trying to defend my statement, because it was wrong, but I was frustrated and we all say things we don’t mean sometimes. Unfortunately I was in the presence of Nancy the "work mole". Nancy had heard the comment and I was doomed.
Stalin returned later in the week and I was immediately called into her office. She started the meeting by saying "so, I hear you want me to die in a plane crash!" My heart dropped and I knew my days at the company were coming to an end. I tried to explain, but you can’t explain a comment like that to a dictator. She had siezed the opportunity to discredit me and the revolt was over. It was not long until she had told my VP of my comments, probably adding on to the story. A few months later, to the dismay of my co-workers, I left the company for another opportunity.

Why leaders like Stalin exist in the workplace is beyond me. They do exist though and almost thrive as companies pay less and less attention to what and how leaders manage. It’s unfortunate because many innovative people are squashed each day by poor leaders who only regard people as pawns, to be used and disgarded. The bad leaders out there just drive people to become Turtles at Work. Being a Turtle is may be all you can do to survive, so stay within the shell!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Turtling Through Workplace Personalities

Over the course of my career I have come across a bevy of workplace personalities that have been quite annoying. In my current role as a Work Turtle I pretty much ignore these work personalities as they can only harm my peaceful existence within the shell. Below are the major workplace personalities that I have come across. I’m sure many of you work or have worked with many or all of the below. Remember, as a Work Turtle, lay low and avoid these folks as they will only cause you grief.

The Gossip. Have a secret? It won’t be a secret long if you tell the Gossip. A thirst to know everything about everyone drives the Gossip to pry information out of you. The Gossip has several techniques and will disguise their quest for information as genuine caring. They will begin their interrogation by first exposing something about themselves, giving you a false sense of security. Once you have divulged any juicy information the Gossip is eager to “break the news” but clever in how they do it. They won’t tell a large group of people as that would expose them. They will instead talk with a small group of fellow gossips and allow them to multiple the gossip across the department.

The Bitch. There is never a good day as far as the Bitch is concerned. The Bitch is dedicated to being completely nasty and negative to anyone in view. While most workers are fearful of the Bitch and stay out of his/her way, there is always someone who thinks they can change the Bitch by treating them nicely. You’ll see this poor soul walking away from the Bitch, mentally scarred and beaten down. In rare instances you will see an alliance of Bitches who have combined their cruelness and hatred for everyone and everything into a group. They can usually be seen in the smoke room engaged in a Bitch-a-Thon, complete with hand gestures and flying ashes.

The Optimist. The happiness flows from the Optimist as they are always smiling and greeting you with an array of positive comments. No one in the office is certain if the Optimist is medicated or just naturally that happy as many ponder “how can someone be that happy all the time?” The Optimist will also have kooky phrases around holidays such as “have a spooktacular Halloween” or “my Easter was eggcellent!” The Optimist is the arch enemy of the Bitch. If these two work personalities were ever left alone together, blood would be shed.

The Workhorse. First one to arrive and the last to leave, the Workhorse is a fixture at your workplace. He’s been at your company for quite some time and revels in that fact with comments like “In my 20 years with the company….” Or “My 20 years of experience with this company….”. The Workhorse is an incredible roadblock to change and will use the patented “we’ve always done it this way” comment to deflect any improvements offered. The mystery surrounding the Workhorse is exactly what he gets done in all those hours worked.

The Joker. Everyone enjoys a little workplace humor from time to time, but the Joker takes it to a level of complete annoyance. The obvious calling card of the Joker is the rapid fire “funny emails”. The Joker simply cannot stop at one or two emails, but instead fires off 8 to 10 funny emails to you at a time. The Joker is also infamous for taking every opportunity to crack a joke. You may be at the printer or copier and poof, there’s the Joker appearing with a joke “they just gotta tell you”. The catch with the Joker is that most of their jokes are really lame and lack humor all together.

The Brown-Noser. One of the most despised workplace personalities, the Brown-Noser is ever ready to provide a compliment to the boss. They are the first one to agree with a directive or message from the head honcho and will jump in with a pithy comment like “I think this is something we can all embrace”. The Brown-Noser can also be seen buying the boss coffee, going out to lunch with the boss, or even picking up dry cleaning for the boss. Most good Brown-Nosers have developed protégé’s that do some of the above things for them. It’s a complex food chain as the protégé hopes to become a full fledged Brown-Noser, once their master gets promoted.

The Drama Queen. A stressful situation presents itself and you are trying to do damage control. Just as everyone is finally settling down, the Drama Queen enters to stir everything back up again. The Drama Queen is skilled in completely over-reacting and over-dramatizing situations. The Drama Queen’s constant craving for attention is behind the overbearing behavior and once you have provided her the stage to perform she will simmer down until the next performance opportunity presents itself.

The Hypochondriac. If there is a newly discovered illness, the Hypochondriac has contracted it and will explain it to you in great detail. The Hypochondriac calls out sick often, but uses safe havens like FMLA to avoid termination. You can see signs of Hypochondriacs as they usually have a stockpile of tissues and medicines at their desks. They are also frequently and loudly hacking, sneezing, grunting or complaining about their illness to other co-workers. The favorite ploy of the Hypochondriac is to leave you a voice message complete with toilet flushes or intermittent cupping the phone with vomit sounds in the background.

The Mooch or Office Mooch. Your department has decided to have a luncheon, in which everyone brings something in. The aroma from the hot food items begins to spread throughout the office, and the Mooch pops his head over his cubicle wall like a prairie dog. The Mooch is not in your department but casually lingers over and begins to talk to you and your co-workers as if he’s just stopping by to chat. His real motive is to grab some food to take back to his desk, you know it and he knows it. Then suddenly, one of your co-workers comments “there’s plenty here if you’d like to take a plate back to your desk”. This is the green light for the Mooch, and with great skill and agility he packs his plate and scurries back to his cubicle. The Mooch is also adept at borrowing money without paying you back or borrowing something of yours and not returning it.

Feel free to post any work personalities you have come across in the comment section below this post!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Shell-Shocked: "Cut Some Coupons"

Today I'm going to introduce a new section of the Turtles at Work blog titled: Shell-Shocked. As commented in some of my previous posts, workers do not turn into Work Turtles overnight. There is a series of events or experiences that erode at the once high performer that leads to the Turtle mentality. From time to time I will post a "Shell-Shocked" story from my past that contributed to me becoming a Turtle at Work.

"Cut Some Coupons"

Let me start by laying some groundwork for this story.

It was nearing performance review time at my company. I was not completely a Work Turtle at this point and had achieved "exceeds expectations" on each of my past 3 yearly reviews. I had been led to believe by my current VP that I would be promoted to his position upon his retirement, only to be screwed (that's another story for Shell-Shocked).

My wife had just given birth to our first child an we were struggling over whether my wife would stay home with our son, giving up her $32k a year teaching job. I had thought I was going to be promoted to VP (higher pay) but as stated earlier I was misled.

I was called into the President's office to discuss an issue that he wanted me to address. We chatted about the issue and then began to talk about my newborn son and wife. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity (before review/raise time) to slip in how hard it would be to make it with only my income. My plan was that although my company was cheap when it came to increases (even with high performance), I could play on the sympathy factor. My chance with the President, I thought, would really improve my chances of getting a better increase.

So I unleash my plan with the comment "yeah, it's going to be hard to make it with only my salary, but it's best for my son that my wife stay home." The Prez looks stone faced, ponders a second and then responds with the Turtle changing comment "Well, you'd be surprised how much you can save by cutting coupons." Cutting Coupons is all he could offer in response!!!! He then receded smugly into his comfortable, leather President chair. We were finished and I had obviously failed in my attempt to sway him or receive the sympathy pay increase I had been seeking.

Now, this guy makes around $500k in salary plus bonuses. I make a fraction of what the Prez makes and had just come off a year in which I saved my company over $250k due to process improvements I implemented to reduce damage. I call my wife and break the news. "How did it go" my wife asks. "Coupons" I reply "Flippin coupons is the only answer he gave me."

My review time came and went and again I received my "exceeding expectations" rating. As expected I received my 2.5% increase without a bonus for my "exceeding" efforts. This was one major defining moment in my transition from ambitious Wolf (high performer) to slow and steady Turtle.

As a joke I keep and excel chart tracking my coupon savings posted on my office bulletin board. My Prez comes in one day and looks at the board. Seeing my coupon savings chart he quips "Well, looks like you took my advice." Gee thanks!

This was one of the many moments that led me to become a Work Turtle. It's funny because, as I think back, I realize that executives at most companies have pretty much lost touch with their employees. Executives at solid companies are highly compensated and are probably worth every penny, however at the mediocre company the highly compensated executives are just a drain on the workforce. It's easy for an executive, and in my example, our President to tell me to cut coupons. He has totally lost touch with what it is like to not be "highly compensated". The cut (pardon the pun) runs even deeper because in my situation I have performed at the highest level for 3 years and instead of getting a solid increase or even a bonus, I get "cut coupons". Meanwhile I get to see the Prez driving his Lexus SUV and the other mindless VPs driving their luxury vehicles. As they say "the rich get richer" and that is certainly the case in mediocre company-land!

Feel free to post any of your Shell-Shocked moments. I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Workplace Lion

A reader of Turtles at Work recently commented about how there are people within the office that just take advantage of you in certain situations even though they are supposedly smarter or more educated than you. These bosses and co-workers are just simply lazy and disguise their laziness because of their title or background. They are smart in one way because they know that someone will bail them out if they wait long enough. I like to refer to these lazy people as Workplace Lions.

I know you are already wondering why these folks are characterized as the mighty and powerful lion. Let me explain by sharing some facts about real Lions and related those facts to my concept of Workplace Lions:

Real Lion Fact:
Lions will usually let out load roars (usually done while sitting or lying down) to fend of intruders or show their dominance.

Workplace Lion Fact:
The Workplace Lion is mostly talk as they “roar” about themselves, what they need or what they want done. They very rarely actually get involved and do anything.

Real Lion Fact:
The Lion's mane makes his body appear larger and more impressive than it really is.

Workplace Lion Fact:
The Workplace Lion’s title, position, background and appearance may make them appear to be smarter or more effective. Peel back the fluff and you’ll see that they are not smart or effective at all.

Real Lion Fact:
Lions are rather lazy animals that spend much of the day sleeping (20 hours) under a tree.

Workplace Lion Fact:
The Workplace Lion may not sleep but is pretty much inactive for the majority of their workday. They’ll be spotted about every 2 hours wandering around the office looking, usually with no purpose whatsoever.
Real Lion Fact:
Lions many times feed on animals killed by other predators such as cheetahs and hyenas. Male Lions let the females do the hunting and live off of their kills (I know many women readers are probably nodding their heads at this one. LOL).

Workplace Lion Fact:
Unfortunately the Workplace Lion will be stealing your hard work and living off the rewards of your achievements.

Real Lion Fact
Male lions take no interest in the rearing of the young and, on occasion, may even try to kill them.

Workplace Lion Fact:
Your boss has no interest in developing you into a higher positions as they are too busy counting their money from their big paycheck. In some instances if you piss your boss off they’ll probably fire you.

Although many think of the Lion as this prestigious animal, the reality is that they are quite lazy and rely on others animals to survive. This is the essence of the Work Lion, relying on you to take on their work even though they are the ones that are supposed to be so damn powerful.

So how does a Turtle deal with a Lion? If your boss is a Work Lion, it will be difficult for you as there is no way around really avoiding their influence on you. A Turtle will do what is necessary, no more and no less, so just stick with that if you have a Work Lion boss.

If you are dealing with Work Lion co-workers, it is easier to deflect their advances and requests. As a Turtle you are much smarter then they are, you know it and they know it. If you allow their laziness to be your work you are promoting their Work Lion behavior. If a Work Lion for example asks you for help on their project or assignment, deflect their request with a comment like:

“Wow… I’m just really bogged down right now, if you can help me with my reports, the assignment Joe gave me, and the project I’m working on first, then I can swing on over to help get your assignment done. Teamwork pays off!” (Note: make sure to have a big smile while deflecting and pat the work lion’s shoulder at completion of comment)

The work lion, hearing your deflection request for help, will scurry away with their tale between their legs. Deflecting work help requests with your own work help requests is the best Turtle strategy to employ when dealing with Work Lions.

Feel free to post comments or drop me an email on any Work Lion experience you may have had.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Your company has a problem or set of problems.

Do your leaders ask you or your co-workers for input into solving the problems?


Do your leaders, who are supposed to strategize, motivate, and actually lead try to navigate you and your team through problem solving?


So what do the leaders of your company do?

Hire Consultants!!! (queue the game show winner music)

Yes, the trusted Consultant comes in to solve your company’s problems. Your boss hails the consultant as if they were the Messiah. He describes to the group all the experience and knowledge the consultant brings to your company. Then after all the fanfare, the consultant speaks with something profound like “I look forward to working with all of you” or “I’ll be interested in picking your brains to see how things work in your department.”

These two statements translated from consultant language really mean:

“Your company is paying me 3 times what any of you make and I will take every advantage of that to string out my assignment for as long as possible”


“I have no idea what the hell I’m doing and will use you and your ideas and present them as my own.”

I have come across many consultants in my career and for the most part they were hired because the upper management of the department failed to recognize and utilize the skills and knowledge of the people they had. The consultant simply “picked the brain” of employees in the department and regurgitated (see Regergatator) their thoughts as part of their final recommendation.

When and if the consultant’s recommendations are reviewed with employees, people realize the true ruse of the consultant. “Why did we need a consultant to just steal my ideas” people ask. The real kicker is when you realize your increase or bonus is in the pocket of the consultant who is now sipping Pina Colada’s on some sunny beach somewhere. Consultants usually have a way of taking a vacation after they have just collected another big payday from another sucker company. They’ll also tell you about the vacation they are going to take following their assignment which further helps build resentment.

The consultant is one of the many contributors in employees becoming Turtles at Work. You realize that when you present ideas or recommendations they are vastly ignored. However when the company brings in a high priced consultant to re-present your ideas and recommendations as their own, they are taken and respected by your leadership. As a Turtle, be wary of the consultant as there is no reward for you in assisting them. Remember that they are getting paid to come up with the improvement and if you try and “think outside the shell” you are only contributing to their payday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

When Opportunity Knocks....Don't Answer

There is a funny little phrase I’ve come across over my career that has caused me much grief and frustration. The phrase being “I have an opportunity for you…” This phrase is used often by bosses looking to divert or unload work onto employees in the guise of an “opportunity”.

If you are not a Turtle you probably will jump at the “opportunity” as you boss will follow up with much exuberance on the benefits the “opportunity” will have for you and your career. Your boss will explain to you that this “opportunity” is a chance to “prove yourself” to the company. He may also quip “if you take this on there could be bigger things ahead for you.”

You leave the “opportunity” discussion with you boss sky high, with thoughts of more pay, higher position, etc. You go home and tell you friends about the exciting “opportunity” that was just presented to you, almost bragging about how important to the company you are. As a naive high performer your thoughts are on taking this “opportunity” and giving it your all because you know you are destined to succeed and conquer more.

You work tirelessly on the “opportunity” given to you and complete your work ahead of schedule. You are a high performer and your work is applauded by your boss. Your boss showers you will praise such as “I knew you were the guy for this” and “with work like this your future is bright”. You again leave the meeting with your boss with a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. You’ve taken the “opportunity” and more than satisfied your boss. Hell, you exceeded his expectations.

A few weeks later another “opportunity” is presented to you. Eager to please you are ready and willing to take it head on. Just as with the first “opportunity” you exceed expectations and are feeling great. But your first inkling of reality sets it. Where is the payoff to my efforts?

Soon more “opportunities” come your way, but after each one you notice something. There’s no real reward! You have taken on more work and exceeded expectations each time, yet what have you gotten in return. There has been no action in the form of advancement and no monetary reward given.

Then you try and calm yourself down. “They’ll take care of me during my performance review next month.” You follow up with more soothing thoughts. During my review my boss will unveil the entire plan for me. That’s when I’ll get my rewards and my advancement.

The moment of truth finally arrives as you meet with your boss for your performance review. You receive the highest scores in each category and almost can’t wait to get to the end. This is the part where you boss will layout your reward. He speaks and it comes to you almost in slow motion “your efforts were outstanding and your increase for the upcoming year is…….. 2.5%.” What?? There must be a mistake, so you ask your boss to repeat the increase. Nope, you heard it correctly, 2.5%. There is no mention of you advancement or career path as part of our conversation.

You are professional, so you try to maintain poise. You ask questions trying to find out what happened. This is when your boss pulls out the BS. You try to get “real” answers, but your boss is skilled at BS and short on time. He uses the “I have another person waiting” and ends your performance review.

The final straw comes when the benefit enrollment period begins following the performance review period. It's announced that the benefit payments for insurance, dental, etc will go up by 10%. So now for all that extra effort taking on "opportunities" you realize you will now be making less this year than last year.

You have just learned what every Turtle already knows. When opportunity knocks, don’t answer. Unless your company and your boss can clearly layout in writing what you will get in return for the “opportunity” presented to you, retreat within the shell. Otherwise you’ll be destined to be the department lackey. Don’t make the mistake again, there is safety within the shell!!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Science Strikes Again! Incompetent People Don't Know They're Incompetent

In my previous post I discussed how scientists examined meetings in the corporate world and determined that “meetings make us dumber”. In yet another scientific breakthrough, Cornell Professor of Psychology Dr. David A. Dunning has determined that incompetent people really have no clue that they are incompetent. Wow, now that’s an incredible piece of scientific work. Some key points from the study were:

“People who do things badly are usually supremely confident in their abilities – more confident, in fact, than those who do things well.”

Incompetent people have “a deficiency in ``self-monitoring skills,'' the researchers said, helps explain the tendency of the humor-impaired to persist in telling jokes that are not funny, of day traders to repeatedly jump into the market -- and repeatedly lose out ..”
“In a series of studies, Kruger and Dunning tested their theory of incompetence. They found that subjects who scored in the lowest quartile on tests of logic, English grammar and humor were also the most likely to ``grossly overestimate'' how well they had performed. In all three tests, subjects' ratings of their ability were positively linked to their actual scores. But the lowest-ranked participants showed much greater distortions in their self-estimates.”

So how does this relate to an actual work experience? How about the below scenario:

I’m sure you have been in staff meetings in which your boss had absolutely no clue about what they were talking about and just kept going on and on as if they invented the subject they were discussing. Meanwhile you and your co-workers put on your interested and engaged look as you casually peek at your watch giving a sigh and a thought “only five more minutes of this crap.”

Then just when you think the meeting is over, the new guy actually challenges or questions something your boss said. The “new guy” hasn’t become a Turtle yet and doesn’t understand that he’ll never get an educated answer from the boss. What he has done is encouraged more pointless and clueless discussion from the head honcho.

Then your boss throws out the not so funny anecdote and everyone give the fake chuckle, thinking that the meeting is finally over. It’s not over though as the laughter has only encouraged the boss more and yet another story results. It’s torture, but as a Turtle you endure it, lay low and just hope the meeting ends soon so you can go back to your slow and steady work.

Dr. Dunning’s study points out scientifically that being a Turtle at work is most likely your only choice for survival if you are stuck with incompetent leadership. Dr. Dunning points out that his finding support Thomas Jefferson’s assertion that ``he who knows best knows how little he knows.'' How true indeed!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

It's Official...Meetings Make us dumber!

I came across this article recently on MSNBC.com that confirms what I have known for years. I've been through more than enough meetings in my life to know that bad meetings actually do in fact make us dumber (article link posted below)!

A poorly run and executed meeting is perfect for any Turtle. My company, for example, recently decided to conduct a meeting amongst all departments to help "improve the company" and "provide better service to our customers". This sounds like a very promising concept as most companies don't focus enough on improving. The problem though is that very few people in my company actually understand how to run a meeting effectively. More importantly most of the people invited to the meeting, who have more tenure than I, know that our superiors don't know how to run a meeting effectively. The result: Turtle meeting!

So what is a Turtle meeting you ask? A Turtle meeting occurs when the following conditions exist:

  1. A meeting agenda, complete with meeting purpose, items for discussion and follow-up is not created and sent out to the meeting invitees in advance. This really encourages Turtle behavior and wasted time as none of the meeting attendees actually understand why they are at the meeting. The non-Turtles at the meeting try to figure our what the meeting is about by asking questions for the first 20 minutes.
  2. The meeting facilitator decides to invite more people than needed. For example, the meeting on "improving our company" has over 20 people in it, which helps in creating confusion and indecision.
  3. The meeting room is too small and does not contain the equipment needed for the meeting. There is nothing like a group of people jammed into a room. This really helps to promote thinking!
  4. Meeting duties are not assigned. This means no timekeeper to keep the meeting on schedule and no documenter to notate the meeting and distribute the notes. There is nothing better than a meeting that just keeps going and going and going. Even better when you meet again you have no idea of what transpired the previous meetings due to the lack of meeting notes.
  5. There are no meeting ground rules agreed to during the first meeting. This allows people to have side discussions, dose off, or show up late as people have no expectation of how to act in the meeting. As a Turtle this means you can "blend in" as you can easily not participate.
  6. Assignments are handed out and no follow-up is ever done to ensure the assignments are completed or completely correctly. Again, since there are no notes from the meeting you can easily Turtle if assigned something. Simply claim that you weren't given an assignment and have a fellow Turtle confirm this with a statement like "yes, I don't believe Joe was given that assignment."

We have been meeting bi-weekly for almost 3 months and haven't accomplished a thing. Better yet, each meeting was talk about an issue and assign a "committee" to research the problem and come up with a solution. There are so many committees and not one has come up with a solved problem yet. In addition, the same non-Turtles (poor bastards) keep getting volunteered to be on these committees. One of my co-workers for example is now in his 7th committee. Remember, as a Turtle, "lay low", the Wolves will get picked for these kinds of assignments as long as you don't volunteer or make eye contact when assignments are being handed out.

Meetings make us dumber, study shows
Brainstorming sessions backfire when group thinking clouds decisions
By Abigail W. Leonard
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17279961/from/ET/

Friday, March 16, 2007

Turtle Tip of the Day

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Agents of Incompetence

In the workplace we’ve all had to deal with co-workers or superiors that were incompetent. Some are truly incompetent, while others fake incompetence and are really just indifferent. Either way these folks are a complete drain on you and your company. These various characters are what I refer to as “The Agents of Incompetence”. I’ve come across these different characters and labeled them. Be on the lookout for them as they are hazardous to your health.

The Delegator. The consummate avoiders of actual assignments, these folks re-direct assignments onto you. The Delegator will prey on those not in attendance at meetings, volunteering those folks for projects or assignments. If the assignment is a success they will claim responsibility, if not they will throw you under the bus in a second

The Regergatator. Understanding things at only a high level is the specialty of The Regergatator. They will have plenty of publications and executive summaries on their desk. They will quote and comment on subjects as if they were experts. Ask them for more detail on a subject though and they will falter. They are the Milli Vanilli’s of the business world, all style and no substance.

The Egotist. This person is only interested in issues that pertain to themselves. The Egotist will claim to be your best ally, while you are handling issues or assignments that benefit them. However when you need assistance from them on your own issues or assignments they will not be bothered. The Egotist will converse with you at length professing their brilliance or accomplishments both personally and professionally, not allowing you to get in a word about yourself, your interests, or your accomplishments. They are simply not interested unless it’s about them!

The Shuffler. These folks never make a direct or concrete decision. They “shuffle” from side to side to avoid any type of real commitment. The Shuffler will purposely be unclear about their questions or requests as they are hoping you will clarify things for them and make a decision.

The Bobbler. During meetings or projects the Bobbler or Bobble Head will very rarely speak up when ideas or issues are presented. They will instead eagerly shake their head back and forth in either agreement or disagreement after the group has done the hard work of making a determination. They have no clue about what was just decided but want to look like they are contributing with their non-verbal “bobbling”.

The Anecdotelor. Usually a management person who cannot intelligently prove their point and instead uses catchy cliché’s, anecdotes or stories to explain something or prove a point.. We’ve all heard the classic stories of “eating the elephant one bite at a time” or the “more than one way to skin a cat” comments. Sometimes the Cliché’r will use one catchy phrase right after another.

The Riddler. This is also usually a member of management that attempts to deflect your questions with questions of his or her own. The Riddler tries to make it appear as if they are just interested in what you are asking and need more clarity. If the Riddler cannot derail you by asking questions, he or she will provide cryptic responses and act as if you are stupid for not understanding what they are saying.

Please feel free to post your Agents of Incompetence. I know there are more, but these are the main characters I have faced in my career.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I Was a Wolf, Now I'm a Turtle

There was a time in my life in which I was not a Turtle. Really I'm not all together a Turtle now, I just choose to conduct myself following the Philosophy of the Turtle. No, at one point I was a proud, courageous, ambitious and career minded individual with thoughts of glory and riches. Yes, at one time I was a Wolf.

As a Wolf I would seek out opportunities, because after all that is what a Wolf does. But I was not just any Wolf, I was the Alpha, the powerful, the dominate! I was the leader of the pack, ready and willing to impose my will, skill and ability to lead other Wolves. I was not a loner because Wolves, unlike Turtles, are not loners. Wolves desire the teamwork and comradery of the pack. I would take chances and people respected me for my ability to do so.

I can remember several points in my career in which my Wolf traits got me into trouble. I didn't care, I just chalked it up to effort and most of my bosses lacked a clue to really discipline me anyway. I lived by the "What the Fuck" theory given in the movie Risky Business.

Miles: Joel, you wanna know something? Every now and then say, "What the fuck." "What the fuck" gives you freedom. Freedom brings opportunity. Opportunity makes your future.

Say "what the fuck."... If you can't say it, you can't do it.

Yes, that is what Alpha Wolves do, they say "What the Fuck" and storm in with their team, their pack and get the kill. They are tenacious and magnificent and everything a Wolf is, I was.

It almost makes me sad writing this post as I remember back to some of my Wolf days and realize how much fun and excitment being a Wolf is. I must catch myself though and realize there is "safety within the shell". Unfortunately, being a Wolf and certainly and Alpha Wolf is not ecouraged at my current company, nor my prior companies.

Please feel free to respond to any of my posts. Let loose with any of your Wolf, Turtle or Work Frustration comments or stories.

Friday, March 9, 2007

What is the Philosphy of the Turtle

This blog relates to my overall philosophy of how poor management in companies creates an environment in which the hard workers evolve into "turtle workers". Anyone who has really tried to make a difference at a company realizes the red tape, road blocks, and mass incompetence you have to fight through to get things done. Eventually over time people become disillusioned and revert to the ways of the turtle. What every "turtle worker" knows is.....

  1. Turtles know comfort within the shell. Stick your head out and risk getting it bit off by someone bigger than you! Stay within the comfort of the shell as much as possible!

  2. Turtles didn't survive millions of years by being innovative. Stop thinking "outside the shell".

  3. Turtles stay low to the ground. Stay low, that way you won't be seen.

  4. Turtles move slow and steady. There is no reward in going faster or trying harder. You'll get there when you get there!

  5. A Turtle on it's back is a dead turtle. Don't be vulnerable to others, they'll take advantage of you in a second.

  6. Turtles have great eyesight and smell. Look out for idiots around you and sniff out any bullshit they dish out.

  7. Turtles are green for a reason. Blend in with your surroundings!

  8. Turtles left in the sun too long will die. Avoid the spotlight, it will kill you!

  9. Turtles only hear half as well as other animals. Only listen to half of what you hear and ignore the rest.

  10. Most Turtles lack the ability to make vocal sounds. Keep your mouth shut as much as possible, you only bring more grief onto yourself by speaking up!

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