An Unconventional Guide to Surviving Corporate Employment

An

David St Lawrence

Welcome to the free download version of Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day.
This free download contains every word of the paperback version. It is being made available at no charge so that those of you who are struggling to overcome work-related difficulties will have every chance to set things right again, no ma�er what your current financial situation is. If this book inspires you to create a brighter future, please tell your friends about it and direct them to my weblog ripples.typepad.com where new chapters are continually being wri�en. If some one you care for is struggling to acquire or hold on to a job, consider buying them the paperback version as a gi�. It is a valuable reference that will be read again and again. It can be purchased at bentcrowpress.com

Best wishes for a brighter future, David St Lawrence

DANGER QUICKSAND HAVE A NICE DAY
An Unconventional Guide to Surviving Corporate Employment

By David St Lawrence

Bent Crow

Press

Published by: Bent Crow Press, Palmyra, VA 22963 h�p://bentcrowpress.com

DANGER QUICKSAND - HAVE A NICE DAY
An Unconventional Guide to Surviving Corporate Employment by David St Lawrence

Published by: Bent Crow Press Post Office Box 386 Palmyra, Virginia 22963 email: bentcrowpress@gmail.com h�p://bentcrowpress.com Copyright 2005 by David St Lawrence. All rights reserved. Some of this material was published online at Ripples: post-corporate adventures in 2003 and 2004. h�p://ripples.typepad.com Una�ributed quotations are by David St Lawrence ISBN 0-9766503-0-5

Bent Crow

Press

Dedication

This book is dedicated to my wife, Gretchen, whose support and encouragement enabled me to produce this book. I could not have wri�en this book without her.

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day

Life is just one long career transition. Get used to it early and always have a plan for the job a�er this one.

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Foreword
This is a survival guide, not a philosophical essay about the dignity of work. This book was wri�en for those of you who are trying to support your families and keep your sanity in a troubling and uncertain working environment. It should help you avoid the danger of sinking without a trace into corporate life, as it contains some strategic advice for ge�ing yourself safely onto higher ground. This material applies to any employee or executive. If you find these suggestions useful and apply them to your situation, you will probably emerge unscathed into the light with your sanity and integrity intact. The sign on the front cover was photographed on Route 29 north of Charlo�esville, Virginia in 2004. The cheerful smiley face and warning seemed like an apt symbol of our rapidly-changing employment scene. The building was a long-abandoned corporate headquarters si�ing empty and waiting in the California sun in the fall of 2003.

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Work is like that rock, paper, scissors game. There is no long-term winning play. You have to keep reinventing yourself, just to stay employed.

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About The Author
David St Lawrence writes about post-corporate life a�er 50 years of design and marketing work for high tech companies all over the United States. He lives in Virginia, with his wife Gretchen and his high-speed Internet connection. His weblog: Ripples: post-corporate adventures, can be found at: h�p://ripples.typepad.com He has this to say about his career and current life: Being thrust into retirement by a Silicon Valley reduction in force was a welcome end to an increasingly unreal existence as the Program Manager from Hell, Inc. Designing computers was fun for many years, building startups was exciting for many more. However, there was a time when it seemed like time to let someone else have some of the fun. Unfortunately, I found that the more I moved away from actually creating new products, the less personal satisfaction I experienced. I am now writing, designing, and occasionally consulting, at a pace that affords time for life. Few people live long enough to make all the mistakes necessary to gain enlightenment. I have wri�en this book in the hope that your careers will be more satisfying and that you end up where you wish to be.

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Warning - Disclaimer
This book is designed to provide information on corporate employment as it exists and existed in the United States. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher and author are not engaged in rendering legal, financial or personal counseling services. If legal or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. This material is not recommended for individuals who are completely happy with the way their lives are going now and do not wish to experience change. Reading this book and following the advice given can dramatically alter existing conditions as well as beliefs. This may produce undesired effects on those who are not able to take responsibility for their own actions. Your results will vary according to your ability to take responsibility for your own condition in life. The purpose of this guide is to educate in the most entertaining way possible. All incidents and examples given in this book are taken from real life. The author and Bent Crow Press shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused, or alleged to have been caused, directly or indirectly, by the information in this book. If you do not agree with the above, you should not read this book. Give it to a friend who is in need of change.

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Table of Contents
Dedication Foreword About The Author Warning - Disclaimer iii v vii viii 2 2 4 5 6 8 10 11

Chapter 1 - 21st Century Employment
Welcome Who Should Read This Book We Live In Unstable Times Work Opportunities of the Future We Face a Global Competition for Jobs How To Use This Book How This Book Can Help You How to Get the Most Out of this Book Where Do You Start? A Simple Basis For Judging People The Good Workplace Three Kinds Of Managers Seduced By A Fantastic Job More Seduction Why Good People Hit The Wall Setting Expectations For Performance Why Good Jobs End Badly Why Your Manager Lies

1

Chapter 2 - Assessing Your Workplace

13

14 15 18 19 26 28 30 32 35 38 44 46 48 51 52 56

Chapter 3 - Warning Signs

Signs Of A Problem Workplace Feeling Powerless? Electronic Sweat Shops Warm Chair Attrition Waiting For The Axe To Fall When Feelings Are More Important Than Performance

43

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Hell, Incorporated A Litmus Test For Your Job Nepotism Don’t Go There! 58 60 63 68 72 73 75 78 82 90 93 96 100 103 105

Chapter 4 - Preparing For Change

Don’t Repeat Our Mistakes What Is Ruining Your Life? Don’t Send Mixed Messages At Work The Toxic Individual Advice for Whistleblowers Yesterday’s Experts - Woefully Out Of Touch High Tech Employment Is Hazardous To Your Health Escaping A Dead-End Job Integrity 101 Telling The Truth - Compassionately Getting Along With Others It’s Decision Time Again Is It Time To Take Stock Of Your Life? Voting With Your Feet Your Career Curve When Your Career Curve Is Rising When Your Career Tops Out It’s Never Too Late To Change Horses The Ideal Job When You Are Out Of Work Bailing Out of a Smaller Company Starting Over A New Door Opens...If You Let It Getting Started Get The Salary You Deserve Building Your Support Network

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Chapter 5 - The Choice Is Yours

107

108 110 112 113 114 118 121 124 128 131 136 137 139 141 144

Chapter 6 - Breaking Away

135

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Simplifying Your Life At Work Starting Your Next Job Successfully Create Your Job Every Day Doing What You Are Doing 148 151 154 157

Chapter 7 - A Change for the Better

Finding And Keeping A Better Job Before You Start Your Search Defining A Better Job The Check Is In The Mail And Other Corporate Fables How to Handle Employers Confidently and Fairly Finding A More Satisfying Job Achieving a Successful Interview Consider Doing Your Own Thing Toward A Brighter Future Simplify Your Life Lighten Up and Live Longer Simple Actions to Raise Your Mood When All Else Fails - Help Someone Else Learn from Paul Newman Working For Yourself The Joys Of A Micro Business* The Lure of a Micro Business How to Get Started Is There A Micro Business In Your Future? Things You will Learn As A Small Business Owner Acknowledgments To Order Another Copy Of This Book

161

162 163 164 166 170 172 174 180 184 185 186 188 191 192 196 197 198 199 202 204 207 208

Chapter 8 - Keeping Your Spirits Up

183

Chapter 9 - Creating a New Game

195

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This book is wri�en about you. If you have a job and do not find yourself in these pages, please send me an email and I will write a column about you, for you are one in a million.

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Chapter 1
21st Century Employment
The rules for 21st Century employment may have changed, but this book will help you find your way through the maze.

21st Century Employment

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Welcome
The changing state of employment in these first years of the 21st century has created a need for a different kind of advice about successfully combining life and a career. This is a practical guide that cuts right to the chase. It is definitely not a high-flown treatise on employee-management relations. It is wri�en for you, wherever you are in the corporate hierarchy. Employment is a necessity and an adventure, all in one. It can also include drudgery and abuse of the worst kind. The upside is that you have more control over your working environment than you may realize. What you get out of your career depends almost entirely on how well you learn to anticipate destructive situations. This book will prepare you for some of the worst and best situations you may encounter.

Who Should Read This Book
This book is intended for the professional employee who has had enough experience to observe that dedication and hard work are not always a guarantee of success, and wonders what can be done to even the playing field.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day It will guide you through the steps necessary to handle the worst that the corporate world can dump on you and emerge with integrity. This book is also wri�en for those who have been laid off, fired, demoted and a�acked for doing what they felt was right. You will find your situations laid bare in this book for all to see and you may finally get the acknowledgment you so richly deserve. It was also wri�en for those who may have given up the idea of ever working again because of the lasting and corrosive effects of working too long in the corporate world without relief. The material on estimating situations may prove to be a great relief. Finally, it was wri�en for the growing numbers of people being forced out of work into a “retirement” they are not prepared for. The material on finding meaningful work applies to willing workers of all ages. An employee new to the working world can benefit from the anecdotes and examples included in this book, but they may seem unreal to anyone who has not experienced them. Hopefully, you will be able to avoid some of the more difficult situations by reading this book.

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We Live In Unstable Times
Living in unstable times means that the benchmarks that define success can become irrelevant almost overnight. A�er years of hard work, you finally hear your friends say, “Congratulations on finally reaching that corner office!” Enjoy it while you can. Next year, you may be operating a business out of your garage. Too many hard-working executives have been declared excess baggage just when things looked the brightest. Tom Peters states that ninety percent of white-collar jobs as we know them will be disemboweled in the next fi�een years. Done. Gone. Kaput. This is just one of the fascinating topics dealt with in his book: Project04: Snapshots of Excellence in Unstable Times. I happen to think that Tom is right on the percentage, but way off on his time scale. I see the change happening in the next five to seven years. I don’t view this change as doom, gloom, and disaster. It is just a natural process, as in obsolescence, renewal and growth. This is actually an ancient process which has been made faster by the Internet. Changes that used to take decades now take place in months.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day We are all living on Internet time now, which is generally 3x faster than conventional, pre-Internet time. New jobs will replace the old jobs and you will need a new set of skills to succeed in the new, distributed workplace. I also happen to agree with Tom Peters that outsourcing is a natural result of the free market at work. Jobs go to those who can do them for less, like water runs downhill. If goods/services of excellent quality can be produced elsewhere for lower prices, they will eventually be outsourced, at the expense of lost jobs in America. In the end, the most important thing about your work is whether it actually helps you to live a more meaningful life. This book was wri�en to help you achieve that goal.

Work Opportunities of the Future
I believe that the work opportunities of the future will become both more distributed and more concentrated. There may be millions working remotely or in small enterprises, but there will be many more laboring at workstations in vast hives at a machine-paced rhythm.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day This will place even more of a premium on useful education. Failing to learn useful skills will result in relegation to the mills of the future or to minimum wage status. The future will go to those determined enough to teach themselves skills which will enable them to choose a career path that is right for them. College is not the only alternative, but it can be a door opener when you don’t have applicable experience. The two things that can’t be easily outsourced are creativity and talent. Innovation creates new jobs and entire industries, but it is fueled by well-educated workers and a business climate that rewards entrepreneurship and risk-taking.

We Face a Global Competition for Jobs
There are millions of bright, well-educated people in other countries who now have the power of the Internet at their fingertips. Many come from cultures where achieving a higher education is the primary focus of a child’s life. These highly motivated children, with their drive for success and excellent study habits, may overtake our pampered children of privilege in the quest for a place at the conference tables of industry.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day In this current global market economy, there is no guarantee that any job will remain in America for long. There are billions of highly educated workers in India, China, and Russia who can do just about any job in the world. (Craig Barre�, CEO, Intel) If America is to remain prosperous, we must respond to global competition as a winning corporation responds to any rival, by ge�ing smarter and working smarter. We must invest in an educational system that works and provide every possible tax incentive for research and new business development. On a more personal note, it is increasingly important that we all develop skills that will enable us to generate income as we reach the age that once marked retirement. There is no “retirement” for many of us to look forward to. Working for a living at seventy is no longer the exception. Many, who expected a gentle transition to non-working status, found that exit unexpectedly blocked by the meltdown of stock values when the Internet bubble collapsed. Instead, most are being ejected unceremoniously into a world that offers few opportunities for them. Even those of us who have adapted to these changing times by managing our own businesses on the Internet or out of our homes need to keep sharpening our skills

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day to keep abreast of changes in demand and advances in technology. Work hard, but expect that changes will continue to occur and keep your eye out for new skills that you can acquire.

How To Use This Book
You may be reading this because you are about to lose, or have lost your job, so the material is arranged so you can easily find what you need. Look through the chapter headings in Chapter 2 - Assessing Your Workplace and find the section heading that seems to address what is going on around you.. Start reading there and continue until you feel a sense of relief. Take a break at that point and consider what else is going on in your current work environment. When you are ready to proceed again, read the rest of the material in Chapter 2. When you feel you understand what is actually going on in your present situation, go to Chapter 3 - Warning Signs and start with the section that most closely describes what you are experiencing.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day A�er you have read the material that describes what you are facing, check out Chapter 4 - Preparing for Change, which describes various scenarios for handling the situation so it will no longer be a problem. Read the rest of the book as you have time, but you should now discuss your situation with your family, because your life and possibly your lifestyle is going to change. You have reached a crossroads in life and you have some hard choices to make. Your chances of making a successful change improve when you have the support of those whose lives are going to be affected. If you work together, you will emerge stronger and your relationship with your family become stronger. Surviving adversity creates a strong bond among the group involved. In order to use this data effectively, you must understand the ideas presented. Take the time to look up any words that you don’t understand and clear up any confusions. This material is like dynamite. Use it correctly for best results. Before you continue, you may wish to reread the warning and disclaimer in the front of this book. The material provided here may cause a permanent change of viewpoint on your career and present employment. If you are not prepared for change to enter your life, you should read no further and should give this book to someone who is in need of change.

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How This Book Can Help You
Work may be remunerative, ennobling and all that, but there is a very real danger of losing your identity and integrity while struggling to achieve success on terms that are not your own. There are a few ways this book can help you if you read and apply the material: 1. The information should help you extricate yourself with dignity from almost any adverse employment situation you find yourself in. 2. It should also provide you with guiding principles for improving almost any employment situation where there is a real future or there is still room to negotiate. 3. It should guide you out of a dead-end job.

4. It should guide you in finding work in the most adverse economic situations. 5. It should encourage you and rekindle your ability to create a job for yourself, where you do something you are passionate about. 6. It should give you renewed certainty of your actual worth to a company and show you how to play the game as an employee in the 21st century.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day 7. It will show you what an ideal job consists of and why you may want to plan for eventual longterm self-employment.

How to Get the Most Out of this Book
If you are like most of the people who have read this material, you should experience some emotional relief on your first reading of the book. You may even experience a resurgence in your ability to deal with the stress and insanities of corporate life. Depending on your work situation, you may have weeks or months of planning before you can improve your position through a move to another department or company. If your employment situation is terminal, you must remove all uncertainty and act decisively to achieve the best resolution possible. You will have a more relaxed outlook if you can finish this guide before they escort you from the building. If you have been trapped in a dead-end job for many years, you may have a long runway before you can find a new opportunity, but the indecision that has held you captive should be resolved. The final step is to work out a long-term plan for creating a work situation which involves meaningful work

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day so you are provided with satisfaction as well as income. The material in this book should help you with your planning. If you encounter situations beyond the scope of this first book, send an email to me at david.stlawrence @gmail.com. I will be happy to address them on my weblog at ripples.typepad.com

Almost any job is bearable if you are working for a good manager

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Chapter 2
Assessing Your Workplace
If you are doing your best and it isn’t enough, you better do something different

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Where Do You Start?
You may know that something is wrong with your work environment, but effective handling requires an understanding of the underlying causes. This section discusses various situations which may be affecting your ability to get your job done and may be threatening your continued employment. These situations are not listed in any particular order. Find the one that most aptly describes what you are currently experiencing. Read it and then find any others that exist in your workplace. You will probably discover that there are several things going on at once. The examples in this section were all taken from life. You will see what drives the participants to behave as they do. Once you understand the motivations involved, you should be able to determine which options are open to you. Sometimes the options are limited, as in the case where your boss is afraid of you, but you will be able to move with confidence once you know what is behind your feeling of helpless frustration.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Knowledge will give you certainty. This chapter should provide you with the information you need to make decisions. All you need is the courage to continue.

A Simple Basis For Judging People
Certain basic actions are the best guarantee of success in any endeavor. You can accurately judge the worth of a person or organization, even yourself, by how well these three things are done: 1. Promising only what you intend to deliver 2. Keeping your word once given 3. Following through so as to meet expectations We instinctively and accurately judge a person by how well they do these three things, whether they are a child or an adult. We trust people who do these things. People who don’t do these things are untrustworthy, no ma�er who they are, how educated they are, or how important they may be.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Whenever I have found a person or organization that does not do all three of these things consistently, I have found irrational behavior, an underlying confusion, a string of broken promises, and some level of criminal activity. The results of associating with them has been uniformly unsuccessful. Sometimes, you will find a family or business which fails on the three points given above although the person you personally deal with seems to be honest and straightforward. This can drive you crazy because you trust the person, but the company’s performance never meets your expectations. If you investigate, you will usually find someone in that family or company has something to hide. There is a secret problem of some sort and it affects their ability to meet obligations. Find some other company to do business with. Here are some things to look for when you are having trouble judging someone’s intentions: 1. Do their ideas make sense? 2. Do you feel comfortable with the way the ideas are presented? 3. Do they set realistic expectations? 4. Based on your past experience, can you believe what they say? Assessing Your Workplace 16

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day 5. How do they behave under pressure? 6. How do they behave when they make a mistake? 7. Do they address sensitive issues with logic or with emotions. 8. What proportion of their time is spent proposing solutions versus a�acking other solutions. 9. Are they emotionally tough enough to stand up for their ideas in the face of extreme criticism. 10. Do they meet the test of these three basic actions: • • • Promising only what they intend to deliver Keeping their word once given Following through and meeting expectations

You will have difficulty with this person to the extent that the answers to these 10 questions are negative.

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The Good Workplace
You are going to read about some destructive work environments later in this book, so I would like to start by describing what makes a good workplace and a healthy working environment. This description is based on actual observation of several excellent workplaces I was fortunate enough to experience. Even though it is now years later, I still revere the managers and CEOs who created these working environments and held them together against all odds. A good workplace makes you feel a sense of purpose when you enter it. You see busy people who still take time to smile and make you feel welcome. You are part of a team or group that is small enough for you to easily approach your manager on a one-to-one basis and discuss ma�ers openly. You have a group to call your own and are not a lone employee in a vast sea of other individuals. The organization consists of many small teams which are organized into larger and larger groups and divisions. In a good workplace, there is camaraderie within the group. Your manager inspires you to excel and your contributions are appropriately acknowledged. You are made to feel like a vital part of the group and you find yourself helping others at every opportunity.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Your manager knows what you are doing and communicates his expectations clearly. Your manager inspires respect and loyalty by his everyday actions. You feel great pride being in your particular group. Finally, a good workplace is one in which you know you have a future and you work hard to create it. The culture is one which you wholeheartedly support. Good workplaces are not invulnerable. They can be brought down by action from within or from outside. Since these good organizations o�en grow rapidly, they sometimes recruit those who do not respect the existing culture. These people o�en pervert the culture and destroy the company from within. Do what you can to keep a good workplace thriving. The following chapters describe what happens when a good workplace goes bad, or was bad to the bone from the very beginning.

Three Kinds Of Managers
Se�ing your manager’s expectations correctly is far more important than the actual work that you do. Your ability to set those expectations is one of the most accurate indicators of what kind of relationship you have with your manager.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Consider the situation where you must set expectations for an upcoming project.

Situation 1 - You and your manager are generally in good communication. He responds favorably to some of your suggestions and lets you know
when you need to do more preparation.

Situation 2 - You are afraid of your manager. He

manages by instilling fear in his subordinates. You find it extremely difficult to make suggestions to him. He gives orders and expects compliance, not questions. He deals in threats, both overt and covert.

Situation 3 - Your manager is afraid of you. This
is difficult to believe because he will usually hide this fairly well.

This is the manager who rarely gives you instructions in writing. He will not tell you if there are problems with your work until he has enough data to get you fired. He will show signs of nervousness when you raise questions and will avoid talking to you if possible. When you cannot get feedback on how you are doing, be very, very careful. Your manager may be terrified that you will show him up by inadvertently exposing his lack of ability to the company at large. Which strategy should you use to set expectations? It depends on your manager.

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Situation 1- good manager
This is a no-brainer. Make the best case you can based upon the data you have. Hedge any estimate by showing what information is not available and make that a conditional target for adjusting expectations as necessary. This manager may have already determined what his expectations are and may have communicated them to you clearly and understandably. You still have to manage his expectations so they make sense to you and can be achieved in an agreed-upon time and budget. Expectations have to be mutual for results to have any meaning. You can set expectations for this manager by couching your estimates in real terms. “Depending on the results of the surveys, this project could take between eight and twenty months. We should know when the survey results are analyzed. Let us make our first major milestone the acquisition of usable survey data for this market.” If he is a good manager, he will challenge your assumptions until you have presented a case that he understands.

Situation 2- you are afraid of your manager
This, unfortunately is far too typical. You already know what your manager is likely to say. You will be made

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day wrong for your suggestions and you will be made wrong no ma�er how the project comes out. When you pull off a miracle, don’t look for any acknowledgment of what you have accomplished This manager will only mention things you haven’t done. You will get summarily fired by this manager no matter what you do. It will happen sooner if you defy him, but it will happen eventually even if you swallow your pride and a�empt to curry favor. This manager always lays the blame on someone else. He is never wrong. His management style almost guarantees frequent failures and he will always need a scapegoat. If you work for him, you are destined to become a scapegoat. You are caught between a rock and a hard place. I can only suggest that you do what your conscience demands. Steel yourself to set expectations as accurately as you can and defend your figures with all of your determination. Do not expect approval or praise even if you come out on top. Your integrity is the most important a�ribute you have. If you act with integrity you will come out stronger, no ma�er what management does to you. In time, you will recognize situations like this one and avoid them. Just don’t take it personally when they fire you. Start planning for your escape now.

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Situation 3 - your manager is afraid of you
This is the toughest situation of all and is far more common than you think. If you think you are in situation 1 but you cannot get commitment or backup, you may be in situation 3. Take a deep breath and prepare for a shock. One li�le check before we go further: did this manager hire you himself? Or, were you hired by someone above him. A second check: when you first showed up for work, was this manager flustered and uncomfortable? A third check: does this manager try to avoid giving you reviews? If the answer to two or more of these was yes, you make your manager nervous. You are in deep trouble. This is one of the most treacherous situations of all. You may feel that everything is great because you are accomplishing everything you set out to do. If your manager gives you half-hearted praise or spends all of his time dancing around possible issues, watch your back. This type of manager is unable to push issues to his manager for resolution. If you run into an issue that requires higher-level decisions, this manager will almost never take it to higher management for resolution. He would much rather see you get burned trying to handle it.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day You will set expectations for this manager and he will almost always agree, but not in writing. When you report results, he will seem to be in agreement, but you will not get concrete feedback. Being the conscientious citizen you are, you will probably make the mistake of doing what is necessary to get the job done, even without approval in writing. This is where you can hang yourself. If the expectations are not clearly wri�en down, this manager can make your achievements meaningless. Even if you keep records of your accomplishments and of the uptrends you are creating, it will be to no avail. This quivering sneak is biding his time and the only giveaway is that he may appear more and more nervous when you look at him directly. He will let you run until you manage to violate one of the unwri�en laws of the company (see the chapter, Don’t Go There) and then he will pounce. He will present carefully edited accounts of your transgressions and the HR people will look at you aghast. “We are sorry, but we have no option but to dismiss you. Your performance is unacceptable...” Your only consolation is that this manager lives in constant fear of being discovered. The only thing worse than working for him is being him. If you think you are in situation 3, find another department or organization and move into it as soon as posAssessing Your Workplace 24

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day sible. One last thing...let your new manager know that the “chemistry” just wasn’t right between you and this manager and that you would like your references to come from people you trust. This type of manager will give poisonous recommendations to people who try to escape their fates. If you find that several opportunities seem to evaporate a�er a promising start, you should start investigating. I have seen this type of manager make it impossible for employees to transfer within the company. That’s how afraid they are of you! Here are some examples from life: Wayne H comments: I had manager #3, in my last days, with the company I use in my examples of bad management. He acted almost precisely as you described. Pat C. wrote:...you describe perfectly the two management types currently running the place where I work here in the UK - Type 2 and Type 3. Yusuf wrote: I work with such management and thought it was only happening at the company I work for. What kind of manager do you have?

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Seduced By A Fantastic Job
Tom Guarriello writes about the common trap of losing ones life and family to the seductive lure of an apparently perfect job. He described a work situation which most creative people would sell their soul for: I work with some of the most talented designers in the world. They’re boundlessly creative, hugely energetic, and work harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. No one is driving them to do so. They drive themselves. Their standards continually escalate, and the work gets be�er still. ...But the overall pace is blistering. And shows no signs of le�ing up. Eventually, something has to give. We have to get past this “work/life balance” rhetoric and think more deeply about our expectations of ourselves. We have to be able to come up with an answer to when “enough” is “enough.” I have worked many times in that kind of environment. These were the most intensely rewarding positions I have ever held. These were also the times when I did the greatest damage to my personal relationships outside of work. If you think of this perfect job as a career/financial booster with a finite window of opportunity, then it can work out well for you. But, like riding a rodeo bull, the trick is remembering to dismount in time.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day I think that taking the “main chance” is appropriate when that once-in-a-lifetime dream job comes along, but both the worker and the family need to set and agree on a time limit and a purpose for enduring the hardships of the dream job. The hardships aren’t yours, remember? You are having the time of your life, while your spouse or significant other is trying to explain where you are. The dedication can be intense, but the primary focus should be on what comes a�erwards. You can’t allow yourself to be seduced by the thrill of creating at light speed. You have to stick to your agreements and bail out while you still have a family. If you lose your children or your spouse in the quest for career success, what have you gained? If you do not make your family commitments known to your management before you immerse yourself in a crash project, it may be very difficult to extricate yourself later. Creative projects are one of the most addictive pursuits ever conceived. The siren call of follow-on projects can only be resisted with outside help. Odysseus got lucky and finally made it home to his wife and family. Don’t follow his example. Set a time limit for your adventure and stick to it.

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More Seduction
There are some jobs that have an irresistible a�raction because they hold out the promise that you can create endlessly! These are the jobs in which you can lose yourself for months, even years. Birthdays, holidays, and seasons flash by like flickering images. The pleas of your loved ones scratch dimly at the edges of your 24 x 7 concentration. No spell is more potent than the inexorable a�raction of an unfolding design that promises to “change civilization as we know it” Danny Gregory, an artist, describes this phenomena: In 1999, I started a job that consumed me. Consumed me like a boa consumes a bunny. Eventually my marriage, my parenthood, my health, my instinct for self preservation were all swallowed up like Laocoön. One of the first victims was drawing... These seductive opportunities are hard to resist, because they are legitimate, rewarding, and highly prized assignments. It’s not like you are cheating on your spouse or anything like that...but it can easily have that effect. We o�en begin these seductive work-related cycles at a point where our creativity has reached a new peak and has a�racted a�ention from someone who needs our help. The work is generally interesting, the tasks are

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day essential, and the money is welcome, so where does the problem lie? The problem lies in ourselves, of course, because we want to help, we want to earn money, and we want to do a superlative job. The only way to fight this addiction is to build strong bonds with your loved ones and stay in good communication with them all during this mesmerizing project. As soon as you start going out of communication, face the fact that you are going to have to make a choice between job or family. If communication is dropping out, you are already heading down the slippery slope of deserting your family. Like a platonic relationship with a coworker which has go�en personal, you are heading toward a family disaster. You have to steel yourself to discuss this openly with all concerned, if you expect to achieve a resolution. If you cut back your hours on the job, you may get removed from the project. If so, that is the price for keeping your family together. It’s your call. You either balance job and family or you lose one of them. My viewpoint, based on personal experience, is that jobs are replaceable. Families aren’t.

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Why Good People Hit The Wall
Hi�ing the wall is a well-known phenomena in almost any field where you have freedom to exercise initiative. If you have been in sales or marketing at any level, or in almost any management position, you have seen someone hit the wall and spla�er or you have done so yourself. This generally happens to a self-motivated person who has managed to succeed in spite of all obstacles put in his or her path. They push through one barrier a�er another and succeed even while others may be telling them to stop making waves. Just when it seems they are unstoppable, they hit a barrier they can’t overcome. People on a collision course with the wall manage to extricate themselves from one dead end a�er another, usually by finding another employer who needs their particular skills and likes their can-do spirit. They continue for years, even though it takes more out of them each time. These seemingly-ideal employees learn from their mistakes and become more effective and at the same time, more fearsome to their immediate manager. In effect, they become unstoppable. Once launched on a course of action, they will drive through any obstacle to carry out the mission they have been given, using the rules they have been given to work with. Some of you may see a pa�ern emerging here...

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day This kind of employee will a�empt to drive a project to completion no ma�er what hidden agenda has been put in place by corporate executives. They are enthusiastic “A�ila the Huns” who take their orders and run with them, and they create fear in all who feel threatened by change. These unstoppable warriors operate effectively because they know their stuff and are willing to work incredible hours to meet their commitments. For the most part, they only understand dedicated people like themselves. They don’t know and don’t care what motivates the other 95% of the population. This ignorance can be fatal. While these hard-driving individuals are surmounting one barrier a�er another, they are oblivious to the resentment that may be spreading in their wake. Eventually, while pushing a project to completion, they will make a move that casts light on some senior executive’s private folly. Shortly a�er that, they will find themselves publicly discredited and summarily fired. The reasons will be most plausible, because they have probably bent many rules ge�ing their jobs done. The people who work around them will know they got a raw deal, but take the firing as a warning to keep quiet. The bo�om line is that you hit the wall in your career because you set yourself up for disaster. You worked unbelievably hard, denied yourself family and vaca-

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day tion time, and somehow you were betrayed by those you trusted. Perhaps this happened before and you shook it off and continued on your way. When this happens enough times, you lose your will to continue. You can be so despondent that you never want to work for anyone else again. Even the thought of interviewing creates so much pain that you cannot confront ge�ing another job. You have hit the wall... This is the end...and a beginning. Whether you know it or not, you hit the wall because of things you didn’t understand. This can be a turning point in your life or a dead end. It is your choice. You have been given an opportunity to confront your own mortality and lack of answers. What you do now will affect the rest of your life.

Setting Expectations For Performance
Hindsight is so humbling. It took me far too many years of professional life to realize the following: Se�ing expectations correctly is far more important than the actual work that you do. It may seem counter-intuitive, but meeting management expectations is far more important to them than any other contribution you can make. Therefore, setAssessing Your Workplace 32

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day ting their expectations correctly is your most important activity. You must learn how to do this correctly. I have been on many projects where we accomplished miracles, only to incur heavy management censure for our disappointing performance. I have even been fired while producing the output of several design engineers. I realized much later this was because I was disappointing more people than I was satisfying. It was small comfort that they replaced me with four engineers. I still didn’t realize that I’d failed to set expectations properly and I continued to work harder and harder instead of working smarter. I kept trying to work more efficiently, while ignoring the fact that some of the least capable engineers I knew were being promoted above me. I used to sneer privately at these suck-ups, as I thought of them, instead of recognizing that they excelled in one of the most important skills of corporate life. They understood people be�er than they understood technology. They found out what management wanted to hear and tailored their commitments to confirm to management expectations. The fact they had no clue how to deliver on these commitments does not lessen the critical importance of what they were doing. They focused on se�ing expectations that made management feel comfortable. As a result, they were put in charge of the project while I

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day did the work and took the heat if expectations weren’t met. It took many repetitions of this process before I understood that working smarter did not mean working harder and more efficiently. Working smarter meant se�ing expectations that could be met and were satisfactory to the customer, client, manager, and myself. I might say in my defense, that in all my careers I rarely did the same task twice. The end result was that almost every project had a deadline, but no realistic yardstick to estimate the time required to accomplish the task in that particular company. We would give management our best (o�en optimistic) estimate and then work ourselves into a frenzy trying to meet our self-imposed deadlines. Se�ing management expectations takes more courage than it does to come up with a revolutionary new design. Perhaps that’s why technical people o�en go out on a limb and agree to unrealistic deadlines. What happens as a result is they get shot later instead of immediately. If you realize that se�ing expectations is essential, but can’t seem to get management to listen to you, you are probably being set up for a loss.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Insecure managers are likely to exploit you, because they are afraid of empowering you. If they can keep you off-balance, and make you think you are the problem, you just might not threaten them with embarrassing questions. Take a look at your current work situation and see how you might adjust expectations to a more realistic level. If you can’t, at least you will know what is likely to happen to you when the project ends. Update your resume and network like crazy. You will need those contacts.

Why Good Jobs End Badly
Every so o�en we fall into a position that draws upon all of our strengths. It seems like the opportunity of a lifetime and it is something we can excel at. We understand the job description and are encouraged to make changes which will benefit the company immensely. So, what’s wrong with this picture? The problem is that we don’t really understand what is needed and wanted, because the company doesn’t either! In the usual situation, the company has not thought the ma�er through and they want desirable Assessing Your Workplace 35

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day changes to occur without altering any of the things they are happy with. This is what generally happens: We throw all our creativity into this new opportunity and create changes which are viewed with apprehension, so we thro�le back to create changes which are acceptable. Our changes may have actually increased business volume and profitability, but we keep ge�ing pressure to make fewer waves while fixing the situation we were hired to fix. The demonstrable fact that business and profits are increasing gets lost because of the culture shock propagating through the organization from our changes. So, we work harder and try to make our changes more palatable and before we know it we are trying to stay off the radar so that we can get our job done without upse�ing management. Basically, we are now trying to make ourselves smaller and working more carefully so we can fit in. This takes up more time, as it is far less efficient, and we spend more time working and less time living. Meanwhile our resentment is building up and we become much less cheerful. We have put ourselves in a box of our own making and it affects every aspect of our lives. It invariably ends with our voluntary or involuntary departure. It can even involve a return to a less remunerative, but happier existence. Assessing Your Workplace 36

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Corporations, like friends, have quirks (insanities) that can be avoided if you know they are there. I spent many years happily working in insane environments, because I was shielded from the insanity by good and courageous managers. Ge�ing promoted and becoming visible changed several great jobs into intolerable ordeals. If you can avoid triggering these insanities by your actions, you can deal with these companies and expect rational results. If you know what you are up against, you can set expectations for them and for yourself that can be realized. You can break free from this destructive pa�ern by discovering what you are doing, or not doing, that gives it power over you. You may have done yourself a disservice by starting work when you did not have a clear picture of what is needed. You may have a picture of what is needed, but you may be the kind of person who does not take time to find out who rules the roost in your new company. Sometimes you are hired by someone who really needs you, and appreciates you, but your presence can be a threat to someone else who can make your life miserable. Get hired, by all means. Just tread carefully until you know who to trust and who to avoid.

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Why Your Manager Lies
This can be one of the most unse�ling things that happens to you during your employment. Unfortunately, it happens more o�en than you expect. This will help you understand what is actually going on. Lying is the a�empt to say that something did happen when it didn’t or that something didn’t happen when it did. It is an alteration of the truth in order to avoid censure or punishment. I am sure that you have figured out by now that some promises you were given when you started your present job are probably not going to be kept. I thought you might like to know why that happens and what you can do about it. Most of us realize that hemming and hawing (dancing around the issue of merit increases or continuing employment) are a sign of the evasive maneuver known as stalling, which leads eventually to a flat denial that a promise was ever made. This is o�en followed by criticism of your work and a threat that you need to improve your a�itude if you expect to continue as an employee. Not all managers lie, by any means, but when they do it is a crushing experience that leaves you bi�er and vowing never to be caught like that again. And

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day you won’t be caught in that same way, but you will be caught in some other way by a manager who is ever so convincing until it’s time to pay up or give you the promotion. etc. Managers lie for the same reason the rest of us lie, when and if we lie. They are afraid to come clean with us. Managers are no different than the rest of us. They lie because they are afraid to admit that they promised something they never intended to deliver. They are so ashamed of what you will think of them that they lie. Isn’t that amazing? Lying is the result of fear. Whether it is a child lying to you or a senior executive, the mechanism is exactly the same. The person is ashamed of what you will think of them, so they give you an answer that will hopefully get you to go away and leave them alone. Some people lie compulsively and it is a terrible thing to watch. These people will say anything in order to escape scrutiny. A�er a while, there are so many lies piled up that they have very few things they can tell the truth about. These people know deep inside that they are frauds and they bluster and swagger and adopt all manner of stratagems to make you think they are people of great integrity. They exude false confidence like a miasma of cheap deodorant. Assessing Your Workplace 39

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day This is the person who is compulsively performing a pitiful charade in order to stave off the demons that lurk in every question that might be asked of them. A simple question like, “Did you read my budget request?” can set off an entire chain of evasive maneuvers or a tirade because it threatens to uncover a bushel of omissions and cover-ups. The closer we come to uncovering their secrets, the more violent their reactions will be. I had a vice-president pull me off a project in the last few days before launch, because I inadvertently stumbled onto a deal she was working with a vendor. When I documented the situation, the HR person assigned to me said, “You’re not implying that the Vice President made a mistake, are you?” Taking my cue from HR’s helpful hint, I refrained from blowing the whistle and took my disciplinary action like a good li�le soldier and decided that I really needed to be elsewhere. Perhaps somewhere saner. If you are in good communication with someone who lies, you can try to let them know that it’s not working. A gentle reminder can have an amazing effect if you can do it in a non-threatening manner. If you do not see a change for the be�er, you need to think about severing your connection with this person, as you will be dragged into situations where they will expect you to cover for them.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Even if you don’t cover for them, you may still get embroiled in the situations they have created because you may end up trying to handle the customer they lied to. Customer support people get a lot of this when unscrupulous sales people mislead customers to make a sale. The simplest solution is not to lie and not to associate or deal with those that do. Life will be so much simpler that you will never look back. A reader agrees: Roberto C wrote: I have the impression you are writing about my life. In December, I ended my corporate life and a promising career with a six-figure salary because I would not lie to customers or to my employees to cover up for the president of the company. I le� the company voluntarily, without any compensation because I could not follow those orders. Why didn’t you write about this three years ago? My only answer for him is that I was still trying to make sense out of the corporate experience myself.

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When management’s operating basis is, “No Surprises”, those of you who are handling the realities of day-to-day business are in for a rough go. No ma�er how well you handle a crisis, you will be chastised for le�ing it intrude on the sacred ruminations of top management.

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Chapter 3
Warning Signs
You must be able to recognize dangerous situations before you can do anything about them

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Signs Of A Problem Workplace
Most problem workplaces I worked in had started out as desirable places to work. In fact, almost all of them had been, at one time, a fantastic place to build a career. From what I observed, these workplaces were stimulating and rewarding environments before their decline occurred as a result of neglect of the corporate culture by senior management. Even the best working environments can become unhealthy if the corporate culture sickens and dies. The corporate culture is the informal agreement on how the company is being run. A corporate culture is created by the combined actions of the employees and executives during the early life of the company. The rituals and values that are created through the struggles of early company life are a powerful bond that ensures cooperation and mutual support. They facilitate communication of necessary information upwards and downwards throughout the organization. Fast growth of a company can bring new managers on board who know li�le of these rituals and their importance. When these values are unknown (or ignored) by these second generation managers, the workforce soon realizes that they no longer have a voice in company affairs. Warning Signs 44

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day The new, second generation, management people are o�en drawn from large corporations with feudal corporate cultures. They bring their “efficiency-based” culture with them and make li�le a�empt to understand or make use of the culture which has made the company successful. They are o�en be�er at playing politics than the original staff, so they rise to positions where they can do real damage to the corporation they were brought in to assist. They may be sincere and dedicated, but the harder they work to reduce every activity to numbers, the closer they come to killing off the original company culture. Eventually they transform the company into a soulless industrial machine and everything is perfect! At this point, most capable employees have long since found positions elsewhere. If the original management does not recover its senses and take steps to restore some of the early corporate culture, the company becomes one of the workplaces I describe in the following chapters.

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Feeling Powerless?
You can begin feeling powerless at any point in your career curve, and it is essential to your continuing sanity that you learn to recognize what is going on. If you are doing a creditable job and applying yourself to making your employer successful, feeling powerless can be one of the most important indicators that you are seriously at risk. I am not talking here about not ge�ing the necessary authority to carry out your responsibilities. That unfortunate state of affairs seems to go with being employed. You have to earn authority by demonstrating that you are carrying out the responsibilities of your position and then you will probably have to fight tooth and nail to actually get enough authority to make the job easier for the future. This is just a necessary part of being an employee. When I use the word powerless, I mean that you are being systematically kept off balance or being deprived of essential information. It creates an entirely different level of helpless frustration than being denied necessary authority. This is a deliberately-caused condition. There are individuals who feel that their survival depends on keeping others powerless. It can be done in a seemingly kind way or it can be done with obvious relish, but it is always a form of insanity.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day When you are the target of this cruelty, you may feel that you are the only one in the group who is being treated this way. Not so. The person who does this has an unreasoning fear that others will become dangerous if they became more powerful. You may feel that you can suck up to this person and get them to treat you be�er. You probably can, for a while, but you will lose your integrity, your self-respect and most of your sanity in the process. If you observe carefully, you will see that toadies do get treated be�er, but they despise themselves. Don’t consider it, even as a last resort. Bail out first. If you find yourself in the situation where you are feeling powerless and you cannot persuade your manager to give you the information you need to get your job done, prepare your exit strategy. Line up your next job without delay. If the manager keeps changing the rules on you and you are being blamed for not knowing that the change occurred, you are overdue on your exit planning. You probably have less than 90 days before you are notified that you are excess baggage. You may think that you can go around the manager and get the information from other sources and still get your job done. Yes, you certainly can...and it will guarantee that this manager will cut you off at the knees when it comes to the next review or re-organization.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Look for a new job where the manager wants you and treats you as a valuable resource from the very first interview. It will make a tremendous difference in what you can produce and in your morale. You have the potential to be a valuable player. Make sure you are part of a team that deserves you.

Electronic Sweat Shops
If the following scenario is occurring in your company, you need to seriously consider coming up for air. There is a certain game company which has succeeded brilliantly in squeezing the most out of their talented workers. According to several LiveJournal posts, employees are forced to work an 85 hour week with no overtime pay and no compensatory time off. This particular game company apparently exploits the willingness of hardworking, creative people and perverts that into an insane company-mandated orgy of 7-day work weeks. It is manifestly insane because long hours of non-stop work increase errors and require even longer working hours to repair the damage. This situation comes about when top management focuses on maximizing short-term financial return and ignores what it takes to produce quality products.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day This game company story brought back painful memories for me, as this bizarre business practice is not confined to the game industry. Long hours are a fact of life in almost every high tech industry, because the work is all about dealing with challenges that have never been tackled before. Some of my earlier employers would be consumed with envy at this game company strategy. The best they ever managed was to get us to work 75 hours a week in times of dire need and they almost always gave us compensatory time and bonuses. In fact, the only threat they ever used on simple-minded engineers like me was to suggest that we would not get the next juicy assignment if we didn’t finish up the current assignment immediately. We were so eager to get working on the next big breakthrough, that we spent years working through weekends and holidays so we wouldn’t miss out on the next big challenge. Duh! It took me two broken marriages before I realized that my addiction was costing me my home life! Most designers I knew worked very hard to produce the best possible designs to whatever deadline was needed and they o�en put in 60-hour weeks for months on end. They took great pride in their accomplishments. When this willingness becomes the target of calculated enforcement, the payoff for long hours is no longer Warning Signs 49

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day satisfaction. Management uses subterfuge, falsehoods and guilt to compel that which was once given willingly. The middle managers who enforce this destructive activity and behave so callously, have drunk the corporate KoolAid and understand that their own retention depends on following the company script, even when it is obviously non-productive. The few decent managers and HR people in a company like this get severely reprimanded by upper management and are fired as an example to the rest. The end result of this insanity, in every company where I have seen it, has included the following steps: impaired product quality, cover-ups, more floggings, declining sales, declining stock values, more firings, and eventual collapse or takeover by a competitor. One of the critical points, in my opinion, occurs when qualified job applicants are warned off by reports of actual working conditions. If this is your company, you need to take action and prepare an exit strategy.

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Warm Chair Attrition
Something is happening out among the cubicles where employees wait restlessly for the end of the day. There is now a name for this phenomenon: warm-chair a�rition (warm-chair uh.TRISH.un) n. The loss of workplace productivity due to employees who dislike their jobs and are just waiting for the right time to quit and move on to something be�er. --www.wordspy.com With the free exchange of information that weblogs and the Internet provide, employees no longer suffer in silence. They pool information and resources in order to have a be�er chance of actually realizing their dreams. I think we will see more and more people striking out on their own. Bill Schaffer, a career consultant in Silicon Valley, writes: I’m personally acquainted with five or six people in high tech who are just waiting for things to improve a li�le bit... then they’re gone! One thing is clear: high tech here in California has been shedding jobs, while explicitly promising that the work won’t be piled onto those remaining. Instead, projects, even whole departments, would be shut down. Of course, that hasn’t happened at all. Some of my friends are working harder than ever, and hating it. And one or two are just coasting, waiting for the right opening to come along. Warning Signs 51

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Waiting For The Axe To Fall
A chilling shadow falls over your life when you get the first indications that your employment is ending, but there is more to life a�erward than you would ever expect. Ge�ing fired, like ge�ing divorced, is not something you plan for. Sometimes, it just happens in spite of your best efforts to avoid it. In either case, there is li�le to be gained by finding fault, because there is more than enough to go around. Termination of employment, or marriage for that ma�er, is a wake-up call that should tell you it’s time to change directions. If you make the necessary changes, you can go on to new and be�er employment and relationships. If you don’t, you won’t. Can a dismissal be averted? A number of readers have told me they are expecting the axe to fall at any moment. I wish I could advise them how to turn their situations around, but from personal experience, I think it is too late for that. It’s time to look at their situation in a different way. Why do I feel it is too late? I’ve found that people who know their jobs are at risk are the kind of people who have already tried to produce what is wanted. If the axe is being raised over them, it’s not about punctuality

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day or production. They are probably viewed as troublemakers who are asking questions that make others uncomfortable. On the other hand, they may be part of a function that the company has decided to outsource or discontinue. In either case, alert employees begin to notice that the manager is avoiding them and try to find out what is going on and what they can do to turn things around. The most likely answer is nothing, because this is not about performance. These employees are viewed as a burden by management, no ma�er how capable they are. People who get fired for incompetence or misbehavior on the job usually don’t have a clue that they are doing anything wrong or that they are about to be fired. Can you make them pay for this? Don’t hold your breath. Most employees in the United States have no contracts. They sign an agreement at the time of hiring that says they can be dismissed at any time for any reason or for no reason. If you feel there is a blatant case of age or other discrimination, see a lawyer. They will let you know whether you have a case and will charge you well for that advice. In most cases, your time and money will be be�er spent preparing for your future employment. What can you do? Get prepared emotionally and financially for the oncoming separation. I deliberately put them in this Warning Signs 53

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day order, because if you are not emotionally prepared for what is going to happen, you will find a million excuses to avoid doing anything effective. Talk with your spouse or significant other and prepare them for what may happen. Discuss all of the alternative solutions you can think of. Be prepared to deal with your own upsets as well as the upset feelings of others. The most important thing to remember is that you should not accept your manager’s a�itude as truth. You may be the only person who knows how skillfully you performed the duties of your job. Most managers see only what they want to see, especially when you haven’t set their expectations correctly. If you have done your job to the best of your abilities, the only thing ge�ing fired means is that there has been a breakdown in communications. It may have started the first day you began work. You would not be the first person who did not find out enough about how things were done, before introducing improvements. A�er all, you were brought in to straighten out things, weren’t you? Nobody bothered to tell you that they were quite happy with things as they were. They probably wanted you to fix things without changing anything they considered sacred.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Plan for your next job Take time to write down what you should have known or asked about this company before signing on. Write down what this company does that makes it difficult to do your job, everything you or others did that made you feel degraded. Now, write a description of what it will be like working in a place that uses your skills and validates your contribution. Describe how the place feels when you walk through the halls, how people deal with each other, how you feel about yourself when doing your job. That is the company you are looking for. If you cannot find one like that, you may have to start your own. You will find that interviewing takes on an entirely different aspect when you know what you are looking for. You will be asking as many questions as those interviewing. You may even find yourself politely terminating an interview because the company does not fit your requirements. I know that for a certainty, because I have been there. If you have done these emotional preparation steps successfully, you will have li�le problem with the financial steps. Slash your expenditures. Put yourself on a basic budget and stick to it. Put every possible dollar in an emergency reserve account and don’t touch it. Cut back on your entertainment expenses. Make every dollar count by asking yourself, “Will this expenditure help me to get another job?”

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Looking forward to be�er times I have wri�en several other sections on finding and keeping a job. Read them and apply them if it seems appropriate. Use this experience to make yourself more effective in your next position. Keep on networking even a�er you find work. Help others in similar situations. If you find yourself in this situation again, figure out what else needs to be done and get on with your life. You are a survivor - keep that thought firmly in mind.

When Feelings Are More Important Than Performance
When companies or other institutions validate employee feelings and ignore performance, the end result is insane behavior. It is a classic example of ge�ing what they reward. If they put their a�ention on the whiners instead of the performers, they get more whiners. More precisely, these institutions are rewarding people who are problem employees instead of rewarding the problem solvers. That is insanity, plain and simple. In a workplace, this behavior will drive out the productive employees, leaving a growing number of

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day useless employees who are skilled only at presenting grievances and managers who placate them. This touchie-feelie environment is a blueprint for disaster. Customer service deteriorates while employees validate their feelings about themselves. There are even groups in some organizations that act like “feelings police” to make sure that no one’s feelings are hurt in the process of ge�ing them to do their assigned jobs. I have seen an actual example of this while I was consulting at a major hospital in Los Angeles. Employees caught selling illegal drugs in the hospital could not be fired because of the repercussions. In a school system, this insanity produces students who cannot effectively read or write, but have been taught that they are entitled to having their feelings validated. They have been led to believe through their school years that their feelings are more important than what they accomplish. Their first contacts with the real world are painful for them and for their prospective employers. These students have been trained in insane, and non-survival behavior! No wonder home schooling is on the rise. On the other hand, rewarding only performance and neglecting any consideration of human needs and emotions leads to the abuses which may have created “feelings police” in the first place. It is just a different kind of insanity. Warning Signs 57

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day When a company focuses exclusively on productivity and profitability, it can become an industrial machine in which employee safety and environmental damage are excluded from the business equation. There is a certain pipe making company that is an outstanding example of this. This company, owned by one of Alabama’s richest families, had recorded more than 4,600 injuries among its 5,000 workers. Profits appear to be their only concern. Is there a reasonable balance concerning feelings and performance? An organization succeeds to the extent that both are taken into account. Employee emotions are an indicator of things going well or not. A system which rewards performance must also monitor and respond to customer and employee emotions in order to track and handle problems before they become serious. Effective control of any company depends on feedback from employees and customers. Ignoring this feedback will result in eventual failure. The saving grace in all of this is that morale depends on personal production. You can observe this in the most adverse working or study conditions. When people are given the opportunity to produce and their production is appropriately rewarded, they will feel good about themselves.

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Hell, Incorporated
Sometimes when I write about the corporate quagmire, people have wri�en in to say, “You’re describing my department at Hell, Inc.!” Others have said, “You are categorizing Human Resources people as minions of the devil.” Still others say, “This job is killing me, but I guess it’s my fault for not being more proactive!” All of the above statements are essentially true. I have worked at twenty-five companies. The education I received and the friendships I formed were priceless. Every single decision I made, even the ones that turned out disastrously, were based on the information I had at the time. When I had someone to advise me, and I took their advice, my decisions were generally successful. If I was operating on incorrect data, my decisions were generally unsuccessful. A�er years of observation, I finally recognized that I was missing essential data about corporate behavior. A company becomes Hell, Inc. when the employees and management fall out of communication with each other and with customers. The original culture has died by that point and only chaos remains.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day The apparency is that there is an organization. In reality there is only chaos, with divisions, departments and individuals all struggling to defend themselves from each other. HR is caught in the middle, trying to defend management from legal action by employees. If there had been an Internet and business blogs when I was struggling to make career decisions, I know that my business life would have been quite different. Weblogs can have an enormous effect in making people successful in their careers, by creating and maintaining a body of anecdotal information on how businesses actually make decisions about employees. Every blogger that writes a few posts about their work experiences helps create a searchable database of career disasters and triumphs that can change the future of employment. We won’t live long enough to make all possible mistakes as an employee, but we can learn from the mistakes of others.

A Litmus Test For Your Job
Here is a test you can do to see if you are a minion, a victim, or a survivor.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Could you be a minion? If you don’t feel good about what you are doing, you are probably doing something unethical. If you are doing this unethical activity because you are following orders...you are compromising your integrity and no amount of money will make up for that. You have become a minion, and that’s what it feels like. HR people are o�en made to conceal unethical behavior, and they hate it! I have spoken privately to HR people in several companies and the major complaint was about having to stonewall in order to conceal management misbehavior. Why do you think there is so much turnover in HR departments? On the face of it, a career in HR sounds like a cushy job. Not if you have to become a minion... Could you be a victim? Let’s talk about Hell, Inc. where there are few survivors. You, of course, do not work for Hell, Inc. because your company is one of the leaders in its field. Competence and a high standard of corporate responsibility are a requirement for success in your company. ...? Of course, there is the fact that you are made to feel guilty a lot of the time for things over which you have li�le control. That, and the fact that you’ve had heartburn for the past year makes you wonder if you

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day are cut out to be a successful sales/marketing/project manager. Here is the acid test: If you are conscientiously doing your job, taking losses occasionally, but coming back to push things through to a done and you are still being made wrong, being made guilty, and are not part of the group that laughs loudly behind the closed doors of the director’s office - you are in a dwindling spiral. You are in an insane environment and no amount of discussion is going to change it. If you do not muster up your courage and find another job soon, management is going to push you out of Hell, Inc when you least expect it. You have set yourself up to be a victim. The key factors are: 1. Are you really doing everything possible to make things go right for customers and for the company and you are being made wrong for it? 2. Are you ge�ing no acknowledgment or worse, being continually criticized? 3. Have you managed to improve your performance a�er being warned or reprimanded and are still ge�ing criticized or being given suicide missions?

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day If you are hi�ing three out of three, you are working in a destructive and suppressive environment. The longer you stay there, the sicker you will become, unless you change your spots and become like the managers you loathe. Don’t laugh, that has happened. When you are surrounded by the insane, it is hard not to become like them. I have known some nice people who chose to become minions in order to keep high paying jobs. You don’t want to follow their example. They were either despised or pitied by all who knew them. If you have done all you can to improve your performance and you are still being made wrong or you feel guilty, you need to make a career change. You are being made a victim and I would like you to be a survivor. Could you become a survivor? Being a survivor is hard work, but it leads to a real life.. Being a minion or a victim is what happens when you don’t take responsibility for what is happening to you. If you can take full responsibility for the situation you find yourself in, you are already on your way to becoming a survivor. All you need to do now is to find out what your options are and choose wisely. This book was wri�en to help you as much as possible.

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Nepotism
Nepotism is another sign of business insanity. It involves favoritism shown or patronage granted to relatives. It is based on the unsupported idea that one’s relatives are automatically more qualified than anyone else and should be exempt from the policies that apply to everyone else. If you work in this kind of environment, you need to have your head examined. No ma�er what management has promised you, you will not be welcome on Management Row and you will never be considered on your merits, because you are not “family”. Rules that apply to you do not apply to “family” members. Mistakes that will get you fired, like making a judgment call that produces a bad result, will be glossed over when made by a family member. Any advice you give that could correct or uncover a family member’s mistake will be viewed as an a�ack on the company. You are viewed as a second-class employee and any effort to upset the status quo will single you out as a trouble-maker to be disposed of. A�er a while, you will become very cautious and may become fearful that you might lose your job by unknowingly offending someone who is connected to the family. You have now started the slide toward becoming expendable. Warning Signs 64

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Nepotism probably springs from the natural desire of a short-sighted company founder to provide a secure future for his children and family members. The experienced founder recognizes that the only way to provide for his children is to keep the company growing. The only way to accomplish that is to promote and hire those who are best qualified, no ma�er who they are. Since business acumen and good sense are not inherited, but learned, efforts to put family members in charge of a going enterprise usually end up disastrously. If family members fit the bill, they should be given every opportunity to succeed, but only on the same basis as any other employee. Otherwise, the good people who have built the company will leave when their efforts go unrewarded. When the unfit are promoted and put in charge because they are family, the company management is saying, “Family members are entitled to lead, because Grandfather founded this company.” Owners of a company are empowered to do anything they want even if it is terminally stupid. Family-run companies can operate quite efficiently, but they o�en have a blind spot when it comes to evaluating the contributions of inept family members. This is their potential weak spot.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Non-family members rarely enjoy lasting success in a family-run company. Just accept it as a natural law. Get out and seek your fortunes elsewhere. I had my own brush with nepotism and it was a great learning experience. For about six months, I was a sales representative for one of the leading companies in a particular field. It was a tightly-held corporation and all of the officers were family members. The products were superior and the company was well-established. I had a friend in high places, the pay was good. I also had a territory within easy driving distance and I was given a great car. My entry to the opportunity was a senior vice president of the company. So, what’s not to like? I got my first clue when I reported for work. I reported to my new manager and he didn’t know that I had been hired. The VP who hired me hadn’t told him I was coming on board. The area was a disaster and the manager was afraid of his salesmen. This manager had le� my territory unstaffed for more than a year and had let the prior salesman leave with all customer records. Everything I did to set up my sales territory was a threat to this manager and he became more uneasy as time went on. I warned my friend, the VP, that he was ignoring a situation that was going to come back and bite him. He

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day thanked me for doing a great job and told me to keep it up. Things went downhill from there. I saw my friend, the VP, a few years later and his company was in a very bad way. The good old boy atmosphere of the company had allowed it to become a haven for incompetents, and the competition was eating it alive. Family-run businesses have all of the characteristics of a benevolent dictatorship. They can be extremely efficient when the management team is competent as well as related. They can be very repressive, if positions are filled on the basis of family connections rather then competence. A number of my readers have wri�en me about their experiences in family-run companies. Wayne writes: David, we DID work for the same company. Your company profile was identical to mine. We even got identical treatment for introducing new ideas and ge�ing results. The closely held family owned companies are hotbeds of the “old boy network”. In fact, because of the system, competent performers are in fact considered the problem employees. The old boys are comfortable with their low productivity. The family ownership has grown used to the low numbers.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Carrie had a similar experience: I got burned with believing in the loyalty factor and working for a family owned company. Never again will I work for a family. I prefer professional relationship and my free time to myself. One thing I have always known, thank goodness, is HR is a waste of time for purposes of my career. I’ve always bypassed them, which helped.

Don’t Go There!
If you are hearing the phrase don’t go there! at work, you should probably get your resume in order. You or your company are in trouble and it won’t go away. You are experiencing a modern replay of The Emperor’s New Clothes. (The original fairy tale was wri�en by Hans Christian Andersen) In late 2001, I used to hear this expression about once a week at a major dot-com company. Since my job as a senior program manager was to resolve difficult situations as they were encountered, I found it odd to be told that certain areas of inquiry were off limits. Interestingly enough, as time went on, more and more areas were put off limits to discussion. Finally, the company began layoffs. The first 400 to go included those

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day of us who had been asking embarrassing questions. Shortly therea�er, they laid off another 4000 people. Many more have been laid off since then. I understand that the phrase, don’t go there! is still used frequently, so I would expect that the layoffs will continue. Preventing discussion of problem areas is like turning off a distracting carbon monoxide detector. It doesn’t solve anything and almost guarantees that a disaster will occur. I’ve seen this behavior at other companies and it was invariably followed by a major downturn in the fortunes of the company. I’d like to make it clear that these workplaces were actually interesting and challenging in the beginning or I would have not been working there. They became less so as the corporate culture changed. The original corporate culture unraveled as clueless managers were promoted into key positions. It didn’t take long before denial and concealment spread like mold on fruit and the workplace became unbearable. Finally it became toxic. As I said at the beginning, if you are hearing don’t go there at work, you should probably get your resume in order. If you have never heard this phrase and have no idea what I’m talking about, you are unusually fortunate.

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It is a rare job that provides you with the authority that matches your assigned responsibility. Usually, you do what is necessary to get the job done and you get hit because you have not cleared it first. If you try to clear things that are not covered by policy, you get criticized for lack of leadership ability. It is o�en a no-win situation.

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Chapter 4
Preparing For Change
Here are some things you can do to ensure that you make the right moves

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Don’t Repeat Our Mistakes
If you read the rest of this guide, you can avoid repeating some of the mistakes that my friends and I have made. A career path is difficult enough without adding to the risks by failing to read the signs and operating in an unsafe manner. I am not trying to curb your creative impulses, but you are more likely to achieve your goals when you know what has been unsuccessful and why it didn’t work Read these chapters carefully and see if any make you feel uncomfortable. If they do, see if you can apply the data to your current situation, as these chapters are describing what is troubling you most. If you can read and understand the uncomfortable chapters, you will be be�er prepared for what is going to happen. If a chapter disturbs you, but you are not able to handle the situation yourself, get help from someone you trust. Understanding and applying this data is the key to a happier future.

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What Is Ruining Your Life?
Oddly enough, the only way you can break out of any trap you have go�en into is by discovering what is ruining your life. It is always something that you are still doing, or not doing. That is what makes it possible for you to save yourself. Let me give you some ideas to think about. Many people if you ask them the question “What is ruining your life?” will say confidently, “I am doing all that I can! It’s these other f---ing idiots who are making me miserable, who don’t appreciate me, or who are preventing me from being successful!” They may even insist, “It’s because I don’t have enough money!” Unfortunately for them, it’s never about money. Money is merely a form of economic energy, a useful yardstick of commercial viability, and that’s all. Your money, or lack of it, only shows how much a�ention you have put on creating an exchange for what you produce. Take a look at the people you know who are not doing well in life. Almost always, you will see a pa�ern of behavior that is countra-survival. They could be using drugs, alcohol, anti-depressants or even work to avoid confronting and handling the real problems in their

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day lives. Some use sex, eating or even shopping to escape from the everyday misery of a life they cannot face. For most of these people, the idea of a self-caused ruin is beyond their comprehension. It’s almost always someone else’s fault. They will justify what is going on by pointing to various factors that prevent them from changing for the be�er. These people are almost impossible to help until they realize what is actually ruining their lives. You cannot help someone who refuses your help. You can only watch in helpless frustration while they slide inexorably toward self-destruction. It doesn’t ma�er whether their apparent plight is due to spousal abuse, public condemnation, or any other apparent external source. The only way someone like that will turn around is to crash and burn so catastrophically that they cannot shrug it off and resume life as before. Those of us who have hit the wall hard enough in our lives or careers have been given the opportunity to confront our own mortality and our lack of answers. This can be a turning point. Some of us take a long time to recognize the turning point, because we are resilient as well as stubborn in our courting of disaster. We walk away from one crash a�er another until we finally hit the big one and recognize it as the final wake up call.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Others cannot face the fact of any personal responsibility for their crash and continue on a downward spiral which ends in death or squa�ing in the rain on a street corner with a hand-le�ered cardboard sign that reads: ... PLEASE HELP.... Those who are open to change realize that their “successful” actions are not working any more and it may be time to change. This opens the door to a whole new adventure, discovering who they really are and what they really want to do. This quest can result in a whole new life, Just remember, whatever is ruining your life is something you can change. The only catch is that you have to be willing to look at what you are doing or not doing that might be creating your problem and initiate corrective behavior. For an example of this, see the next chapter.

Don’t Send Mixed Messages At Work
Employees can find themselves in all sorts of embarrassing predicaments and many seem to result from sending mixed messages at work. What do I mean about a mixed message? That would be behavior or clothing, or an a�itude that indicates that you are seeking a sexual partner, converts for your Preparing For Change 75

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day religion, or multi-level-marketing customers instead of doing the job you were hired for. If you intend to be well compensated for your work, you should act professionally and focus on what you are there to do. That doesn’t mean that you need to be stiff or unfriendly, it means that you use your social graces to get your job done, not to hit on, or seduce other employees. You should dress in a manner that shows you are there for business. Today that may include jeans or khakis, but the basic rule is to dress so that your clothes represent the businesslike norm of the company. If the president and managers wear tank tops, then you had be�er do the same. If your peers wear polo shirts or white shirts, you should consider doing likewise. Even among geeks, where fashion sense is almost nonexistent, the mode of dress, although occasionally disheveled, usually reflects a common sense of purpose. Women wear a variety of outfits in larger companies, from casual geekwear to power suits. The appropriate outfit communicates a businesslike a�itude about work. Dressing like Paris Hilton conveys something else entirely. Inappropriate outfits are intended to a�ract a�ention and they signal a lack of dedication to the tasks at hand. There are senior managers who respond to female employees in provocative outfits, but the Preparing For Change 76

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day long-term benefits are minimal. In the same way, guys showing off their bodies rarely make points when it comes to performance reviews. There is usually time for social interaction on the job and this is o�en the only thing that makes a difficult job bearable. Networking with other employees provides you with valuable information and can o�en help you negotiate difficult assignments safely. Office romances are a fact of life, but they can be quite destructive if they are entered into casually. Most companies require married couples to work in separate departments or separate divisions, for good reason. The romantic relationships which have worked out best were between people who were dedicated to their jobs and maintained a businesslike relationship while at work. Sexual relationships between single and married employees can end with one or both being fired. Work is not your life in most cases. It is what you do to feed and clothe your family. It is wonderful when work is so satisfying that you love doing it, but the following is still true: You will do best at work when you stick to business when working and avoid fondling, proselytizing or selling stuff to your fellow employees.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day There are exceptions to every rule and my friend Linda K. gives a great example of how an office romance can succeed: I met my husband at work. I wasn’t even looking for him! It just...happened. (Have you ever been surprised by joy?) We were in different departments, and worked hard to maintain professionalism on-site. We would only lunch together when our schedules allowed, and we hardly ever took breaks together. A�er hours, however, we were inseparable. We did a good job, apparently. When we announced our engagement to our respective managers, they were both very enthusiastic and congratulatory. They even a�ended our wedding reception with their spouses. I do admit, however, that this is an exception, and not the norm of inter-office romances.

The Toxic Individual
Unless you have met one of these people, it is hard to imagine the negative effect they can have on your life. Let us call them toxic individuals, because they are a hazard to your career and your health. You can recognize them by their behavior. This kind of person must immediately squash and invalidate any creative effort in their vicinity. They can seem quite pleasant at first, but they show their true colors when you propose something new or untried.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day They specialize in ridicule and destructive criticism and spend most of their time making you and the others around them feel inadequate. It will frustrate you no end to see that their behavior is o�en completely invisible to upper management. This toxic individual is extremely skilled at sucking up to people who have power over them, while flaying their subordinates alive. Their seniors see only a charming, eager-to-please, gung-ho employee and give them rave reviews and promotions as a result. You may have one of these as a co-worker. You should avoid them whenever possible. One sign of such a person is that the people in their vicinity are frequently ill and make stupid mistakes. This is the person who will listen to you complain about the boss and then will manage to let the boss know what you said. He or she will also misrepresent what you say when they pass it on to others. This person is the ultimate gossip-monger. They constantly share bad news with you but may then report that you agreed with it or started it. Keep your distance from this person, because they regard you as a threat to their promotion or even to their survival. No, it doesn’t make sense. Their fears are irrational, but that doesn’t make them less dangerous to you. You will never know when they may strike out at you. It may even happen when you get a promotion. Preparing For Change 79

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Your “buddy” who was happy to commiserate with you when you were unhappy, suddenly becomes very critical when you get selected for a choice assignment or for a promotion. What causes this behavior? Let’s keep it as simple as possible. They behave like this because they have an unreasoning, hidden fear of others. No ma�er what they say, they constantly work to make less of others. If you or anyone were to become more able, they consider that you would become a threat to them. This not something they can discuss rationally. These people are pure poison for artists, writers, or anyone who creates anything on their own. Any artist who fails to recognize and avoid this kind of person might as well kiss their career goodbye. These people can seem pleasant and may be highly intelligent. On the other hand, some are ruthless and coarse. The only true test is how they feel about helping others. Real help is something they cannot provide. Even talking about helping others will produce amazing reactions. Toxic individuals have no place in your working environment. Over time, they will destroy it. What can you do about these toxic individuals? Preparing For Change 80

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day If you leave this person’s presence, you will immediately feel happier. The less you have to do with people like this, the healthier you will be. Unfortunately, in most cases their condition has existed for a very long time. You are not going to change them by challenging them, but it may make you feel be�er when you recognize what they have been doing. Their behavior is based on fear of others. Unless you are prepared to grovel, you will continue to present a threat to them. As your sanity and health are negatively impacted by groveling, you had best prepare yourself to find employment elsewhere. Healthy organizations have very few of these people, so you might want to look elsewhere in the company for a safer work environment. If there are a lot of people like this, the organization is not going to survive for very long. You need to find a healthier place to work. If you stay in the same company, make sure you are very far away from the toxic one or you will be the subject of more rumor and innuendo that you can imagine. If they fear you, they will do their best to ruin your reputation in the company. You may need to change companies. Exposing these people is the only way to remove them, but you can lose your job in the process. See the next section for the grisly details.

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Advice for Whistleblowers
Whistleblowers are people who tell it like it is, even if they suspect that they will lose their jobs and be attacked by people they consider to be friends. That is a high price to pay in order to live with themselves, but fortunately there are still people who value their integrity over public approval. Whistleblowers should be highly commended, but they are usually a�acked and fired. This chapter explains why this occurs and outlines a strategy that will allow whistleblowers to emerge with sanity and reputation intact. One of the most terrifying things that can happen to you as an employee is to find yourself in possession of information that reveals serious wrongdoing by someone of higher rank in the organization. No ma�er what you do with the information, you may lose your job, but you could be emotionally scarred as well if you are not prepared. Even if you are prepared, you may not have a happy outcome. It might be only bearable at best. I have been in this situation twice and have known several others who have found themselves involuntarily forced into becoming whistleblowers. It is not a situation one cares to repeat, but there are some things you should know which may help you survive with your sanity and dignity intact. By the way, we were all fired, for reasons which will become obvious. Preparing For Change 82

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day By executive wrongdoing, I mean every serious offpolicy and illegal activity you can imagine. These include: drug use, extreme sexual harassment, the�, cooking the books, insider trading, industrial espionage, falsifying sales records, diversion of money, falsifying time sheets, etc. The list is practically endless and many of the companies I worked for had at least one incident occur in the executive ranks while I was there. Fortunately, I was directly involved in the discovery of only two of these. Others blew the whistle on the rest. First, let us see why such wrongdoing exists in the first place. There is generally a climate which fosters or is tolerant of wrongdoing by executives. If the person has been doing this wrongdoing for a few months, those higher in the organization are deliberately ignoring it for some reason. They may be afraid to talk or they may be involved in some wrongdoing of their own. Your discovery of this information puts you in an extremely difficult position. You generally have no one you can turn to. If you confront the wrongdoer directly, you will almost always be fired for any number of false reasons. Human Resources, contrary to your expectations, is not your friend. HR is there to protect the company and its executives against employees like you. They may give you an audience, but they will generally take no action against the offending executive. Instead, they will probably put you on report for trumped up

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day charges of failing to do your job properly and may recommend your dismissal. Ge�ing a lawyer generally does not help, because you probably signed an agreement when you were hired that allowed your employer to dismiss you at any time for cause or for no cause. Perhaps you decide to compromise your integrity, and say nothing about this to anyone at work. The resulting self-degradation will eat at you until you become ill or until you can no longer stand yourself. At this point, your work will suffer and you become a candidate for disciplinary action and dismissal unless you have already quit in disgust. So, what can you do to come out of this with your sanity and reputation intact? If you have understood what I have said so far, you will realize leaving this organization under your own steam is your only option. Yes, you can report the wrongdoer, but you should do it only a�er you have secured employment in another company or in another division of the same company, preferably with someone who detests the executive who is doing wrong and ge�ing away with it. Why should you leave this organization you have put so many years into? Look around you! You are in an organization that validates bad behavior by executives. What chance do you have for advancement? Go someplace where you have a chance to start anew.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Once you start making waves, you will lose any chance for good references. Leave while you can and use your new experience to make sure that your new company is a more ethical place. One more point. Keep your findings to yourself and do not share them with co-workers. You are likely to find that they do not want to hear about them. They recognize you as a lightning rod that is already buzzing with a corona discharge and will withdraw from you at the first opportunity. They may even report you to protect themselves. Once you are tagged as a whistleblower, anyone associating with you is pu�ing their careers at risk. Here are the steps you should follow in summary form: 1. Leave the organization under your own steam before you are sucked into participating in or concealing the wrongdoing. 2. Document everything very carefully. 3. Secure or develop a position of safety from which you can publicize the wrongdoing in the fullest detail possible. 4. Do not rely on the government or public opinion to protect you. 5. Publicize the wrongdoing using every channel available to you.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day 6. Go on with your life while continuing #5 until something is done to stop the wrongdoing. You will be a�acked, so expect the worst and continue to flourish and prosper anyway. 7. Do not make the mistake of making your life revolve around #5. Vitriolic discourse is bad for your health. Get the truth out as calmly and determinedly as possible. Let the bad guys froth. You will live longer if you can find something to laugh about in this sorry situation. So, in conclusion, you may not have asked for this opportunity, but you have inherited it nonetheless, so make the best of it. Get a new job before the roof caves in on those who misbehave and the managers who allow such behavior. You have just discovered that your company is infested with cockroaches and management likes it! Move out smartly and consider yourself fortunate. Jennifer R wrote: Wish this data had been available a few years ago. I got fired for blowing the whistle on a boss doing drugs. His entire department was about to quit (many without jobs lined up) and I felt it was my moral duty to inform someone of what was happening. So much for ge�ing rewarded for doing the right thing... Candy wrote: Unfortunately, I am in this situation myself, right now, and while I am looking for a job, I haven’t been able to find anything. I know I am going

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day to be screwed over, but I can’t look the other way and let this go by. I’ve got to be able to look myself in the mirror. I feel just morally soiled by continuing to take a paycheck from this place, but I have a family to support. Thanks for writing this though, at least I know I’m not alone. Jennifer T. wrote: I have been forced into the hot seat twice in my career and blew the whistle both times because I was uncomfortable lying and also cared for the good of the department/company. The first time I was fired along with my boss--and they actually admitted the reason I got it too was for disloyalty towards my boss. The second time around I’d like to have made a different choice but circumstances were such that if I had covered for my boss it would have ultimately been discovered that I had lied, he’d have been fired anyway and likely me too. But I gave up the info again and was more fortunate that time--my boss was fired and I was promoted. Another example: A week a�er the 9-11 a�acks, in the Washington field office of the FBI, newly hired translator, Sibel Dinez Edmonds, found herself working with a group of Middle Eastern linguists who were sympathetic to the 9-11 terrorists! When she arrived for her first day of work, these FBI linguists were celebrating the destruction that had taken place!

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Who were these linguists, you say? They were FBI employees with top-secret security clearances. Their job was to translate terror-related communications. One of these linguists had direct connections to a group that was under FBI surveillance! Edmonds reported her concerns to FBI officials and she was fired for causing trouble. Her supervisor, who was sympathetic to the terrorists and delayed translations, was promoted. She told her story behind closed doors to investigators in Congress and to the Justice Department. Later, she told her story to Correspondent Ed Bradley of CBS. Her allegations prompted two key senators -- Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) -- to pose critical questions about the FBI division working on the front line of gathering and analyzing wiretaps. This story was originally published by CBS and resurfaced recently on FrontPageMag.com. If it hadn’t been for Sibel Edmonds, we would have all been kept in the dark and these traitor/translators would be still feeding misinformation to the Administration. She is the one bright spot in this sordid mess.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day John Cole, former FBI Counterintelligence Program Manager, wrote the following: You are right on the money. I was the other individual in the Washington Post article that reported mismanagement and security issues. Unfortunately, or maybe I should say fortunately, I too was fired for Whistleblowing a�er I reported several areas of mismanagement and security problems to FBI management, including Director Mueller, and to the Senate. People have a right to know what goes on within the government especially when it effects our nations security. IF one digs deeper they will find others within the FBI that have commi�ed serious crimes, to include espionage, and have not been held accountable. We need more people like Sibel and John - in the FBI and elsewhere. Nobody wants to become a whistleblower, but fortunately there are people who are willing to step up and do something when it is required. But, doing the moral thing without understanding why the wrongdoing exists and why it is being covered up leaves a whistleblower vulnerable to a�ack by the managers who seek to conceal the activity. You may occasionally run into this type of activity. I hope this chapter prepares you for the difficult task you will face.

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Yesterday’s Experts - Woefully Out Of Touch
“Yesterday’s experts” are those who have risen to the top of their profession by hard work and then, satisfied by the approval of their peers, stopped learning about new things. Yet they continued making judgments about things they obviously didn’t understand. You do not want to become “yesterday’s expert”, because you can become obsolete in a heartbeat. Technology continues to evolve and you immediately stand out when you rail against new technology and new processes. You can also go down in history as a dunderhead of record when you make predictions about upcoming events. There are online collections of amusing and erroneous predictions from yesterday’s experts. These predictions are all the more amazing because they were made by people who were known as innovative trailbreakers and highly successful businessmen right up to the point where they revealed that they had become dinosaurs. Here are some historical examples of bona fide experts who let themselves get out of touch. Everything that can be invented has been invented.. Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Patent Office, 1899 Preparing For Change 90

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives..-- Admiral William Leahy, Manha�an Project, 1943 Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?-- H. M. Warner, Warner Bros. Studios, 1927 We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out anyway.-- President of Decca Records, rejecting The Beatles a�er an audition, 1962 Space travel is bunk.-- Sir Harold Spencer Jones, Astronomer Royal of the UK, 1957 (two weeks later Sputnik orbited the Earth) Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.-- Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1889 We can understand how average people with average knowledge will make very inaccurate predictions about the future, but it is harder to grasp how wellknown “experts” can make such incredibly stupid statements regarding the future or even a current state of affairs. In some cases, it is because “experts” want to defend their position and fight off competitors. They do not wish to look or listen except to sycophants who will agree with them. As of that moment they became “Yesterday’s Expert”.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day How can you recognize someone who has become Yesterday’s Expert? Ridicule of new ideas is a reliable indicator that someone is becoming yesterday’s expert and hasn’t a clue about what is really going on. These are the people who would rather you didn’t get involved in things they don’t understand. They will find all sorts of arguments against what you are doing. Whether it is blogging, meditation, exercise, self-enlightenment, or launching a new career, some “authority” (yesterday’s expert) will have a crushing put-down of what you are doing or propose to do. Yesterday’s experts need to scramble in order to keep up. Technical curmudgeons don’t last long. They are dinosaurs and have li�le to offer us. We will become dinosaurs like them if we stop learning and doing new things. How does this apply to you? Don’t defer to yesterday’s expert. Become expert in your own way. Don’t be compulsive about turning to authority in order to make up your mind about something. If you have investigated something and found it desirable, helpful, affordable and not harmful to your mind or body, you should trust your judgment and investigate further.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Whatever else happens to you, don’t become “yesterday’s expert”. Keep an open mind and don’t take somebody else’s unsupported opinion on important ma�ers. Investigate original source material whenever possible. Use the Internet. It is the best and most up-to-date reference you will find for most subjects.

High Tech Employment May Be Hazardous To Your Health
I was reminded recently that being gainfully employed is a challenge, not a solution. We have to earn a living, but we must remember not to be seduced by the big bucks or by fame. Seven of us gathered for dinner at a favorite watering spot in Los Gatos. Three were successful professionals still employed by Internet-related companies and four were now self-employed. A�er the usual catching up on old times, we began talking about the issues that concerned us. We engaged so energetically in our conversations, that it was only when I was driving home that I realized that our conversations had taken two distinctly different tracks.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Those who were gainfully employed were stuck in some past incident or were grimly hoping for a better future to come. It seemed that present time was frustrating, painful or discouraging for my friends employed in high tech companies. All of them earnestly wished that things would revert to some earlier state or would move swi�ly to some happier future state. Those of us who were self-employed seemed to be reasonably content with our lives and optimistic about our futures. Happiness comes to those who manage their lives well. Your emotional well-being is priceless. Don’t throw it away for mere money. Now, some of you may remember when working in Silicon Valley was fun as well as challenging. Author Po Bronson has documented the shi� from the free-wheeling days of the late nineties to more serious activities in his book, The Nudist on the Late Shi�. His conclusion was that working in the Valley didn’t seem to be as much fun as before. There’s too much at stake and time is too short. I strongly agree. Those of us at this gathering who are self-employed earn less than our high-tech friends, but our outlook in life was more optimistic. We seemed to be living in the moment and looking forward to a brighter future. I think the difference was the fact that we who are selfemployed feel we have more control over our lives. It is a rare job that provides you with the authority that Preparing For Change 94

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day matches your assigned responsibility. You do what is necessary to get the job done and you get hit because you have not cleared it first. If you try to clear things that are not covered by policy, you get criticized for lack of leadership ability. It is a no-win situation. Even those companies that say, “It is be�er to ask forgiveness than to request permission.” mean only that you get forgiven if you make the choice the boss agrees with. So, what is the solution? One suggestion is to choose those jobs that give you the chance to be self-determined. When things change and you become rigidly controlled, you will have to make a choice and find another job. If you don’t want to risk losing this highpaying job, you will become trapped and unhappy. I can verify this because I have been there. I was just as wired and anxious as my “successful” friends only a few years ago. Like them, I was so occupied with the diverse requirements of project and personal success in a highly competitive environment that I rarely took time to notice that I wasn’t flourishing as an individual. I was making good money, but I wasn’t in control of my life. I was living for work, not working to live. You need to be self-determined to live life to the fullest. It only happens when you can take control of your life. I will venture to guess that most of us have done this for brief moments only.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day You will know what these moments are because they are still highlighted in your memory. They can be as diverse as a special time with friends, or while executing a slalom on Spring snow, or while sailing with a loved one. They can even occur at work when you are doing something you are especially proud of. The one thing in common to all of these moments is that they occur when we are totally in control of what is going on. Most of us live for those shining moments. We experience more of them when we take control of our lives.

Escaping A Dead-End Job
In almost every job, there comes that moment of dreadful clarity when you finally realize that your employers have no intention of providing adequate compensation for your efforts on their behalf. They may be perfectly willing to shower you with a�aboys, but steadily maintain that business conditions prevent them from giving you any raises. You realize that the long days, the late-nighters, and the sacrificed holidays with your family were all for nothing. This is such a catastrophic letdown that your

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day normally ebullient/hopeful/cynical mood (choose one) can change to chronic apathy. Read on, because there is a way out of this apparent dead end. Sometimes, the best of jobs can turn into a dead-end job even though you are pulling off miracles every week. Human nature being what it is, you can find that your accomplishments are being ignored while other employees find favor for work that is slipshod and erratic. Sometimes this is due to nepotism, but more o�en it is due to subtle prejudices that your employer is not even aware that he has. Owner/managers tend to validate activities that they understand and devalue those that they don’t understand. Your management may view your activities as a necessary evil. Technical people in a non-technical firm experience this, but it also happens to salesmen, contract negotiators, and even to the backbone of all small businesses, the office manager! So, if you find yourself in a dead-end job, you are not alone. If you are like most employees in this situation, you have been seeking appropriate recognition for many years, and can’t understand why you are being ignored. Somewhere, back in your early youth, you were given the idea that if you worked hard and followed the rules, you would be rewarded for it. You probably Preparing For Change 97

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day ignored those who told you that most employers were out to exploit you and would discard you when you were no longer useful. I know that I did. My father, a thirty year veteran of Westinghouse, gave me this seemingly-negative advice when I first began my career. He said, “You can’t rely on their promises. They will suck you dry and then spit you out.” He wasn’t bi�er at all, just concerned for my welfare. I shrugged off his concerns with the fearlessness of the young and stupid, because I wasn’t a commodity or a clerical worker, I was a highly sought-a�er design engineer! He was right, of course, but for the first twenty years of my career, it didn’t seem so. I changed jobs easily whenever my pay failed to keep up with my contributions. What I didn’t realize was that I was a commodity with an openly-quoted market price. My ability to find new jobs was determined entirely by supply and demand for design engineers. If my current employer didn’t want to pay the going rate, someone else would. I changed jobs every three years, each time ge�ing a fi�een to twenty percent increase in salary. Eventually, the days of reckoning came when I reached the executive ranks. Being a Director of Product Development or a VP of Operations, I was much closer to Preparing For Change 98

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day the political maelstrom that exists in some companies. Performance was considered secondary to political correctness, and I had issues with that sort of ranking. As a result, I began to experience the pangs of being ignored at raise time and found that there was li�le apparent demand for my specialized abilities elsewhere. I was able to handle this, but it took many iterations over the next twenty-five years to be able to escape dead-end jobs cheerfully. Here is some basic data which can help you: 1. Do the best work that you are capable of every day. This will give you the confidence to seek new work when it becomes time. 2. Consider yourself a long-term contractor, not an employee. The company will discard you when it becomes expedient. You should be prepared to do the same. 3. When it becomes apparent that you are not going to be rewarded for your work, don’t whine, get busy locating another job immediately. Stay employed, but network like crazy until you turn up another opportunity. I discovered another useful escape route from a deadend job when there is no one to network with. This came from observing a young relative who found herself in this situation a�er eight years of major acPreparing For Change 99

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day complishments. Promised raises never seemed to occur, although others in the company fared be�er. She had go�en herself into the trap of immersing herself into her work and failed to develop a network of other professionals she could consult with. Since she had no network, she announced she was going back to school to get another degree. This would give her professional status in the area which she was already competent, but not financially rewarded. Her expectation was that she would be able to develop a network of useful contacts through the graduate business courses she would be taking. She had a good chance of doing that, but the company realized that they would lose her if she went back to school. They made her a new offer which resolved the inequities of the past! Hope this helps those of you in similar circumstances. Good luck on making a clean escape!

Integrity 101
There is still general concern about the lack of integrity exhibited by some individuals and organizations, so I would like to make the concept of integrity more easily understood.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day These dictionary definitions are valid, but static: 1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code. 2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness. 3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; Here is an action-oriented definition which is much easier to remember and follow: The best definition of integrity: Doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. Integrity is basically wholeness and it can make one relatively fearless. Most small children have integrity. That’s why they o�en ask questions that make adults cringe and fumble for answers. Unfortunately, most lose their integrity at an early age. Every lie, every misdeed, every hidden action puts another crack in the wholeness we started out with. Repairing a lack of integrity is a daunting process, as it involves coming clean with ourselves and with those we have deceived. But, the final result is worth all of the pain and embarrassment involved. Since our society tends to punish those who confess to wrongdoing, we learn at an early age to hide our transgressions. Thus we lose our integrity as we lie and mislead others to protect ourselves from punishment.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day This is why a forthright child of four or five can become sly and sneaky a few years later. If the child never has a chance to come clean, the burden can become unbearable by the time they approach the teen years. Integrity is the underpinning of existence. All the bluster in the world will not obscure its absence. Nor will good deeds make up for its lack. The doing of good deeds when you have a serious lack of integrity just makes the guilty secrets harder to conceal. The internal conflicts are unbearable. People with sordid secrets fear those who have maintained their integrity. They will stop at nothing to discredit others who are ethical. In some cases, they try to punish or tempt honest and ethical people into actions which result in a loss of integrity. This a�empt to degrade others may be a lastditch effort to justify their own condition, but will only worsen it, as it is just one more despicable act to hide. A lack of integrity is not easily concealed. It affects one’s a�itude towards life and toward others. O�en it makes a person withdraw from social contact when they would normally be reaching. When there is so much to hide, one makes mistakes because it is hard to remember what has been said to whom. In addition, a pa�ern of behavior has been laid in through constant repetition where promises are frequently made to avoid embarrassing questions. One

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day promises to do something rather than confronting the real issue. This leads to a dwindling spiral in life. Once we observe a lack of integrity in someone, it colors every aspect of our relationship with that person. When a person doesn’t do what they promise, for example, or lies about what they have done, it sticks in our minds and we rarely trust them again. If they repeat the action later, we may cut them out of our lives without a backward glance. Life is difficult enough without suffering from a lack of integrity. Get help, if necessary, to regain your full power as an individual. A last observation: It took a long time for me to discover that people are only as free as they have no secrets to hide.

Telling The Truth - Compassionately
There are facts that are true, but are not palatable to others. How then, do you communicate about these ma�ers without damaging your reputation, losing your job, or breaking up a long relationship? I suggest that you consider sharing only information that others can experience easily.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day If you find out that the boss is violating the law, someone’s lover is unfaithful, or someone’s child shows seriously evil intentions toward a younger sibling, you may well feel an obligation to disclose this information to those affected by it. Do what you need to, but do it compassionately. Happiness does not come from sharing bad news, however true it is. You must find a way to communicate the truth in an acceptable manner to someone who will believe you. It is best if you communicate with as li�le editorial comment as possible. On the other hand, you may have undergone some personal enlightenment and realize from direct personal observation that many of your former beliefs were not true. Again, you should consider sharing only that which others can accept easily. Otherwise, you will alienate people beyond belief. Except for those who recognize that they have hit a wall and need enlightenment, your best bet is to stick with non-controversial truths that are almost self-evident. There is a great joy, however, when you discover someone who has acquired some of the same hard-won truths and you can share thoughts freely. Otherwise, share your information carefully. Nobody likes the person who breaks the news about Santa and the Tooth Fairy.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day The material in this book is all based on true incidents, but it may be hard to confront. It was certainly very hard to experience. I have tried to make it as palatable as possible.

Getting Along With Others
A�er a good deal of observation, I’ve concluded that it’s easy to get along with those who don’t threaten our place in the food chain. It’s more difficult when others threaten to diminish our food supply or steal our place in the limelight. In a work situation or in life situations, there are those who fear a scarcity of admiration or a�ention. Every action they take is for the purpose of gaining a�ention or admiration. It’s all about them, you see. They will a�empt to restrict access to their presence. They select who they will eat with and socialize with in an effort to make their company valuable. By excluding you from activities, they hope to exert control over you. If you recognize what they are doing and don’t take it personally, you can turn the tables on them. Develop your own contacts and make friends based upon your own needs. Do not do this in retaliation for being

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day snubbed, that is not how this works. Just do not pay them any special a�ention. People who are set on maintaining a popularity-based pecking order are doing it so that others will admire them and compete for their a�ention. When you ignore them, you suddenly become interesting to them. If you keep on ignoring them, they may even begin a�acking you so that you will pay a�ention to them. Don’t take the bait. Be politely bored, if you wish, but don’t give them any more a�ention than anyone else. Don’t criticize them, don’t even talk about them, just get on with your life and be as creative as you can be. Find other things and people to admire. If you can become interested in other people, you will never lack for company. You will find that it is far be�er to be interested in others than to be interesting to others. It is also saner.

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Chapter 5
The Choice Is Yours
These next chapters discuss choices you can make which will vastly improve your state of mind. All you need is the courage to continue

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It’s Decision Time Again
If you have reached this point, you are probably considering a decision which will change your life. I would like to share some observations on how decisions drive us through life. Your future is nothing more than the sum of all decisions being made about it. It rolls out before you like a carpet, zigging and zagging as you and others make the decisions involving your daily life. Basically, each decision creates a new future which we step into all unsuspecting. Here are some examples of decisions which can have life-changing results. I don’t want to be a programmer anymore... That’s the kind of manager I want to be... People here really don’t appreciate my efforts. I had be�er shut up or they may fire me Life sucks! Everyone else gets the breaks... Sometimes we come to a crossroads where the decision is obvious and apparently irrevocable. Those are actually the easy ones, because the future direction is laid out with spotlights and warning signs. Decisions like joining a company, challenging a management decision, leaving a company, all of these disparate choices have enough emotional impact that The Choice Is Yours 108

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day we usually choose wisely. They are so obviously important that our families and friends spend a great deal of time explaining the risks long before we are forced to make these choices. I think the more deceptively dangerous decisions are those that slide by us, o�en without se�ing off any alarm. Watching TV at every opportunity instead of reading or doing something creative, telling a lie to cover up a problem, indulging in emotional outbursts when things go wrong instead of handling the problem, or giving in to keep the peace instead of standing up for what you know is right. I think these are the decisions that affect the quality of our lives the most. Then, there are people who amble through life like stray dogs, taking the path of least resistance in their search for something to keep themselves amused. Often they are charming in a superficial way, but they do not understand the consequences of their actions. Far be�er that you knowingly make decisions than let them slide by without inspection. You can also choose friends and lovers who are making wise decisions about their lives. Associating with others who can’t or won’t decide wisely, puts you at risk. Of course, that’s your decision too, isn’t it.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Life is not a series of well-marked crossroads. It’s a continuously branching network of pathways through time. If you have a goal in mind for your life, it makes it a lot easier to decide on the fly whether to spend time on the couch in front of the TV or to take the kids to a museum. The stray dog approach to life can be exciting, but you will find yourself down the road a ways with nothing accomplished. I’m not suggesting that you be careful. That’s not what this is all about. You must realize that you are dealing out your future with every decision you make or decide not to make. It’s your future. Decide what you want it to be.

Is It Time To Take Stock Of Your Life?
This is something that only you can decide. Early business successes can blind you to fundamental flaws in your long-term strategic planning. The age of forty seems to be the magic point when many of us finally stop and take our first look at the larger scheme of things.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Before 40, if you are doing reasonably well, there may be no time for introspection. A�er 40, there can be too much introspection, because there is this sudden realization that opportunity has passed us by. I look back to my 40th birthday and barely recognize the person I was then. At forty, I made the shocking discovery that what I knew about living wasn’t enough to prevent my career and personal life from crashing simultaneously. I had been running full-tilt through one high-tech job a�er another, constantly moving up the management ladder, with the expectation that I would, at some point, have time for my family. It seemed like I was almost there when I helped found a startup and it began going like gangbusters. When I got forced out of the company, just a�er it got a second round of funding, it was like being spiritually rebooted. (If the computer analogy doesn’t work for you, it was like the ultimate wake-up call.) I took a year off to search for answers and finally found what was wrong with my approach to life. I also discovered what was truly important to me and I now work constantly to strengthen those areas. If you are not doing as well as you wish, you might well explore the other chapters in this section. You may be inspired to institute changes in your own life.

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Voting With Your Feet
We have these choices in life: Working to improve things, Whining about the unfairness of it all Voting with our feet. When you are in a company, a country, or a relationship that is not working and offers no prospect of ever working for you, you can always vote with your feet. I personally prefer working to improve things, but have occasionally chosen to vote with my feet. Most of us don’t give up easily, but there are times when we cannot improve a situation, no ma�er how hard we try. Then it is time to move on, or we are helping to perpetuate the situation. The expression originally was applied to the emigration of individuals from one country to another that offered more opportunity. It is the ultimate solution in a relatively free society, because if enough people do this, countries will have to improve (compete), or risk losing key people to other countries. In the UK, a survey of 1,600 workers by totaljobs.com revealed that four in ten employees plan to switch jobs next year. Career-driven workers ‘voting with their feet’.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day I hope you are successfully handling the challenges of your life and are not considering voting with your feet any time soon. But, if you really have to do so, you can take heart in the fact that this country was se�led by people who voted with their feet. It is not the end of the world at all. It can be a new beginning.

Your Career Curve
A career path generally follows a curve. You start out with promise, have a few false starts, but if you persist, you finally reach a point where you enjoy a modicum of success. Then you eventually fall out of favor, either with your management, the Board of Directors, or with stockholders, and you go off to lick your wounds and try again. It doesn’t ma�er whether it is your fault or not, you reach a point where your interests and management’s are no longer in alignment. Some of you will repeat this cycle many times before finally hi�ing the wall. At this point, you either reinvent yourself or somebody does it for you. Like it or not, there eventually comes a time when your convoluted career curve finally tops out and goes into gentle descent or sudden free fall.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day When it becomes evident that you are no longer in demand as an executive, a designer, a system analyst, or as a marketing manager, you will need to find work as something else. Very few employees go happily off into the sunset with a severance package or a pension. Most will find themselves facing hard decisions that will require a lot of soul-searching. Unless you are one of the few who are financially independent, you need to get ready now for eventual long-term self-employment. It will mean a change in lifestyle, but it may be easier than you expect. The important thing to keep in mind is that it will eventually happen to you and you have the power to make it work if you start preparing now. There is life a�er corporate employment. You just have to be ready for it. Living a meaningful life includes planning for your future as well as enjoying life as it happens.

When Your Career Curve Is Rising
This section deals with strategies you should consider while your career curve is still rising. All of the advice that follows assumes that you are giving your job every thing you have got. The Choice Is Yours 114

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day If you read the last section, you might be thinking, “Why is he cheerily laying on such bleak news? Don’t we have enough trouble coping with waffling managers and impossible deadlines? Why should we be looking forward to old age and reduced circumstances?” You need to see what is coming while there still is time to prepare for a more satisfying future. Gravity does not let up because you ignore it. Neither does the law of supply and demand. You will stay employed as long as you have skills that are in demand AND as long as you are still a�uned to the rhythms of the group you work with. No ma�er how well off you are today, either one of these can go wrong in a relatively short time. Your hard-earned skills can become expendable overnight in several common scenarios: a takeover occurs, new operating procedures are introduced, the technology you know is replaced, etc. Your affinity with your group can go down the chute when any of the following occur: a new manager arrives and brings in her own people, you are transferred because of a reorganization, successful actions are discarded in order to reduce costs. You will feel out of place and will have lost your support group. Staying employed is becoming much more like white water ra�ing with Captain Ahab than working as a galley slave. You spend most of your time watching The Choice Is Yours 115

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day for submerged rocks and you are o�en forced to move at a pace you cannot control. When something goes wrong, you will catch hell for it even if your group leader chose the route. You rarely get worked to death because the company goes down and you all go with it. The pressure is so intense that you don’t realize how miserable you are until a�er it is over. The analogy breaks down because, in white water ra�ing, you feel you have accomplished something as a team. In today’s work environment, you may be the only one who knows what you have accomplished. When your career curve is still rising, you must be willing to look for another job as soon as you feel that your progress is being blocked. Just as your company considers you expendable, you must treat your employer as a disposable source of income. If you are not being given assignments that challenge you and not being rewarded for your efforts, get out of there quickly and get a job that does both. Yes, you might make a few missteps, but you will soon learn which employers need and want your services and will pay well for them. You have a relatively short time to learn technical and management skills that will allow you to earn good money. You cannot waste your working life waiting for your boss to become an enlightened manager.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Yes, you will probably keep your job if you don’t make waves, but you will slip further and further behind until you end up working for someone who is not qualified to manage you. Here is something else to remember: Work is like that rock, paper, scissors game. There is no long-term winning play You need to stay alert and look for the strategy that will allow you to produce results for your company and get well-rewarded for it. The winning strategy will change over time, so you must be ready for the next shi� if you are to continue successfully. Here is an example from life: Kim B writes: David, You write about what I am living right now. My career has hit its apex--it is stalling and spu�ering. A reorganization eliminated my department and I am now working for someone who has no business managing me. For three years I was totally absorbed in my job and asleep at the wheel when it came to managing my career. Now I wake up at 3 am wondering what to do next. At 50, my options are far fewer than when I was 30.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day The bad news is that Kim is just one of thousands of people in that position. The encouraging news is that it is possible to recover from this slough of despond. Just keep your head and start working on an exit strategy.

When Your Career Tops Out
Let’s talk about that part of the career curve that makes you lie awake at night, worried and sweating. It is the point where your career progress falters. You will know when that happens, because your comments in meetings start being politely ignored. If you persist in being heard, you will be removed from the meeting distribution list and given another assignment. People start avoiding you and no one will go to lunch with you any more. You are being perceived as a liability by your coworkers. Whatever you have, they don’t want to be contaminated by it. You walk around with a hunted look, trying to force a confident smile. It is a truly awful time for you, and there is only one way to handle it. You must first recognize that it is only a ma�er of time before they get rid of you.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day If it has go�en to this point, there is no way I know that you can save yourself. You must transfer to another group immediately or find work elsewhere. In either event, you must take stock of what you have been doing that has go�en you in such disfavor. To make it simple, let’s assume that you have actually been doing valuable work. You may have been in the wrong group all the time. If you are an ethical person, you will make some groups very uncomfortable, even if you are keeping your mouth shut. Almost all whistleblowers get fired, so people who disagree with what is being done are the first to be let go. You may not have had what it took to play on this team. You may have been making sure that customer got what they ordered, while everyone else was safely out of range and remaining politically correct. The fastest way to recover is to pull in another job, preferably with someone who has a work ethic more like your own. The most important thing you can do is to take a good look at what you did that got you into this situation, and figure out where you went wrong. It might have been in the original interview, where you missed the fact that this new group was a bunch of piranhas! You may have signed up for a job that couldn’t be done. In fact, you may actually have been hired as a

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day handy scapegoat by someone trying to cover up an earlier mistake. There can be all sorts of reasons why they don’t like you, but the most probable reason is that you make someone very uncomfortable, and they will only feel be�er when they have go�en rid of you. If you have made them uncomfortable enough, they will go to great lengths to give you a bad recommendation. A few years ago, one of my managers prevented one of my coworkers from transferring elsewhere by secretly pu�ing out negative recommendations for more than a year. It was eventually discovered and she was let go herself. The best solution is to get recommendations from others in your group and tell your new employer that you and your ex-boss didn’t have the right “chemistry”. The bo�om line is, as always, that you missed a clue somewhere and all of your effort has done li�le more than embarrass someone above you. You may learn more tact, or you may join a be�er group, but you need to get out and rebuild your confidence, by doing a worthwhile job elsewhere. The sooner you do it, the more quickly you will regain your confidence and continue your upward career trajectory. Read the section on Finding and Keeping Work to fill in the details of recovering from this situation.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day You will survive this. You may even look back and laugh...some day. Meanwhile, get yourself to a safe place and regroup.

It’s Never Too Late To Change Horses
The IT industry grew so fast and in so many different directions that those of us on the bleeding edges found ourselves in many different niche situations. Some of those niche technologies did not keep up with mainstream technology and the specialists got stuck in a time warp like bugs in amber. They went on using obsolete technology until the niche dried up. Today, there are many generations of so�ware languages still in use, but very few programmers know more than a few of them. In two years, many of these current languages may also be obsolete. High-tech growth can turn capable technical people into dinosaurs overnight. If you are lucky, you know the languages, operating systems and databases that are now in demand. If you read the classifieds and barely understand what they are asking for, you have not changed jobs in the last few years. The same is true in almost every field. Experience in Six Sigma, or in CRM deployment, or with UNIX was once a vital necessity for your career and yet these

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day can be replaced overnight by some other requirement which you don’t have. You can come off a long project and find yourself saying, “What is this Flash? RSS? WiFi SIP Phones? What year is this? Even if you take advantage of every course your company offers, you can still be blindsided by technological change and find yourself on the street with your whole division. The only solution is to reinvent yourself constantly, preferably before you get fired or laid off. Once you are on the street and your unemployment runs out, you need to increase your necessity level if you are to survive. First of all, if your skills are not currently in demand, stop thinking of yourself as a Senior Quality Manager, or as Director of Product Development, or as a Vice President of Operations. I have been all of those too and would segue into being a sales representative, program manager, or a freelance consultant when the need arose. Rewrite your resume to highlight the skills required by the company you are interviewing with. Almost every responsible position you have held has required handling of customers, budget planning, or some sort of computer experience. With a li�le thought, these can be turned into a plausible background for any sales position or general management position, possibly into a customer service position. The Choice Is Yours 122

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day If you have no companies to interview with, make a long list of your skills, not your positions held. Think how these skills could be used to make money or to secure employment. Get over the fact that you were once somebody with a certain title. That’s history now. You need to create a new game for the future if you are to continue supporting yourself and your family. Keep your options open and talk to everyone you know about the kinds of work you can do. Don’t be afraid to take up work in an unrelated field if it offers a chance to build a new future. You may have to take a pay cut, but if the work is satisfying, you will find a way to advance yourself. Keep your head, don’t lose track of your objectives and find work that will keep food on the table and a roof over your head. Give each new job everything you have, but keep acquiring marketable skills. You may find yourself in this position again and this experience will make it much easier next time. I’ve made five major career changes: from aerospace to data acquisition companies to computer companies to so�ware companies, to Internet companies, with several bouts of consulting in between. Almost none of my experience was directly transferable. I learned to stay on top of industry trends so that I would know when the next career change was about to occur. The Choice Is Yours 123

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Very few of us will work for the same company more than a few years. You owe it to yourself and your family to be prepared for major changes in your occupation. Get ready to change horses when the time comes.

The Ideal Job
The ideal job prepares you for the far future. Employment today is temporary. Like it or not, you are an employee at will. You can be let go for cause or no cause. There is only one long-term solution. Every job you take should be part of a plan to equip you for full selfemployment. The ideal jobs are those that prepare you for long-term job security as your own boss. What kind of job actually does that? The ideal job is one that pushes you to become more competent, because that is the way that you will eventually achieve independence. A great boss, a desk with a view, or killer stock options do not make an ideal job. The ideal job will challenge you and force you to extend the envelope of what you can do. Sure, You should make money, scads of it, but the experience you can acquire and take with you is the real gold you seek. Your competence and experience is your only security.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Employers will come and go. Technologies will come and go. Even your networking contacts have limited long term value in many professions. Your networking connections are the key to your career progress, because 85% of all positions are filled by personal referrals, but these vital connections are increasingly perishable because of high turnover, so you have to keep working on developing new ones. The only real security is competence (and a willingness to embrace change). Take jobs that make you more competent in ways that will provide long term opportunities for you. A low paying job in a brand new field is far more valuable to you than a high paying job maintaining legacy hardware or so�ware. There is more that can be said, but this should give you some ideas. Remember also that jobs are not permanent. Your ideal job may only last for two years, maybe even less. Be prepared to find the next one as soon as things begin to slow down. You should get as much experience as you can running projects, handling finances, purchasing, and dealing with customers in a sales and service capacity. Being your own boss requires all of these skills and more.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day When one is near retirement age, there are few positions available even for the most highly skilled professionals. The Internet shakeup of 2001 spilled hundreds of thousands of experienced workers into the ranks of unemployed. Many of the over-fi�y group are still looking for work. The optimum solution for the rest was to work for themselves. Pensions are a thing of the past and Social Security may be a mirage, but a skilled person with business acumen and a nest egg can always generate income. My readers concur: Kim B wrote: I wish it were not so, but you are right. As a 50-year-old tech worker in a large corporation, I am increasingly aware of my vulnerable position. O�en I feel like I am standing on a trap door--and my employer can pull the lever any time. When it opens, I will be in a free-fall. I feel my only choice is to prepare for self-employment. Tom G writes: Fi�een years ago, my wife and I decided to take a chance on ourselves. It turned out to be the best bet we ever made on every possible scale. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy...we’ve had many anxious moments, but many more moments of real satisfaction at doing what we were meant to do. Brendon C writes: I can’t really articulate the ways that this resonates with me. In my family of 30-somethings and toddlers, I took a pre�y significant pay cut The Choice Is Yours 126

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day in order to be able to commute to work on foot. My wife has been working half-time, but won’t be working at all next year, for precisely the reason you describe. Rosa S writes: As the saying goes, hindsight is 2020, but foresight is far, far be�er. One of the traps my husband and I fell into along this same road was convincing ourselves that the “easier” path of working for another employer for so long would also be easier on our family, cu�ing down our stress with financial risk, overly long hours when it’s only you and you can’t clock out, etc. I now wish we kept looking for more options and worked our way to self-employment more gradually versus going cold turkey.

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When You Are Out Of Work
It’s nice to have someone reach out and give you a helping hand. It’s be�er when they help you find a job. Here is some ni�y-gri�y advice I learned the hard way. There are times in almost every life when our plans don’t work out and life puts the squeeze on us. More and more of us have had to deal with being unemployed for short or long periods of time. Unemployment is especially hard in a culture that makes credit easy. When you get a great job, it seems like the work is going to go on forever, so why not get a credit card and lease a car and live like a human being instead of a starving student? When you are unemployed, there is not enough money to pay on the credit cards, or the car, or pay rent, and buy food. It’s too late for regret and it’s o�en too late to repair the damage. You have to make changes and that doesn’t mean looking for someone to loan you money until you’re back on your feet. Borrow money to eat if necessary, but there are things you must do that will get you out of this fix with your integrity intact. Here is my short list:

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day 1. Change what you are doing immediately. Disabuse yourself of the idea that you are an executive, or a manager or whatever. You need work and you have skills. At least I assume you have skills, because you are reading this. 2. Forget the ads, the headhunters, the endless resumes. You are going to talk with everyone you meet about the fact that you are looking for work and you can do...LOTS of useful things. If you can’t do lots of useful things, go to the nearest In-N-Out Burger or Wal-Mart and fill out an application. 3. Don’t worry about writing a resume until you find someone who needs some work done. Then you write a one page summary that fits what this person needs in an employee. 4. You develop a concise pitch that you use with everyone you talk to, or write to, even those people you see in Starbucks. It goes somewhat like this, “Do you know of a company that is looking for help with their advertising, sales, marketing, communications, website, events, etc.? I am looking for work.” 5. You talk with your family, friends, the landlady, the UPS guy, your cousin Edna, and the people you cared about in your last seven jobs. One or more of them will probably pipe up with a possible job which you will investigate if you are smart.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Why am I confident that you can do this with some chance of success? Eighty-five percent of all job placements are done through personal referrals! All of the hoopla you see in the classifieds, all of the job fairs, all of the placement firms account for less than fi�een percent of the job placements. Almost everyone knows of someone who is working in a decent place and they will refer you to them if you ask the right questions. Just let everyone know that you are looking for work and what your skills are, not what wonderful positions you have held. Concentrate on telling them what you can do for a company. Ask for money if you need to eat. Otherwise, ask for work. It is out there and you will find it. Bill Schaffer, a career consultant, had some useful advice on resumes: David, as usual your thoughts on what to do are exactly on target. I just want to add one thing about the resume. Many people load into their resume everything they’ve done, to show how experienced and versatile they are. The hiring manager is not interested in anything that does not pertain to the need he or she is trying to fill.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day So resumes have to eliminate extraneous stuff. Also, remember that the resume MUST begin with: (1) a Job Objective, in one sentence, and (2) a Summary of Skills (four or five sentences, or six-seven bullets). The Summary of Skills is where the sale is made (or not). It has to be worded so that the reader (HR, hiring manager) will think “If all this is really true, then THIS is one of the five people we must interview.” Many people really don’t know the skills they actually have; they define themselves in terms of what they’ve done, or former jobs they’ve had, as you mention. One more thought: if you ask for “advice” rather than directly for a job, people in companies will be more open to giving you time.

Bailing Out of a Smaller Company
When things go wrong in a smaller company, it isn’t always you. This may come as a shock to some of you, but your boss may be losing his grip on what it takes to run the company. If this is the case, he will generally a�ack the wrong target, usually the most productive staff member. He will not stop when the offending staff member is fired, because his wrath is partly self-directed. Once this un-

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day fortunate meltdown begins, it generally does not stop until all witnesses are fired or completely cowed. For those of you who haven’t experienced this, here is a quick sketch of the dynamics involved. The very qualities that enable someone to build a business against all obstacles may precipitate a crisis in the enterprise when it gets to a size where others contribute to the decision making. An entrepreneur has to control an enormous number of variables in order to stand a chance of succeeding with his own company. He may not be able to manage or delegate, if he has never learned enough people skills to judge people properly and delegate tasks appropriately. The executive who kept all of the balls in the air successfully when the company was smaller may spontaneously combust when others pick up the rhythm and start adding to the motion. This is a manager in trouble and he can feel so threatened that he will even invent facts to discredit those that appear to threaten him. He will begin to undermine those who are most productive, and most threatening, by spreading trumpedup stories of errors and serious failures to comply with “policy”. In a company of several hundred employees, he can o�en get away with his campaign, because there are many who do not know what is actually going on and are eager to fill any vacancy. As long as positions are

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day opening up above them, they will eagerly support any rumor, no ma�er how far-fetched. In smaller companies, the boss’s meltdown is more visible but few of your co-workers will object, even though they see what is going on. Their desire to keep on receiving paychecks generally keeps them silent. They fear for their jobs if they were to comment openly. And, a�er a while, they find it hard to believe that there isn’t something to the stories that he is spreading. Besides, they are relieved that it isn’t them that is ge�ing a�acked. (Baa... Baaa.) I have had first-hand experience with this unwelcome scenario several times. It was an invariable sign of looming corporate disaster. There is an old saying, “Don’t sleep with anyone crazier than you are.” It could well be expanded to, “Don’t work for anyone crazier than you are. Especially if you bring out their insecurities!” I fervently hope that this does not apply to any of you and that you can read it as an amusing work of imaginative fiction.

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The one thing I can say with certainty is that, when you are unemployed, you will find out who your real friends are because they are the ones who will give you the impetus to get back on your feet and succeed again.

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Chapter 6
Breaking Away
Some helpful hints for making a successful change

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Starting Over
If you are currently unemployed, you have my sympathy. I have been there a few times myself, and it does not improve with repetition. Being unemployed is a condition that will affect more and more of us in the years to come, because employment no longer comes with any guarantee of security. The one thing I can say with certainty, is that when you are unemployed, you will find out who your real friends are, because they are the ones who will give you the impetus to get back on your feet and succeed again. They probably will not lend you money, but they will put you in touch with people who will hire you. You don’t need charity, you need a helping hand which leads you to a new opportunity. You may find that helping hand by reading the next chapters. They cover the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of starting over. Starting over is like any adventure, it is best to start with a clear head and with all of the essential information in hand.

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A New Door Opens...If You Let It
When your job or relationship is ending, this forces open a door to other opportunities. It may seem like your world is falling to pieces around you, but it is simply the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. I am NOT saying that the past is not important, or not painful, or any of those other things. This is what is important: We need to learn from the past, not live in it. I can hear some people now. “What does he mean, only the end of a chapter? This position, this person has been my whole life! I have spent years working to achieve this.” I am not making less of your work, or of your relationship, at all. When change is forced on you, it can create a terrible loss and it is appropriate to grieve about it. But you do no credit to the memory of the person you loved or the great job you did, if you shut down and refuse to go on. You can honor the past by the way you face the future. The love you felt for one who is gone is not lessened if you brighten the lives of deserving others by giving them freely of your affection, admiration and love in order to create a new life for yourself and others. Shu�ing yourself off from life helps no one, least of all yourself. Breaking Away 137

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day In the same way, losing a well-deserved position, for which you have struggled mightily, is one of the unkindest blows that can occur. When it occurs going into the holiday season, it seems like the cruelest betrayal that could happen. It will do no good to blame others, your particular God, or fate. What has happened has happened. You need to sit down with someone you can talk to and take stock of your options in life. If you have no one to talk to, that is the first thing you must a�end to. You need to make friends now, if you have never done so before. The important thing to keep in mind is that life goes on, with you or without you. Other doors will open for you, if you are ready to take advantage of them. If you keep your mind on moving ahead and stay aware of what is happening around you, you will discover opportunities that will let you rebuild your life or your career again. Somewhere in all of this, it would be a good idea to find out why the crisis happened and figure out how to avoid it in the future. It is also important to realize is that these new opportunities are not the old opportunities and should not be compared to them. You must make your decision based on the present, not the past. You have come to a fork in the road. Take it.

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Getting Started
Congratulations! You have escaped/been fired/resigned from your last job. Whatever! It is a chance to start over and do it right this time. You need to gather the remnants of your sanity and prepare for a successful entrance to the next phase of your life. If done correctly, you may even enjoy yourself. If you are going to get a job and you were NOT top of your class from a nationally-recognized university, majoring in whatever is hot, hot, hot today, you will probably get your job through the recommendation of a friend, an acquaintance, or someone you just met at Starbucks or the neighborhood bar. It doesn’t ma�er where you find this person. What is important is that they know someone else who could use your services. It may take several tries, but you will probably find a job, when you do, through a referral. Not to knock headhunters, as I have known and used them, but for most of us the route to employment is through personal contacts. Remember, 85% of positions are filled by personal recommendations. If you don’t have contacts, then volunteer somewhere, or get temp work which will give you contacts. You need to develop a personal safety net of contacts by networking so this doesn’t happen to you again. Breaking Away 139

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day The next thing to consider is that you will never be in a be�er bargaining position than when you interview for a job. This may sound counter-intuitive, but your ability to negotiate decreases once you begin working. I have wri�en more about this in another section, Get the Salary You Deserve. You need to take your best shot during the interview process. If they truly want you to start work, make them pay you what the job is worth. To do that, you need to get them to explain what the pay scale is based on and why they are offering you a particular pay rate. Do not fall for the tired old line that they will pay you at a lower rate until you have proved yourself. Believe me, that day seldom comes. Let them pay you what you are worth and get rid of you if you don’t prove satisfactory. If they won’t go for that, they were probably never planning to pay you full salary anyway. There are good employers out there and you will find them if you look carefully. If you find one, do your best to contribute to the growth of the company that gives you employment. Make friends and do a credible job so that you will be be�er prepared for the next layoff. If this sounds like grim news, get used to it. We are going to see a long period of employment uncertainty in this country.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day You will survive if you do the following: Work efficiently and do what you promise Make friends and stay connected to people in your field Acquire skills that will lead you to future full-time self employment If you are starting over, do it with a plan for increasing your self-employment potential. Your future may include running your own micro business and you should start ge�ing ready now. Good luck.

Get The Salary You Deserve
If you are a typical hardworking employee who doesn’t like to play politics, your best raises will come when you change jobs. It takes a rare combination of employee desperation and management insight for an employee to effectively communicate why the company should increase her salary to match her contributions. Too many managers have learned that showering “a�a-boys” and “a�a-girls” on their employees can forestall reasonable requests for pay increases. Breaking Away 141

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day I’m not talking about pay increases based on time spent on the job. I’m talking about raises based on the fact that you are doing more than anyone in your pay grade. Most companies are unwilling to recognize employee performance when it comes to paying more to high performers. As a result, pay raise differentials are typically kept to the narrowest range possible. What this means to you is that, in most cases, your pay is determined almost entirely by your starting salary. Most of you will never be in a be�er bargaining position than when you interview for a job, so you need to take your best shot during the interview process. You must have an idea of the salary you want, before you go for the interview and what value you bring to this company. If you don’t have either of these, then the rest of this will not help you. A�er you have determined that the position you are discussing is one you want to do and can do, then you can discuss salary. Discussing salary before that point is a waste of time. You may find that you are willing to accept a lower salary if the opportunity allows you to get in on a startup situation with a piece of the action. Let the company make the first offer. If they refuse to do so, give them a salary requirement that is 10 percent higher than you expect to get. Then let them negotiate you down to what you wanted in the first place. That

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day way, the hiring person can report that they saved the company money. Everybody involved should have a win when you are hired. That way, you will start out with as many people as possible on your side. Startup or not, if they truly need you, make them pay you what the job is worth. That varies from company to company, even for the same job, but you must have some idea what the pay scale is for your class of work before you a�empt to negotiate. If you really don’t know what the job is worth, you will probably end up taking what they offer you. It may be difficult for you to grasp this, but companies respect people in proportion to what they pay them. Actual performance is difficult to observe and is assumed to be proportionate to salary. Two people doing comparable work at different salaries will continue to earn different salaries as the years drag by. The person with higher pay may even get larger increases because she is more “valuable”. You job, then, is to secure the largest compensation package you can when you have maximum leverage. Believe me, the feelings of good fellowship and unfeigned enthusiasm will never be higher than during the hiring phase. Take advantage of that opportunity and secure a starting position and compensation package, in writing,

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day that will give you the best chance to star in your new position. If you miss that shot, and hope to negotiate a be�er deal at some later time by threatening to leave, your odds of success are greatly reduced. It will take a great deal of skill and sincerity to renegotiate a salary once you are locked in. You must be willing to leave the company for another job or to go back to school if your negotiation fails. That is why most of us simply changed jobs when a simple discussion with management didn’t result in a suitable salary adjustment. When most merit raises ranged from 3 to 8 percent, we could usually count on a 15 to 20 percent increase by changing jobs. If you are a valuable player, make sure you are part of a team that deserves you, and give them your best.

Building Your Support Network
If you read the news and weblogs, it is hard to miss the fact that many creative and talented people are going through hard times alone. I have been in the same position and remember vividly how desperate and worried I was at the time. Here’s what I learned about going it alone. It is not a viable

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day situation. You need allies in any environment, especially when you are unemployed. Why build a support network? If you don’t have allies, you have no leverage. You can be ordered about or imposed upon by people who are more organized than you are. The bo�om line is: you survive be�er as a member of a group. If you can’t find a group you like, organize one you do like! The worst times of my life occurred when I made self-determined changes that put me into a different culture with no friends to call upon for support. These included: going off to college, starting my first job in a strange city, and being forced out of a company I had helped to found. In each of these situations, I found myself facing new and difficult challenges with no one to offer a helping hand. Yet, all of the situations were fundamentally caused by the same thing, I had not developed a network of trusted friends. Having the support of a home and a family is a luxury that many don’t have. Most of us make career choices that take us far from home, where we work with people who don’t seem to welcome us and we have to learn information faster than we have ever done before. There is pressure from many sides and the effect is overwhelming. What happens when there is no a support network? Breaking Away 145

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day You have to produce and make a living, while learning new and confusing data, while being overwhelmed by bouts of intense loneliness and fear. You desperately try to go about your daily duties and appear normal, while being beset by doubts and confusions on every side. Some don’t make it and move home in an a�empt to mend their sha�ered lives. Others a�empt to escape the pressures with liberal doses of booze, drugs and sex. Where do you start? The way out of this painful situation is to find someone you can help, and help them. Find others like yourself and do what you can to make life easier for each other. Network with others like yourself, but don’t get into a “pity party”. What you need to do is find people you can trust and see what you can do to offer each other mutual support. There are good people in almost every work and study environment. You need to find those people who share your views and help each other out. You build mutual trust by understanding the basis on which people judge you. These have been mentioned before, but are being repeated here because of their importance. If you want people to trust you, do these three things and do them well:

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Promise only what you intend to deliver Keep your word once given Follow through so as to meet expectations It will not happen overnight, but if you do these things and try to help those around you, you will accumulate a group of friends you can rely on. Your certainty will increase and your increased confidence will enable you to do more and to shake off negative emotions. Changing your focus from yourself to others is vital, if you are to survive in a changing world. That is the only way you can create a support system that works. If you are in this situation right now, the quicker you locate some one who shares your reality on this ma�er, the quicker you will be able to take control of your life again. Make friends. Your future depends on it, and you’ll feel be�er doing it. Tim, one of the readers of my weblog, writes: As a person who has been unemployed since last April, I am hopeful of what the new year brings. Since a�ending a non-profit Career Transitions group in Chicago, I have learned how important networking is. In fact, a short conversation with a woman si�ing at my table led to an interview. Believe me, I have learned plenty of lessons from this Breaking Away 147

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day experience. One of them is to never get too comfortable in your job. If I ever get the opportunity to work full time again, I will never get too comfortable. So, I implore your readers to update their skills, take classes, and network. I joined Toastmasters last year and wish I would have done so earlier. Best wishes to everyone!

Simplifying Your Life At Work
Life at work is much simpler when expectations are discussed openly at the beginning of each job. Such candor can have beneficial results for all concerned, if this communication is accomplished in a non-threatening manner. Consider what would happen if expectations for new employees were explicitly stated. Suppose new employees were told: You are here for the purpose of making money for the company. Conduct yourself accordingly and you will be appropriately compensated. If and when you are no longer able to make money for the company, you will be let go. Now, no company ever comes out and says this, but this is actually the viewpoint most companies have. They carefully mask their intentions under a lot of fine

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day words like professional environment, hiring the best of the best, industry leader in the field of ...., etc. The bo�om line for you is that the above statement is factually true, whether the company states it or not. If that doesn’t fit your vision of what work should be, you should not take the position. If you are hired, it also lets you know when you should look for a position in another company. This approach can also work for you as a potential employee. If you put your cards on the table early in the first interview, you will quickly find the measure of this proposed employer. It will save you a lot of upset and wasted time if you find out early that you are needed as a gofer or extra pair of hands instead of playing the professional role you anticipate. If communicating your expectations does not create the possibility of an even exchange, you are probably wasting your time in this interview. You may take the job anyway to have an income, but you won’t stop looking for a be�er position. It may also show you that this employer does not consider expectations as important. If the interviewer acts surprised when you voice your expectations, you need to adjust your expectations or interview elsewhere. Some may see this open communication of expectations as a total deal-breaker, and so it will be in some cases. You may not get many takers, but you will save everybody, including yourself, a lot of time. Breaking Away 149

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day For those of you who understand exchange, an open expression of your expectations for work can open the door to a simpler and happier existence. The point I am making here is that telling the truth is not necessarily dangerous. If you can communicate your expectations clearly, you will probably find someone who is willing to deal with you. Concealing your intentions is of temporary value only. Those you are dealing with will eventually find out what you really want and you end up dealing with the upset later rather than sooner. Linda writes: What a relief it would be to find a way to express the following to prospective employers: “I only work outside the home to provide for my family. You are the avenue for that. At 5:00 PM., Monday through Friday, I will leave here, forget about this place, and focus on the people who hold real value for me. However, during the standard weekday hours of 8: 00AM to 5:00 PM, and while I am employed in your offices, I will work hard and contribute to the bo�om line.

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Starting Your Next Job Successfully
If you are planning to join a new company and are just going to try harder this time, I have news for you. This is not a winning strategy. Joining a new company and repeating the actions that you used at the last company will turn out badly most of the time. You need a mental makeover. You must understand that your entry into a new job affects the rest of your life at that company. Most people who fail in a job do so because of the actions they take, or fail to take, in the first weeks and months of their new employment. You may feel that your last company was organized with sociopaths at the top, clueless managers in the middle, and losers filling the rest of the slots. It may well have been, but like it or not, you helped contribute to that as long as you were there. Now that you are making a transition to a new company, leave the past behind. Prepare for your new job by asking questions, both during the interview process and during your first months on the job. Ask about the things that ma�er to you and listen very carefully to the answers. This must include specific questions about what they want you to do. If you get assurances but nothing in writing, this new company is organized much like

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day your old one and you are in for a bad time. Bail out before you lose your job hunting momentum. Once you find a company that feels right and you move into your new workspace, take the time to find out what they really want you to do, as opposed to what they mentioned in the interview. Find out who you report to and how the chain of command works. Don’t bypass the chain of command unless you fully understand the consequences. Find out who you will be working with and what your relationships are. This may take a lot more care than you expect. You may have to negotiate a working relationship over several weeks or months. Don’t rush it or assume anything. Project relationships are quite fluid. Try not to be too authoritative or conciliatory until you know where the actual power resides. Find out who you can go to for information and maintain those communication lines by finding what they need in return. Take your time making friends. There are those who enlist newcomers as unwi�ing allies in company power struggles. Find out who can be relied upon and who can’t. When you have a clear idea of what is needed from you, produce it and communicate appropriately to those who need updates on your progress. Find out whose toes you are stepping on by assuming this position. You may have asked why they didn’t fill Breaking Away 152

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day this position from within during the interview, but you had be�er find out now or you may find yourself under a�ack from unexpected quarters. Align yourself with those who are working to accomplish worthwhile things and keep your own counsel. Ask questions, but be alert to subjects or people that are off-limits to discussion. If you hear people say, “Don’t go there!” when you ask valid questions, you have discovered a serious problem with this employer and you will eventually bail out or be forced out. Work your way out of the initial state of being a newcomer by developing communication lines with people you trust and delivering what is needed on schedule. Once you start to become effective, you are going to hit a new series of challenges. If you are in a newly-created position, somebody has been covering the responsibilities that you are now picking up. You are going to find people challenging your right to make decisions, even though your job description entitles you to do so. In actual fact, you have to earn the right to make decisions by performing well on the job. Enjoy your adventure! Carrie writes: You just keep scaring the hell out of me. But go for it. These are the very topics I’m struggling with now. I’m in that place of knowing everything you just wrote, yet terrified to actually jump back in. Breaking Away 153

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day As Carrie indicates, starting a new job is not an easily confronted activity. It is not even intuitively obvious why these things I have mentioned are important, until you fail to do one of them and become one of the people that fail because they did not know or do these necessary actions. Here is the warning again, if you missed it the first time: Most people who fail in a job do so because of the actions they take, or fail to take, in the first weeks and months of their new employment. Don’t be one of them.

Create Your Job Every Day
Once you get the job, continue to create it daily until circumstances beyond your control void your original agreement. Then you have to negotiate a new agreement or look for your next job. Your new job only lasts as long as you create it, and you must create it daily. This deserves more than a passing reference. Creating your job is so important that you might well spend a few hours figuring out what that means in your particular case.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day You define your job by what you do. If what you do every day is real and acceptable to those who employ you, you are in good shape. On the other hand, it doesn’t ma�er how hard you work, if you are not doing what is expected of you. You are wasting your time and will probably be fired/laid off when you least expect it. Let’s take the optimum situation where you have a job description and have been given targets to meet: 1. You still have to learn and master all of the activities necessary to turn out an acceptable amount of work. 2. You have to develop lines of communication with those you will be dependent upon for assistance. 3. You must learn the corporate culture and become comfortable working within it. 4. You need to ask questions in order to find out what your seniors and coworkers expect from you. If you do not do all of these steps, you will fail miserably and find yourself looking for still another job. Some people I know have refused to do these steps for years, and have grown more bi�er with each job. If you do all of the above steps, you will know that you are doing what is required. This will give you great certainty even before it comes time for your review.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day You will know immediately whether your employer is playing fair with you at review time. You will be in an excellent position to demand additional responsibility and compensation. If your employer a�empts to play games at review time, you should be prepared to find another job immediately. Finally, let’s touch upon the least optimum situation where your job description and targets change constantly - with no clear objectives for you to meet: 5. You still need to do all of the steps above in order to see if there is any chance to improve the situation. 6. Meanwhile, you had be�er get busy and see if these other four points are missing. If they are, you need to prepare for departure. 6.1 The work must produce an ethical product or service. 6.2 Superior performance must be recognized and acknowledged. 6.3 There should be a rational and understandable command structure. 6.4 There must be a way to gather information in order to do the job well.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day It is possible that you will have to bail out eventually if you are being set up for failure. But, if you do steps 5 and 6 thoroughly, you will learn enough that you won’t be caught in this situation on the next job.

Doing What You Are Doing
If you would really like to achieve your dreams sooner, be a li�le bit happier, and feel be�er about yourself, I’d like you to consider something quite counter-intuitive. Try doing what you are doing, without doing anything else. This is what that means: If you are writing, write. If you are carrying on a conversation, talk and listen. Turn off the TV, the radio, the CD player, etc. Put down the book, newspaper, whatever. Put all of your a�ention on what you are doing. If you do what you are doing without being distracted or le�ing your mind wander, you will discover something interesting. You will be more productive and your morale will improve, no ma�er what task you are doing. Breaking Away 157

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day It sounds simple, but some people cannot do this at all. If you have this problem, you may need to work at it for some time in order to concentrate effectively. You bring all of your abilities to bear on a problem when you stay focused. If you have the TV or the radio on while you are working, your a�ention is constantly being pulled away from what you are doing. Even instrumental music will tug at your a�ention from time to time. If you have music on while you are working, make sure that it is only loud enough to mask out background noises and conversations that distract you. There are those who will say, “but I am just multitasking!” I am sure they are and like any computer that is multitasking, their a�ention is sca�ered over a number of areas. As a result, everything slows down. Have you ever noticed how long it takes to make a point with someone who is reading a paper while you are talking to them? They may say, “I’m listening to you!” but you can easily see the effort involved to collect their thoughts and respond to you, if they do at all. They are multitasking, but they do not have enough horsepower to do an adequate job of carrying on a conversation. Whenever you multitask, you are pu�ing some of your activities on automatic pilot. Chances are, you are not Breaking Away 158

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day really inspecting what is going on when you do this. As a result, you are not doing an effective job. If you really can’t concentrate, I think you will find that there is good reason you are being distracted.. There is probably some backlog of unfinished tasks that needs to be dealt with. Usually jo�ing them down lets you keep them at bay until you complete the important stuff. Try staying focused when you work or when you talk with someone else in person or on the phone. See if it makes a positive difference in your a�itude. You might be pleasantly surprised. My readers agree. Clarence wrote: I am convinced you are correct about this. I can’t write a word when the wife is in the room with the TV on behind me. That’s why I am a creature of the night, especially the wee hours of the morning. Beth W wrote: You got me, David. This morning, I was trying to write a web log post, watch a TV program on the stock market, make waffles, do laundry, fix Buck’s laptop network connections, and listen to his (fabulous) ideas on expanding our house -- didn’t do a good job of any of it! Great thoughts. Good reminder.

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You may be led to believe that there is a pony in your cubicle, and all you have to do is to shovel away enough horse poop and you will find it. If they wanted you to have a pony, they would have handed you the reins when you signed on.

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Chapter 7
A Change for the Better
Being prepared is more important than good intentions

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Finding And Keeping A Better Job
You will find and keep a be�er job, if you are willing to make the necessary decisions to go where the work is and to do what is required to find a job that matches your abilities. The material in this section will help you organize your job requirements and should help you present yourself effectively for the position you want. In the following chapters, I have identified some of the barriers and snares that some companies put in the way of unwary interviewees. You will find that you will avoid these problems by being fully prepared. When you ask penetrating questions, most duplicity shows up immediately. If you look for friendly, ethical people who are interested in having you come on board, your chances of selecting the right employer are markedly increased. If they aren’t pleasant and straight-forward in the interview, can you imagine what it will be like to work for them? Work out beforehand what you want from the company and the people you will be working with. If they don’t meet your expectations, take your time before accepting any offer. You may be able to do be�er elsewhere.

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Before You Start Your Search
Let’s say that you have given your current, or last, job everything you could and things still didn’t work out. It’s time to find a job that is a li�le closer to the ideal scene for you. If you have a clearly defined skill set, like being a database administrator or used car salesman, you are a readily interchangeable commodity. Changing jobs can be as simple as reading the classifieds and picking out the job with the best benefits. You probably don’t need to read further. The rest of us aren’t as fortunate. Changing jobs for the be�er is not a trivial activity. For about ten years, I prided myself on the ease with which I got new jobs. It never occurred to me it was only because I was a hardware design engineer, a commodity which prospective employers could evaluate down to the dollar. If you are a commodity, you are a known quantity and employers can easily decide if they need you or not. Let’s assume that you are in a hard-to-define category or possibly a commodity that is no longer in demand, like a C programmer or a middle manager with no Internet expertise. You are going to need a li�le reorientation before you send out your resume. You might start by figuring out what you want. Perhaps this new job should provide more satisfaction, be�er working conditions, or be�er pay. What you end up with is totally up to you. A Change For The Better 163

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day It will be your decisions that determine where and for whom you work. Be prepared to make some tough and possibly unpopular decisions. To get a job you can excel at may require you to move to another state or country. It may not be possible to satisfy all of the conflicting requirements that are facing you and get a be�er job in the nearby area. If staying in the same neighborhood, keeping the kids in the same school, and living near the relatives is what is important to you, you have already decided to limit your choices. I can only suggest that you fully consider your options before sentencing yourself to a less than satisfactory job.

Defining A Better Job
If you are sincerely determined to get a be�er job, give yourself a chance to break out of the box. Write down a description of your ideal job as though you are already there. Try to cover all of these points: What is your day like? What do you produce? What kind of people do you work with? What kind of responsibilities do you have?

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day What kind of advice and supervision do you get? How o�en do you get acknowledged for your efforts? What challenges do you face? What chances for advancement exist? How do you feel at the end of the day? Now, re-read what you have wri�en and adjust the description to align with your current skills. Chances are, if you look at what you have wri�en, you may already have an idea where such a job might exist. Find someone who is familiar with that company or industry and discuss your ideal job. You are not looking for an interview yet, only information. As you gather information, you may need to change your ideal job description again to match the realities of existing workplaces. At some point, you may realize that you really do not want to go on being a cubical mole, no ma�er what your title is and how much they pay you. This is a big moment. Don’t brush it off. Take a break, get a coffee and spend a li�le time thinking of the possibilities. Pick up a new piece of paper and write out another job description. This time include how this new job might affect your life outside of work.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day You may want to list the things you are going to have to learn, changes that will be required in your life style, in your social life, in your physical condition. If you have go�en this far, you need to discuss this change with those who will also be affected. It could be easier than you think. On the other hand, it may heave into view some awful things that you have not been confronting. Either way, you will start to see some motion in your life where none has existed before.

The Check Is In The Mail And Other Corporate Fables
For those of you on the brink of changing jobs, I would like to help you decipher what the prospective employer or HR person really means when making any of the following statements: 1. We are looking for someone with an advanced degree for this position 2. You are really overqualified for this job 3. We will start you on a provisional basis and in six months, a�er you have proved yourself, we will give you a raise based on your performance

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day 4. I know we didn’t get the offer le�er out, but we’d like you to start immediately 5. Your interview travel reimbursement check will be cut at the end of the month 6. We don’t have a workstation for you yet. Do you have a laptop of your own? 7. We are like a family here. All of these statements have been said to me at one time or other, and they were delivered with the utmost sincerity. The reason I am writing this is that all of these statements were totally false. The executives who said them were either clueless or consummate liars. In some cases, they were both. When I confronted them with the truth, they were astounded that I was making an issue of it. If you hear any of these statements during your interview or during the first week of employment, head for the nearest exit. If you are persuaded to stay, as I have been once or twice, you will be most unhappy with your decision. Here is a translation for you. 1. They say: We are looking for someone with an advanced degree for this position.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day They mean: We don’t care what you have done. Our policy is to fill senior positions with PHDs so it looks good to the board and to analysts. If this is said by an HR person, it means that he is covering himself by ensuring that candidates are totally qualified on paper, because he has no clue if you are qualified otherwise. 2. They say: You are really overqualified for this job. They mean: You are too old, too experienced, and I’m afraid you will expose me as an incompetent if you are hired. You will also want too much money. 3. They say: We will start you on a provisional basis and in six months, a�er you have proved yourself, we will give you a raise based on your performance. They mean: In six months, we will have found so much fault with your performance that you will feel lucky if we keep you at any salary. 4. They say: I know we didn’t get the offer le�er out, but we’d like you to start immediately. They mean: We should not have been so generous with the offer. You are so desperate we could have gotten a be�er deal. We want you to come on board with no wri�en offer so we can renegotiate your deal a�er you have been working here for several weeks. 5. They say: Your interview travel reimbursement check will be cut at the end of the month. A Change For The Better 168

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day They mean: We pay in 90 days, or longer, because we have this funny thing about money. We never pay anybody until we are forced to. Your new employer is playing games with money. You will find that this company has great difficulty paying bills of any kind. Whenever the subject of money comes up, the executives of this company will become evasive, change the subject, and will even a�ack you for your unprofessional a�itude. Get out before it costs you your sanity. If you don’t, when you finally leave, your termination check will be in the mail...for a very long time. Enough said! 6. They say: We don’t have a workstation for you yet. Do you have a laptop of your own? They mean: We are focused only on ge�ing production out of you, not on providing you with the tools to do your job. If you fall for this opening gambit, you will be using your own laptop and providing your own supplies from here on out. Just wait until they try sending you on your first trip. They won’t have a credit card for you either and will ask you to put the charges on your personal card and fill out an expense report to get reimbursed. If you fall for this one, you should wear a T-shirt that reads, Terminally Gullible!

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day 7 They say: We are like a family here. This covers a multitude of sins. Quite o�en it means that all of the execs are related and are above criticism by non-family members. It also means that regardless of your competence and performance, it will be a cold day in Hell before you join the inner circle of executives who make decisions. It can also mean that we do things together outside of work. This can get cloying if you have a life of your own.

How to Handle Employers Confidently and Fairly
One of the hardest things to learn is that you owe nothing to your employer, except good work for fair pay. We learned the traditional idea of loyalty to the corporation from our parents before we could barely speak. Work hard, be loyal, and retire with a pension. Today, you are as indispensable as the person who mows your lawn or cuts your hair. When economic circumstances change, you cut back without a second thought. Same with companies. You probably signed an agreement when you were first hired that you could be dismissed for cause or for no cause. You are an employee at will and can be let A Change For The Better 170

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day go with li�le or no notice. Think of yourself as a mercenary who honors his/her contracts and you will be mentally prepared for the modern workplace. • Trust in yourself and in your fellow mercenaries as they show themselves to be worthy of trust. • Deal fairly with your boss and insist that he deals fairly with you. • Never forget that HR people are not your friends. They exist to protect managers from you. They will always side with management, even when there is management wrongdoing. That is their job. • Finally, when it comes to trusting upper management, watch what they do, not what they say. There are some good guys out there. Just don’t assume that all are that way. My readers had similar tales to share: Fletch wrote: I only do mercenary (contract) work now and work is simply a business deal, not an emotional or family like relationship. This is the reality out there and many have a difficult time facing it. The most common bizarro situation is what you mentioned: hiring a highly paid contractor and then not providing them with the basic tools to get the job done. In most cases it’s not intentional, the manager needs “something” done, has a budget, hires someone, but doesn’t have a clue how that something should be done A Change For The Better 171

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day themselves, and doesn’t want to spend any more money since a�er all, YOU are the expert to get the something done. Linda writes: You’ve been riding on my shoulder, watching my workplace again, haven’t you, David? :) Wayne H wrote: I know for a fact that David must have been si�ing there observing the last company I worked for...the incompetent President’s son (IPS) took over the position....Sales collapsed to such a low point that the President had to remove IPS...

Finding A More Satisfying Job
If you are about to make a career change, here is what I learned from my successful and less-than-successful experiences. I have been employed almost continuously since 1956 in some technical capacity or other, so I have had at least twenty-five different employers. Here is what I found to be necessary for a job to be satisfying. You may have other requirements. 1. Once I am established, the job must pay me enough to live and meet my obligations. 2. The work must produce an ethical product or service.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day 3. Superior performance must be recognized and acknowledged. 4. There should be a rational and understandable command structure. 5. There should be clear objectives for me to meet. 6. There must be a way to gather information in order to do the job well. Any problems with this and I end the interview quickly. 7. There must be a minimum of toxic individuals in the immediate workplace. First of all, I do not expect to retire, ever, so I must always find something I can do for someone else that is valuable enough for them to pay me money. This is called exchange and it will only be as fair as I arrange it to be. Have no doubt, if I am underpaid, there is only one person who is responsible, and that is me. My whole objective in any job interview is to find out what I can do for this person or company and how much is it worth to them. This simplifies the interview considerably, because in most cases, I ask the hard questions. My degree, age, and experience are all window dressing if I can’t provide what they need at a price they will pay willingly. If I can’t get good answers to the seven points above, there is no point in prolonging the interview, no ma�er A Change For The Better 173

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day what the salary offer is. I have even brushed aside rote questions by insisting that we discuss the job requirements first. I try to make this point, “If we don’t have a fit there, the rest of the interview is wasted time.” If I ask, “What problem are you trying to solve?” and get a real answer, I’m in a position to say what I can do to help solve it for them. If we can establish an open dialog about what I can do for them and what it is worth to them, I normally get the job. I have no illusions that any job is permanent. Changes in management personnel, business climates, and technology will make our original agreement unworkable. Then it is time to find another job by repeating the steps given above. If you know what you want from an employer and it is a realistic expectation, you are already well on your way to being in control of your next interview.

Achieving a Successful Interview
If you have completed the actions suggested in the previous chapters, you have probably defined a job that should provide more satisfaction and money than you are ge�ing now. On the other hand, if you have decided to stay in the same neighborhood, keep the kids in the same school, A Change For The Better 174

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day and live near the relatives, you have already decided to limit your choices. Remember this decision if the new job is less than satisfactory. The big step in ge�ing hired is to set up the right interview. If you have done your job definition well, you should know what potential employer you will be talking to. Before you set up the interview, you need to figure out how you should present yourself and what kind of resume will be required for the interview. Let’s take the resume first, as this is the easiest to do. Keep it simple. Begin with a summary paragraph that presents your experience in a few well-chosen sentences that will make sense to the potential employer. Keep your resume as short as possible. Limit your listing of employers to the last ten years. Punch up the money you made for your past employers and the contributions you made while you were with them. If you have gaps in your employment, you need to show that you were studying, or consulting or writing a book or doing volunteer work - some acceptable version of your unemployed activity. If this new job is in a slightly different field than your old jobs, make sure that you present your experience in a way that this new employer can see that it is valuable.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Your experience in corporate acquisitions may need to translate as experience with business partnerships or vendor management. Esoteric project management skills or Six Sigma training may need to come across as ability to work successfully to achieve productivity in areas lacking organization. Your proposal writing experience may have to translate as grant application skills or a contract administration ability. When your resume is complete, make a three-quarter page summary version of this resume for sending with le�ers. This brief resume does two things: it is easily read and it will invite questions if the prospective employer is interested. You can also carry this resume with you for situations where you meet someone who might help you. How will you present yourself at the interview? First of all, you are be�er off acting as naturally as possible. Find out how job applicants typically dress in this prospective workplace. It may not be how employees dress. If you have not interviewed for many years, there are classes for people who are preparing to re-enter the workplace. They can be a big help. Whatever you do, you need to be able to present yourself as easily and naturally as you can. If you lack confidence, I strongly suggest you drill being interviewed. Have your spouse or friends be the interviewer and drill many different situations until you feel prepared to do the real thing.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Make sure you ask questions that will tell you what the hiring company is really like. This part will build your confidence quickly and may even be fun. Now, let’s set up some interviews. For practice, you can respond to some interesting ads in the paper or on-line. Do not post your resume online and do not spend too much time with classified ads or headhunters/employment agencies. These are best used as a warm-up for the main event. Chances are, you will get your next job through an acquaintance, a friend of a friend, or someone you meet at a mixer. Start ge�ing the interview that will get you your next job by telling everyone you know that you are looking for a job as a “.....” If there is a specific employer in mind, add that to what you tell them. When I say everyone, I mean your neighbors and your barber/hairdresser too. You may find that trusted coworkers have all sorts of useful contacts for you. You will be amazed at what turns up! People know so many other people who are looking for someone with your skills. Use your contacts to set up interviews with the most likely prospects. Call or write le�ers as appropriate and see if there is interest in what you have to offer. A Change For The Better 177

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day If not, ask if someone else in the company needs your skills. Keep prospecting until you hit gold. Once the interview is on, get a haircut and a good night’s sleep. Arrive on time with a good idea of what you need to find out about this job opportunity. Be friendly and professional, not effusive. You will do best if you ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. Making sure you understand every question asked before you respond to it. Keep your answers short and to the point. Ask as many questions as they do. Satisfy yourself that all of the seven points mentioned in Part 1 are covered. If they are, your interview will probably go well. There is a situation you must be prepared for. It doesn’t happen o�en, but you may run into it when you are applying for a high-level position. I know, because I have experienced it as an applicant and as an interviewer. Once the interview is over, they may ask you to have lunch with them. That’s when the real interview begins. Do not let down your guard and start sharing your political, religious or other closely held feelings with them. They do not need to know about your home life or your opinions about the opposite sex. You merely continue to ask questions about the company and the A Change For The Better 178

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day responsibilities of the new job and confine your comments to business ma�ers if possible. Just consider that this lunch is where you get to see their other side, the people behind the masks. It will help you decide whether to accept or turn down their offer. This lunch may also reveal if they have some hidden social or sexual agenda. Be very observant. These people may become your best friends in time, but it will not happen overnight. You will do be�er if you do not share your entire employment history with them. A�er all, if it was that good, you would still be there. Leave the past alone, except for those experiences which will show you are well prepared for this new job. If the interview did not go well, figure out if you were unprepared or if the company was missing one of the seven points I mentioned earlier. Get be�er prepared for the next interview and you will eventually close one successfully.

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Consider Doing Your Own Thing
If you read the previous section on job interviews with mounting dismay, you are not alone. Even the best companies have a certain level of organizational insanity, while the worst of them make Dilbert and his pointy-haired boss look rational. There is a solution to the endless round of finding an employer, learning the ropes, working long hours, and being declared surplus because of factors beyond your control. You can choose the most interesting work of all: going into business for yourself and working to satisfy customers instead of an employer. Working for yourself gives you more satisfaction, more real job security, and more scope for your creativity than working for most employers. You have total responsibility for your success or failure...and for protecting yourself against accidents, sickness and mistakes in judgment. There is tremendous satisfaction in bringing in income from something you have personally produced and sold. The main difference is that there is no safety net of a benefits package with insurance and sick days when you work for yourself.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day In spite of this daunting list of responsibilities, people go into business for themselves every day. You can do it too. If you want to strike off in a new direction, you should read Chapter 9 - Creating a New Game. The important thing to keep in mind is that life goes on, with you or without you. Other doors will open for you, if you are ready to take advantage of them. If you keep your mind on moving ahead and stay aware of what is happening around you, you will discover opportunities that will let you rebuild your life or your career again. Take your courage in both hands and go for it.

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There are an unlimited number of people who can make life miserable for you if you let them. So? Don’t work for them! Don’t associate with them and by all means don’t sleep with them.

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Chapter 8
Keeping Your Spirits Up
The best of plans will not help you if you execute them with a heavy heart

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Toward A Brighter Future
Whether you decide to work for someone else or strike out on your own, there are some things you can do to make life more enjoyable and preserve your sanity. Keeping your spirits up is not something you can do when you have time. You need to make that your number one priority. Your health and your life span is directly affected by your state of mind. Forget, for the moment, all of the pharmacopoeia touted on TV, and the ads for counseling. They may have their place, but you will raise your morale immediately, if you can only figure out how to produce more of what people want from you and deliver it. Production is the basis of morale, not the other way around. I have determined, beyond all doubt, that when I get producing something of value, I feel be�er, regardless of any other aspects of my situation. As my morale improves, I can figure out how to handle the stops and barriers that beset me and I can then produce more. Yes, there are a million things than can affect you negatively! The way to handle them is by ge�ing into action and ge�ing some production done. The following sections may give you some ideas.

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Simplify Your Life
• Tell the truth more o�en. Then you won’t have to remember what you said to whom. • Tell the truth as kindly as possible. Then you won’t have to say you are sorry so o�en. • Curb those impulses to lash out with righteous anger. Then you won’t have to spend so much time mending relationships. • If it sounds too good to be true, find out what the exchange is. Criminality is simply ge�ing something for nothing. If you are not one already, why become a criminal now? • If life is hard to face, don’t make it more complicated by running away from it with prescription or illegal drugs. Find some part of your life you can confront and do something about it. • If you can’t think of anything else, find an animal to care for. They will probably not give you any grief about it and you will feel be�er. Find somebody to help, starting with yourself. If all else fails, take a walk until you feel calmer and rested. Keeping Your Spirits Up 185

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Lighten Up and Live Longer
Your emotional state, good or bad, is your responsibility. If you don’t agree with this, that’s fine, but you won’t be able to change your state for the be�er unless you have an inkling that you might, just might, be causing your current state of mind. You will find that you can always change your mind and you can always improve your emotional state. Either change will require some determination and a li�le effort, but amazingly enough, you will be most successful if you go at this with an unserious state of mind. If you tackle this or any other problem with the idea that nothing must go wrong, you are se�ing yourself up for failure. Far be�er that you go at a really significant project like changing your life with the idea that you will give it all you got and if that doesn’t do it, be prepared to fall back, regroup and give it more until you succeed. If you have an important goal to achieve, be prepared to shrug off criticism and negativism. Keep your goal to yourself, if necessary, but do not let go of it. Any worthwhile goal is worth all of the effort you put into achieving it. Just don’t get too serious! It’s easy to get angry when you are dealing with stupidity or situations involving unprofessional or possibly criminal behavior, but an angry person rarely wins arguments or achieves Keeping Your Spirits Up 186

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day permanent changes for the be�er. Rage, however justified, does not communicate well and it will eat you up inside. It has occasionally been said that the best revenge is to live well and prosper. I suggest that leaving past defeats and humiliations alone and concentrating on how to achieve your future goals will bring you through the worst times to a future more to your liking. There are an unlimited number of people who can make life miserable for you if you let them. So? Don’t work for them! Don’t associate with them and by all means don’t sleep with them. If you are so desperate for that fat paycheck that you are pu�ing up with intimidation and abuse, you really need to step back and see what you are doing to yourself and your family. I know you are probably doing it to ensure your family’s future, because I have done that myself. It’s an easy mistake to make. From years of watching this happen to self and others, I can guarantee that you will never get to spend all of that money on doing something worthwhile. You will end up in an expensive divorce and/or you will spend all of the money and more on personal and spiritual counseling.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day If you recognize yourself as you read this, you may even bail out of your current situation with your sanity and marriage intact. The first step is to look at your life as objectively as possible, preferably with your spouse or loved one helping you. If you are spending the majority of your waking hours in anger, grief or apathy, you need to take immediate steps to lighten up your life. If you don’t, you are leaving yourself open to all sorts of degenerative and debilitating physical conditions, as well as a declining mental state. This is not an assessment of your personal condition, it is based on observations of too many acquaintances who have gone that route. Take a look at your life and think how it could be made more pleasant. Try making a few changes and see what happens.

Simple Actions to Raise Your Mood
You can find yourself in a bad mood from a variety of reasons: lack of employment, a disintegrating relationship, the cold weather, even a touch of flu. The cause really doesn’t ma�er. The important thing is to take action and get out of any bad mood as quickly as possible. Bad moods affect your vitality and are Keeping Your Spirits Up 188

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day detrimental to your health. Staying in a bad mood to let everyone know how upset you are is like shooting yourself in the foot. Here is a short list of things you might want to do if you’re feeling less than your usual self: (If you’re feeling great, try this on someone who is not doing as well as you are.) 1. First, get some sleep. Forget the TV, skip the tour of your favorite websites, just take a hot shower and sleep for as long as you can. 2. Take vitamins and eat frequent light meals. Avoid heavy meals. Cut back on drinking and smoking. Get some sort of exercise, even if it is a short walk around your neighborhood. 3. Put some balance into your life. Make sure you have time for yourself. Make sure you have time for others. 4. Let somebody know you care about them. They will appreciate it and you will feel much be�er. If you can actually help them, it will help you feel much be�er. 5. If there is something in your life that is bothering you and it won’t go away, find some small part of it that you can look at without ge�ing upset or overwhelmed. Figure out what you can do about that small part and leave the rest alone for now.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day 6. Find some small part of your life you can organize and organize it. 7. Set a modest goal and get some work done. It will help your morale. 8. Do steps 1-8 again until you feel be�er and are ready to resume “normal programming”. One last point, and this is not optional, always make sure you look up words you don’t understand. Trying to work or study when there are any words you don’t understand will make your life a blur of pain and unconsciousness. You will feel stupid and resentful and this will interfere with any a�empt to improve your mood. Give yourself every advantage and lighten up. You are important to those who depend on you. There is a simple exercise you can do by yourself which will extrovert you and li� your spirits. Go to a place where there a lot of people such as a shopping mall. Simply walk around and notice people, lots of people. Smiling at them is optional, as you may not feel like doing that at first. However, you will be smiling at them by the time you finish. Do this until you feel be�er and repeat this every few days for a week or two. You will find that this simple activity will extrovert you and leave you refreshed. Keeping Your Spirits Up 190

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When All Else Fails - Help Someone Else
This is so important that I am giving this an expanded treatment in this section. If you feel you fully understand this, feel free to skip to the next section. Painful emotions can overwhelm us if we do not stay alert. An unexpected setback can leave us hopelessly resentful of cheerful moods we see about us. If you cannot think of any change you can make to improve your life and everything seems hopeless, find someone who needs help and actually DO something to help them!. This is a sure way to feel be�er about yourself when all else fails. It may sound too simple to be true, but it works time a�er time. Help someone else. If you do this and you still feel miserable, find more people to help and really help them. This will do more for you than you can possibly imagine. People have pulled themselves out of terrible personal situations when they found someone they could help and helped them. When a person no longer is willing to help others, they are beyond being helped by this book. If you can find a way to help others, somewhere along the line, you are going to feel good about what you are doing and your morale will improve. At this point,

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day you might be able to contemplate making some slight change in your own life to give yourself a fresh start. The key to success is to keep things as light as possible. Do not rehash the past while listening to the beautiful sadness of country music, mournful ballads, or songs of lost loves, misery and betrayal. I know it “hurts so good”, but it’s not good for you in the long run. Keep busy, stay creative if you can and by all means help somebody else. You will end up in be�er shape than you thought possible. And...you’ll be more fun to be with. That can’t hurt, can it? Good luck!

Learn from Paul Newman
Paul Newman and A. E. Hotchner wrote a book that aligns with everything I have ever wri�en in the category of doing what you love. Every cubical dweller yearning to breathe free should read this book and take note of what these two men have done. The book is, Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good, by Paul Newman and A. E. Hotchner Don’t be put off by their insouciant a�itude, it is one of the keys to their success. Their light-hearted approach to producing all natural food products in the face of food industry tradition and vested commercial interKeeping Your Spirits Up 192

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day ests is a classic example of success against all odds. It bears much study and restudy. They did things they thought were important, and in doing this, they contradicted commonly accepted principles for food manufacturing, marketing, advertising, and financing. In the last twenty years, they have donated their earnings, more than $150 million, to various charities. Not content with turning the food industry on its ear, these two men decided to create camps for children with life-threatening diseases. This association of Hole-in-the-Wall-Gang camps now serves children in 31 different states in the US and 28 countries. Read the book. Try Newman’s Own salad dressing. Both are good for you and offer good reading.

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You are far more capable than you let yourself believe. When you start your own business, you will discover abilities you didn’t know you had.

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Chapter 9
Creating a New Game
More people every day are finding that working for themselves is the best game of all

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Working For Yourself
The chapters in this section should give you a taste of what it is like to run your own business. The examples are drawn from my own experience and from the experience of people I admire. This is not a how-to discussion. I have, instead tried to concentrate on the reasons why you might consider working for yourself and what you might expect in the way of satisfaction and disappointment. If you decide that you will set up your own business, you have a great adventure ahead. There are many books wri�en about this type of endeavor and there are a growing number of weblogs and forums that can help you get up to speed. If you choose this direction, you will probably work longer hours for less money than you have ever earned before, but if your experience is typical, you will never want to become an employee again. Welcome to the future.

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The Joys Of A Micro Business*
Lloyd Lemons, a freelance writer, has captured in a few words what I have been trying to say for months. Because it is so short, I am taking the liberty of reproducing it in its entirety. What a micro-business should be about... 1. It should be about bending the world a li�le, to fit your purpose, by doing something you truly enjoy doing. 2. It’s about being a catalyst for your own ideas, and not a facilitator for someone else’s. 3. It’s about personal freedom, largely brought about the integration of working and living. A micro business is all that and more, which is why micro businesses are proliferating so fast. Their growth is powered by the Internet which enables them to react at speeds which large corporations cannot match. The future is full of micro businesses. Maybe yours will be one of them. *A micro business is one which does less than $1 million in business per year. The majority of these business are home-based businesses and they make up about 15% of the economy.

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The Lure of a Micro Business
If you choose to work for yourself, you are joining a rapidly growing trend. I can easily see the day coming when a new graduate chooses a career as a salaried employee only because he or she hasn’t got the necessary confidence and skill to start their own business. “So you got a job at Bank of America?” “Yeah. I couldn’t face the thought of starting my own company and not making a go of it.” “Too bad! Maybe in a few years, you’ll be ready to take that step.” Working for yourself is no longer a last resort. There are many highly trained people who have deliberately chosen to leave the corporate world to strike out on their own. Building a business from scratch is the ultimate challenge for many. You get all of the excitement and all of the responsibility. Self-employed people give up salaries, benefits and a measure of security in exchange for freedom and greater control over their work and family lives. There is a high degree of lock-step conformity in the best of corporations. Along with the business trips to Paris and Singapore, there is a o�en mind-numbing Creating A New Game 198

Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day series of compromises you make in order to keep on receiving that salary and those perks. For many, the risk of failure in a micro-business is insignificant compared to the slow torture of trying to accomplish anything significant in a highly layered corporate structure. In a micro-business, you call the shots and you learn from your mistakes. If you are a fast learner and quick on your feet, this is a heady experience. You now have tools which make you every bit as efficient as a much larger firm. In addition, you have the opportunity to work closely with your customers and give them a level of service that no large corporation can match. I believe that micro-businesses will continue to grow in number and importance because being self-employed allows people to balance work and family in a way that is usually impossible as a salaried employee with a full-time job.

How to Get started
Many people who are now doing their own thing got their start with a pink slip from an employer. If you haven’t got your notice yet, you may have a li�le time to assess your opportunities and resources.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Either way, you should do the following steps: 1. Write down all of your skills that people are willing to pay for. 2. Write down the ways in which these skills might be employed to make money. 3. Pick your most salable skill and write down the potential customers for this skill. Make sure this is something you enjoy doing. 4. Develop a one page business plan for using this skill to generate income. Look for situations where you start with a clear competitive advantage or at least a level playing field. 5. Run the business plan by those who will be most affected and by those who may be able to help you. Refine the plan until you feel it is workable 6. Work out your finances. Where is the startup money going to come from? How long before this business will pay for itself? How li�le can you get by with for food, clothes, housing, etc. Do you need to keep working while ge�ing this new venture off the ground? You may have to do steps 3 and 4 for several skill areas before you come up with a viable solution that provides enough income to support your family and provides you with job satisfaction. You may find you will go through several evolutions before you get it right.

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day It took me at least two tries. During the Eighties, I le� a so�ware firm in Glendale because of irreconcilable differences with the president. I took a detour into nonprofit activities and eventually developed a business and marketing consulting practice in the LA area with my wife, Gretchen. A�er several years, this led us to a stint at a small Silicon Valley firm and then to employment at Taligent and later to a major dot-com corporation. A�er fa�ening our bank accounts during the Internet bubble, we realized that our time as independent consultants was the most emotionally satisfying part of our recent careers. I was planning for a new foray into working for myself when the dot.com corporation assisted me by laying me off in 2001. We moved to Virginia where living expenses are much lower than Silicon Valley and developed a business plan for a custom wood products company. At the same time, we started networking and found that there was a need for business and marketing consultation for small businesses in the area. It has taken a while to develop our businesses to the point where we are seeing positive cash flow, but it has been the most challenging and satisfying time of our lives.

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Is There A Micro Business In Your Future?
We hear about small businesses being critical to the health of our economy, but it seems that the real action may well be taking place in the micro business sector. Small businesses are those which do less than $100 Million in revenues. A micro business is one which does less than $1 million in business per year. I have not been able to find recent micro business figures for the entire US yet, but in the pre-Internet days of 1992, home-based business contributed $314 Billion dollars, or 11 percent to the economy. With today’s Internet tools and online payment systems like PayPal, a micro business can do business as easily as any large corporation. I would not be surprised if the micro business sector might not be contributing as much as 18% to the economy this year. Here are some examples from life. In our immediate vicinity, which is rural Virginia, there are a number of companies being run out of homes. They produce these products and services: • Packaging material sales, • Homemade candy production, • Creation of fine paintings, • Fine cabinetry,

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day • Musical instruments, • Construction services of all kinds. • Consultants in almost every line of business: marketing, forensics, public relations, building maintenance... • A farm down the road has a machine shop with several million dollars worth of CNC equipment whirring away in an outbuilding. • Another small farm nearby produces wonderful flavored goat cheese and frozen fruit sorbets. These are all people who decided to take their future in hand and are doing what it takes to make a living through their own efforts. Most will tell you they are really tired at the end of the day, but they seem happy with their work. You may join them one day and find that there is indeed life a�er corporate employment. It is incredibly satisfying to take control of your destiny. The hard work and long hours are a small price for the freedom and peace of mind that you gain.

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Things You will Learn As A Small Business Owner
I thought of a few final points to share with those of you who are longing to set up a business of your own. Running your own business takes a different mindset than being a successful employee. Primarily, it involves being responsible for everything that you do and being willing to follow through to ensure customer satisfaction. These same characteristics in an employee, will o�en get you in trouble because they will lead you to get involved in areas where you have no jurisdiction. In fact, if you have been having difficulty working for others, because your conscientiousness gets you in trouble, you should consider starting your own company. Here are some things to remember: You will become one of “them”, the people whose insanity you have been complaining about for years - an employer. Your past experience may help you more than you think Right answers are the ones that work

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Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day Countless books are being wri�en about starting your own business. Some of them may even be useful. You will be very fortunate if you find one that applies to the business you are starting. Read all that seem to apply, but you will have to use your own judgment, and that is what a small business is all about. Wishing you great success.

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If and when you get out of the trap you are in, make sure you pass on all of your hard-earned knowledge to someone else who can use it. It will make all of your effort worthwhile and will free up your a�ention for the new future you are creating.

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Acknowledgments
I owe a great deal to my blogging friends who read my online essays about the 21st century workplace and encouraged me to put them in book form. I would especially like to thank those who provided comments which have been incorporated into this book: Danny Gregory, Wayne Hurlbert, Rosa Say, Jennifer Rice, William Wren, Lloyd Lemons, Roberto Cruz, and many more who prefer that their full names not be mentioned. Bill Schaffer, an old friend and excellent book coach, is the person who actually got me interested in writing professionally, and has been a continuing source of encouragement and excellent advice. Gerry Brown, a good friend and survivor of the early years of the computer industry helped proofread this book. My wife, Gretchen, helped me with the editing and final proofing. I should also acknowledge the hundreds of co-workers and managers who contributed to these stories over the years. If you find yourselves in this book, rest assured I hold no ill will. I contributed fully to every situation described. If I had known then what I know now, we could have avoided the majority of these situations or made them less painful for all concerned.

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To Order Another Copy Of This Book

To order another copy of Danger Quicksand - Have A Nice Day, go online to: h�p://bentcrowpress.com Click on the appropriate Buy Now bu�on to make a secure payment through PayPal. Your books will be shipped from Bent Crow press by the next working day. You will be charged $19.95, plus shipping and handling appropriate for your shipping address. For additional information please contact Bent Crow Press, Palmyra Virginia email: bentcrowpress@gmail.com

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