The Dark Manager Mind Meld

Ever want anything to be approved by the CEO without him approving it? Read on.

There's this situation where a presentation for investment required a decision from the boss, but it lacked crucial information. Behind the scenes however its highly important that this project goes on due to motives only known by the PM, so here goes.

Steps to mind meld
1) Casually chat up the boss on the topic, share with him the facts. It doesn't really matter that there will be no decision coming out of it.

2) Write an email to boss but cc. the rest of the approving bodies in the review board of such "discussion". Use words like "base on the discussion...". Note that "the" is indeterminate, and because there's folks in the cc, they'd figure that a decision was actually made by the boss. And when boss reads it, he thinks that the rest of the approving body has concurred.

3) Let the situation cool itself down, at least two weeks. The boss is typically so busy that he'll forget about the email anyway.

4) Present the case to another dept; in particular Procurement and cite that "the ceo" and Approving body has given the approval base on the email.

True enough, its probably not strong cause it requires the CEO's reply, but if you play your cards right, and phrase it convincing enough. The rest of the panel may just approve the activity.

If you're ever caught and got hauled into the CEO's office, insist that the CEO did approve from the conversation, and you wrote the email to him to confirm. Pretend that you're angered at his forgetfulness... and negotiate your case again.

But now with more facts on why the project is important. Sneakiest (Dumbest) trick i've ever seen...

Why it's successful?
-> You get precious air time from the boss...

The Halo Effect

If you're Caucasian, try working in Asia, folks will look at you like you're the personification of Zeus himself. Not that they know who's Zeus anyway, but you know what I mean.

The 80s have pretty much brainwashed Asians into believing that any mustached American is Magnum P.I. and any white haired older gentleman as John Hannibal Smith from the A-Team.

The 60s and 70s were worst, older Asians think of you as either the six million dollar man, Bruce Banner (if you're smart) or Vic Morrow playing Sergeant Saunders in Combat.

Where as those who remembers the 40s and 50s grew up as secretaries or drivers to white westerners holding positions as regional or banking officers. Needless to say, they carry a position of immense power. Well; relative to the Asian, but for all you know he was probably shipped to the West Indies for being caught shagging the Duke's daughter.

The Halo effect, more importantly, persona and the voice of Power by virtue of an accent still affects deeply the psyche of a plain Asian. So here's how you take advantage of it:-

  • Always bring a westerner along to any meeting where a Top Asian needs to make decision from a proposal. All the westerner needs to say is "I propose such and such..." and it typically gets endorsed. Never mind that the proposal has been submitted 3x previously.
  • For better effect, bring an older Westerner, who's taller than 5 Eleven, the taller the better.
  • For more impact, throw in an obscure accent. Well; in any case, American and British accents are getting all too common. The flavour of the month is either Australian or European for general IT.
  • Afrikaan will do as well. Especially after the movie Blood Diamond and oddly enough in the Supply Chain and logistics line.
  • Scottish and Irish accents works well in Shipping and Oil Drilling business.
  • American works best in consulting
  • British for insulting
  • German for Enterprise Resource Planning systems (specific field in IT)
  • Russian, if you need to display statistical numbers. (even if it's just a mean or common Arithmetic) -> Fyi, Most Dark Managers can't count...
  • Finally, nothing beats a hot looking full chested tall blond wearing a shirt (jacket optional). There's just something about shirt buttons and wholesome mammary glands.

Dark Managers don't want to know the Problem

Logic states that if you know the problem its a good start for you to figure out the solution. Unfortunately, dark manager's want the solution immediately.

My personal pet peeve is when any attempts in explaining the root cause is often interrupted with a stern...

"I don't care, I want the solution!"

Which the subordinate will immediately reply,

"I'm sorry, but we don't have one"

In which the Dark Manager will ask, "Why..?"

and the routine rotates itself ad infinitum because he/she will just interrupt the engineer anyway... this chicken an egg solution is further exacerbated when the Dark Manager pops up behind the engineer every 5 mins, and yells...

"What's the problem? Is the server up yet!?"

Q&A: Have you met a Racist Bastard Dark Manager?

Asked Fred from San Francisco, well Fred; from where I've been, I haven't met any racist bastards, only bastard managers.

Race, is a tool for control, it allows the Dark Manager to create a "we" and "them" scenario. Its essentially like sports where we take sides. One minute we're friends, another, we're mauling at each other because we're on the other side of the field.

It also allows the creation of an "inner circle" for the Dark Manager

Short Term Dark Management

IMHO, short haul employment is pretty much 1-2 years. Within this period, the goal for success is in framing yourself for your next employer. With Dark Management principles deeply rooted, you need to succeed by all means possible, and time it such that you can leave the organization without too much collateral damage. Both to your reputation and the people that you interact with.

Sweep any unfinished tasks under the carpet
Someone else will inherit your problem anyway, so don’t fret.

Focus on the main goals, if your task is to deploy 10,000 users with SAP, then just focus on that. It does not matter that the users are screaming foul on the lack of training and change management. What you need to do is just concentrate on your key stakeholders as explained in “Managing Up while Shitting Down”.

Because the majority of managers are dark by nature, most of the peons will not have access let alone gripe to the CEO. What’s more, middle management has been forced fed to dilute all reports when addressing up anyway. For example:-

Truth: 9 out of 10 users, do not know how to use SAP upon deployment.
Report: We are 1 month away to complete user training (preferably a date where you’ve already left the company)

Truth: There’s 5,000 incidents and growing on system bugs.
Report: There are 5,000 “requests” due to enthusiastic users working on the new systems.

Truth: The Version Control system lies under the table of one developer and the power supply get’s dislodged periodically by his restless feet.
Report: we have a top notch version control system with Disaster Recovery built in.

Truth: We have a Sharepoint 2000 environment with 90% of all enterprise applications and another Sharepoint 2007.
Report: we have a Sharepoint 2007 farm and it'll be real easy for us to migrate to Sharepoint 2010

Here’s the kicker; nobody wants to report bad news because somehow, Dark Managers label bad news bearer as “whiners” (see Whiner Wanker), and your opponents won't be able to move the news upwards. True, your peers will bitch among themselves, but they won't have the gumption to do anything more than that.

Target one major project that allows you to work with a major Vendor.
In this example, SAP; ensure that the SAP Project Director is well managed. A lot of Dark Managers make the mistake of squeezing the vendors because they want to divert blame to another party; leaving the vendors to hang on most project blunders. But for the short term- that’s a huge foobar!

Your goal is to pucker up and smooch your way up the SAP hierarchy and make one heck of an impression to their brass. If you've done it right, you will be hired once the project ends.

With a short term employment approach, you need to shift all blame to “God” or the “User”.

Vet through & Re-word Risk Management documents.
To shift the blame to God, Risk Management documents have to be as vague as possible. Where the situation is something that cannot be mitigated unless management spends 3x more money compared to the project at hand. When the documents are endorsed by the Risk Committee, roughly verbalize the actual risks but never put it down in writing. That way, the Risk Management Community will be absolved of their duties when risks becomes issues. Everyone will exclaim ignorance but Governance would have captured that "due process" has been adhered to and no one needs to be blamed.

When magic hour happens, your risk document will be endorsed regardless.

Magic Hour
This item deserves a blog entry of its own. So I’ll summarize it as the act of ignoring all risks and in order for the project to kick off ASAP. This happens when the board of directors or Chairman requests for a USD100mil system with 20,000 man days worth of effort, developed by Q4 and today’s the first working day after Q2. Typically the commitment will be agreed upon by the CEO because they're born and bred wankers... especially CEO's that works for organization that they do not form and own)

You get to be cruel to your peers
Principally; through the act of back stabbing your peers via the Vendors to the CEO. You’ll gain even more brownie points when you slam your own peers for works that directly impact the status of the project in front of the vendor. This requires timing and orchestration of meetings.


So, here’s the best part about the Short haul approach to Dark Management success. The vendors will actually value you as a consummate executor. It’s one of the most devious ways to climb up the corporate ladder. Use it when you're in a small organization where losers abound with no hope of moving out. It works well when there's a ton of Dark Managers working for the long haul (more on this later)

Unfortunately, once you’re at the top, it’s hard to maintain that position because you won’t have many supporters that you can depend on.

That’s where you need to employ Advanced Dark Management skills… another lesson, another day.

Selecting Projects - Big and Bad Ass

There’s a number of ways to padding up your resume as a Dark Manager. The easiest is from the projects that you've ran; and strategic selection of these projects is an art in itself.

By strategic; your goal is to wring the most amount of money from upper management or your customer before you would even accept it. For example, if it’s a Document Management System, your first task is to justify several million dollars worth of hardware include Information Lifecycle Management tools from EMC and Hierarchical Storage Management add-ons.

It’s all about injecting fear into the stakeholders, and projecting "what if" scenarios that culminates into the birth of the Anti-Christ.

Anyway, here are several things that I stay away from with a 10 feet pole.

Do something for free.
Free means you, absorbing all the risks and the customer as well as management gaining all the benefits. It’s true that you’ll gain brownie points but it creates precedence, and more work will come your way.

Ask the team to research for freeware or Linux, Apache PHP based applications
This directly translates to a resume that says USD5,000.00 on a project sheet when instead it could have been worth USD5mil. Remember, it’s all about image and pretence. It does not matter that all the money is on hardware but the fact is, you ran it.

Tai Chi away easy big value Projects
There’s nothing like a sweet multimillion dollar projects that’ll make you look good – on paper. It doesn’t matter whether it becomes a white elephant; the fact is, you ran it. I know it’s the opposite of what I’ve been saying about ‘Tai Chi’ing away projects, the trick is, to take on projects if you’re in it for the short run, but to move away from it you’re on for the long haul.

In summary, you'd want to take on easy projects that could have been done over the weekend, and blow it up into a 7 or 8 digit figure assignment - cool huh! :)

The Female Dark Manager

Some may find this sexist, but Dark Management knows not gender and the explanations provided can be used for either sexes; however, the Serengeti of Management is vast and once in a many moons arise female Dark Managers that stand out like a beacon in the savanna.

Bred by years of mongrel bitchiness the female dark manager exudes acrid egomaniacal obsession with control. Power is used to its absolute and no one may stand in the dark queen’s way.

Melodramatic...; absolutely, because melodrama is her middle name. The following are the prerequisite to being a female dark manager.

Use emotions and voice control to the fullest
There’s nothing like a loud voice to quell all manner of dissension. Shout and scream if you must. Remember to be wide eyed and flail about for emphasis.

Never allow anyone to cut you off or finish your sentences
Strike them down where they stand.

Cut everyone off, especially if their explanations get windy and wordy
You know, the type that asks a second question before you could finish with the answer...

Focus, focus focus – On 'your' train of thought.
Never allow the person to verve away from your topic of questioning, bring them back, raise your voice if you must but bring them back. Make them see what you see.

Accuse, Abuse & Refuse
Upon assessing the facts shrewdly, jump immediately into acrid accusations. Abuse their emotions, put them off their track and rightfully refuse any appeals and justifications. You are always right!

Logic is your best friend
Train very well on this, as it takes a sharp mind use this technique.
A perfect example of a female dark manager character trait -> Judge Judy :-

Pretty... Useless

I posted an entry earlier about how dark managers could just hire any pretty face as long as they can talk to manage customers.

We'll here's proof that a pretty face can only get you so far...

Wankers, Whiners & Trollers

The thing about management which I still find it hard to stomach is the overarching worship of the Peter Principle, to ad lib; people tend to get promoted to their next level of incompetence.

Naturally, being in Management, in particular IT management means that the person will be inundated with brainless bureaucracy and the act of covering ass, tai chi and such that he will be so far behind technology, incompetence becomes second nature to them. To compensate for this testicle lobbing experience the Dark Manager goes through a transformation.

The metamorphosis from a competent task executor, into a wanker.

Wankers are folks that live in the past, reminiscing glory days and how much tougher things were back then. I trust that most if not all of you have met managers that somehow swoop in a technical discussion and supply experiences (most of it unwanted) on how disaster recovery meant dislodging the 35 pound hard drive from the mainframe and hauling it to the DR site. Or how they use to write in assembly yada, yada yada…

The self gratifying act or rather “expansive” notion of falsely inflating their egos, not achieving anything, while feeling good about it is similar to wanking, hence the given name.

The act of “wanking” also kicks in whenever the Dark Manager receives suggestions which he/she perceives as territorial encroachment. E.g a Software Manager telling a Infrastructure
Manager that the applications need more RAM, leading to the Infrastructure Manager wanking furiously.

Whiners are managers that complain about what they “do not have” in order for them to get the job done right. But the moment someone else does it, they transmogrify into a wanker; along the lines of how he would have done it better.

Whiners don’t climb high up the leadership ladder as upper management eschews bad news; which indirectly makes them responsible to follow up on the status of the events. ( Remember selective amnesia) Dark Managers would rather not know that there is a problem, and prefers to a have a group sigh of:-

“WTF! Why did this happen, no one told me about this?”

Another characteristic of whiners are their lack of impetus to resign even after all the whining. Their tasks revolve along funneling responsibilities upwards while pushing tasks downwards.

These are overgrown wankers, the worst of the lot, typically appearing in general public to put down another manager for their achievements. If the project is successful, you troll about how many people resigned in the process. If it meets the dateline, you troll on the lack of quality assurance and adherence to standards. You get the general idea.

Whiner Wanker Complex
To summarize, you wank when someone else is shoveling the manure and you whine when assigned the shovel - Short of performing Tai Chi, and alas; Trolling.

Presentation & Powerpoint

Presentation skills are one of the most important capabilities for a Dark Manager. You have Guy Kawasaki spewing the 10/20/30 rule. Clearly specifying that a presentation slide should typically be not more than 10 slides long, last no more than 20 minutes and have fonts no smaller than 30.

Then again, through horrendously bad presentation meetings, you have this. The clip below summarizes presentation hells that I go through on a daily basis.

Or as Ram Charan says it, if you have to put your points across via Powerpoint there’s something fundamentally wrong with your communication skills. Quite obvious considering the amount of lies a Dark Manager hides and having the viewer look at the slides avoids them from figuring you out through Neuro-linguistic Training your eye movements and body posture.

I’ve also personally attended training on presentation which teaches synchronicity in hand movements and speech, and the rule of not making analogous movements or in layman’s terms, moving your hands and arms the same way every time you come to a point.
And then you have this, a classic example of overdoing hand movements.

Anyhow, practice enough and you’ll be able to lie through your teeth without flinching.

Surviving Nepocronyism

At the risk of creating an obscene neologism, the term Nepocronyism will be used throughout the article. Essentially, the practice of both Nepotism and Cronyism within the organization; I mean, it won’t be the first time that Uncle Bob’s nephew brings in one of his frat bros into the company and it won’t be the last time that the nephew squanders half the asset and still be chairman when Uncle Bob kicks the bucket.

It’s also quite the curiosity to note that Nepocronyism sounds a wee bit like Necropolis, the world of the dead in Greek mythology. Which directly translates to the career of most people in the organization, unless of course; you’re “in the family”.

My pet peeves with organizations that are blatantly Nepocronyistic is how they produce vision statements that are misleading, e.g.

“We are an organization of giants where every personnel will be given equal opportunity for success”.


“We stand by an egalitarian and democratic process of advancement”.

For some strange reasons, the Dark Managers in these organizations just can’t bear the bad press of calling the company XYZ & Sons or XYZ and Co. I mean, the biggest organizations in the world are Nepotistic by nature, and for extremely valid reasons -> it’s a family run business. Look at IBM (the first bunch of decades), Bankcroft Family's Dow Jones, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, Sam Walton and Walmart etc.

As a Dark Manager, you have all the reasons to practice Cronyism. At the end of the day, it’s about who you can really trust in the company. With all the bad karma that you’ve been gathering, you’ll need the frat brother that shared a whore with you during sophomore. Heck, you still have pictures in case he runs out of line.

So here are a few hints on how to survive Nepocronism, in the event that the cards don’t play to your favour.

  • Drop names when you’re talking to a head honcho, like, “I was classmates with Barrack Obama in Indonesia”. Barack sounds like “berak” which means “to take a dump” in Indonesian, so make up a number of anecdotes about how you use to stand up for Obama when he was still a scrawny big eared kid and that you guys still keep in touch.

    Dropping names do wonders as it elevates your social status without having to prove anything.

  • Be chummy with them (Yes, you’ll have to go through an initiation of sorts)
    Be very careful with this advice, as it potentially means turning yourself into their servant dog and running errands. Being a blue blood all these years has helped them identify willing gophers. So be careful not to seem too obsequious. Secondly, you’ll have to shell out quite a fair bit of money to join in their leisure activities.

  • Marry into them
    Pick the ugliest cousin and suck in your dignity. I need not go into details.

  • Quit
    At the end of the day, if it’s really too hard and your manhood or womanhood just can’t stomach it, find yourself another company.
Better yet, start one with your friends, funded by your dad or a rich uncle’s money.

Managing Up while Shitting Down (Pun intended)

There’s a management afterthought known as the 80/20 rule. Some call it the Pareto Principle, I call it making excuses for not doing 80% of the work, by kissing up to the 20% of the customer group that are known as Platinum Customers.

What are Platinum Customers?
Within the scheme of managing and to an abominably lesser extent, leading an organization; platinum customers are the dark manager’s pot of gold – the key stakeholders. I’ve seen murder being excused when the dark manager is able to address the needs of the higher ups while ignoring the peons.

There was this project where the structure stood like the tomb of Ramses, a darn pyramid. The implementation involved 20,000 people, while the VIPs aka Platinum customers consists of only 200 odd individuals that happen to use old frigid female employees to manage their time. Something tells me it’s the psychological substitute of their wives, except they get to order them around.

Managing Upwards?
In summary, scramble when you’re summoned, always send your best looking staff to see the customers (see Image) and if the peons are getting a cheese burger value meal, platinum customers receive a super sized three quarter pounder with three helpings of cheese, extra fries and an extra large cup of Coke. Oh, and ice cream is on the house.

I have managers that swear by hiring at least 1 or 2 skimpily dressed ladies (which are quite pleasing to look at I might add). While the men that function within this purpose needs to be clean cut as well. There’s one trend that I noticed though, they rarely hire men who are taller than they are. Signs of a bruised ego perhaps…? Fundamentally, signs of a dark manager…

Secondly, hire someone with a British or Australian accent, Afrikaan works as well but they end up sounding like an Indian, so stick to the more esoterically pleasing ones. Men simply cools down when sizeable boobies and dainty eyes flutter at them. Scratch the English, no one pays attention anyway.

Finally, there’s nothing like a gift basket at the end of the implementation to thank them for all the time that they’ve spent allowing you to serve them; short of saying…
“I’m not worthy…”

Shitting Downwards
Shitting downwards is the antithesis of managing upwards; you treat your resources like the minions that they are. Even if a Platinum customer calls at 10:00pm, someone better be ready to pucker up for you to gain the resulting brownie points.

What happens to the peons, the everyday Joe customer?
  • Never promise anything to them in writing.
  • All promises are verbal
  • If they caught a lie, send in the Ken and Barbies
  • Maintain scarcity, i.e. ignore their emails, ignore their phone calls, but when they see you, always get ready with a punch line or two that cracks them up, but excuse yourself the moment things get serious. This works practically every time. The customer will look flustered, but he’s typically calmer as he just had a good laugh.

The take away, the Dark Manager has no shame, and borders between a comedian, orator, public relations officer, and would not think twice to get down on his knees to please…

Hiring & Psychometric Tests

See also related article on psychometrics:

I’d like to consider hiring as the inclusion of individuals which complement weaknesses and enhance the strengths of the organization. It’s a combination of psychological profiling (attitude), private investigation (background check) and skill fit.

We are also thought that Human Resources should be the strategic partner for each department and possess the know how and execution ability to provide professional career development as well as the creation of an “engaged” workforce. Engaged, as purported in the Gallup Corporation’s Q12 series of questionnaires.

Sadly, I’ve seen many organizations degenerate Human Resources into purely administrative duties that could easily be automated or outsourced away. Simple items like payroll, leaves, recruitment approvals, kpi reporting and training manifests still consume considerable amount of manual processing & tracking. They don’t even know who to promote, what’s the quantum of promotion let alone the skills to differentiate a SAP consultant from an office administrator.

The dumbest thing that I’ve ever heard was during a recent reorganization where HR issued their improvement plans on Recruitment Service Levels (note that previously, we had none):-

“Hiring service level is 6 months; however resignation notification period will still be 3 months”, smugly; as the HR Manager twiddled her pinky figure while adjusting her glasses. The whites of her eyes showing as she struggled to see beyond the horizons of the spectacle’s rim.

Psychological Profile
I guess some of you would have heard of psych profiling tools like Myers-Briggs, PAPI, Enneagram, the Johari window and such. The problem to me is that these tools are used to create prejudices prior to the actual interview.

“Damn, he’s a slacker, look at the score for expediency!” exclaimed the happy recruitment manager. (Till this day, I haven't the faintest idea why people find it amusing to find a slacker through tests that are conducted over a series of inane questions in the league of “what would you do if you see your uncle shagging a sheep?”)

Honestly, I’d recommend that you put aside the assessment results and proceed with an open mind. For the sake of humanity, you should at least greet the person without any predilections as to whether he’ll squeeze your hand, or treat it like a dead fish. It’s like assuming all fat people are lazy and cutting interviews short for ugly people. Seriously! It’s hard enough to cure xenophobia; we don’t need a tool that exacerbates our natural inclination to judge.

A better approach would consist of having the interviewee sit for the test, and hide the results from the interviewer until the interview is over. Go through your own interview questions plus a series of standard ones which walk through the quadrants of the psychometric assessment. Once you’ve gone through the questioning should you then begin to review the actual results for verification; and interview the candidate again for confirmation.

You are not only able to reinforce the line of questioning and gauge whether the guy is a wanker or a whiner (more on that later), you would eventually hone your individual assessment over the assessment provided by the test. Which brings me to the point, its only a machine, formed though statistical correlation of a sizeable interview set and presented to you as mere juxtaposition of the statistical sampling.

One thing that time has thought me about the nature of human character, there’s always exceptions and aberrations, a black swan if you may.

Worst, not only are we not able to feedback whether the coined machine assessment is accurate, some even swears by the tests and target the weak points like an Indonesian wife assaulting her husband over his Chinese mistress. (See what I mean about sounding like a racist)

Then there are the dark organizations that spend an inordinate amount of money on these tools, but fail to train any of the recruiting managers on how to interpret the results. The candidate takes the test, the interviewers look at them, and decide based on a hunch or how good looking and well of a speaker the person is. You staple the results with your assessment and no one gives a hoot about the test in the first place.

Heck, I’d be laughing to the bank if I have HR clients from those companies.
How does this relate to you, a dark manager? Easy, you want a candidate that’s pliable, prone to be stretched beyond his breaking point and brainlessly executing any desire while accepting all the blame for the failures.

A dark manager once told me that, breaking in a new hire is like how mother earth breaks down carbon into diamonds. I don’t know about you, but there’s dumb, and then there’s dark management meeting megalomania -> Disaster waiting to happen.

Death by Meetings

We either have too many meetings, or too few of them. Some may think that quantity means quality but I like to err on the side of succinctness and that less is more. Although meetings are a bane to the proletariat working class, it is the best place for a dark manager to be. It is a communion of thoughts, a socialist movement to delegate work; and ensures the righteous organization moves toward the direction that it intended to.

Typically a meeting has the following items:-

  • Objective - What you want to get out of the meeting.
    In which case, it should be a desired “result”. A problem that needs to be solved etc.
  • Agenda
    Items to be discussed, could be informational, could be status update or it could be action based with an owner.
  • The Next Meeting
    Place, Time, who’s the next minute taker and such

However, within the organization that’s rife with artful managers, the meetings will devolve into the following action items:-

  • Be the first person to scream about a potential problem caused by the success of another manager or department. Whine as bad as you can about the looming catastrophe and gargantuan mistake of deploying that product. Especially if it requires effort from your team.
    • If it eats up bandwidth, over report how loaded the network is right now
    • If it is a recommended upgrade to an existing system that you’re running, under report the daily statistics such that the upgrade is unnecessary.
  • Try not to get to the point; the preamble alone should raise 9 other seemingly related issues that need to be resolved before your issue can be addressed.
  • Focus on gathering status updates that do not bring value. E.g. the project is currently 1.2% complete compared to 1.1% yesterday.
  • Invite every single team member, in the hope that everyone gets updated about the meeting. Somehow the chair person swears against online collaboration portals. Because, he believes that information should be hard to get, the moment its easy, people will ignore it. Alas, hard copy is the way to go.
  • Have each person provide a status update, making sure that its long, detailed and have everyone else wait their turn; even though the first 90 minutes of the meeting do not involve them at all.
  • Complain about the bad grammar of the minutes
  • Complain about why it’s highly important to have a logo and page number for the minutes
  • Have these meetings on a daily basis as it’s the best way to block your calendar from addressing to more pressing issues
  • Invite junior personnel so that you can embarrass them with harsh words and put downs for a small mistake that the guy did. It’s known as a power move and shows off your bravado and insistence on discipline within your team.
  • Last but not least, raise more menial issues that hide major problems, the meeting will not be a dark management success unless you come out of it with 100% more agendas.

2 weeks on the Job, inflicted by Selective Amnesia and the making of a Dark Padawan

40 hours a week, 80 hours into the job; there’s bound to be a management instruction (from you) causing outages or impact to the customer. Compounded by your desire and haste to win brownie points from the CEO and “Platinum Level Customers”, the order was executed without proper change management procedures or fall back plans.

Principles of Selective Amnesia

  • Never leave any written proof of your instructions.
    That means no instructions over email. It should always be verbally communicated. Email and sms is one sure way of being reminded of the instructions which you have conveniently repressed.
  • While explaining the situation. Never provide instruction details
    Keep it high level, with a solid, almost impossible dateline. I want the VP to have the new spanking Outlook/Exchange email by lunch (This is after the team has spent 32 hours hacking the smtp file to setup the exchange server in the first place).
  • When shit happens, start the interrogation first; practice this hard as you need to be an Oscar level actor
    Look at your no.1 guy straight in the eye and ask him calmly.

    “Do you know anything about the exchange server going down during lunch time?”, in which case, the ever zealous newbie will reply,

“yeah… we tried to provide email to the VP …” and your stoic answer would be an almost awed and surprised.

“Oh (eyes wide, mouth opened), I didn’t even know about that, this shall be investigated (squeeze your brows together) and we’ll have to report the person that did this to the CEO”. A short, snappy and stern display of amnesia.

The colour of your staff will turn pale now, and at the slightest hint of indignation or a comeback, quickly exit the conversation. But not before sneaking in

“Prepare a report for me and we’ll see the CEO together”

Here’s the takeaway, your staff will potentially be pretty pissed cause you’re the one that issued the instructions, however, he can’t do anything, as by admitting the act, he’ll stand out as the perpetrator.

The duality of the situation will be so divisive that eventually, the answer in the report will be a story about how the server suddenly reboots itself before the team could even do anything.

Alas, you have created a disciple, truly, one who is capable of beguiling himself and you of the real incident. Indeed, you are one step closer to become a Dark Management Master.

Tai Chi - The Ultimate Master's Weapon

Tai chi focuses on deflecting your opponent’s energy and using it against them. At the same token the Dark Manager must quickly learn the art of deflecting all forms of work that do not directly contribute to his/her KPI or; that which benefits the requestor. More importantly, deflecting all work that will move responsibility for service up time and customer satisfaction to you! (extremely important advice, they'll be another section on risk & customer satisfaction)

Just the other day we had a problem that can only be resolved by 3 parties, the network team, the infrastructure team and the software support team; each of these departments are rife with bureaucracies; the dark master’s ultimate weapon in the event that it falls on your lap. (More on that here)

Anyway, you’re first act as a Dark Master is to quickly take ownership as the person that will report to the CEO and the customer the progress of the assignment. That way, you’ll be able to control all information flow, and use that as a noose for the rest of the team to complete the task. Secondly, all that reporting, takes so much time, you just no longer have the bandwidth to do the actual work (A good excuse). Provided of course, they are responsible enough to do the work as intended. If you’re faced with fellow Dark Managers, you’re up for a challenge of wits, cloak and dagger politics and yes, a session of Tai Chi.

First, you draw clearly defined boxes that specify your area of responsibilities; the goal of tai chi in work assignments is to push the proverbial ball (work), into an area that does not belong to anyone. Excuses that you can use are:-
  • Sorry, that's not my area
    Use this as a last resort, as it does not reflect well upon you. e.g. you're already up the hill, have nothing to lose, and work in an organization that can't fire you.

  • I don’t know how to do it.
    As stupid as this may sound, but most dark managers get away with this. Because the ardent requestor will be so cheezed, he'll end up doing it for you.

  • This is new, my team needs more training (A variant of I do not know how)
    Asking for training is a little bit better, it buys time, and keeps the ball in play longer before you have to kick it. The Tai Chi technique used here, is to ask the requestor to arrange for the proper training, as you can always claim ignorance.

  • Mr. X knows best, although he’s not in my team, he knows how to do it. But my team will be there to support him
    The best approach, ensures that the ball is in another manager’s court, but shows that you are supportive.
Sure enough, the dateline looms and everyone will suddenly scramble as if their life depends on it. The CEO calls for a meeting, and the strategy now turns in Wong Fei Hung’s shadowless kick. All the managers will claim that they’ve done Z amount of effort but to no avail, as there’s so many more dependencies, and best practices to follow before the actual work can be done. Forms needs to be signed, security personnel needs to be involved, if we move without permission, the team will somehow be chastised for not thinking things through. (Hint, dropping a 4th person that has nothing to do with the project is always a good way of stalling and distributing the responsibility further)

Your Best Friend is a Solid Dateline
Secondly, a solid dateline is a Dark Manager's best friend, once you've crossed that boundary the members responsible will immediately switch to this excuse:-

"Oh... it's too dangerous to do anything now, we just need to ride the storm. If we do anything now we risk prolonged downtime that will piss off the customer", this logic is so completely flawed, that it's believable. Trust me on this.

Your buddy Bureaucracy
In the event that it is clearly identified that YOU are responsible, think a little deeper and there’s bound to be bureaucratic stop blocks to ensure that the task gets delayed for at least another 1 or 2 months.

For example, if the request is for an IP Address, make sure you route the requestor to the “Forms Administrator” to issue Form 31A-B, as Form 31A-C is for an external network iP address, not an internal network. Bereuacracy is best when there's no guidelines on which forms to use.

As a Management Committee, your objective as fellow Dark Managers is to ensure mindless compliance to procedures and breaking down of tasks to as many mindless zombies as possible. The mantra is – if ain’t broken, there’s no need to hurry - If it’s broken, it’s not your fault, as it’s not in your court yet -> It’s still the requestor’s problem to answer for it.

Oh by the way, it’s a request for server capacity upgrade for a software application that includes both servers and networks…

Your First Day as a Dark Manager

"Seagull Manager - A manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything, and then leaves." E.g. Fred never accomplishes anything. All he does is come in here every now and then, complain about deadlines, puts more work on us, then goes back to surfing the web. He's such a seagull manager ~ Urban Dictionary

If you're a good manager, you'd want to get to know the people first. Understand their personalities; and put them where they perform best. Hear them out as they provide you with a series of improvements that they'd like you to bring forward now that you're the boss. Since you've decided to be on the dark side, you first order of business however; is to fly in.

First Day Principle 1 - Make yourself look good.
Essentially, you'd want your predecessor to look so bad the CEO will give you an increment before the month is over. So flying in means immediately targeting the no.1 KPI that will make you a Godsend. From this point onwards, I’d like to introduce you to an IT Support Manager that has a triple black belt in the Dark Arts; and while we’re at it, let’s move on to Principle 2.

First Day Principle 2 – Make the Team Focus on your Goal (even if it’s stupid...)
The IT Support Manager achieved this by having the team provide incident status reports 4 times a day (9am, 1230pm, 3pm & 5pm) The idea is to ground in a sense of “creative urgency”, making them sweat as they pay homage to you in the form of these reports. Secondly, it doesn’t matter if the reports eat into the time that could have been used to close the incidents. If they do complain, always quote something like “You can’t improve what you can’t measure”.

First Day Principle 3 – Keep the Team Busy
Before long, the team would have figured out an automated way of providing the report. Unfortunately, that’s not what you want. You want the team to be in state of perpetual disarray and to live and breathe the incidents. For example, if they’ve come up with a website, tell them to port it to Excel and print it out in hardcopy. Once they’ve done it in Excel, make them do it Word, with headers, company logo and all. One more thing, make sure it comes with a Power point presentation as well. You never know when you’ll need to present the spiffy reports to the CEO.

First Day Principle 4 – If there’s really a Problem, Hide it.
So now that the team is focusing on making the Manager look good. The incidents pile up further, by virtue of having the data in the reports and factoring that the team is only 10 men strong; there’s just no possible way to close 2067 incidents within the day. So you do what comes naturally; instruct the team to issue a SQL statement that will close all incidents from the backend.

First Day Principle 5 – Pick the Best Team Member, and load him up with the most amount of work.
Naturally, he’s the one that will be running the SQL Statement too. In the event that users start to balk and escalate to upper management that there’s unlawful closure of incidents; always claim amnesia (Another topic). Anyhow, the best person should always receive the most amount of work because you can only trust 1 person at most. It keeps the manager from having to remember too many names and phone book entries are a scarcity after all. More importantly, human nature dictates that not all 2067 will call back to reopen the case, if you’re lucky only 30% will.

First Day Principle 6 – Explain to your no.1 man, Principle 1.
There’s nothing like a good 1 on 1 session to drive home the point that an employee’s role is to make the boss look good. It’s what we call bonding with the new boss.

Now that you have team in motion, more productive than it has ever been, you should go home at 5pm sharp. Lastly, make it a habit to send a sms at 8pm for the 5th report, just to test the team.

Image to the Dark Practitioner

Image is everything to the dark practitioner. You have to look the act and talk the walk. Here's a few items in your cheat sheet.

The Look & Demeanor
  • Wear a shirt with a cuffling if you're a man (no cheap plastic ones). For a lady always wear a power suit. Get a proper heavy silk tie, and make sure you change them daily. Don't wear the same tie twice a week.
  • Never ever wear a short sleeve shirt unless you have burly hairy arms with a righteous scar on it.
  • Keep your shoes cleaned, preferably shiny.
  • Speak with even tones but place emphasis on key words. Manage a baritone.
  • Make no sudden jerky movements, walk and move your hands with deliberate slowness. If even if you need to be in a hurry, space out your steps, but don't walk too fast that it's jerky. Think soar like an eagle.
  • Wear a noticeable watch, its a good subject matter.
  • Don't keep items in your pockets, especially in your pants as the bulginess make you look like a clown.
  • Keep your face spotless, go to an executive facial, no eyebags or dark circles please. You must always look fresh.
  • Keep a smile on your face at all times.
  • When you talk to people, learn forward, keep eye contact and looked paternally concerned.
  • Do not make any dumb jokes.
The Presentation
  • If you don't know something, end a question with a question.
  • Always interrupt a conversation with "If I may..."
  • Quote a passage from a well known business book. The more learned you sound, the more people think that you are actually smart.
  • Always present good news. Never ever present bad news. Nobody likes a whiner.
  • The thickness of any report is proportionate to the value of the project. e.g if 100K is 10 pages then 1mil should be 100 pages
Meeting the CEO
  • Always carry a pile of power point slides and paper when you meet the CEO. Never go there empty handed.
  • Always have an interesting anecdote or story to tell
  • Always have good news and achievements.

Welcome to the Dark Arts

I've been working for 10 years now, at the writing of this first blog. Throughout the years, I've seen many a malicious acts and no more so when realities are far worst than what is reported. The further detached the truth is, the more compounded these acts become.

Hopefully, you will be able to see beyond the dark arts and become a better manager, or like me revel, in the observations and relishing every moment of committing these acts online. Do I judge? Probably; for I am only human, but I have learned that judgment should be reserved until the act is complete.

How so? For when the perpetrator has reached his or her goals, then the story would be whole, and the seeds that has been sowed, reaped for all its rotten husk.