Remember the days when you were in school, and you studied your tail off for an exam? You celebrated when you received your grade only to find out that one of your classmates, who had partied the night before, blew the socks off the exam because he had gotten a hold of the test questions beforehand. Who do they think they’re bluffing?
Well, you thought that after you graduated, you had left all that baggage behind. Then you find out that these same characters are soaring through the corporate ranks because — you guessed it — they’ve learned how to “play the system.”
Well, I’ve got a message for these counterfeit superstars: If you think you can bluff your way through life, you’ve got something coming.
Eventually, people see right through these shortcuts to success. In fact, these counterfeit superstars are living on borrowed time. The day will come when their ways will come back to bite them. GOTCHA! Bluffing doesn’t pay.
8 Ways to Tell That Someone’s Pulling a Fast One
Despite the fact that the majority of people play by the rules and try to do the right thing, there are a number of bad actors in every organization who have no problem advancing their careers on the backs of others. Here are 8 you may recognize:
Emperors. These people climb the corporate ladder by capitalizing on who they know and where they’ve been, rather than on what they’re contributing today. They may have friends in high places, have their walls filled with diplomas, or have previously worked for a blue-chip company. They’re like an oasis. They may look wonderful from a distance, but the closer you get, the more obvious it becomes that it’s all just a mirage. In this case, emperors truly have no clothes.
Pretty Boys (or Girls). These people really look the part. They are the trendiest dressers, belong to the finest country clubs, and look like they could be on the cover of Vogue or GQ. Similar to Emperors, the Pretty set rise up the corporate ladder based on appearance rather than performance. But their veneer is thin, and when the spotlight gets too bright, you can begin to see right through them. In this case, you shouldn’t judge a book simply by its cover.
A– Kissers. These people spend all their time fawning over their superiors. You need to reduce costs? No problem. We just won’t give people raises this year. (Too bad there’s only enough for management.) These A– Kissers spend 99.9 percent of their time in closed-door management meetings with little time to provide direction for their own team — regardless of the impact that it has on results. In this case, it’s only a matter of time before their people say “ENOUGH!” and tell THEM to kiss off. So much for bluffing.
Delegators. They say there are only two kinds of people, those who are willing to work and those who are willing to let them. These counterfeit superstars are in the latter group. They have the power to say: “You want something done? No problem. In fact, rather than get it to you by Friday, how about tomorrow morning?” Then they get their staff to stay late while they walk out the door at 5 p.m. These people always volunteer for more work; are calm, cool, and collected; and have the cleanest desks in the office. How is that possible? It’s because they delegate everything! In this case, the only thing that stops at their desk is the credit they don’t deserve, not the work.
Schmoozers. These folks could win an award for Mr. or Ms. Congeniality. Everybody loves them. Schmoozers know all the ballgame stats; they know how to tell a joke; and they’re up-to-date on the inside dirt. Their colleagues like them so much that they don’t mind taking on their workload while the schmoozer is entertaining clients elsewhere. In this case, work is a party for schmoozers.
Bystanders. These slouchers do just enough to get by. They’ve been with the organization for a zillion years, rarely speak up, never make waves, and would make themselves invisible if they could. They spend their day moving piles of paper on their desk while they watch everyone else go crazy trying to get the job done. In fact, when they’re out on vacation, nobody even knows they’re missing. In this case, the last survivors on Earth, along with cockroaches, will be the bystanders.
Scavengers. These are the types who take the credit for everybody else’s work. They surround themselves with wonderful, talented people and spend the day determining if there’s an idea worth stealing and fine-tuning their personal PR machine. In this case, they’ll continue to rise up the company ranks as long as their “credit” remains good.
Busybodies. These individuals spend their whole day trying to prove how busy they are — rather than getting anything done. Whenever they’re asked to do something, they spend twenty minutes describing how much work they have on their plate. In this case, if busybodies ever needed a role model, they could look to a turnstile — it’s out in front, goes around in circles, creates wind, but never gets anywhere.
Any of these personality types sound familiar? Don’t get angry if you know some of these people — they’ll get their due. They think they’re fooling the world, but, sooner or later, everyone catches on to them.
Chances are they started pulling small stunts when they were young, and then refined their game over time. Why? Because they’ve had to…they’re not competitive in a fair contest and the only way they feel they can win is by bending the rules in their own direction.
The fact is, by pulling their antics, these counterfeit superstars not only make colleagues row harder to compensate for their deficiencies, they steal the spotlight from very talented people who deserve the recognition. This destroys morale, hurts productivity, and damages competitiveness.
Sounds a bit bleak for the HONEST-DAY’S-WORK folks, doesn’t it? Don’t give up. And for goodness’ sake, don’t feel that you have to become one of them to succeed.
As time goes on, you’ll be able to look back on a life distinguished by integrity and self-respect. Meanwhile, these counterfeit superstars will start believing their own press, and they’ll get sloppy. Or they’ll go over the edge due to the pressure of their own duplicity. Or — ultimately — if they’re not caught, they’ll meet their match when they run into someone else who beats them at their own game. Bluffing never pays. GOTCHA!
How Do You Feel About Bluffing Your Way to the Top?
How Credible Are You?
50 Ways to Lose Trust and Credibility
How to Tell If Someone’s Lying to You
23 Ways to Spot a Hypocrite
Being “All Talk” Speaks Volumes. Need I Say More?
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This article brings back a lot of memories of people – many people!! – who fit the various profiles. It’s scary how many of them exist. Sometimes its tempting to become one of them, but as you said, one day they’ll get sloppy. Oh, to be a fly on their wall that day!!
Barbara Kimmel says
Great article and just “tweeted” it for you. My two cents…it seems that there are more “gamers” these days than ever before. They have a herd mentality and dismiss those of us with ethics and integrity.
I actually pity these people. It takes a lot more effort to play the game than just do the right thing, which is in all of us. Unfortunately the people playing for the money or the ego or because of fear most of the time end up ill in some way either physically or with their life circumstances. I wish they would see the truly bigger picture. It’s just not worth it. Talk about short-term gains…Here’s to doing what’s right and ultimate success!
Jim Perry says
You are so spot on again. We have all come across people with some of these traits. The worst situation combines the “golden rule” with some combination of these – “he/she who has the gold – rules”.
Richard Berman says
Frank. A great read. I will be passing it along to a number of people. When I read your descriptions a number of former colleagues came to mind.
O.J. Zocco jr says
Great article Frank. I’ve heard the word “team” used many times and in many contexts over the years and it seems that it has been slowly moved further and further back in the broom closet. The types of people listed above are not team players but can best be described as parasitic in nature. They sap the strenght of a company and keep it from its true potential. If you don’t have leaders who can recognize the deadwood and get rid of it, the “team” suffers, and won’t fully realize the fruits of thier labor, sadly such leaders are getting more rare as time goes on. We ARE suffering a crisis of leadership and it breeds those people listed above.
Keep up the good fight Frank
I agree, unfortunately not everyone seems to have a conscience
Frank Sonnenberg says
Thanks for the kind words everyone : ) Obviously, you’re not part of the problem.
Help me shine the spotlight on these characters. It may force them to look in the mirror.
Michael Redmond says
It’s important to be clear on the value you’re supposed to bring to an organization, and then to make sure you’re doing it.
Dan Lundquist says
In case we needed to be reminded Frank gets it?! 🙂 GOOD NEWS: it is easier/better to work hard, pursue your passion, hire people smarter than you, and have fun. MORE GOOD NEWS Tor bad, for some): most people don’t “get” this or cannot sustain it. Hooray for Golden Rule!
Thanks, Frank, for your insight. It’s reassuring to know these realities don’t go unnoticed by astute observers.
In my experience, it’s easier and much more fun to work hard and do the right thing. In most cases, you’ll be recognized and rewarded just fine. Perhaps one or two phonies may gain a bit more financially, but it’s not nearly enough to make up for the effort and pressure of being a phoney or a parasite.
In my own experience, the talented, hard-working contributors do get ample recoognition, while the phonies fall on their face sooner or later, and most often have shallow relationships. I agree with your comments that by doing the right thing long-term, you feel very good about yourself, your integrity and your contributions. I’ll pass your blog along.
#1. The one icon/button I was searching for after this read was the one that automatically ALERTED us when these phonies got their due. Can we work on that?
#2. Great insight again Frank. Although reading the post and now the comments, it’s a bit sad that so many of us can identify these folks from our own experiences. I trust this segment of the workforce will not go away anytime soon.
#3. As far as the ‘what goes around/comes around’ notion, we can only hope the phonies are aware of IT when IT comes around. Sounds like we would all know it – if we could only be lucky enough to be there for that grand moment, whether balloons fell from the sky or bells rang or not. And if only IT were always a tangible occurrence (like being fired or taking a cartoon anvil on the head). But revenge isn’t very honorable to seek…and at the very least, if they don’t learn their lessons then well, those of us paying attention should. Sounds like this group already has – and we do the honorable thing.
Frank Sonnenberg says
Thanks for your thoughts on my thoughts. Understanding the problem is the first step in addressing it. Let’s hope that collectively we can encourage change.
I always enjoy reading your articles Frank. If there is anything I have learned, it’s that hard-work, honesty, and integrity will always reward my spirit. When I look back, I want to know that the character defining moments in life were brought on by my honest desire to always do my best, and to live in truth and reality.
The types of people you so accurately describe live in an ego-filled, self-centered version of reality. (It’s very lonely there!)
~To thine own self be true~
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Feedback Form says
I am doing research for my university paper, thanks for your excellent points, now I am acting on a sudden impulse.
Car Hire Alicante Airport says
I had been arguing with my close friend on this issue for quite a while, base on your ideas prove that I am right, let me show him your webpage then I am sure it must make him buy me a drink, lol, thanks.
Valerie Iravani says
Frank, I appreciate your article so much. Unfortnately, these types of people are doing well in our corporate world where it is easy to hide as long as you “look” good and can always blame someone else for your failure. Where face and fame are the measure of success, and CEOs are paid obscene amounts of money to leave the scene of their “crime” (ie: Failure), there seems little reason for these types of characters to change.
Further, there are so many “average” people just trying to get by, with no real leaders/mentors to help them excel, that honest and hard working individuals just don’t have the showy panache to take the place of someone who provides little more than good rhetoric.
In the mean time, I will continue to do everything I can to help all of my direct reports grow as individuals and succeed in whatever career path they choose. For me, it’s about “being the wind beneath the wings” of others, because I’m too dense or stubborn to do it for myself.
Happy Holidays and keep writing great articles.
Frank Sonnenberg says
Leyane, Lucus, laura, Lora, Valerie
Thanks so much for your thoughts.
Leyane, You clearly get it. I love your phrase, “reward my spirit.”
Lucas / Laura I’m so glad that this post helped you with your research.
Lora You’re too funny. I’m glad that you enjoyed the post.
Valerie, Don’t lose faith. There are people out there, like you, who “do it the right way.” I’m so glad that you took the route of “being the wind beneath the wings of others.”
Have a great day!
Thanks for the advice. A lot of good ideas for moving ahead. Hopefully I can capitalize before it come back bit if I merge these enough it should take a considerable amount of time to catch up. Most likely not before I can build my parachute.
(Jk. Good article, I think we all can learn from these negative attributes and do our best to avoid and work with integrity and accountability).
Frank Sonnenberg says
I’m glad you like the post. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Have an awesome day!
Daryl Witt says
Thank you for sharing this!
After laughing at a few memories of coworkers, I also took this as a great opportunity to take personal inventory and see which of these facades I might hide behind.
These “bad actors” thrive under the Counterfeit Leaders you described
Few of us ever take the social/political risk to call-out actors or hold others accountable. So many of us simply lead by example and hope others will follow.
Maybe you could market a set of bad-actor name tags for us to distribute at work.
frank sonnenberg says
I’m sure it didn’t take much for you to identify the “bad actors” within your organization. That tells me that although these bad actors think they’re fooling the world, they’re only fooling themselves. We’re all on to them.
I wonder what would happen if this post was passed around the department. I bet the bad actors would be embarrassed to see themselves in the mirror. If that doesn’t work let’s move on to bad-actor name tags 🙂
Have an awesome day!
One of the big problems is that (and I may have shared this in similar fashion on one of your other posts) that our culture and society is heavily entrenched in confusing belief in ideals for LIVING those ideals.
I’m not referring to just a couple of people…occasionally having a lack of integrity problem. No….I’m talking PERVASIVE. A lack of integrity is more the NORM than it is the exception at this point in our history. Where people are actually being RAISED to pay lip service to certain ideals and values and have become blinded to the fact that they aren’t being lived. Not for the most part.
The masses (people) will vehemently defend the value and need for honesty and turn right around and not being honest when asked how they are doing today.
Politics wreaks of deceptive tactics. People run for office…and other people are paid to WRITE what specific demographics of people need to hear in order to secure their vote. NOT because it is a true representation of who is running for office. It’s SAY WHATEVER NEEDS TO BE SAID TO GET PEOPLE TO LIKE ME SO CAN SECURE THEIR VOTE.
That’s true for politics. And it’s true for many other arena’s, including social media.
In schools, teachers are TOLD what they are allowed to teach. Children are than being told and fed what they are ALLOWED to think.
It’s the same for religion. ‘THIS’ is what you have to believe and don’t even think about coloring outside the lines on this. Or you’re going to hell. (generalizing here)
Yet if you were to ask most of the people if they believe in values like truth, justice, honesty, charity, etc. Most will say and even think they MEAN ..YES!!! And they believe it.
Until it comes time to actually ‘live’ it.
That’s where many people’s beliefs remain an figure ideal in the head and that’s as far as it goes.
Sometimes yes, deceptions occur on a conscious level. There are some very intentionally greedy, deceptive people in the world. Than there’s the rest of us. Well-meaning people who still ‘think’ we believe in something until we are called to live it.
Another example I shared not too long ago on Dan’s blog. (leadershipfreak) It has to do with what I saw in the business world after I left the nursing industry. I was totally green to this side of the business world. Had my eyes open in a BIG way. And I realized even more deception.
Relatively ‘honest’ people who had been sold the American dream and wanted to learn how to create and run a business, were going into DEBT taking ‘business seminars’ by very well known people who get paid selling to people who want to learn how to work for themselves instead of working for ‘the man’.
I saw some people completely duped into paying a ton of money for twisted business counsel. Falling for basically, the common advertising tactics that have been used for years. All built around massaging a message in order to get people to buy, and completely devoid of honest integrity that was aligned with the persons values.
I saw one person in particular, go into debt a half a million dollars for a business. Purchased a brand. Hired other people to create virtually all the products …everything. And had her name put on it as if that person was, indeed, the ‘creator’ of these products and services.
All of it was basically a farce. No authenticity whatsoever. Yet half a million dollars in debt to PAY for the ‘image of success’. I wasn’t ‘mad’ at this person. I felt BAD! And it also shook me up because I realized that I could have been in the same boat (and I had already lost nearly 10 grand to another business charlatan prior to this) ANY of us could have been in the same boat if we don’t already KNOW how to run a business or ‘be’ in business for ourselves. And that is how people get duped in that way!
And here’s the thing though…that I tried to provide a nutshell version in my tweet reply today. This person didn’t ‘win’ by being a fake. Massive debt is not winning. Being found out that they were basically a fraud is not winning. Yet not only that…
All of the OTHER innocent people who actually BELIEVED this person was really successful that might COMPARE themselves or their lack of success to this other person. It causes them stress and for what?
The ‘success’ they are jealous over isn’t even REAL! It’s a house of CARDS! It’s an ILLUSION and that is all. And it is THIS facet that tends to harm many people. Because they believe it’s POSSIBLE to achieve ‘that’ success with honest efforts. And so they try…and they try….and they try. Do it the RIGHT way…do it HONESTLY…and yet it doesn’t always work the same as it appears to work for the ‘other’ person who did it fraudulently…even if it was innocently done because they were duped in being green in the business industry!
So when this is widespread (just the way people do business these days) …it’s pushing the ceiling up for EVERYONE. Including the ‘fakes’. Who can’t keep it up forever. Yet the new standards have already been set. The bar has been raised for ALL…even though it’s a sham.
EVERYONE gets hurt. Not just the one’s doing it or those that ‘fell’ for it.
Thanks for sharing Frank. And thanks for ‘listening’. : )
Frank Sonnenbeg says
Thank you for your thoughts. Thank you for your passion. And most of all, thank you for caring!
I’m sure a lot of people who read your comment will shake their head in agreement. I’d like to add two thoughts. First, there are people, with large megaphones, who call broad-based groups good or bad. I feel it’s disturbing and destructive. Their divisive tactics bring out the worst in us. I believe there are good and bad people in every group. This must stop. Second, when we strip our kids of hope, and tell them there’s no opportunity, we limit them to a lifetime of mediocrity and dependency. I believe in order to achieve success, we must invest in our kids by providing them with a strong family structure and a world-class education. Additionally, we must instill in them solid values and a strong work ethic.
Samantha — It’s hard to change the world, but we can change the world around us.
Thanks again for your thoughts!
Exannuc Smith says
Nice article, but respectfully, disagree.
I have worked in IT for over 30 years and I have seen people who have worked for a long time (15+ years) in the field, who still don’t know how to do basic tasks specific to their stated skillsets. They are however, good at networking, taking credit for good work, and redirecting blame. Also, skills at getting others to do their work never ceases to amaze me.
I agree some people get caught out….true..but I have also over the years seen specific people do extremely well financially, almost solely on the capabilities I have described above. Some of the people I know can retire tomorrow, if they so wished. I note that the pursuit of money as a ruling force in their lives, seems to be a commonality.
I have seen the charlatans succeed mcuh more often that get out, I can assure you of that.
While the above is anecdotal, I know enough about where to lay the blame….In technical fields at least, if a job candidate’s skill claims are not tested, the organisation employing them is shooting itself in the foot (or using the MERIT employment system – see below). How many managers really respect the worker who quietly gets on and does the work without big-noting themselves in the process?
These days, humility is an undesirable quality.
There is another problem, and personally, I think it is symptomatic of much incompetence in an organisation…and that is “buddies” being employed over better candidates. Let’s face it, we see this on a regular basis, and anyone who doesn’t could be part of the problem….In my country this is known as the MERIT employment system ( Mates Employed Regardless of Intellect or Talent ).
Anyway, my 2 cents worth. Thanks for reading (if you made it to the end)
Frank Sonnenberg says
Thanks for your thoughts. I did make it to the end of your comment : -)
I too know folks who have made it to the top as a result of their networking and political skills. In fact it’s no secret that they don’t deserve it…their colleagues know it, their friends and family know it, and the reality is, they know it too.
You and I have something very special that they’ll never have –– we did it the right way. One of the reasons that they buy luxuries isn’t to impress others, but to drown out their own conscience.
Some folks may not think that living with honor and integrity is important. I wouldn’t live my life any other way. At the end of the day, I want to be able to look in the mirror and be proud of who I am and what I stand for. I choose to listen to my conscience. I have to live with myself for the rest of my life.
Have a wonderful weekend.