4. Giving instructions to idiots.
“We have an assistant who makes millions of errors at a time. Once she was given a list of things to buy and the list had a typo on it. She said, ‘I have been looking in all the office catalogues and I can’t find anything called a calthaculator.’ Another time she was like, ‘The fax number you gave me didn’t work, so I randomly added a 123 at the beginning and it went through.’ ”
At least she didn’t buy 123 calthaculators! But seriously, folks. The best way to deal with rank incompetence is to pretend you’re correcting a simple misunderstanding, which will help the transgressor save face while you raise the issue and add some sort of double-checking redundancy system (e.g., personally signing off on every fax cover sheet). Micromanagement is most effectively passed off as mere adherence to the tiresome requirements of faceless management meddlers. “I’m just a functionary in an inefficient bureaucracy” is one of the most eminently believable excuses for any action, no matter how absurd, in office life.
5. Learning about others’ social lives.
“I worked with a guy who was about 40 years old. He was on a business trip in Africa and brought a male prostitute back to his fancy hotel. Homosexuality was illegal in that country, but he apparently knew the part of the capital to find gay prostitutes. He went skinny-dipping with this guy in the hotel pool in the middle of the night. When he woke up the next morning, all his money was gone.”
If it’s possible to remove yourself from a situation before someone else realizes you’ve seen him in a compromising position, do so; if you can’t escape, it’s crucial to transition as quickly as possible from instinctive astonishment or laughter to the raised-eyebrow, seen-everything manner of a wry private detective. Sharing one’s own story of foolish debauchery, implying “what’re you gonna do?” equivalence to the immediate situation, might also help. If you must tell someone what you saw, find a Keeper of Workplace Secrets outside the office: a friend who gives enough of a crap to learn the names of all the people you work with, yet is remote enough—ideally based in a different time zone, or if you have a time machine, a different century—that there is very little danger he’ll ever intersect with your professional circle.
6. Getting into the club.
“A guy can ask any junior guy out to drink, which helps them advance. But no man wants to seem like they’re hitting on someone, so they won’t ask a woman out to lunch alone, or a drink. They don’t form a bond with junior-level women because they don’t see us as little versions of them. I don’t remind them of themselves when they started, so I don’t get that mentorly treatment.”
To enhance her chances of getting to the top without having to sleep her way up, the enterprising young woman should consider developing an interest in the hobby that reeks of camaraderie, yet is scientifically proved to reduce potency and libido: golf.