Sunday, August 19, 2012

The 5 signs of an Impending Business Apocalypse

KC has spent much of his adult life in business. At large firms, some with 10's of thousands of employees. He has been a consultant, an entrepreneur (Yes, I did build it, and you can't have any of it for your low life friends Mr. President) and a paid slave. Big firms, small firms, national, local and international - KC has seen it all. And he took notes.

So for all of you out there that are just starting in business, let KC give you some pithy obeservations so you too can recognize when your employer is starting the big swirling circle around the porcelain bowl of business.

I present to you - the 5 signs of Impending Business Apocalypse - in their order of occurrence.

1. Everything is the single most important thing we can do.

You know a company has started the journey to Flushville when the management cannot articulate what are the goals of the company. More frighteningly - because they can't articulate the goals, they say EVERYTHING is the goal. Raise revenue, cut costs, expand, contract, focus, broaden, more customers, fire customers, stop projects, start projects. Everything is the single most important thing we can do - and we have to do it all NOW.

2. Enforce the Rules

Now, as I said, these occur in order. Once management sees the non-results of their ill-sown strategy of "Pursue Everything and Nothing At the Same Time" they then reach the conclusion that it isn't leadership, and it isn't the strategy that is failing the company, it is the people. And people are bad. So in order to get the people in line, we're going to enforce the rules. 15 minutes extra for lunch? That's gonna cost ya. Paid vacations? How bout not. Remove benefits, slash compensation, change the rules. KC once had a boss tell him that commissions "irrespective of performance, were discretionary". Huh? You paying me what you bargained for is "discretionary"? The worst part of this impending sign is that the employees haven't done anything wrong. Yet. But enforcing the rules at this time ensures the good ones leave, and the bad ones stay. And oh, do they stay with a vengeance. Which leads us to tenet #3.

3. Employees Get Payback

Without trust, management is worthless. Think of the fragging incidents in Vietman. Ok, Lieutenant Dan, you want to be a wise guy eh? How bout we roll an M67 under your bunk. Problem solved (actually I think they used MKIIs in Nam - but point made) . Now, employees today don't come heavily armed (well, except for the post office) but they can do just as much damage. Extra long lunch hours, moonlighting, half cooked project delivery, re-work, no-work. Best story I ever heard regarding an employee fragging incident came from a friend of mine that was a comptroller at a large convenience store chain. Every Christmas, the chain leaned on it's suppliers and offered their long term, full timers a bottle of liquor for Christmas. One bean counter decided that the 20,000 bottle bonus (most of which was comped by a supplier anyways) cost the company too much, so three weeks before xmas they cancelled it. You guessed it. Total incremental bottle pilferage over the season amount to 50,000 bottles. Hold spoon, pull pin, assess cover, lob weapon. Sorry, Lt. Dan.

4. Cats Sleeping with Dogs

Again - these are situations and generalitites KC has seen over many years of business, but he holds these truths to be self evident. Once the E-ticket swirly ride has begun, people do some strange things. Trapped on a ride they can't get off of, they hold on for dear life - and hold on to each other. And I mean literally. Affairs, trysts, indiscretions and misogyny abound, and not the normal 20 something activity on the weekeds from the mail room staff - I mean full on, scratch your head what were they thinking escapades. CEO doing the Fed Ex delivery guy? Seen it. Head of HR in a lesbian affair with the married head of IT? Yup. Call center supervisors having late night orgies in a break room. Got pictures. The shocking thing about #4 is not that it is happening, because we're all humans, but the depravity of how it happens. The end is near. Read on.

5. Physical or Verbal Violence in the Workplace

By now, all the good people are gone. If you are still there, you aren't one of the good ones - or you are the most masochistic of employees! You are just waiting for the "Andy Barnard" moment. Someone is going to snap, and you know it. This is the culmination - the pinnacle of corporate underachievement, and like a storm brewing, you can feel it coming. You can taste it in the air and your can feel it on your skin. Someone is going to pop someone. This is going to be good.

One note though - the incident is never triggered by what you think (someone getting a bad review, or someone firing someone) it is always petty. Ed takes last of coffee and doesn't make any more. BAM!
Sally calls Louise a whore becuase she used a lot of lipstick. WHACK! You took my favorite parking spot in the otherwise empty parking lot. HYAAH.

This is the end, and the business can never be repaired, these incidents are the symbolic flames that burn up everything and leave nothing but ashes. It's over, and mercifully so. At this point even the worst employees leave, and even the doltish of management throw in the towel.


There you are. Cold in it's reality, stark in it's application. Nobody's fault - employees, management, investors, and suppliers all go down together on the SS Swirly, everybody is a loser. Save yourself. Your only hope is to recognize the signs and get out early.

I'd love to hear your stories to add to mine. Got any more signs of the apocalypse. Please share, for the good of all mankind


  1. My husband works for the county and his female boss is a whack job! If you utter the word "girl" in her presence, you get suspended without pay for 1-3 days. She regularly berates her employees, dropping the F bomb and calling them every name you can imagine. She took $800 out of my husband's pay check once just because he returned an email 5 hours later than her expected 24 hr. window. Not to mention how under staffed his dept. is and overworked. She has a set of bizaar rules everyone is expected to follow--no wonder everyone tries to retire early!!!

  2. Aha! A classic phase II issue. How is he doing on his role in creating level III payback?

  3. He stopped being "nice" to his bosses and his co-workers. It backfired--the 3 employees under him complained to his manager that he was always grumpy and rude to them. He then got chewed out by the boss. He's currently looking for new employment or an early retirement. We're good friends with the county mayor--I let her know about the BS going on downtown in his government office--told her she needed to take a closer look at the abuse going on in those offices---not just to my husband but the majority of employees. Pretty sure his boss is bi-polar and on the verge of going postal! Time to get out!!