Between you and me, I’m beginning to think this “recession” may be for real and not some imaginary thing my broker made up to justify his poor performance and suicide. All of a sudden I’m regretting that my eulogy was so heavy on accusation and throwing things.
In recent months, millions of people across the United States, thousands across Canada and even the 20 stout men paid to pull Demi Moore’s face tight each morning have lost their jobs due to the severe economic downturn. Could you be next? Lord, I hope so. Anything to save my own bacon.
But assuming you don’t work at Maclean’s, I’m here to help.
I want you to gaze upon your workplace with fresh eyes. See those cubicles out there? That is your battlefield. Your co-workers are your enemies. Your stapler is a laser pistol of some kind—or a, uhh, floppy lightsaber. Okay, the metaphor only holds together for so long, but you get the point: it’s either them or you. Either your co-workers are going to eat or you’re going to eat or everyone’s going to get axed and your co-workers are going to eat you.
To survive, you must become the MacGyver of the workplace—a person capable of saving his or her own job while armed with only a paperclip, a wad of gum and, if at all possible, a thick sheath of photographs of the boss fondling an intern.
To stay among the ranks of the employed, you need simply to follow my Seven Habits of Highly Not Fired Yet People:
1. Make yourself indispensable. You can do this by working really hard and becoming more productive, but, man, that’s a pain. It’s probably easier just to swallow the CFO’s hard drive. Also, there’s hostage-taking—a surprisingly effective attention-getter in the short term. And remember: prison offers three squares a day and none of the hassle of having a say in whom you have sex with. Two birds, meet one stone.
2. Suck up. Remember how you used to bring in an apple for your teacher? It was pathetic and even the mention of your crass sycophancy makes me physically ill, but let’s face it—you might have been on to something. Find out your boss’s favourite morning drink. Is it coffee? A latte? The blood of the weak? Then place a cup of it on his desk in a casual manner, matter-of-factly mentioning, “Oh, I just happened to be walking by Tim Hortons/Starbucks/an orphan’s outstretched arm. Enjoy!” Tally one imaginary brownie point—and don’t forget to write down the address of that orphanage.
3. Give birth to octuplets. Your boss is only human, if you discount his mechanical heart, titanium endoskeleton and general, all-round werewolfery. And it’s human nature to want to spare those who have the most to lose. Becoming the parent of eight babies gives you the kind of family credentials that even most Osmonds can only envy. But stay alert—some of your co-workers probably have children, too. It falls on you to take the high ground and point out just how ugly and unworthy of love and basic nutrition they are.
4. Are you gay? If not, can you pretend to be? Being perceived as openly targeting a minority is one of the great fears of any organization that isn’t the Republican party. For this angle to work, it’s all about proving your homosexual credentials. Thankfully, countless thousands have paved the way. Think about it: those people at Cher concerts—they can’t really be there for the music, can they?
5. Go to the washroom . . . for about 18 months. They can’t fire what they can’t find.
6. Make subtle death threats. The key word here is “subtle.” But in another, more accurate way, the key words here are “death” and “threats.” Yes, you want to avoid prosecution, but you also need to get your point across. For starters, try “testing” your chainsaw during staff meetings. On one hand, this makes you a person that everyone wants to get rid of. On the other hand—your hand, the shaky, blood-spattered one—you’ve got a chainsaw. Go ahead and take an extra 10 minutes for lunch. You’ve earned it.
7. Divert attention from yourself. If the end seems near, gesture theatrically to a point in space, then yell “Look—over there!” The people who’ve come to fire you will eventually turn back in your direction, but you’ll have cleverly bought yourself three to five precious seconds. Your move, Human Resources.
If all else fails, you can always try ignoring the recession and hoping it goes away. Say very little, show yourself infrequently, do the bare minimum to demonstrate leadership in a time of grave crisis. After all, that’s what Stephen Harper’s doing, and he’s still got his job.