A Survivor’s Manual, Corporate America Style

Jake is a manager who survived much reorganization and always seems to land in some position with a fair amount of power.

The key to his survival was to ensure a level of attention from those at the next level up. His stated goal was to “be the chief of staff” for either a VP or President. Jake ensured that he had some part, no matter how small, in senior level meetings, even if it meant advancing the slides.

He actually grew in this role, and soon he was scouting out venues for upper management’s monthly retreats. He arranged for a major award from Special Olympics for the President of the company by working the internal finance system, as the award was given in exchange for a $10,000 corporate donation. And, he was in charge of the invitation list, connecting with all the rising stars of the company. Jake made it a point to let everyone know that he was the President’s (always using his first name) right hand man.

Jake’s behavior may have been easy to overlook – except that Jake was responsible for a sizable organization of his own. To ward off failure, he used a group of marginally competent sycophants, not unlike himself, who executed his business obligations. Projects underway were handled with a check in the box mentality, always perfunctory and under the radar.

Jake’s major talent was to perform the most ordinary and commonplace work. He knew in order to rise in the eyes of upper management, he had to make himself indispensable. Jake endured some level of derision in his role; names such as lapdog, lackey, water boy, etc. were applied. But he seemed to take it all in good cheer.


The quote “somebody has to do it” became his mantra.


Jake’s management style seems to defy definition.  He has that knack for admins-trivia that for some mysterious reason, upper management seems to enjoy.

Learn how I thrived after leaving my job working for Jake, and successfully dealt with harassment, bullying, and bad assignments.

Get your ticket for my upcoming workshop, “The Power of Adversity” where you’ll learn “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger”.

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Mary T. O'Sullivan

Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, Member, International Coaching Federation, Society of Human Resource Management. Candidate, Master’s Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas. Member Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society. Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University. Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM. Mary O’Sullivan has over 30 years experience in the aerospace and defense industry. In each of her roles, she acted as a change agent, moving teams and individuals from status quo to new ways of thinking, through offering solutions focused on changing behaviors and fostering growth. In additional, Mary holds a permanent teaching certificate in the State of New York for secondary education, and taught high school English for 10 years in the Syracuse, NY area.