The Devil’s Guide to Getting Ahead


Who needs hard work when you can cheat?

Today we’re going to take a trip into the minds of some of those who think that the only way to the top is on the bodies of those around them and share with you the Devil’s guide to getting ahead in local government.

If you are a hard-working, diligent, nice, supportive, positive, honest, reliable, knowledgeable, experienced, trust worthy member of staff then you need read no further; you’re beyond help. If however you simply want to get ahead as quickly as possible with little fuss and don’t worry yourself about the nagging voice on your other shoulder, then read on and revel in these secret methods of success.

1. Stab, stab, stab.

You know those people who say that they ‘have your back’? Well, they’ve only got it because it’s always good to have a few backs handy when you need to stab someone in one. No matter what they profess to believe, no-one really would protect you no matter what you did; when the proverbial faeces starts flying they will happily use you as a human shield.

Get in first by finding those people who either would probably bounce back from any set-back or who actually wouldn’t be missed. It’s character building after all, they’d probably thank you for the development opportunity. And if you can combine it with number two on this list, you’re in for a rapid rise.

2. Know thy enemy

Not the Taxpayers Alliance, not Eric Pickles, not even the annoying journo who submits FOI requests as if they have a personal grudge against you; no, we’re talking about your colleagues here, in particular those who are just like you.

Cliques are natural and happen all over the place, so odds are you know of at least half a dozen people who would probably go for the same sorts of jobs as you internally or externally. They may be a similar age, have similar backgrounds or just have similar ambitions, but never mistake them for friendly competitors; they are rivals and should be treated as such.

Carefully start undermining them at every opportunity, public and private. If one of their projects fails, use the benefit of 20:20 hindsight to point out all of their errors and how you would have done things differently. If they have a good idea, usurp it and claim it for your own. If they share an interesting link with you, forward it on and claim it for your own. And if they are strong at something which you aren’t, make sure that people aren’t talking about that part of the work. Basically, if they are known for negative things, they become less of a threat.

3. Gossip

Everyone knows that knowledge is power, and gossip is often made up of the hottest information available. If you want to be known as someone who is in the know then you’ll need to be well networked and able to swap tidbits. Who cares if not all of it is true? You can effectively say whatever you want, as long as what is told to you is accurate then your part of the deal is by-the-by.

4. Plagerise

Some people gentrify this by saying it’s ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’, or some other grandiose turn of phrase, but the simple fact is that there is a lot of great work out there which others don’t know about. In this world of Google, research is simplicity itself, and unlike when you were at university few people check up on what you are writing.

Whether it’s a single idea, an alternative opinion or entire chunks of text, borrow them from others and pass them off as your own. The odds of being caught out are pretty slim, and even if you are you can just say that you were learning from and inspired by others so much that you consider yourselves working on a similar level and with one mind.

5. Claim that credit

We all work in teams with others, towards shared goals and with plenty of people contributing to a project’s success, right? Wrong! You need to stop letting other people claim any credit for the work that was done in your sphere of influence, knowledge or contacts.

If you went to a single meeting about something or read a single report, you are now an authority on that subject. If anyone else achieves something then you need to get in there and know what they did, so that when you are speaking to people outside of the project team or even better with external partners and the media you can subtly add yourself to the key players involved. If a member of your team did something then be sure to say it was all down to you, even if all you did was watch while they put their blood, sweat and tears into making it a success. That’s how the chain of command works, right? Credit goes up, blame goes down.

6. Use technology

Not to do things properly of course (what are you, crazy?!) but in other, more creative ways. So others are putting in long hours and being seen as dedicated? No problem; set some e-mails to not be delivered before 9.30pm and it appears that you are slaving away late into the night to make sure things are just right. We’ve already talked about sharpening up your Google-Fu when it comes to ripping other people off, but with the wonders of social media you can now do it to an audience.

And if anything looks like it’s going wrong, simply blame technology. Either it’s failed and you’ve lost work, or better yet it’s not up to the standards you need it to be to work properly. You’re thinking five years in the future, and trying to create tomorrow’s projects based on today’s tech (and last decade’s internet browser). Simply mutter something abusive about Internet Explorer and see people nodding sagely in agreement.

7. Fake a network

Social media is allowing us to do in minutes what it took our forebears years to do; create a network of contacts who share their work with you. Simply sign up to Twitter, Yammer or any other social networking tool and follow the people who matter in your field. Odds are that they are sharing useful information, which you can then make use of yourself.

The best way of doing this is to drop their name into conversations whenever possible. When you see the latest piece of genius on why influence is more important than ROI, tell your boss that you were discussing this with Helen Reynolds and watch them begin to be impressed that you know such forward thinkers. If Futuregov come up with a new project area pretend that you personally know the boy-pretending-to-be-a-wolf-pretending-to-be-a-king and have been co-developing it for some time now. They probably won’t be checking up on you, and you get away pretending to be the spider at the centre of a very impressive hub.

8. Save the day

Many people have little emergencies, things go wrong from time to time and a little help is required to put things right. This is exactly the time for you to swoop in and save the day.

Don’t actually do too much, but whatever you do to help out make sure others know that you are doing it. Talk about it often, make out that your element is the most crucial to success and make it very clear that you are going above and beyond the call of duty here.

This way, others will see you as a go-to guy or gal in a bind, and will feel like they owe you a favour or two even though you’ve never worked with them before. Reputation goes a long way; do this early on in your time at a new job and you can live off of that glory for years to come.

9. Keep some mystery

Even if it was only an accident, odds are that you will do something well and others will be impressed. No doubt they will ask you how you did it, what lessons you learned and what they could take away from it to help their own work.

Don’t let them do anything of the sort. If you make others realise that something was either an accident or really easy, they will not appreciate it anywhere near as much as if they thought it was a feat of work and something they couldn’t simply replicate. The less you tell them, the more vital you become to success and the less others can then rip off from you.

10. Always agree with the boss

The people above you; they are important. They are powerful. They have egos. All in all, this is a heady cocktail which you can easily turn to your advantage.

Everyone likes to be told they are right, that their opinions are correct and that their ideas are wonderful. Sycophancy is such an ugly word; let’s call it positive reinforcement. Whenever they share an opinion, look for a way of supporting it which sounds like you have actually considered the problem and come to exactly the same conclusion as they have, no matter how absurd. After all, if two great minds get to the same place, it must be right, surely?

Stroke their egos and sooner rather than later you will find them confiding in you more and more. You can then use this information however you want, as well as being able to even more actively support those bad decisions they may make. If they foul up supremely then they may even find themselves out of the job; who better to turn to in this crisis to step into their shoes than you, who know exactly what they were planning and have already Googled a soundbite to get you out of their mess?

Follow these simple rules and before too long you will undoubtedly find yourself at the top of the heap, looking down on those poor schmucks who honestly think that hard work, quality products and honesty pay off in the long run.

Didn’t they know, nice guys finish last?

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com

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One Comment on “The Devil’s Guide to Getting Ahead”


  1. […] our residents. However, it can also lead us to making mistakes in the name of chasing success, of profiting from others misfortunes and putting ourselves above others to get to where we need to […]


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