Deal or No Deal?

I need some philosophical advice.Devil

Here’s the sitch: My latest boss (eight months now) is a smug, obnoxious, strutting, self-involved and ruthless stuffed shirt. Of course it goes without saying that he’s also incompetent. And, I have to assume he knows I don’t like him. He was hired from outside as the top executive at our location, and since he joined the “team,” the team has disintegrated, with more than half the staff walking out or — even worse for him — transferring to other locations within the company, which is like saying “I’m OK with the company, I just don’t want to work for you.” During his short tenure, profitability and morale have plummeted. So in addition to being an asshole, his job is probably on the line. Trust me, I’m doing all I can to expedite his departure, but that’s another story.

All of a sudden, HugeCorp has decided to restart a program they abandoned a few years ago, and here’s where the fun begins. The program is called ESI, or Employee Satisfaction Index. Yes my friends, Hugecorp now says it wants to be an “employer of choice” within the industry, and to that end they are going to survey the current employees regarding their experiences and attitudes about their jobs, and their supervisors. They want to find out what we all think about our bosses and how the place is being run, so they can keep us satisfied. This may or may not be bullshit. Certainly they have shown no inclination in the past to care about what anybody thinks, but that doesn’t matter, does it, because now I am going to get a chance to have my say, and I will surely poke a sharp stick into his puffed-up ego.

So the day after we all find out there’s going to be these ESI surveys (the week after next, by the way), Mr. Potato Head calls me over to his desk and lets me watch him fill out my own Employee Evaluation form. Without even reading it, he gives me the top score in every category straight down the page, and then writes a nice complimentary note at the bottom (even if I did have to spell “meticulous” for him). So I am now the perfect, model employee (as if I weren’t already!).

Over the past week he’s been stopping by my office periodically, to make sure I have everything I need, shoot the breeze for a moment, see if if I’ve had lunch and just generally schmooze me. Remember, he knows I don’t like him, and our relationship to date has been, shall we say, cool. So the obvious conclusion is he knows he’s a jerk and he’s got about a week and a half to get on my good side so I don’t torpedo his ass in the survey. Of course I will torpedo his ass anyway, because he royally deserves it, but here’s what I need help with:

I could ask for a raise.

I brought the subject up several months ago, and never got an answer (which means “no,” I guess). But he’s now somewhat more motivated to make me happy these days. My dilemma is that this kind of extortion would be wrong, even if I do royally deserve a lot more money. Also, this walking sack of rhinoceros dung should be fired for the mess he has made of our operation. He should have to wait in the unemployment line in hell for all eternity, and if I make the kind of diabolical bargain he wants me to make he will get a reprieve from HugeCorp, or maybe even a promotion (yes, they are that clueless).

Plus, whatever money I got out of the deal would be Satan’s money, rotting and putrefying in my pockets and stinking up my soul. I already feel like I need to sponge off after every one of his glad-handing visits to my office. Could I stand to be in bed with this arrogant shithead?

Of course there’s a chance I wouldn’t be able to get the money anyway (HugeCorp might decide to block it, for example), but assuming I could, should I? I mean, I have had to enter into a suicide pact with a coworker, because I hate the job so much. I don’t know if I could stand closing ranks with management and becoming the “right” kind of person.

So that’s my dilemma. What do you think? The Devil’s Bargain, or The High Road to A Squalid Death?

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23 Replies to “Deal or No Deal?”

  1. Steve – I gather from your second comment that you think I should try to take advantage of my boss’ current weakness to line my pockets. Also, the truth always works? Depends on what you mean by “works.” In my case, the truth would get me fired, if not jailed.

  2. Well, let’s remember that I felt I put bad kharma out into the universe by saying mean things about Tony Snow that probably attributed to his relapse.

    So, knowing that I have a itsy bitsy teeny weeny tiny tiny tiny tiny feeling of guilt over that, what I’m about to say shouldn’t surprise you.

    I don’t think you should do it. Cuz I think it’ll come back to haunt you.

    I think you should be honest on the evaluation form. Not overly mean, keep your emotions in check. But be subjectively honest about it. And then I think you should keep asking for a raise until they give you one to shut you up.

    Have the audacity to do both.

  3. Definitely ask for the raise (again) because you deserve it. That is not extortion. The fact that you deserve the money has nothing to do with your dislike of the asshole in question. Regardless of the whether or not you get the raise, be honest on the evaluation. Your thinking is fuzzy because you are too close to the situation. These should be two totally independent incidents not to be dependent one on the other.

  4. Thank you all for the advice. If I go for the money, I’ll still have to put together some kind of hokey list of my accomplishments, none of which I am proud of or would ever mention in any other context. I’ll have to consider whether I can stand to get involved in such a project, for the meager amount they will certainly offer. Then if I get a song and dance or an outright turndown on my request, it will put me in the position of accepting that additional humiliation — on top of simply working there — or just quitting, which would be disastrous for so many reasons, and yet I might blow my cool.

    But this weekend I’ll fire up my Strat and get lost in the Evil of Rock’n’Roll.

  5. Late to the party here, but I don’t think you should bother asking for a raise . . . just now. I think you should fill out the form honestly–and as fairly as you possibly can. And then ask again for a raise in a couple of months.

  6. Goldie! – Glad you stopped by. You seem to be assuming that money is exchanged for meritorious effort. I don’t subscribe to that belief, and I think I could make a case based on experience. I think you could, too. Why don’t you think I should try to use the unfair leverage I might have?

    kStyle – I’ve been trying, but there’s a catch: They’ll only let me go if I’m too crazy to do the job, But if I say I’m crazy — thus indicating that I want out — then I’m exhibiting a “normal” instinct for self-preservation, and so am not crazy enough to be let go.

  7. Not just a catch, but a Catch-22, my friend. What about executing the job so poorly that you become dead weight pulling down the company boat? Oh wait, sounds like your boss is already doing that…

  8. kStyle – Sometimes I think I should be getting combat pay or something. Also, I know you don’t really believe that my work ethic would permit me to do a bad enough job to sink the boat.

  9. I don’t think you should use the unfair leverage because it’s unfair. (Sort of for the same reason that you don’t want to do an intentionally bad job.) It’s wrong, it’s bad karma, it will suck the soul out of you because you know it’s wrong, and it’s hard to say whether you’d feel worse if you failed or succeeded. if you want to make a fair case for a raise, have at it. I also think you should answer the questionnaire honestly.

  10. I vote for a delay in your raise request until the ESI is over with.

    First, it seems impossible that a raise could be secured within the very short period between now and the ESI deadline, no matter how hard the asshole might push for it in his desperate attempt to buy your good opinions.

    Second, EVEN IF the raise were secured in such a short period of time, the raise might come under special scrutiny by the asshole’s superiors, as a result of ESI responses, such as yours, that describe the asshole as being incompetent and the cause of declining profits at your location.

    Both these scenaria move me to suggest that you hang back.

    Would there be any way for you to show us the ESI survey? Will it be multiple choice, like those worthless things we get from the Home Depot and the Staples surveys that offer prizes to those who answer them? Or will there be a chance for written responses?

    Written responses could be dangerous for you, though, because your good spelling and grammar might give you away. These things have a way of escaping, like those 45 million credit-card numbers last week.

    Also, do you KNOW for sure that the ESI is being distributed throughout every nook and cranny of HugeCorp? Maybe your location, plus a few others, are the only locations involved, because the bigger bosses know about the assholes like the one you must deal with. The data you cite must be known to those bigger bosses.

  11. kStyle and Goldie – I think you have both spotted my problem: I just want to play fair, give honest value for my paycheck, make the world a better place, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I guess I’m a chump, but I’ve been acting this way for so long I don’t think I can change. If I really wanted to go for the gusto I wouldn’t have even asked the question — I’d be rippin’ lips and takin’ names. The question obviously doesn’t even occur in the minds of the truly competitive, and the race will always go to those guys. To paraphrase kStyle, sigh…

    Caravana Basura – Thanks for giving me some practical reasons to take the high road.
    Show you the survey? At first they were pretty loose with it. I think the first year I took it into my office, filled it out and returned it. I could easily have made copies. But after that they made us go in small groups into a conference room and fill it out under the scrutiny of someone from HR, or maybe she was from the survey company, I’m not sure. But she seemed really strict, so I liked that. I might be able to swipe a copy of it, but if I were to reproduce it here there could be trouble (As you note, these things have a way of escaping.).

    In any case, as I remember it was multiple choice. For example, “Your immediate supervisor is…

    A.) A little unresponsive to your needs, but that’s understandable given the incredible pressure he or she is under.

    B.) Makes sure you always have the tools and training you need to do your job.

    C.) Always goes the extra mile and even stays late to assist you in your tasks.

    D.) Is the finest manager ever in the history of human endeavor.

    E.) Is a saint, an absolute saint, upon whom you would gladly go down multiple times each day.

    “Choose the answer that MOST NEARLY represents your opinion.”

    But what do you answer if the guy is an incompetent prick who has obviously conned himself into a job he has no idea how to do?

    I’ve worked there for a LONG time, and I see the big picture. The problems I see cross departmental and supervisorial lines, but HugeCorp somehow thinks I’m only competent to answer questions regarding the narrow area I am nominally involved in, and about only one manager. They want everyone to stay in their boxes. Because of this their survey will probably not reveal the real issues, or at least not enough of them to raise a red flag.

    To answer a couple of your other questions, I don’t know if the ESI is administered company-wide, and yes, upper management at HugeCorp would have to be blind or stupid not to see the evolving problem with this particular executive.

  12. I was NOT concentrating on the high road, even though I do have a VERY nasty character flaw that nags me always to do the right thing — even when I can get away with doing a bad thing, gaining stuff for myself, and making my worthless enemies unhappy.

    If I believed in god, there would be an excuse for my nasty character flaw, but because I do not so believe, I feel SO much more disabled by said flaw.

    I really do think that hanging back will work better for you, given the very short timelines you have laid out. In other words, I am NOT giving this advice out of my goodness. I am thinking strategically.

    If the survey were coming out in July, say, then I might counsel you to exploit the guy’s weakness to get your raise immediately — assuming he has the total discretion to give it — and then to turn on him in the survey. But I don’t think the physics and mechanics are in your favor.

    The underlying moral consistency — the desire for which we both seem to be cursed with — is that in both cases you are acting in the best interests of HugeCorp: By getting your raise, you are assuring HugeCorp of the continuing presence and loyalty of such a wonderful employee as Larry Jones; AND you are helping HugeCorp to rid itself of worthless assholes such as the asshole we are discussing.

    As far as deeper truths go, I am sure you could run HugeCorp, in all its billion-dollar complexity, at least as well as the guy or gal who currently does so.

    This reminds me of a Calvin Trillin essay I read about 30 years ago. He said the worst thing about getting old, and the thing that is most likely to cause him to commit suicide, is that someday the U.S. president will be someone he knew in his college dormitory.

  13. I can’t believe y’all are talking about this in such emotional terms. You are dealing with an entity, a business, a corporation, not a PERSON. A corporation does what is necessary to prosper (hence the survey) and would not think twice about cutting anyone loose if it meant they would improve their bottom line. When dealing with your COMPANY, you should treat them the exact same way. Asking for a raise is a business proposition. It is not personal. Just like there are bad times to ask, there are good times, and those situations are not invented by you, and you can do little or nothing to effect them, you can only take advantage of them and you’re (excuse me) a fool if you don’t. If you are worth it (and it sounds as if you believe you are, since you asked for one before and were turned down) then you should ask to be compensated accordingly, THE END. If your boss wants to get a little bit more motivated about your request because he thinks it will increase his perceived value to the company, that is his deal, his “karma” or whatever, and not yours.

    In other words, the skeeviness does not originate with you, so stop trying to own it.

    And you should still totally be honest in your evaluation.

  14. Vikkitikkitavi – Thanks for your input. I, and probably all the commenters here, are aware that corporations exist sloely to make money, and they will do, quite literally, anything to achieve that end. The metadiscussion here has been about the morality of this condition. Foolish, I know, but I don’t think you are a stranger to the occasional Crusade Against The Windmills.

    Maybe you won’t come back to read this, but in case you do, let me ask:

    If the company will do anything to help their bottom line (and here I affirm that they have lied to me, their partners and their customers),

    …and if I am to “…treat them the exact same way,”

    …then why do you think should I be honest in my evaluation?

  15. Larry, I felt like I had to remind everyone that they are dealing with a corporation, not a person, because the discussion seems to centered around the issue of whether the timing of your raise request constituted taking an unfair advantage of the situation. I ask, how do you take an unfair advantage of a corporation, as long as you are asking what you believe to be just compensation for your work? Where’s the unfairness? I just don’t get it.

    Look, you are trying to compensate for your boss’s bad behavior by denying yourself something you deserve. You can refuse to see the situation as an emotional one.

    And when I said you should treat your company the same way they treat you, I meant you should treat them as a business transaction participant only. I’m in no place to say whether the company is dishonest, and I was not telling you that if they are, you should be dishonest as well.

    If this is a time when your company really needs you to stay in your job, then there’s nothing wrong with asking them to provide an incentive for you to do that. And if your boss wants to think he is buying a good evaluation, let him think that. That doesn’t mean you have to do it. Just as you are being honest in asking for a well-deserved raise, you can be honest in your evaluation.

  16. vikkitikkitavi – Yeah, I get it. Maybe the real bottom line for me is that I don’t want to be there at all, ever, so I can’t stomach the idea of sitting down to negotiate with HugeCorp about anything, especially when the guy I’d have to deal with is such an asshloe. Corporation or not, I see a human face on it, and it kind of makes me sick.

  17. choose:

    a) This is a big, successful company. I’m sure they know what’s right and appropriate for you. I wouldn’t question their benevolence. Think of the company first and your loyalty.

    b) Guy’s causing you way too much stress. Get him alone and give him the ol’ letter opener to th’ throat. Make it look like suicide.

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