Read D.F.'s bio and previous columns


January 14, 2008

Scare Your Employees With Meaningless Business Nonsense. It’s Fun!


One of the most disturbing questions to have to silently ask yourself in the work setting is this one:


“Should I know what that means?”


It is the bane of new employees, vendors who sold themselves as experts on your industry and general business know-it-alls everywhere. Here’s a demonstration.


“Bleeklebock, I want you to start applying the Incendiary Principles when you work on the Miller account.”


“Of course, D.F. I should use the Incendiary Principles.”


“Think of it as an example of Disinclineation. Apply the Incendiary Principles with Disinclineation in mind.”


“Got it, D.F. That’s what I’ll do.”


Five minutes later, when Google turns up no mention of Incendiary Principles or Disinclineation, Bleeklebock is in full panic mode. He grabs his cell phone and steps out in the hallway to call his friend Roger, who’s never heard of them either.


“You’d better ask him what they are,” Roger says.


“I can’t! I already acted like I know!”


Well. That was a gamble.


Now, do you want to know the best thing about being the CEO? You think it’s the big salary or the corner office. It’s not, although I’m giving neither up. It’s not even getting to make all the decisions. (After all, you have to live with those.) The best part of being the CEO is being able to amuse yourself scaring your employees. It’s fun. And nothing scares them more than when they think you expect them to know something and they don’t.


This makes for a good game. Here’s how it works. All you do is walk around using a phrase, expression or acronym that is utterly meaningless, but you use it in such a way that it appears anyone who doesn’t understand it will be hopelessly lost in the workplace.


For example: “We especially want to make sure we’ve hit budget before GKO. Get me a projection for how likely we are to hit budget before GKO.”


Your employees’ heads are filled with questions they don’t dare ask. “What the hell is GKO?” “When is GKO? What will happen if we don’t make budget before it? Am I supposed to know what that is?”


The funniest part is when you say it to a roomful of, say, four employees. Not only are they reluctant to ask you, but they’re just as nervous about asking each other. Each one thinks it’s possible that he or she is the only one who doesn’t know what GKO is. No one wants to be the first to admit to being clueless.


The casual tone in your voice is the key. If you make a big deal out of it, it will sound like you’re announcing some new concept. People will feel natural asking you to tell them more about it. So you don’t say:


“I just realized the key to everything! It’s Rescreameration!”


Now you’re just begging for questions. You need to be cool about it. So you casually mention during the staff meeting:


“Run it in hard copy. Have each page double-proofed. Then make sure you L.Q. it. After that I’ll initial it.”


Make sure there’s no eye contact when you say “L.Q. it,” or it will look too much like you’re trying to get noticed. Trust me. They’ll hear you.


Now, if you’re going to play gags like this on your employees, you have to plan for the likely consequences. If you need them to get a project done right away, you can’t afford to have them all on their cell phones trying to find someone who knows what L.Q. is. Or GKO. Or Rescreameration. Or Disinclineation. Or the Incendiary Principles.


You have to decide how long you’ll play it out before you tell them it was a gag. And of course, you have to plan for the possibility that they might be mad at you. If you want to avoid that one, I suggest you hire people with a sense of humor. If you can find any.


Now, if you’re a CEO or a management consultant reading this column, and you’re recoiling in horror at the thought of CEOs playing mind games with their employees, please note: I am not suggesting this is a brilliant business principle. I am merely suggesting an effective method of self-amusement.


You do what you think is best for your business. Just don’t forget to EHRW. I think you know what I mean.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column # DFK116.  Request permission to publish here.
Op-Ed Writers
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Gregory D. Lee
David B. Livingstone
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jamie Weinstein
Feature Writers
Mike Ball
Bob Batz
The Laughing Chef
David J. Pollay
Business Writers
Cindy Droog
D.F. Krause