At the upper echelons of the corporate hierarchy are the senior managers, most of whom are of the age where they are applauded after they tell you how old they are. I look forward to counting "not being dead" as an achievement. If senior managers were furniture they would be antiques, which is why they cost so much.

Moses offers a group hugWhat makes a senior manager then is not business acumen, having grown up with Moses, or a hobby like grousing. No, no, it's the ability to relieve the national debt of Djibouti with the stroke of a pen. Of course, they may also hunt grouse or have grown up near the steps of Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments are actually the first recorded office memo. And lo, God said, "Moses, take these commandments and carbon copy the Jews." I digress.

All senior managers really have is the ability to convince other people they deserve to be senior managers.Only recently one of our "grousing" managers brought his rifles into a European office, in preparation for a weekend's shooting. Naturally, I volunteered to take both rifles to his office. Carrying two massive guns through the office building reminded me a lot of working in an American office, except I didn't become the subject of a one-hour documentary on Fox with my neighbors saying, "He liked to keep himself to himself."

Senior managers tend to sport nicknames without their knowing, such as "Uncle Hank" or "Papa Steve." This goes alongside their already cumbersome job titles, which include words usually found on the back cover of adult DVDs, like "group'" and "head."

Executive trait chart

Senior managers can supposedly do things like build teams, remove obstacles, and a thousand other nothing phrases. It's all bunkum. All senior managers really have is the ability to convince other people they deserve to be senior managers. The best way to do that is by not saying anything stupid. Lincoln famously said it's "better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." Sound advice for would-be CEOs and presidents alike.

Once you've made it to the top, you have to keep the rouse going. Take credit for anything that works out well in the company and mitigate poor performance on previous managers, extraneous circumstances, and market forces. It's simple really. Rising stock prices? Visionary initiatives. Falling stock prices? Externalities. Tricks like these allow incompetent and crooked managers to stay in power for years on end.

Kenneth Lay testifying in court about EnronHow else can you explain CEOs like Ken Lay (Enron, massive crook), Chuck Conway (Kmart, another fraudster), and Bernie Ebbers (WorldCom, yep you guessed it–fraud)?

If money is the root of all evil then senior managers have deep roots. Some senior managers can be decidedly cranky or mean. When explaining a proposal to a senior manager, I outlined some basic facts that he disagreed with. He didn't want to change any of his well-ingrained habits, which was a shame because his process wasn't working very well anymore. Suffice to say we didn't get off to a good start; five minutes into the meeting he turned and said, "I've been doing this for 20 years."

At this point I turned and gave one of the following answers (see if you can pick which one):

  • And for how long have you sucked?
  • So why didn't you think of this?
  • I, er, well, er, I'm so sorry, please don't beat me with a keyboard.

Answers on a postcard. Despite spending the next ten minutes having new orifices torn from places I didn't know were possible, no one else battered an eyelid. In retrospect I should have just thanked him for the anecdote, only I was too busy crying into my water glass and watching my reputation slip into the shredder.

When you have power, people fall over themselves to make excuses for your acting like an ass: "He's having a bad day" or "He's been under a lot of stress lately." Well, I'm under him, so I have my own stress plus his. The lower down you are, the more people get to poop on you.

Executive calculating his earnings on a whiteboard in front of employeesI wonder if his stress was due to the aura of gossip around him. It can't be all jade-lined bidets and falcon omelets; I imagine senior management comes with an enormous amount of chattering. Management affairs, divorces, and marital spats quickly become common knowledge. The bigger you are, the harder they gossip.

Aside from the crankiness and gossip, the last distinguishing feature of senior managers is their inability to remember anyone's name (or more specifically, my name). Of course you know their name, everyone does.

"Good night, Mr. Johnson."

"Good night, Rishi."

I'm white. Where the hell did you get Rishi from? What part of me looks even vaguely Indian? I mean, Rishi, of all names? Why Rishi?

"Good morning, Rishi."

"Good morning, Mr. Johnson."

Dick.

It's high time senior managers were called to task for their snootiness and arrogance. Of course, if I ever get promoted to a senior level, I take all of this back.


MORE LIKE THIS