protecting your turf

Posted on May 16, 2007


The Big BingFrom the truly excellent The Big Bing: Black Holes of Time Management, Gaseous Executive Bodies, Exploding Careers, and Other Theories on the Origins of the Business Universe by Stanley Bing.

The publisher is gonna kill me for putting any of this on the web, I know, but I picked up this book a couple of weeks ago in the discount bin and it’s an epic find. I cannot keep it to myself. Buy it if you can: it’s like having your own pet Gazoo whispering bitter, brilliant and amusing tips in your ear, and what could be better than that?

Do you know who Stanley Bing is? Bing is the mysterious and malevolent Master of the Business Universe who wrote the best-seller What Would Machiavelli Do? And he may indeed be evil, but he’s genius, too, so learn from him.

At this point the career coaches start making plans to kill me as well. Bring it!

But Bing is a smart, smart boy, and he doesn’t mind giving you a gander at what’s simmering in his brainpan, and you could do a lot worse than to take advice from this twisted genius of the very twisted field that is business.

And so, without further ado, we present a condensed version of just one small chapter in the book, Protecting Your Turf. Even if you haven’t got a job yet you can use this; its universality is impressive. In fact, if you haven’t started work yet this is the perfect time to grab a copy of the book. Why enter the ring unarmed? The excerpt is broken up to make the page load faster; to read the entire condensed version, click on the More button.

Protecting Your Turf

In the beginning, there was my turf. And I beheld it, and it was very tiny. There were more of us then, back when the corporation was young and centralized. Each of us tended his proud little patch of duties, met with pals around the watering hole at sundown, and, for the most part, coveted not his neighbor’s ass. Then the plague of merger fell upon our house, and many good folk were swept away. Before long I found myself steward of quite a nice chunk of real estate, with nary a shot fired in anger.

Then came the post-Armageddon wasteland that is now upon us. Where before there was me and Chuck and Ted and Fred and Phyllis and Janice and Lenny, now there’s simply me and Lenny. And Lenny, I’m sorry to say, is a classic turf-fresser, slavering on mine while he gibbers possessively over his own. “You’ve soaked up a lot of turf that used to be mine, Len,” I told him recently over a morning cup of coffee. “If you want war, it’s okay by me, but I warn you–I won’t lose.” Since then, Lenny and I have enjoyed a nice sense of collegiality. But I’m not fooled. Hitler didn’t stop at Prague when the tasty little Balkans lay at his feet, and Lenny won’t either.

Turf is the work that no one but you should be doing. But it’s more. It’s the proprietary relationships you have with peoplethe human glue that holds your career together. Like all great things in life, it’s most important to those who don’t get much. If you’re secure in your job, and you have a well-defined position with a lot of responsibility, turf doesn’t become that big of an issue. Good attitude, when all that’s challenged is your right to fund an opinion survey or something. But there are times when something more fundamental is threatened. Keep the following in mind:

work resource wikipage 

add to :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank

Try not to act like a thumbsucking worm. Real turf is something you have an emotional investment in, that, if you lost it, would take away a real part of you. So take what you need and leave the rest.

The turf you make is equal to the bows you take. Recognition begets turf. As a neophyte in the business world, it never occurred to me that my work should be attributed to someone else. It was three months before Chuck, in a spams of assiduity, persused my output and noticed my name, not his, affixed to the title page. By then it was impossible for him to re-create the fiction that he was solely responsible [for the monthly report to the board]. Thus did I attain my first visible piece of soil.

Greed conquers nothing. Those who live by the slice-and-run will die by it. You have to acquire small parcels legitimately, one by one, without people realizing what you’re doing. Then one day people turn around and say ‘Look, he’s in charge of all this great stuff. He must be more important than we thought. ‘ “

Good electric fences make good neighbors. My friend Rick was given the job of writing and editing his company’s strategic plan. Like a generous fellow, he invited a slightly senior peer to chip in. “I was usurped,” he says now. “Because of his title, he ended up making the decisions on everything, and I became the flunky.” But Rick’s problems might well have been solved with a Wagnerian display of temper. Authority is invested from above. It comes with the right to tell anyone, within reason, as politely as necessary, to get bent.

Let ’em eat dirt. “My magazine got a new staff, and the people I liked quit, and all these young turks came in,” my friend Louise recounts. “And Peter, the new editor, started, little by little, taking away responsibilities over and above my daily tudies. I had always been included in management meetings, for instance, and suddenly I wasn’t. Then a friendly colleague calleed and told me I was going to lose my job. He suggested I call a friend of his at a very big paper and offer to write for him the same columns I was doing at the magazine. So I called the newspaper editor and he thought it was a great idea.,

I quit in a really great and grandiose way,” she grins. “I was responsible for a huge number of listings — not to mention two columns. I acted like everything was fine, but every day I secretly took home one or two files until my drawers were empty. I waited until the time of the month when all my work would be due. Then I walked in and said to Peter, ‘I quit right now.’ I left that morning. It really screwed them. It was great.”

Yes, indeed. Turf is you, and they can’t take that away.