Employees’: The Best CEO Game Ever
Allen, I’d like to see you a week from Friday to discuss possible
directions for your future with the company,” I wrote in an e-mail to
I have big
plans for Miss Allen. Good plans. Raises. Promotions. But there was no
need to tell her that in the e-mail. I can save the good news for the
meeting itself. Besides, in truth, I could have called her into my
office at a moment’s notice and had this discussion. There was no need
to schedule it a week-and-a-half in advance.
So why did
I do so? Because that’s the only way to play one of the best CEO games
ever invented: Scare Your Employees.
Employees is great. It’s a fairly simple concept, but not always easy to
pull off convincingly.
employment status is a topic rife with possibilities. An employee’s
regularly scheduled review is a good opportunity for scaring, but you
can’t be stupid about it. You can tell them it’s time for their review,
and do so with a concerned look on your face. But if you’re going to go
that route, you can’t be scheduling it, say, three weeks in advance.
Anyone can figure out that if you’re going to fire or discipline them,
you’re not going to wait three weeks.
idea here is to move the review up a week or two, and tell them about it
maybe two days in advance. Just enough time to scare them and make
plausible that they are in some kind of trouble. (Besides, you don’t
want them worrying about it too long. That spells plummeting
productivity and resumes on the market. Have your fun but don’t draw it
out too long.)
about company finances works well too. You can call a company meeting
with a short memo that explains: “We’ll discuss what is needed from
everyone to maintain our financial prowess.” The key word here is
“prowess.” No one is really sure what it means. In certain uses, it is
clearly out of place. French military prowess. MSNBC’s ratings
prowess. But the context in which I used it here – what does it
mean? Super strength? Survival? No one will have the foggiest idea.
Now keep in
mind, an announcement like this will inspire a lot of whispering,
especially in the ladies’ room, where you’re not allowed to go, unless
you’re a lady. So call this meeting no more than two hours ahead of
time. You don’t want them freaking out any longer than that.
One of the
best ways to scare your employees simply involves your own behavior.
Nothing raises questions more than when the CEO starts acting weird.
(Granted, this one doesn’t work too well for me.) What would prompt
their speculation that you are a) about to sell the company; b) having a
mid-life crisis; c) losing your marbles; d) all of the above and more?
beard. Or shave the one you already have. Stop wearing a suit and start
wearing jeans. Or the opposite of that, as the case may be. Start
walking around talking on your cell phone, then nervously ending the
calls whenever one of them sees you. Constantly bring up some freaky
concept like “the company’s emotional balance quotient.”
notice. “Carleton is acting weird! What’s going on?”
indeed? Does Carleton have a mistress? Is he taking Tae Bo during those
long lunches? (That would explain the Billy Blanks poster that suddenly
showed up in Carleton’s office.)
it. As CEO, you have unlimited power. If you don’t use it to scare the
stuffing out of people and amuse yourself in the process, what good is
it to you? Obviously you want to play Scare Your Employees responsibly.
Take the gag too far, they’ll see through it right away. Play it too
convincingly, and for too long, and they’ll all freak out and quit.
the game requires skill, practice and dedication. A first-time Scare
Your Employees player can lose his or her entire fortune with a bad
performance. I suggest that you find a mentor who can help you do it
right before trying it yourself. CEO self-amusement is too crucial an
undertaking to be left to the uninitiated.
feedback on this column,
© 2006 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
This is Column # DFK58. Request permission to publish here.