Ah, the pre-election, winding-down death throes of a long political campaign and the guaranteed finger-pointing nastiness that ensues as each candidate tries to smear the other in a thick coating of “unsuitable for office.” It’s a delightful tradition, and one to which the general public has become inured, even as we rail against the adolescent viciousness of the strategy. Well, rail all you want, gang: the strategy works. According to the Website CompleteCampaigns.com, hitting below the belt energizes one’s core supporters and renews their commitment, at the same time as turning off those less likely to vote and potentially alienating people who are for the other candidate to the point where they might even choose not to vote themselves. So, it’s get the base out while making sure nobody else but the base punches a Diebold touch screen. Talk about a win-win.
It’s no secret that work, and even life, is becoming increasingly political. As the troubled economy keeps us all scrambling, we, as “candidates” for our own “office” will not be faulted now if we pull out all the stops and get the important people behind us while driving the ineffectual cogs away. And, fear not, this technique has an illustrious history. William Safire, in his New Political Dictionary, points out the following phrase, which appeared in The Barber of Seville in 1775: “Calumniate! Calumniate!’ Some of it will always stick!” This was extrapolated from the even more ancient Latin motto, ‘Fortiter calumniari, aliquia adhaerebit,’ which means “throw plenty of dirt and some of it will be sure to stick.’ By around the time of the Civil War, “dirt” evolved into “mud,” and it is from this that we get the term “mudslinging” today. See? Simply by knuckling under and lowering your moral standards, you are part of something venerable and long-standing.
Here, then, are my suggestions for increasing your leverage in the world of work (and beyond) with the help of this heinous, but time-honored tradition.
#1 – GETTING THAT PROMOTION
Perhaps you cannot afford the team of spin-doctors that remain at the disposal of Messrs. McCain and Obama. No matter. The Internet is a valuable tool with which to seek out information on those competing with you for a coveted position, and it is very likely that a simple Google will provide you with a treasure trove of unsavory information. Not to mention; the industrious smearer can use the office gossip network as an invaluable source of potentially libelous material. So what if it’s unsubstantiated! The point is to get your butt into that higher-paying chair, isn’t it? The next step is to create an attack ad that guarantees you success. A suggested template follows.
“My opponent (insert name of employee competing with you here) claims that they are the only clear choice when it comes to getting the (insert job title here) position in our firm. But, what if I told you that their record on taking personal phone calls at work is embarrassingly high? That they consistently voted against our proven effective Monday morning brainstorming meetings? That they got so drunk at the last teamwork retreat in Branson, Missouri that Kenny Rogers took out a restraining order on them? Whereas the only truly suitable candidate for (insert job title here) is (insert your name here), whose estimable track record of reliability, dedication and comparatively minor incidents involving taking home a few pads of Post-It Notes and some Hi-Liters, leaving the paper jam for somebody else to fix and the occasional embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of dollars through my own personal ingenuity and Internet hacking expertise, makes them the best choice to lead the (name of department) into the sun-drenched future.”
#2 – KEEPING YOUR COMPANY ON TOP
Once they promote you to Executive Vice President based on your underhanded but perfectly acceptable tactics (see above), it is now your responsibility to make sure those who compete with your organization for consumer dollars are kept as far away from market dominance as can be.
“(Insert name of competitor here) will tell you that they are the superior provider of (insert your field or product here) in the United States. But did you know?
A. (Name of competitor) is known for physically beating anyone who dares to file a complaint about their business?
B. (Name of competitor) routinely hosts orgies at the stockholders’ expense?
C. (Name of competitor) is internationally known for taking food out of the mouths of innocent, starving children?
D. And, perhaps worst of all, (name of competitor) charges a lot more for shipping than it actually costs them.
[NOTE TO SMEARER: It is very important not to go into great detail about any of the above; remember, the point is to energize your base.]
We hope you will take these very important factors into consideration as you choose (your company name here) for all of your (insert your field or product here) needs.”
#3 – NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING IN THE HOME
Sometimes, the fight for dominance in the home can get as petty and unsavory as anything the world of business has to offer. There are many situations that may require a deft way with words, but here is just one example of how to use the tools available to McCain and Obama to your advantage not just in the boardroom, but in the living room, too.
“People say (insert your name here) is an annoying spouse. That they will always prioritize work over quality time with family. That they would surgically graft a Bluetooth to their ear if they could. That they consider falling asleep in front of the television foreplay. To those people we say: maybe these very things are the values that made this country great. Maybe someone has to work their butt off so all of you can eat well and shop at the Gap. Maybe creating a sizable nest egg in this scary economy is worth more than a little roll in the hay.”
And then, you tag it all with a campaign slogan. Maybe something like: “(Insert Your Name Here). Stop Complaining and Let Me Work My Butt Off.”
So, you can see how one can turn something on its ear and, no matter how responsible you are for the problem, make people think they had the wrong idea all along. Which, no matter who gets in, is probably what we’re all going to be thinking a few months after November 4.