Dilbert's dad: Weaseling
his way to success
reason the comic strip Dilbert is funny in 65 countries and 19 languages is that
the woes of the beleaguered worker are international. Scott Adams, former computer
software company employee and the creator of Dilbert, takes fresh and timely aim
at the current rash of double-dealing CEOs and slippery corporate managers in
his new book "Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel."
he tells Bankrate.com how to manage a workplace weasel when he's sitting in the
next cubicle. And he discusses his own uncannily Dilbert-like investment experience.
What exactly is a weasel?
Adams: A weasel is anyone who
is trying to get away with anything. And the weasel zone is that gray area between
things that are perfectly ethical and those things that might actually put you
Bankrate: Are there really more CEO weasels
than there used to be?
Adams: While crime has always
paid a little bit, it has never paid as well as it does now. Not only does it
pay well, but weasel CEOs get stock options, a dental plan and five weeks of vacation.
It's no surprise that a lot of people are going into the field.
Bankrate: It does seem like weasels are ubiquitous. Do we just have to learn to live
Adams: You don't want to get rid of weasels
because the economy would collapse. I mean, think about it. If companies were
required to tell you which ones really had the lowest prices and not confuse you,
all but a few would go out of business -- a dislocation of the economy. Nothing
good can come from that.
Bankrate: What's worse, having
weasel co-workers or a weasel boss?
Adams: You can
defend yourself if your co-workers are weasels. For example, I recommend inoculating
your boss. Ten minutes after the new guy comes in, pull the boss aside and say,
"You know, I think the new guy is a pathological liar." That's because
sooner or later the new guy is going to be talking trash about you to your boss
and the nature of the boss is that the first thing he hears is going to be imprinted
there for the rest of his life.
Bankrate: So having
a weasel boss is worse?
Adams: Absolutely. A weasel
boss has that unique ability to not only cause you to fail, but then blame you
for it later. The motto of the weasel boss is "Better you than me."
If weasels had a dance, it would look exactly like you and your boss having a
discussion about your objectives. Your boss wants to get as much work out of you
as possible while maintaining a plausible reason for denying you a healthy and
life-affirming raise. In contrast to that, you want objectives that could be accomplished
by a squirrel in a coma.
Bankrate: So how do you outsmart
a weasel boss?
Adams: Exaggerate your accomplishments.
Claim as an accomplishment every breath, sentence, phone call, casual conversation
and bodily function you experience. No one loves you as much as you love yourself
and there's no penalty for bragging. You might even get a raise for it if you
word it right.
Bankrate: And the lesson to be learned
here is ...
Adams: To err is human; to cover it up
Bankrate: What about your personal experience
with big business? We understand you made a couple of unfortunate investments.
Adams: That's an understatement. It's true. I invested in Enron, WorldCom and at
various times RiteAid and Tyco. I got them all. Every one. And that's just the
ones that are outright evil. Forget about the fact that I owned Cisco in '65.
And I bought all those thanks to professional advice. Now I do my own investing
in index funds. That's where I am now.
you fired all the advisers and taken on managing your own investments?
Adams: You don't really have to fire investment advisers when the money disappears.
It is a self-liquidating relationship. The beauty of it is that you never have
to make that phone call that says, "Give me back my money" because it
is already gone.
Bankrate: So index funds. Is that
it? Index funds aren't likely to grow this into an Enron-size fortune. Is writing
more books and continuing to work what is going to build your fortune?
Adams: Pretty much. I've been investing since 1979 or '80, and during that time
I've managed to amass losses. I think my total worldwide investment success is
negative at this point. And bear in mind, I followed all the rules. I didn't do
any crazy stuff.
Bankrate: None of those tax shelters?
Adams: No. I had a diversified portfolio: 70 percent stocks, 30 percent bonds. And
I did all the stuff you are supposed to do out of the book. What I didn't count
on was that so many of those companies looked good on paper because they were
frauds. I believed for a long time that professional money managers at least had
access to information that I didn't have. And therefore whether they were smart
-- or smarter than I was -- didn't really matter. They had better information
and that alone was probably worth something. But then you find out that those
weasels have been out-weaseled by the CEOs. The CEOs were just cooking the books
-- making up the numbers. No matter how smart my weasel was, he was no competition
for the Uberweasel.
Jennie L. Phipps
is freelance writer based in Michigan.