Review - Weasel words for managers

Do the kind of managers lampooned in Dilbert read Scott Adams' books? Or do they just look at the pictures?

Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel – Scott Adams – Harper Business, $31.99

“For those of you who are satire-impaired – and believe me, you don’t know who you are …”

Do the kind of managers lampooned in Dilbert read Scott Adams’ books? Or do they just look at the pictures?

While we’re at it, who does read Dilbert books? Millions of cubicleers the world round (65 countries, 22 languages) laugh -- bitterly -- at his daily cartoons depicting corporate stupidity and duplicity. But Adams has along the way created an empire of management advice parodies, stocking his own genre with dozens of titles (When Body Language Goes Bad, Dilbert: Don't Step in the Leadership), in the process mocking office archetypes with a near-Shakespearean cast of human and animal protagonists and victims (www.dilbert.com/comics/dilbert/the_characters/index.html) … sorry, got carried away.

The Dilbert thesis has moved on from the idea (The Dilbert Principle) that idiots are systematically identified and promoted to management, to offer the proposition (The Way of the Weasel) that all people are not only idiots but also weasels – that is, they usually occupy the giant grey area “between good moral behaviour and outright criminality”.

We came to the burrow of the weasel by way of reverse telecommuting (bringing your personal work in to the office) and multishirking in The Joy of Work, subtitle: Dilbert’s Guide to How to find Happiness at the Expense of your Co-workers. Multiweaseling, using more than one weasel technique, is an advance on this.

Readily readable sections include those on avoiding work and evaluating a vendor (check the relationship for friends, lovers, bribes, job aspirants), Manager Weasels and Weasels are from Venus (afraid so).

If you’re a manager weasel, good things to be doing include: seeing the big picture, lining up the ducks and managing expectations. Things you don’t want to do include: reinventing the wheel, jumping on the grenade and shuffling the deck chairs. Whatever they mean.

Scott Adams is like the kid who gets his own back on bullies, scoring not a bad substitute in incompetent managers. And he gets people to provide the best examples in the book, while getting fabulously rich. Brilliant.

So, how do you read a 350-page book of scattered ideas and cartoons? You treat it like a corporate email, skimming to see what might immediately apply to you, smiling or scowling accordingly, and saving the rest for a quiet Friday afternoon. It's a big dipper -- the latest constellation in the universe of bad management.

Book courtesy of Dymocks, Atrium on Elliot.

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