Recently I wrote a piece about how to undermine your subordinates. It ended with a facetious comment about my forthcoming article on undermining your boss, which I had no plans ever to write. But I've had so many requests from readers (some of them obviously desperate) that I was compelled to write what you're about to read.
But I've learned my lesson, so here's a facetiousness warning: almost none of the following is serious.
The First Principle of Undermining Your Boss is: Don't Get Caught At It. No, wait, that's the Second Principle. The First principle is: Do Not Ever Do It. Ever. It should be obvious why not, but here's the reason: Your Boss Can Get or Already Has Much More Powerful Tools for Revenge Than You Do.
OK. Now we have that out of the way. Here's how to do it.
- There's only one reason to undermine your boss
- Some people hope they can get their bosses transferred or terminated, or even take over their boss's job. These outcomes are extremely unlikely, because every incompetent boss who somehow stays employed has a supervisor who wants it that way — or who is just as incompetent.
- Fixing things is a fantasy. The only reason to even try to undermine your boss is Ecstatic Enjoyment. Oh, and maybe sometimes Revenge.
- At the right time, do nothing
- When you notice something happening that you could help with, don't. Pretend you didn't notice it. Go to lunch. Whistle a merry tune.
- Of course, if your boss asks you to assist, that's completely different. But since your goal is undermining your boss, requests for assistance always present delicious possibilities.
- Get help from Human Resources
- When it comes to undermining your boss, HumanNothing juicy in Human Resources
is ever really confidential
for very long Resources can work magic. But they need a reason. Ask for a confidential counseling session. Confidentiality might seem to be counterproductive here, but remember: nothing juicy in Human Resources is ever really confidential for very long.
- In the session, ask in a solemn tone, "If someone knows of something unethical going on, are they obligated to report it?" Ignore the answer. It's asking the question that counts. If that doesn't get HR going, then ask, "If someone wants to report something unethical, how can I do that anonymously?"
- Be publicly supportive in useless ways
- In public, always support your boss. Since undermining is your actual goal, you don't want to be on the list of suspects when they try to figure out who could have said or done whatever was said or done.
- But don't go overboard. Don't actually do anything that would help. If your co-workers all hate you, then your public stance is working. You're safe. From your boss, that is — from your co-workers, maybe not.
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- Recent research into the effectiveness of brainstorming has raised some questions. Motivated to examine alternatives, I ran into speedstorming. Here's Part II of an exploration of the properties of speedstorming. Available here and by RSS on February 27.
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Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.