Have you ever wondered how some people who are terrible at their jobs got their jobs in the first place? Do you scratch your head when unqualified people get promoted way faster than the norm? Do you sometimes get pissed off thinking, “Why them and not me?”
Well get ready. I’d like to discuss three archetypes of people who successfully manipulate their way forward. I’ve come across each one of them at every medium-to-large organization I’ve worked for since 1999. We can probably all relate to each archetype on some level.
How To Get A Job You Do Not Deserve
Life isn’t fair. We all know this. But some people are much better at playing their cards than others. I played my pocket 10s like I had pocket rockets in my career until they got busted on the river by a full house.
Getting promoted to VP at age 27 and to Executive Director at age 31 took a tremendous amount of performance, luck, and political maneuvering. But I failed after my third year as an ED to break through to Managing Director after one year of trying, so I decided to negotiate a severance and be the CEO of my own company. Straight to the top baby!
Yes, if I stayed at my company for five more years, my chance of making Managing Director would increase significantly. But I had already felt the reward:performance correlation break down since the financial crisis, so I had to leave before getting too annoyed. I was too young to settle for a cushy job where nobody tried really hard anymore because the pay was beginning to all look the same.
I’ve shared with you plenty of career advice in the past through articles such as, “A List Of Career Limiting Moves To Blow Up Your Future,” “Why You Didn’t Get The Job According To HR,” and “How To Protect Yourself From A Mass Layoff.” But now I want to share with you some incredibly effective tips for getting that job, raise, or promotion that you do not deserve.
If you are unworthy, you should essentially classify yourself into one of the three categories below to enact your strategy.
The Chameleon Ass Kisser (CAK – pronounce w/ Boston accent)
Let’s say you disagree with your boss and your boss’s boss. Don’t ever tell them! As the CAK, your job is to always put on a smiley face and agree with whatever your bosses have to say. If your boss thinks it’s wise to step up spending on creating a product that makes no sense, you must wholeheartedly agree with his or her idea in public. Then go a step further and write e-mails and create presentations supporting your boss’ idea while CCing him or her.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve already seen the horrible ending of the story. Horrible endings can often take years to play out. Your goal is to stick with your boss through thick and thin so that you can get a raise and a promotion before things blow up. Once you get that raise and promotion, you can then job hop to another company with your higher title for bigger and better bucks.
People don’t stay at their jobs for much longer than three years on average anyway nowadays. Therefore, the CAK’s goal is to be a loyal soldier until the day before the bomb blows up.
The downside for the unskilled CAK is that he will be too eager to please, and behind closed doors be too loose and speak his mind with colleagues on how he really feels. His colleagues will resent the CAK for his two-face nature and try to sink his chances for glory.
Therefore, if you want to be a skilled CAK, you must never speak ill about anybody. If you are not a CAK, you must never reveal your thoughts to a CAK because s/he’ll just use your words and back stab you when you’re not looking.
The biggest thing you can learn from a CAK is to learn how to RESPECT your boss.
The Attractive Manipulating Predator (AMP)
The AMP is a scary version of the CAK. AMPs use their beauty to manipulate men into hiring people they’d normally not hire or promote employees faster than they should. Rest assured, as more women get into power, there will be more male AMPs too.
Men are dogs. We can’t help ourselves. There is deep preferential treatment for attractive women. What’s said behind closed doors in locker rooms is not fit for print. I’ve known several male doctors who say the crudest things when we go out for drinks about their patients, yet act like CAKs to their patients who think they are saints.
The AMP knows how to prey on male weaknesses to get what they want. AMPs realize men are weak and constantly need to be loved. One AMP I know, tells me plenty of her amazing stories. She’s an attractive 27 year old woman who speaks multiple languages and has a fine taste for food and drink.
Out of the blue she’ll send me a “Hello from St. Thomas!” or a “Hello from Paris!” She’s always with some random guy who is taking her on an amazing all expenses paid vacation. One man who is absolutely in love with her is paying her $3,100 a month Manhattan rent while he supports a wife and three children in Long Island!
AMPs can usually last about one or two years in an organization before moving on. The reason is that beauty must be followed by substance to last longer term. The smoke eventually clears, and mirrors eventually break. If this wasn’t the case, super models would always stay married.
One nefarious tip an AMP taught me is to look for bosses who have recently gone through a divorce. She knows that when any man breaks up with a woman, he feels vulnerable and insecure. She knows that men want to constantly prove to the world they aren’t “failures,” even though divorce is so common nowadays.
If she can swoop in and make her future boss feel good about himself (like a man again), regardless of her job qualifications, she knows she’ll have an infinitely higher chance of getting the job, than if the boss was happily married.
If you are a male AMP, speak up! I want to hear about your strategies and experiences.
Related: Why Interacting With A Woman Can Leave Men Cognitively Impaired (Scientific American)
The Pedigree Pushing Pimp (Triple P)
The Triple P will come from a prestigious school or exclusive company and either think they know more than they really know, or attempt to make themselves look more knowledgeable than reality. They tend to live in the past on what they’ve done, instead of what they can do or need to do.
Triple Ps know that some hiring managers get mesmerized by pedigree, much like how some people get mesmerized by movie stars. Have you ever met someone who went to Harvard and Stanford who doesn’t figure out a way to quickly mention they went to Harvard or Stanford?
The problem with Triple Ps is that they tend to come from very institutionalized organizations that have lost their sense of innovation. They are bogged down by bureaucratic habits and darkness. Sadly, size and bureaucracy are often the results of success. If they bring their darkness into your lightness, bad things will happen.
The worst scenario is when a Triple P joins a small organization like a startup. The small organization thinks they are getting a great resume, until they realize the Triple P’s success has been largely helped by a massive budget and well-known company brand. Triple Ps are not used to hustling from the ground up.
Nothing can really replace experience. The ability to draw upon previous failures and successes, and apply them to new ideas and projects is invaluable. If you have Triple P qualifications and are starting at a startup, know your place. You need to prove yourself all over again.
The best person to hire is actually an ex-entrepreneur who knows all about hustle, yet fully appreciates the comfort and security of being an employee.
Related: How To Negotiate A Severance As A High Performing Employee
It Takes Skill To Truly Get Ahead
Luck can only take you so far. You’ve got to make an honest assessment of your abilities and then maximize your abilities to the fullest. The CAKs, AMPs, and Triple Ps of the world may be annoying, but they are simply leveraging their attributes to get ahead.
Recognize the reality of how people advance farther than their abilities would dictate. Instead of being envious, learn from them. You deserve everything coming to you!
Finally, the best way to take matters into your own hands is to start a business if you believe in your abilities. There’s nothing better than being your own boss and seeing maximum correlation with effort and reward. Not a day goes by where I don’t give thanks for starting Financial Samurai in 2009. Start something special on the side while you have a job, and work on it until it gains traction. You might surprise yourself!
Recommendation For Leaving A Job
If you want to leave a job you no longer enjoy, I recommend negotiating a severance instead of quitting. If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training.
When you get laid off, you’re also eligible for up to roughly 27 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.
Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye.
It’s the only book that teaches you how to negotiate a severance. In addition, it was recently updated and expanded thanks to tremendous reader feedback and successful case studies.
Updated for 2020 and beyond
I´m just humble and easy-going. People seem to think it´s refreshing and keep me around, like a mascot.
What is with the picture with the pyramid and all-seeing-eye on top? That symbolism is creepy stuff!!!
Financial Samurai says
It’s on every dollar bill! All seeing eye.
scott t says
Posts like this are my favorite types of your posts, Sam. I would love for you to write a post about “How to see all the angles”, or “The most common angles”, something like that. Not only in finance and work, but also life. Heck, maybe it would require an entire book. Any thoughts???
Financial Samurai says
Send me a proposal and think of an article for you to write and I’ll help you edit!
I learned halfway through college that hard work wasn’t going to get me that far in life. So I’ve invested a lot in my social skills to fill in the gaps and give myself enough time to catch up with people with a stronger skillet, or even surpass them.
If I had to choose one of the three, then I’d probably fall closer to being a “male AMP”. Even though I don’t think I’ve fully used this style. While more women are getting into positions of power, don’t forget that HR is mostly made of females/gays. Being attractive gets you a good head start. I’ve been with my company a little over a year and I’ve two big opportunities to be a “male AMP.” Once my VP wanted to set my up with his sister, another time my boss’s wife wanted to introduce me to their daughter. Too bad I have an iron rule of not doing office dating. :P I consider it laziness, and the potential drama is too high in a corporate environment.
But like someone said before, there’s a fourth type, the guy who knows people. And I think I’m more of “networking” type of guy. Out of the 3 internships and 7 full time job offers in my senior year, Only for the first internship I had to approach a manager at a career fair. All the rest came from people I had already networked with, be it HR, recruiting managers or professors who knew recruiters.
Financial Samurai says
I donno man, you should at least take the sister and daughter out for a coffee and act like the perfect gentleman. That is a huge in if you plan your cards right.
Yeah, I could have at least taken them out for a drink. Dating your boss’s daughter is an “all or nothing” deal.
Wallet Squirrel says
These are hilarious and I think we all were visualizing certain people in our lives that fit these to a tee.
I’ve found with larger organizations that the philosophy of “The Squeaky Wheel Get Cleaned” always rules out. Whoever can yell and complain the loudest gets their way. People don’t like change and will do whatever it takes to shut up the complainers. So those who are persistent will get their way and those are both good and bad people.
Personally I like your philosophy that it’s just best to be the CEO and leave all of the politics to other people. The current goal is to become my own CEO of my online blog and quit the “power plays” of the 8-5 world. Just how do I make that a reality? lol
Financial Samurai says
Just stick with posting 3x a week on average about a subject you love and have expertise in for 3 years and there is a high likelihood you can make at least $1,000/month if not much much more from your site!
if i was a ceo, or in any position of authority for that matter- if i realized someone was not competent in their role / really didn’t deserve their job i would fire them, and maybe even their dumbass boss that gave them the job.
Financial Samurai says
I always wonder the same thing: who are the idiots who hire these folks? Then I observed the CEOs themselves make the hiring decision, then I realize … uh oh… maybe the company is FOOKED b/c it is so obvious the person was a bad hire, what other bad choices is the CEO making.
Bad hiring abilities is a KEY indicator for a company’s success IMO. There’s a reason why some firms require 30+ interviews, and others just require a couple. The 30+ interview company has a much stronger culture and is much better at weeding out unqualified people.
Well, I guess to be fair the CEO doesn’t always know this type of stuff is going on- there is a lot of stuff going on in a company, and execs only see so much of it. I do like to think at least that the CEO (of all people) and any exec for that matter should be actively “cleaning up” the company in any way possible, but I guess this just comes down to personality / company culture. If it was me though, I wouldn’t put up with people that truely are not qualified for their roles that are working for my company, influencing my profits. (ever heard of the Peter Principle??? these people should be demoted back to their level of competence.)
Yeah, I would rather go thru a bunch of interviews to make sure a company is a good fit for me than to take an offer and have it end up being a bad fit. But i guess sometimes you never really know what it will really turn out like until you start out there, regardless of the number of interviews… and ideally everyone would work for somewhere where they are perfect fits, but there are other factors sometimes, ex. people that are in desperate need for any job they can get. i would be comfortable going thru a bunch of interviews tho, agreed that it’s a good sign that the company is good.
Definition Of Peter Principle:
The Peter principle is an observation that in an organizational hierarchy, every employee will rise or get promoted to his or her level of incompetence. The Peter Principle is based on the notion that employees will get promoted as long as they are competent, but at some point will fail to get promoted beyond a certain job because it has become too challenging for them. Employees rise to their level of incompetence and stay there. Over time, every position in the hierarchy will be filled by someone who is not competent enough to carry out his or her new duties.
When I started in banking, there was a real CAK sucker in my branch that would use dishonest tactics to sell to people, causing problems for the rest of us. Instead of getting fired, he went to another bank and was a branch manager at age 25, an age in which I was still a bank teller. Last I heard, he worked for a life insurance company and would sell policies to kids fresh out of high school.
Unfortunately, I am not making this up.
“I was too young to settle for a cushy job where nobody tried really hard anymore because the pay was beginning to all look the same.”
Dude, I want that. If I’m going to hustle, I want it to be for ME, not somebody else. Fortunately, me and a friend are starting a business that begins operations tomorrow, so I can at least say I’m putting my money where my mouth is.
ARB–Angry Retail Banker
Financial Samurai says
No better way to see correlation with effort than starting your own business online!
Ian Phi says
Sam, one trend I’ve seen in my workplace is that people who no one can stand get passed from group to group, often picking up promotions on their transfers. Now, I work for a government-funded organization which often doesn’t feel like “the real world” so maybe this path only works in very limited (and ridiculous) scenarios.
Have you ever witnessed this?
Financial Samurai says
Not really. I think you might be working at a special place!
But people who do transfer get to RESTART their image w/ other people. That’s the greatest opportunity to get better.
Michael @ Financially Alert says
Very entertaining read, Sam! I cringed a bit because I’ve had to deal with all 3 of these types before in my prior company. Although we attempted to hired slow, and fire fast, we admittedly let at least one or more of each type through our doors (over a decade). Luckily it was short lived for most of them… we expected results – not pretty eyes, shiny resumes, or someone kissing our ass. It is hard to distinguish the real deal early on, but the truth always surfaces.
Financial Samurai says
It’s NEVER easy to fire fast, which is one of the key reasons why negotiating a severance works.
Understand human nature and take advantage!
Sometimes, the truth takes YEARS to surface.