One day, as you’re trudging slowly over the mountain of work between you and the blessed relief of the stiff drink and the soft couch in your living room, one of your employees walks into your office. You’ve never liked this guy; in fact, he got the job over your objections. You remain suspicious of his qualifications, and you have some lingering doubts about some the entries on his resume. For example, you couldn’t find anyone except for some shifty-looking dudes who call themselves “community organizers” who were willing to act as references. Nonetheless, he demands your attention.
“Boss, I’ve got this great idea! If we implement it, everything about our company will improve. We’ll be more efficient, more productive and more profitable. Meanwhile, the morale of the employees will improve dramatically. Even the guys on the janitorial staff will reap benefits! I can’t believe anyone hasn’t thought of it before! And all I need is” — you brace yourself — “more money.”
When you ask how much more money he needs to make his dream a reality, he demurs. “Let’s get back to that in a moment.” And then he lays out a plan that will require you to hand over virtually total control of the company, following which he will impose a series of cutbacks to vital areas while simultaneously funneling capital into shady investment schemes and outright fraudulent enterprises. He will force the company to ignore industrial espionage by competitors, even giving them the passcodes to the company’s secure servers. He will change the pay structure so that the most productive and valuable employees are punished for their achievements, while throwing bonuses at some employees who seem unwilling to work at all. He will restructure human resources so that diversity quotas are introduced that supersede merit and accomplishment. He will add functionaries and paper-pushers while forcing blue-collar-level employees to endure either twice the workload or face unemployment. The IT component of his plan would need a ladder to climb to “slapdash.” Even without a computer science degree, you can see the system will fail at a catastrophic level — maybe on the first day. In addition, he wants corporate security to give him unfettered access to every employee’s personnel files — although he never makes it clear how spying on the workforce will benefit the company.
His plan is insane, unworkable and even dangerous. His budgeting makes no sense. He’s either grossly underestimating the company’s fiscal liabilities, or he’s deliberately fudging the numbers. His idea requires the accounting and legal departments to grow exponentially at the cost of virtually every tangibly productive sector of the company. He also lacks the support of well more than half the company’s employees, although most of the dissent is halfhearted and more for show than anything else. Moreover, those who have weighed in on either side of the plan are mostly soft-handed, pudgy, middle-management types who don’t seem to represent the rest of the payroll particularly well. The employees who really make the company successful are far too busy working to pay attention to either side.
As he continues his meandering, backtracking and even outright dishonest pitch, something occurs to you: His plan has been tried before. Back in the early 90s, some fat guy whom everyone seemed to like despite a few fairly serious breaches of the company’s sexual harassment policy tried to foist off a similarly horrendous idea on the company. He got the idea from his wife, although she didn’t work for the company at the time.
You sit up, preparing to tell him that not only are you denying his request, you’re seriously considering firing him for insubordination, theft, dishonesty and even killing some of the company’s finest employees. He grins and says: “I’m not asking you. I’m telling you. Since you hired me, I can do whatever I want. Now, how about you sign this check for $2 trillion?”