If You Jam the Copier, Bolt
By Steve Altes
Published by Andrews McMeel, 2001
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
- 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
- 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
- Use action verbs in your résumé, like "demoralized," "bungled,"
- 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
- Strong-arm people into giving to the United Way, participating
in the company blood drive, and buying candy bars for your kid's
- 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
Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of Labor
If everyone in America followed his advice, we'd be a
Louis Gerstner, CEO, IBM
"It's Tom Peters meets Jack Handy ('Deep Thoughts')."
Kim Clark, Dean, Harvard Business School
"I'm going to expel anyone caught reading it."
Doris Altes, Steve's mom
"Look out Scott Adams--the business world has a new guru.
And his name is Steve Altes."
Conducting My Research
"Workplace? Why I've always thought of this place
as a free office supply store that serves coffee."
"Fetch me a rock. No, not that one. Fetch me another.
Now jump through this hoop."
"Sorry, boss. I guess I left the cap off the Liquid