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BOFH: Climb the corp ladder - and use your boss as a bullet shield

Top tips on getting ahead, BOFH-style


Episode 1 "It's like progress bars," I say to the PFY during a discussion about the relative merits of the company management as we ride the lift to the CEO's office to fix some laptop crisis.

"All too often the bar itself bears no relationship whatsoever to the amount of time you're going to wait. In the same way the salary of a manager in this company has no connection with their worth."

"You mean like when it says there are 13 minutes left for the install time but in reality there are either 7 or 34?" the PFY asks.

"Yes, but in terms of salaries," I reply. "See salaries are linked to an organisational chart, so what the HR beancounters like to see is that everyone on the same tier gets paid roughly the same money - within a range."

"So if I wanted to earn more money..?"

"You would take another job. Or, within this company, you would need to do two things: A. Move your immediate boss up the organisational chart, and B. Change your job description somewhat to introduce an element of doubt into your work."

"I'm not following you on the second bit," he says.

"OK, so you've grasped the bit about cleaning up the organisational chart - which is basically get a bunch of middle management axed in the name of greater productivity, reorganising working teams for greater efficiency, or enhancing interoffice synergies to reduce operating costs - you know, any old shit that sounds great when it's read out at an unfair dismissal hearing. So now you've got a director at tier 3 who reports to the Board at tier 2 with the CEO at tier 1.

"You're tier 8, say, because the company had more chiefs than Indians, but now there's nothing between you and tier 3. You will be sucked into the void, along with all the other tier 8s and before you know it he'll be looking for someone to manage the tier 8s. A better idea is to preserve the person above you - if they're not a complete air-thief - and clean out the rest. A quick organisational defrag and your boss is tier 4 and you're tier 5."

"Yes, but that still doesn't explain.."

"The second bit: you have to enhance your job title to a point that HR have no idea what you should be paid before they'll accept you at tier 5."

"No, you lost me," the PFY blinks.

"OK so you're the guy that replaces the toilet lollies and bog rolls every night and you suddenly get defragged 4 levels up the food chain. They'll still only pay you at level 12 rates because you're doing a level 12 job. What you need to do is change your job to one of those fancy schmancy ones so that HR has no idea what you actually do.

"You construct a 10 page position description full of Key Performance Indicators - or even more pathetic, Key Success Indicators - or you can generate your own special terms by picking one word from these 3 groups and putting them together: Essential, Directed, Measurable; Vision, Service, Delivery; Targets, Metrics, Outcomes, and before you know it your role is described in terms of Directed Delivery Metrics."

"But what does that mean?"

"Nothing, that's the point. And the other thing you do is go wide and abstract - never actually describing anything in any detail. 'Sanitation engineer' is barely sufficient to get you up a single tier because everyone sees it for the euphemism it is. You don't work in the fields of hygiene, disinfectant or porcelain skid marks - you're level 5 material now! You're the Corporate Holistic Wellness Coordinator - responsible for the on-going delivery of wellness in the workplace. Your 'measurable vision metrics' are tied to workplace attendance which you can fake by offering sickies a free bowl of chips for breakfast on a Monday morning.

"Sure, they'll die of heart disease sooner, but by then you'll be another tier up the ladder and it'll be someone else's problem. Speaking of which - because no one knows what the hell it is you do, you'll find that you have a stack of tier 9 to 12s suddenly working for you. You'll let a few of the lazy ones go to give the impression you know what the hell it is they do, but really you're just killing time till you're found out - which you can put off for years."

"Uh... so how does this help me?" asks the PFY.

"Well say there was a big defrag in IT management. You'll want to have a tier 6, say, job, because obviously I'd want a tier 5 job and who needs the hassle? We'll keep the Boss because he has no idea how his mobile phone works, let alone how we do. We write him a primo Job Description, write ourselves something similarly bewildering, and then... slip into the hole. You'll want to think of a JD with the word Architect in it. They bloody love that word these days - and it's not like the old days when you had to eat pencils or have a goatee. Solutions Architect is maybe a tier 7 at best, but a Corporate IT Integration architect is a 6. Workplace Systems Architect is a 5 and before you know it you'd have half the beancounters working for you."

"So according to your plan I'd be on the same level as a beancounter."

"Good point, the boss would have to go as well," I say tapping on the CEO's door.

Two minutes later the CEO's problem is found - the adapter wasn't plugged in and he missed all the warning messages about battery remaining.

"It's not your fault," I say to the CEO. "I've recommended making those warning messages bigger for months now but it looks like all the good ideas filtered out by management."

"Good ideas? Like what?" asks the big man.

"Well I suggested one about your laptop saying good morning to you when you start up - but also saying good afternoon and evening to you, depending on what time it was."

"Really? It could do that?" the CEO gasps while grasping onto an idea so appalling the PFY is probably going to punch me in the face on the way back down in the lift - except that I happened to hear the CEO burbling about the very same thing at lunch a couple of weeks back.

"Of course. I suggested it but apparently someone above me thought it was a stupid and dumb idea that only a cretin would think of. But I think it's a great plan. We could roll it out through all the company machines!"

"It's a shame how all those middlemen get in the way of things that could make our company great," the PFY sighs.


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