Have you worked for a corporate Kim?

15 Dec

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has dismissed his uncle from the many influential government posts he held and expelled him from the Party and, for good measure, had him executed. Perhaps he didn’t applaud long or hard enough, or maybe he didn’t take enough notes. Take a look at the Youtube video. I don’t mean all of it: it seems that North Korean news broadcasts last almost two hours. Two hours of nervous men in uniform clapping loudly or standing with notebooks poised, ready to take down the pearls of wisdom that drop from the Great Comrade’s lips and probably also his sneezes, burps and belly rumblings.

Thank goodness, gentle readers, that none of you have to live in such a bizarre and scary environment. Or at least, I hope you don’t. For I speak to you as one who has been there.

I sometimes get asked if the characters in the T. John Dick novels are based on real people. The answer is usually yes and no. A given character is not based on a single person, but may include traits that I have observed in colleagues over the years, as well as some that just spring from my imagination. In a few cases, however, a character does owe more than a little to someone in my past.

Outside a meeting room in a non-descript modern office building, two shell-shocked junior executives stand by the water cooler, struggling to manoeuver the little wax paper cups to their mouths with shaking hands.

“How did your presentation go?”

“Not too badly. I made it through OK. Glad it’s over though.”

They turn towards a handsome young product manager, who has just emerged from the meeting room. “How was it?”

“Terrible. A total waste of time. That arse made me jump through all his usual asinine loops, but nothing was decided. What’s the point of having a meeting where nothing is decided?”

The tremulous twosome are stunned. Not just because their colleague, as courageous as he is handsome, has referred to their Supreme Leader as an arse, but because he has defined a meeting as unsuccessful, even though he came through it unscathed, just because nothing was decided. The product manager with the striking good looks is not surprised. He knows that presentations to the company President, lets call him Ray, are not designed to produce results. They are staged for Ray’s entertainment.

Ray’s entertainment takes the form of making people squirm in keeping with their status as worms. To achieve this, he employs a number of techniques which are all too familiar to the dashingly handsome young product manager with the flowing golden locks. In fact, he has made a study of them in the course of many meetings presided over by Ray.

Technique Number 1 – Stone-Faced Contempt: Show absolutely no reaction to the presentation, leaving the unfortunate victim to bumble on incoherently until Ray interrupts him with a question on a completely different topic, demonstrating that the bumbler’s presentation has not been worthy of his attention.

Technique Number 2 – Mid-flow Cut-Off: A variation of Technique Number 1 is to cut the victim off in mid-flow by addressing a remark to somebody else, probably an inside joke to one of his current favorites. The bumbler can crawl back into his shell.

Technique Number 3 – The Spinning Chair of Disdain: In this silent manoeuver, Ray turns his chair to face ninety degrees from the speaker. Positioning is important here. Swing too far, and you could end up looking at the screen, suggesting that it might display something of interest to you.

The prodigiously pulchritudinous product manager never did figure out why Ray behaved the way he did. It was destructive for the company, but at least he did provide a model for the character who bears his name in The Management Secrets of T. John Dick.

What about you? Have you ever worked for a tyrant? What are some of the meeting techniques you have observed from your own corporate Kim?


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