If You Jam the Copier, Bolt

If You Jam the Copier, Bolt

By Steve Altes

Published by Andrews McMeel, 2001

If You Jam the Copier Bolt!

A second helping of bad advice.

Sequels reek, don't they?  Just as sure as embarrassment follows the company Christmas party, a best-selling management advice book will spawn a dreary, repetitive sequel—mostly just a repackaging of the first book. In Search of Excellence led to A Passion for Excellence. Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun begat Victory Secrets of Attila the Hun. A franchise is created and the unsuspecting book-buying public gobbles up anything the "guru" spews out, fresh insights or not. Great for the author's bank account, but not very helpful to the reader.

I would have none of this, so I threw out the existing bad business paradigms and started with a clean sheet of paper. I took new jobs and discovered fresh ways to drive my boss and coworkers crazy. You deserve no less. Four years and eleven jobs later, this book distills what I learned.

Tired of pretentious business advice books filled with obvious platitudes? These absurd maxims and office pranks are your antidote.


This is the part where I get filthy rich! Come on people, throw your money away!


  • When your boss asks what you've done today say, "Well, the pushpin brigade led by general glue-stik has crushed the paper clip uprising, but colonel white-out still won't surrender Fort Keyboard."
  • Create an angry workplace where unappreciated employees toil on soulless tasks for hostile bosses in hermetically-sealed buildings for slave wages.
  • Physical set-up is very important in negotiations. Arrange it so you sit in a high-backed, black leather chair, while your adversary sits in a tiny PlaySkool chair with sticky armrests facing the sun. Offer him apple juice in a sippie-cup and shout: "I AM THE ALPHA DOG! I AM THE ALPHA DOG!"
  • Schedule "Employee Appreciation Day" for November 31.
  • Networking: ask someone for their business card, then avoid all contact with them until you need a huge favor. "Hi Alan, it's me, Steve. We met at that trade show in '93. Well, enough chit-chat. Hire me?"
  • Call the Chief Financial Officer at home at 3:00 a.m. Tell him you just had a dream where a wise owl told you the company "could increase profits—who, who—if only you increased revenues and lowered expenses—who, who." Ask if he thinks there is anything to it.
  • Use action verbs in your résumé, like "demoralized," "bungled," and "wrecked."
  • Carry a folder labeled "My Grudge List" containing perceived injustices and slights committed against you by your colleagues. Carry it with you and review it often and conspicuously. Scribble in it furiously during performance reviews.
  • Use your desktop as an archive for long-term document storage, while your desk drawers function primarily as a repository for condiment packages.
  • Strong-arm people into giving to the United Way, participating in the company blood drive, and buying candy bars for your kid's soccer team.
  • Begin presentations with a joke. Self-deprecating humor is best. In fact, try to completely degrade yourself. Regale them for twenty minutes with jokes about your weight problem, hair loss, marital woes, and sexual inadequacies.
  • At the twilight of your life—on your deathbed in fact—the sentiment you are most likely to have is: "Why didn't I attend more business meetings? Now it's too late. Curse you, cruel fate! So much time spent with family, so few business meetings!"
  • Handle each piece of paper only once. If it is urgent, act on it immediately. If it is important but not urgent, file it for later. If it annoys you, set it on fire, toss it into the hallway and swear at it.
  • Conduct scientific experiments at work, like how much is "too much" coffee, how long can a glue stick survive the microwave, and how many sheets of paper does it take to permanently jam the three hole punch?
  • Show up late for an important meeting, burst into the room, grab the phone, dial a number, and blurt out, "It's me! It's me! Don't pay the ransom! I've escaped!"
  • When assigning boring tasks to your staff, inspire them with "A hundred years from now, it won't matter what your bank account was, what kind of house you lived in, or what kind of car you drove. But the world may be a little bit nicer because you took the time to scrape chewing gum off the parking lot."
  • Fast forward: your retirement day. Riding down the elevator with a colleague for the last time. He asks what the highlight of your career was. You stare at him for a moment, misty-eyed, then walk out muttering, "What a waste, what a waste!"

What People Aren't Saying About It

If everyone in America followed his advice, we'd be a banana republic.

Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of Labor

"It's Tom Peters meets Jack Handy ('Deep Thoughts')."

Louis Gerstner, CEO, IBM

"I'm going to expel anyone caught reading it."

Kim Clark, Dean, Harvard Business School

"Look out Scott Adams--the business world has a new guru. And his name is Steve Altes."

Doris Altes, Steve's mom

Conducting My Research

  • Busted:

    "Workplace? Why I've always thought of this place as a free office supply store that serves coffee."

  • Corporate Training:

    "Fetch me a rock. No, not that one. Fetch me another. Now jump through this hoop."

  • Staff Meeting:

    "Sorry, boss. I guess I left the cap off the Liquid Paper."