Corporate Cheat Sheet

Thanks to some key departures, the dreaded workplace social I had previously written about had slipped from my horizon. I was able to concentrate on earning as much money as possible, while doing the least amount of work possible.

But eventually even that became too easy. And what do you do when you’ve completed the game? You get a new game.

So as I depart for an unknown world, I leave you my top tips on surfing the corporate waves, advice that I wrote instead of doing my handover document.

How To Navigate The Corporate Landscape

1 Perception is key

Don’t just complain that you’re busy, complain that you wish you could do more. Constructive moaning is what separates you from those who are genuinely stretched.

‘I just wish I could give you more than 70 hours a week, Boss,’ you say, as you rush for the 3.55 train to a lovely riverside boozer.

2 Your calendar is an illusion

Fill this up with bullshit

In a society that prides itself on being busy, having a full diary is essential. You don’t have to go to the meetings but their presence in your calendar is a must. Spread yourself thinly from the outset. Get yourself invited to meetings that don’t even concern you. You won’t have to go to them but they’ll reoccur in your diary in perpetuity.

Put private appointments in there too, so when you asked to be somewhere, you’re flagged as busy and the task gets reallocated. There is always someone else who can pick it up. Make sure it’s not you.

A colleague of mine used to sit at home and watch the cricket after blocking a day of meetings in the calendar. When his manager would call for updates on how much rubbish he’d flogged, he’d jump in the car to make it sound like he was on the road between clients, when in reality he would be doing laps of his estate. This deception builds trust. And trust is capital to the pro slacker.

3 Don’t speak up

Part of the reason I’m leaving my job is that I got lured in by the bright lights of corporate super-stardom. I made the mistake of caring. Care is for loved ones, bookies and brewers. It is not for corporations. They can’t return love, unlike the aforementioned.

Those that keep their heads down, don’t speak up with anything proactive and agree with everything, will go far. If asked for your thoughts, say they’ve already been covered and compliment others on their ideas. If the idea you agreed with is failing, throw it under the bus via the person in the highest position and align yourself to them.

Avoid sinking ships by changing horses in a crisis, if that’s even possible in a nautical situation. We’ll never forget our friend Anonymous, who achieved immortality by saying: ‘That is my opinion. And if you don’t like it, I have others.’

4 Hangovers are the corporate sedative we all need

As stand-up, Doug Stanhope wisely told us:

‘Drink Sunday through Thursday. What do you need to do on Monday morning that you need to be alert and wide awake for? If you’re going to feel like shit tomorrow, do it on the company dime.’

Up a creek, something, something

This suggestion stuck with me throughout my working life. Live for the weekend, a weekend of daytime drinking, early nights and no hangovers. Go to work clammy, where your booze breath will put people off speaking to you. At the same time it cultivates a weird level of respect. Despite your heroic social life, you’re able to still pull yourself together and come into the office. Which, if you’ve completed the other steps carefully enough, will involve absolutely no work.

5 Emails are an excellent defence mechanism but don’t let them dictate your life

I read an article about how someone used their time commuting to answer their emails before they got to the office, in order to have a fresh start upon arrival. Why on earth you would work on your way to work to free up more time for work is beyond me. Keep those emails. Let them build up. Hopefully it’ll all be sorted by the time you get to them, but if not, it gives you something to look busy with to maintain the illusion.

In addition to the Deserter email tips, a handy little trick is to have an Out of Office message to hand, to send as a response to any emails you don’t want to answer immediately. Copy and Paste it and send it on. If you are required to include contact details for your absence, make sure they are baffling, with a period of the day left out, and the wrong phone number. Once you’re off the grid, nobody can touch you.

6 Appearing busy

While we’ve covered how to be electronically busy, you will need to appear physically busy too. Sitting at your desk with headphones isn’t going to cut it in the corporate world. There needs to be another level of covert shenanigans.

Sorry, wrong meeting

A good way of achieving this is to add more substance to those imaginary meetings you booked earlier. Walking around the office with your laptop under your arm lets people think you’re in-between meetings and probably busy. You could also ask people who sit near meeting rooms:

‘Pamela Anderson?’

‘Er, no. I’m Steve.’

‘Is this the Pamela Anderson Meeting Room or not? I’ve got Faux Knowledge Networks here at 10.’

Repeat this on every floor and before you know it, it’s lunchtime.

7 Learn the lingo

If you want to walk the walk, you’ve got to talk the talk. Learn the bullshit phrases that make you sound plausible to the corporate ear. Suggest that when you move forward, you want to highlight suggested actionables while you’re visioneering the future. And don’t forget to remain agile in the face of paradigm shifts, in order to gain traction. It’s all low hanging balls but the lingua franca of the business world is so bland and meaningless it actually helps you disappear.

Visioneer this

8 Lower expectations

If you’re struggling with some of these and you do end up actually having to do some work, make sure everyone knows it. The first step is to scale up the task at hand and make it sound near impossible to achieve. Remember to be as vague as possible, ensuring you don’t quote numbers as they will only be used against you later. In large corporates, the distance between the management who set the tasks and those that actually do them is so vast that you can make up anything and it will be believed.

Once you’ve sufficiently downplayed the probability of achieving the relatively simple task, you will be seen as a hero when you finally do it. Under-promise and over-deliver. You’ve completed something they had completely written off thanks to your ceaseless moaning.

Upon achieving the task, explain in the most convoluted way how it was done, the hoops you had to jump through and how long it took, thus building up the accomplishment even further. It is a fine line to tread, because you don’t want to be seen as a problem solver, or an enthusiastic go-getter, but you do want colleagues to wish you would just go away.

‘Honestly, the lengths I had to go to…’

9 A volunteer is someone who didn’t hear the question properly

Never volunteer for anything, not even corporate charity work. You are only balancing out the company conscience and it might even fool you into thinking you are doing some good by working for them, which is ridiculous.

On one forced charitable excursion, we were required to help fix up a garden. One lad in the group had the right idea, and stood on a rusty nail that went right through his foot. He was sent home with tetanus and a limp.

Corporations act to benefit themselves only. Otherwise they would be charities. But by all means, treat your corporation as if it were a charity. A charity set up to benefit you.


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Image credits: Main image and Calendar from free images. Flickr Meeting by Phil King and Jargon by Gavin Llewellyn used under this license. Contortion by Erin Costa used under this license.