Read an Excerpt
The Little Book of Bad Business Advice
By Steve Altes
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1997 Steve Altes
All rights reserved.
1. Never answer phones promptly. You don't want to appear too desperate for business.
2. Flirt with people at work. You might get a raise, you might get sex — either way, you can't lose.
3. When entering other employees' offices, greet them with a loud, "What the hell are you doing!?"
4. Breeze past top executives' secretaries by always insisting your calls are "personal, confidential, and extremely urgent."
5. When leaving voice-mail messages, talk v ... e ... r ... y ... s ... l ... o ... w ... l ... y and repeat yourself a lot. Until you leave your phone number. Thentalkveryfast.
6. Park in the visitors' lot.
7. Customers, though fond of waiting, are rarely right.
8. Use expense reports to give yourself a nice little bonus. You know the top dogs do.
9. If they didn't want you making a bunch of personal phone calls, they shouldn't have put a phone on your desk.
10. Follow your brother-in-law's hot stock tip.
11. Watch SpectraVision soft-core porn movies in your hotel room and charge 'em to the company.
12. Institute a new form, policy, or procedure every week.
13. Advertise your ambition. Keep a folder in plain sight on your desk labeled "Stuff I'll Change as Soon as They Put Me in Charge of This Dump."
14. Do what you love. Poverty will follow.
15. Earn extra income by running a side business from your office like knitting Norwegian sweaters, dog-sitting, or operating a phone sex line.
16. Avoid excessive eye contact with people. It gives them the creeps.
17. If you must work late, rummage through the refrigerator. There is such a thing as a free lunch.
18. Never mind the corporate travel policy. Fly whatever airline gives you the best frequent-flyer miles.
19. Read other people's faxes while waiting for your fax to go through. It's a good way to stay abreast of their activities without having to listen to them drone on in staff meetings.
20. Shoot the messenger.
21. Earn a fearsome reputation among colleagues by periodically calling the weather recording and launching into a blistering diatribe about some imaginary topic.
22. Read viewgraph charts verbatim.
23. People only read the beginning and the end of memos, so in the middle of a really long memo, put in a sentence like, "Thus, as the preceding analysis indicates, letting the chimpanzee drive the sports car over the mountain pass was probably not wise of Jim even under the best of road conditions," to see if anyone is paying attention.
24. Set aside a few minutes every day to yell at your boss.
25. When you hire someone, explain that you see it as less of an employment contract and more as a "buying of their soul."
26. Cheat on your taxes. Everyone else does.
27. Do a parody of your boss at the company talent show. Screw him if he can't take a joke.
28. In today's litigious society, protect yourself by having a team of lawyers review every outgoing business letter.
29. Think of work as a free office supply store that serves coffee.
30. Minesweeper and Solitaire — two great ways to improve your hand-mouse dexterity.
31. Leave memos on people's chairs, never in their in-box.
32. No one notices your scuffed shoes or ratty old briefcase.
33. Make yourself seem more educated by speaking in Shakespearean lingo: "But soft, good lady, methinks 'tis folly the marketing plan thou doth advocate," or "Rebuked is thy budget. 'Tis the work of a knave and a rascal!" 34. Never let your career interfere with your hobbies.
35. When you win a difficult negotiation, savor the experience by gloating over your adversary.
36. Pontificate, criticize, and argue.
37. Practice the expression, "Oh, is it Secretary's Day? I completely forgot."
38. Adopt endearing eccentricities to stand out from the crowd. For example, after receiving someone's business card, rip it in half and say, "That's all right. I'll just call you Joe Blow. It's easier for me to remember."
39. In job interviews, speak ill of your former bosses.
40. Becoming department head before you reach forty is the only true guarantee of happiness in this world.
41. Reinvent the wheel.
42. In lieu of Christmas gifts, send clients a card saying that a donation has been made in their name to "The Society to Maim Helpless Animals."
43. When coworkers bore you with stories about how adorable their children are, break in with, "Yeah, yeah, that's nothing. I had a gerbil once and no snot-nosed ankle-biter can compare to him."
44. Have a good cry at the office at least once a week.
45. Your job is to identify problems. Let the rest of them worry about solving them.
46. Take candy from other people's desks, but never bring your own.
47. Over thirty-five? Hope you're happy because you're too old to start over or try anything new.
48. While away the hours by flipping through office supply catalogs and ordering various walnut-laminated plastic gizmos.
49. Adopt a memorable company motto like: "You could do business with our competitors ... but you'd be a real nimrod if you did!" or "We may not be the best in town, but there's no one costlier!" or "Buy our product! It's more fun than driving red-hot pokers into your eyeballs!"
50. Win the affection of the corporate finance people by calling them "those darn bean counters."
51. Look the other way when passing people in the hall to avoid having to say "Hi" to them constantly.
52. Always explain your job in terms that your mother would not understand.
53. Show you are worldly by using foreign words in business meetings. E.g., entre nous, I don't know whether Debbie's magnum opus is a pièce de résistance or simply pro forma. Let's have a tête-à-tête mañana.
54. Interrupt people if they talk too slowly in meetings.
55. The company Christmas party — spirits are high, you're feeling uninhibited — no better time to ask the boss for a raise.
56. Endear yourself to colleagues by calling them cute nicknames like "Little Miss Swivel Hips," "Cro-Magnon Man," or "Poo Breath."
57. Tell coworkers, "That's not how we did it at my old company!" at least once a day.
58. Ask the CEO if she will commit to mentoring you for a few hours every day.
59. Put a fanciful title on your business card like "Marketing Czar," "Grand Poobah," or "Engineering Wizard."
60. Think of your résumé as a creative writing exercise. Like they're really going to call Harvard and check up on you.
61. It's not who you know, silly! It's what you know!
62. Don't kid yourself. Rejection of your work is a rejection of you. Take it personally.
63. Never mind what the market will bear, base your price to sell something on how much it costs you to make.
64. Booze it up during business lunches.
65. End every business meeting with the admonition, "Remember, we never had this discussion."
66. Employees only care about themselves. Treat them with suspicion.
67. Ask your staff if they are familiar with the term "spanking a memo." Make up a description to go with this term. Ask that it be done to all memos before they are sent to you.
68. On "Family Day" encourage your kids to play with other employees' computers.
69. Befriend the mailroom guys. If they like you, they'll let you push a lot of personal mail and FedExes through the system.
70. Never have an agenda for a meeting. Let it free-flow.
71. Keep pesky refrigerator prowlers at bay by writing on your lunch bag, "Tissue Sample — Biohazard."
72. Use jargon and technobabble.
73. Dress in whatever makes you feel the most productive, be it jeans, sweats, or a long, flowing cape.
74. Allow your staff one expense report per year. Tell them they must float their expenses for twelve months.
75. Be known as "the office gossip."
76. When a project gets in trouble, call an all-hands meeting and announce that you will now begin "The Search for The Guilty."
77. Take continuing education courses in "Micromanagement."
78. Leave fake phone messages to yourself for others to accidentally see and be impressed, like "CEO wants you to call him at home tonight regarding corporate strategy."
79. Don't contribute to 401(k) plans. They're a rip-off.
80. Refuse your company's Employee Handbook and proclaim: "This is fine for lemmings like you who can't use the john without instructions. I play by my own rule book. Get used to it."
81. Make cellular phone calls in the middle of business lunches.
82. Dance all around your company's product name. Avoid saying it at all costs. If someone says it, say "Please don't mention that filthy word."
83. Only wussies back-up their data. Take a walk on the wild side.
84. Giving employees performance evaluations is a fruitless waste of time. They know how they're doing.
85. When giving presentations, slouch, mumble, and say "um" a lot.
86. When colleagues are working late at the office, ask them if there is anything you can do to help, like going to their homes and sleeping with their spouses, that sort of thing.
87. Answer your phone with the greeting, "Speak, supplicant."
88. In business writing, use phrases like "obviously" and "as you can clearly see" a lot.
89. Avoid risk and change. It causes trouble.
90. Cheat at the company softball game. It shows management you have what it takes to get ahead in this dog-eat-dog world.
91. Sign contracts without reading them.
92. On the anniversary of your hiring date, wear all black and tell people it's to commemorate "the death of your spirit."
93. Wear bow ties to look smarter.
94. Send your boss a weekly evaluation of how well she is managing you.
95. Every time you open your paycheck envelope, do a double-take, and shout, "Jimminy Christmas, this is a lot of money. I can't believe they've given me another raise!"
96. Save paper by printing memos in font size 8.
97. When customers call with questions about your product, a firm "Have you ever thought about reading the manual?" will often get them off your back.
98. Take yourself seriously, but never take your job seriously.
99. Convey the impression that your company has offices all over the world by printing a lot of gobbledygook on the back of your business card and telling people they're your Eastern European offices.
100. Belabor your points.
101. Your worth as a person is pretty much determined by your job title.
102. Tell your spouse how to manage his or her career.
103. Forget the little people you step on as you claw your way to the top.
104. Scrimp on the little things (letterhead, business cards, marketing brochures). Those savings will really add up.
105. Make your job sound dangerous. Tell people you've been busy putting out fires, dodging bullets, avoiding poison pills, slaying dragons, juggling greasy chainsaws, and drinking molten lava.
106. Heed astrology warnings. If it says to be wary of Capricorns, don't do business with Capricorns that day. Tell them to come back tomorrow.
107. Add little smiley faces to your business letters.
108. Some good questions to ask during a job interview are:
"What is it that you do at this company?"
"How many months would I have to work here before I had your job?"
"Does your company have a concealed weapons policy?"
"Does your health insurance cover pets?"
"I have a real problem with capitalism. Is that going to be a problem here?"
109. Start an office crossword puzzle league or an after-work witches' coven.
110. Keep troublesome employees in line by threatening to make a note in their "permanent record."
111. Formulate an "all-your-eggs-in-one-basket," single-career strategy.
112. Send your boss a ten thousand dollar purchase request for Louis XIV office furnishings. If he calls you on it, say it was a joke. If it goes through by mistake — hey, nice office.
113. Praise in private. Reprimand in public.
114. Buy one share of stock in your company. Whenever the stock goes down, call the CEO and tell him that as a stockholder, he is accountable to you and you are very disappointed in him.
115. Just for laughs, make your boss look bad in front of her boss.
116. Boss around anyone hired after you, regardless of their position.
117. Keep your supervisor off your back with retorts like "I answer to a higher authority" and "You're not the boss of me."
118. Don't bother learning the names of people you may never see again. Wait until you've met them five times to be sure it's worth the effort.
119. Buy high. Sell low.
120. In staff meetings, every couple of minutes say, "I move that we table the discussion and proceed to the next order of business" to demonstrate your command of Robert's Rules of Order.
121. Start a staple recycling program.
122. If the copier jams while you're using it, bolt.
123. Treat secretaries like dirt. After all, they're only secretaries. What can they do?
124. Convince your boss your pay is too low by constantly asking him if you can borrow some money.
125. Spell-checking software eats up a lot of valuable hard-disk space. Don't bother with it.
126. Express all calculations in obscure units of measurement (i.e., instead of "feet per second" use "leagues per blue moon").
127. Rifle through colleagues' in-boxes. You never know what valuable gems they've been sitting on. If you take anything, though, be courteous and leave them a note.
128. If at first you don't succeed, try something easier.
129. Instead of cash tips, give waiters, barbers, and cab drivers "inside information" on your company's stock and tell them to make their own money.
130. Rest on your laurels.
131. When you come back from sick leave and your nosy boss asks what you had, tell him: "I was just so sick of seeing your puffy face, monkey-boy."
132. Pay early. Bill late.
133. In proposals, say you are going to use Nobel prize-winning scientists to do the job. Once you've won the contract, hire a bunch of college interns to do it instead.
134. Great leaders are a dime a dozen. Strive to be a great manager instead.
135. Keep employees in the dark about company financial performance. It's none of their business.
136. Keep your desk messy so you look busy to others.
137. On "National Bring Our Daughters to Work Day" give a talk entitled "Warning to Career Women of Tomorrow: Play by Men's Rules or Else!" 138. Only return calls to people who leave four or more messages.
139. Clean your file cabinets by throwing out every third folder regardless of its contents.
140. Fool your boss into thinking you worked late the previous night by leaving notes on her desk with fake times like 11:30 P.M.
141. Address your memos to "All Those Who Obey My Commands" and see who really listens to you.
142. The day your "new hire probationary period" expires, start goofing off. They can't touch you now.
143. Remember: arrogance and likability go hand in hand.
144. Finish other people's sentences for them.
145. Tell your staff not to think of you as a boss, but as a fellow colleague — a colleague who just happens to be right all the time.
146. When tasked with a particularly difficult job, get yourself off the hook with a simple, "No thanks, Attila. That job is beneath me. Find some other lackey to do your dirty work."
147. Eliminate shoplifting by frisking customers on their way out.
148. Motivate employees by awarding them gold stars on the lunchroom refrigerator for jobs well done.
Excerpted from The Little Book of Bad Business Advice by Steve Altes. Copyright © 1997 Steve Altes. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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