Machiavelli or Erasmus? Maybe some of Both

Stanley Bing is the pen name of Gil Schwartz a Fortune columnist formerly with Esquire. He is the author of business books spiced with humor and real-world observations. He claims to be the only writer on business and the workplace “who still puts on a suit and tie and goes to do battle with the dragons that breathe fire at corporate America every day.” That’s a big calling in this age.

Bing has written a new book The Core Curriculum: Everything You Need to Know to be a Master of Business Arts that will be published this week. According to his website, The Core Curriculum establishes a common language and foundation upon which a real- world business career can be mounted. Courses include: 101: Not Appearing Stupid 102: Fabricating a Business Personality 103: Selling, Marketing, and Negotiating 104: Managing 105: Group Interaction 106: Fundamentals of Power.

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal (pp. C1 & C2) published part of Bing’s “Glossary for Office Survival” or the “New ‘ABCs’ of Business.” Some of the jewels include:

Administrative Assistant is the servant and master of senior management. Though all the trappings of everyday work are there– the computer, the phone bank, the piles of incoming and outgoing paper – the real function is to grant or block access. More than any other player in the infrastructure, AAs are both high and low. They feel this status acutely. Treat them as the power brokers they are, they will sometimes respond in kind. Treat them as functionaries, and you will slowly be expunged from the face of the planet.

These people used to be called “secretaries” but that has been deemed déclassé or demeaning. Wonder why. In government, a “Secretary” is a high official with a lot of power, which those now termed “AAs” serving their private sector bosses have always had in their realm. Most of us learn quickly that any one who condescends to a secretary or AA is an idiot – with their head in their hand.

Ass-covering is a craft, not an art. There s nothing pretty about it. Make a habit of documenting situations that have a scent of peril about them. Copy the lawyers. Don’t apologize for anything. Apologies are the antithesis of ass-covering.

I like the “copy the lawyers” part. This process is legitimate, though sometimes derided. Do not ever rely on reciting oral communications to back yourself up. Make a writing (or recording, where legal). An apology is admission of guilt. I cringe every time a hear a public figure apologize, especially for an unintentional or imagined slight. The absolute worst was Paula Deen, but others have come close.

Title is very very important. Don’t let anybody tell you different. A new title – particularly one that is publicly announced – is worth more than a lousy 5% raise.

Depending upon the title, probably worth more than any raise. Why do people go into politics and spend huge amount of money to attain a relatively low paying job so they can add “Honorable” to their name. Because they feel a duty to serve the public? Nonsense. The prestige and the power – in that order – is the reason. The same is true at every level. Everybody loves a title. Go ahead and humor them (it can be done without fawning). It doesn’t cost anything, and they’ll return the favor in some way.

Bing includes a portrait of Erasmus on his website. Niccolo Machiavelli probably would be more apropos, and, having actually read Nick’s The Prince and many of the Discourses on Livy, I do not intend that pejoratively.

Guess we’ll have to read his book.

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