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Sunday, 13 March 2016

The management of superordinates

What is a superordinate?

It is somebody to whom, in terms of pay and stuff, you are lower down the pecking order.  It is a person who is in no way, shape or form, your superior.  If you have people like that, there's a lesson here, that I am publishing now under the 30-year rule. This is how to make your superordinate an unlucky bunny, like the one on the right.*

I spent many years working in hierarchies where I came up against superordinates. In the old days, one would say that an OBE (Officer of the British Empire) actually meant "Other Bloke's Efforts".  I came across it when my father, and Education Department official, was visited in hospital, in my presence, by a man with a lot of questions. My father stone-walled him, and after the fellow had gone, I asked who he was.

"That was Jack Buggie," he said, then he pointed at himself. "He'll get an OBE one day, but not from this bloke's efforts."

A year or so later, my father was dying of cancer, and my mother got an odd letter from Dr Harold Wyndham, then the Director-General, saying how he, personally, would never forget my father's work on something called "the wall of pins", which was a planning solution.

She asked my father what it meant, so he reached over and handed her a newspaper clipping, from the 'Daily Telegraph', as I recall. It showed a photo of Jack Buggie in front of his invention, the "wall of pins".

"He's got his OBE," I said, and my father nodded.  He wrote a masterly squelch, and my mother created multiple copies which went all over the Department, but Jack later made it to Director-General.

So when I became a Departmental official myself, I determined that no superordinate would pick my brains, steal my credit.  Jack was still DG, but while the lowly folk knew whose son I was, I avoided him.

I was bright, not concerned about a career as much as I cared about doing useful stuff. Most of the OBE types waited for somebody else to do stuff, and then jumped in to claim it, but I made sure that my authorship was known, in advance.  I also out-played them, and spent their budgets — I don't play office politics, but I don't waste my time on drones, either.

Enter Brent C**ish (yes, I blanked a couple of letters to make lawsuits harder).  He was, I think, a woodwork teacher, but he was inserted as my superordinate and he came around to find out what people were doing. Read: what he could purloin.

In all innocence, I let him see an idea of mine in mock-up form, a collection of school reports. I had written to my contact list, explaining that I wanted to assemble a set of school report forms, and I wanted them to fill them in one of their school's forms for a non-existent person. Many of them, knowing me, slipped jokes into the comments, and I assembled a 100-page booklet of the samples called 'Sorts of Report'.  I had sent if off for printing.

I told Brent that I was going to present it at a conference.  He promptly disappeared and came back soon after to say that the director had decided he, Brent, should go in my place.  The bloke knew sweet FA about reporting, while I had a master's degree in stuff like that, but I knew who would be claiming the credit for "something I had one of my staff run up."

I could have argued,  but that's not how I operate. The only operation I do is amputation — though  I don't regard the deployment of tactical nukes or the strategic use of socks filled with sea urchins as operations within the meaning of the Act.

Thieves are mugs.  "Sure thing," I said, and I slipped out to talk to my friend, the printer.  I always make friends with the service people.  I asked the printer to lose the print masters for a week, and told him why I needed this done.

"Bastard!" he said. I agreed, and he told me it would be better if he sent the masters to another office, and this is what he did, so when Brent went off to the conference, he went empty-handed. Not before, let me add, he went up to the printers and abused them — which made them even more helpful to me.  I bought the boss printer a beer, anyhow.

Note: none of this was about my career. I was too busy being useful to be worried about my career, but I could not, in all conscience, help the career of an OBE-expert. My idea was a practical solution to a problem lots of people had. The solution was only possible because my networks knew I did useful practical stuff, so they collaborated. If a scrote pinched my credit, I lost some of my ability to get solutions in place.

By the time Brent got back from the conference, the copies had arrived (well if the truth be known, they actually arrived the day before he left) and the clerical assistant, another mate, had packed and addressed them in a store room and dispatched them all, accompanied by my 'With Compliments' slips.  Once they were gone and Brent was out of the building, I went and left a copy on his desk.

The next day, he came steaming in, clutching his copy, and I told him how I had really chased the printers, and the copies had arrived at 10 am.

"Where are they now?" he asked, and by this time, the steam was really rising.

"In the post," I said.  "All gone."

Well, he moved on, not long after, but he kept rising of course. That sort always do.  But at least I wasn't to blame for his rise, though I think my presence may have worried him a bit, because while he was around, he never asked again about what I was doing.

The moral: don't get mad, get even, and given that you are superior to your superordinates, getting even will be no challenge at all.


* Rabbit's feet are lucky, right?

Brent Corish


  1. In education I believe people rise to their level of incompetence. If you want to get a teacher away from the kids but can’t find a good excuse you simply “promote” them. If they’re complete fuckwits you promote them to principal and hope they are sufficiently ineffective so teachers can ignore them and get on with their job.
    As they say, “shit floats”.

    1. What happens when, at entry, they are beyond their level of incompetence? Answer: they keep rising as people flick-pass them, onwards and upwards.