How to tell a lie

Telling a bare faced lie can be fraught with difficulties. The most awkward one is making sure that you are not found out, which of course means that you can’t give anything anyway.

The best bet to avoid giving anything away is to lie in such a way that it sounds and looks just the same as if you were telling the truth. You need some front to make it sound normal. You’re never going to get away with it if you don’t do it with confidence.
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What price consultants?

Having worked fairly low down the hierarchy in some places where there was almost an epidemic of consultants, I always believed that the managers that employed them were incompetent fools. After all, in those places, the consultants didn’t bring in any knowledge that didn’t exist within the company already. If only the managers asked the right people, whose expertise they were already paying for, then they wouldn’t need to spend exorbitant amounts on consultants. Pretty obvious, right?
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A duty to share knowledge

To some managers, knowledge is power and a lot of their power base is built by accumulating and hiding sources of information.

You can get hints of this all the time – you chat to someone and discover they were talking to this manager the other day and told them something important, but the manager never told you.  Or better still, just when you least expect it they produce some well hidden gem with a flourish as a winning play in an argument.
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Making enemies

Everyone makes enemies unintentionally.  Someone says something you strongly disagree with, you respond a bit too quickly and before you know it things have gone pear-shaped.

What I find much harder to understand is why some people go out of their way to make enemies.  In particular control freak managers.  These are, after all, generally risk-averse and rational people so why should they do something that seems to only cause problems?
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No competition allowed

It must be difficult for some managers.  They want to be seen as a great people leaders who help their staff grow and develop.  But at the same time they want to make sure that none of their staff ever look as good as them or even, heaven forbid, better than them.  Because if they did then that would be competition and as we all know, there can only be one boss.

This can prove a tricky balancing act.  What happens if, by some stroke of luck, the people management side actually works and a protege starts to grow and develop?  All of a sudden this has to be stopped.  But you can’t just say to someone “you are getting too good, please stop.” (or maybe you can?) so some other ways need to be tried.

Here are some common ways I’ve spotted:

  1. Don’t give credit where credit is due.  Either steal it and take the applause yourself, or supress it and act as if it never happened.
  2. Try to undermine the person’s confidence, perhaps by using a little white lie – “I’ve had some reports that you are showing off.”
  3. Give them an impossible job to do, one that is bound to fail.  There is always the risk that they might pull it off so best to give them one that they don’t know is doomed.  You could even talk it up a bit so they are excited at the prospect.  Suckers.
  4. Starve them of oxygen.  Don’t tell them the important facts they need to know and don’t pass on the things they think you are going to pass on.
  5. Finally there are the real dirty tricks – reorganise them out, move them sideways, take away their team and so.

Of course these managers could always continue to encourage their protege and delegate more things to do, freeing up some of their time to do better things.  But for some people that’s just too much like good teamwork for comfort.

You remind me of me

When it comes to recruitment there is the temptation to only employ someone in your own image.  Someone that thinks the same way you do, shares the same values, deals with problems in the same way and so on.  For some this is just more comfortable than employing someone different and being exposed to the unpredictable outcome.  After all, one person’s synergy of ideas is another person’s clash of opposites.

A proper control freak can take this one step further and not only employ people in their own image but also at an earlier point in their development – “You remind me of me when I was a …”.

That makes is so much easier to shape and control their staff.  It also maintains the feelings of superiority and lack of perceived competition that some managers need, to feel secure.

If you hadn’t guessed it already, I think this is plain wrong and a sign of real insecurity.  In the same way that we need bio-diversity to protect our environment, we also need idea-diversity, value-diversity, approach-diversity and so on.  It might be more of a handful but it is more productive, more rewarding and most of all, more human.

Your time to communicate starts now

Back when I worked in the bureaucracy of the public sector I came across a few managers who had an odd habit when it came to communicating important things.

Because it was important they wanted to communicate it in person, but they weren’t the kind of people who would just wander over to your office and tell you. Somehow they never quite felt comfortable enough with the informality of that. It was as though important news demands a certain solemnity in the way it is conveyed, almost a bit of a ritual.

So instead they waited until their next scheduled face to face meeting. Even if that was weeks away and even if the information was really, really important.

For some of them the problem was even worse. Their failure to communicate wasn’t just because they couldn’t be informal, but they had actually decided that doing everything on a planned schedule was the best way to do it! It wouldn’t matter how important the information was, they weren’t going to mention a word of it until Thursday because that’s when our next meeting was scheduled and they could prepare for the ‘solemn ritual of conveying important information’. Until then, they buried the information in their brain and wouldn’t even remember it until the alloted time.

I’m sure you can guess this drove me mad. I even started to nonchantly stroll past their office when I knew something was up and ask “heard anything interesting recently?”. Even with that prompt some of the buggers would still not tell me until the scheduled moment. Infuriating.