Deception, treachery and mischief, these are the weapons to fall an emperor. The work is hazardous and often not worth the effort. One must have the proper motivation, as well as a keen focus to see it through. A steady hand that holds the proverbial blade is necessary, lest one lose fortitude and become the headless corpse themselves.
Always remember, an emperor’s rage can follow a person
till the day they die. Choose the strategy with care.
Yet emperors fall. Consider the fall of so many politicians, CEO’s and the like.
In the early 2000’s I was working at a very large corporation. All was well until the tides turned against me. For a reason I’m still not sure of today, the Vice President of my division began an attack on my character.
My direct manager informed of what was happening. She told me that he was attempting to retroactively change my performance reports (from their positive, to negative values). For some reason he had targeted me for a scape goat, and was using his position to attempt to influence my manager and her boss to align with his goals. His end game appeared to be to slander me, blame me for some problem in the division and fire me over it.
Law 15 (Transgression)
The VP of the department was attempting to throw Law 15 on me. That’s how this all started. But the tides turned. He wasn’t able to completely destroy his enemy, and the enemy was able to exercise
The Weakness in His Defenses
One day, while on a break, I met the personal assistant to the Vice President. Without telling her my troubles she began to vent about her own. She told me that the Vice President had been groping her, even threatening her job if she didn’t have dinner with him. She kept avoiding him, but the situation was getting out of hand. While I sympathized, I also thought her goals were in alignment with my own.
I sensed this would be very useful for my cause. My suggestion was for her to bypass our department Human Resources, and go straight to the corporate Human Resource department with this complaint. In this way I was utilizing Law 7 (“Get others to do the work for you….”). I wasn’t interested in credit, but I wanted her to start this process.
Robert Greene’s 13th Law is stated as, “When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude.” In a way I was working this angle as well.
Honestly I wanted to see her win. She deserved it, but her help had to be culled. She was reluctant to complain about the behavior, so I appealed to her self interest, to be free of the harassment.
One day I was walking by her desk and I happened to catch the department VP attempting to wrap his arms around her from behind, feeling her up. She was squirming in his grip and telling him to stop.
Now I’m a witness. Let’s see how the Emperor likes the fire.
She files a complaint against him and I get a request to appear before corporate HR as her witness. An HR representative meets with me. I tell them what I saw and the report is filed.
A few months pass without word from HR. Then, out of the blue, in a meeting with the Vice President he stops to make a comment about me to everyone, “look at him over there writing down EVERYTHING I say… makes you wonder what he writes doesn’t it?” As no one else knew what was going on, they thought it was a joke, so they laughed with the VP.
A week later as the VP passed me talking with someone in a hallway, he blurted out, “watch what you say, he’s a snitch.” Obviously he knew I was the witness in the complaint. Reaching out to HR I asked if they leaked my report to the VP.
“Of course we told him what you had to say. He has a right to know his accusers,” I was informed. Since HR handled this privately (neglecting to inform me that they would notify the VP of my report), I felt the fool.
Turning the Tide of War
It was clear that the VP of the company was getting support from the leadership. HR was no longer attempting to remove a problem, but choosing to cover up a scandal. Keep in mind, this is many years before #metoo, without social media platforms to blast this situation, our options were limited.
To make matters worse, the personal assistant told me that she was withdrawing her sexual harassment complaint against the VP. Evidently the HR department threatened her job. They said that if they brought her complaint forward, her missed work would come up and she could loose her job over performance related issues.
I was furious. Not only was HR identifying me to the VP of my division, but they had scared the victim of the harassment into dropping her case. It was only a matter of time until they made their march against me.
This VP had successfully pleaded his way up the chain to get the support he needed to survive my attack.
Law 39 (Transgression)
I got emotional. I was staring up the waters (Law 39) but without reason and calm thinking. I lost my objectivity and over-extended. I didn’t foresee the reach and power of the corporation and their ability to scare a victim into hiding.
Had it not been for the chance memory of a key legality, I would have been doomed….
An email arrived from Human Resources. I was to report to the corporate office for a debriefing… they had reached a decision. I felt doomed.
This is what Sun Tzu might call the Death Ground. A time where there is no retreat, no hope, only fight forward to the end.
I remembered something from our Employee Handbook.
According to our employee handbook, if anyone witnesses Sexual Harassment, they are themselves victims of Sexual Harassment. Finding the appropriate passage, I jotted it down and kept it for the upcoming Human Resource meeting.
A few days later, I walked into HR’s small meeting room. My HR contact person walked in, she was smiling. An unknown man in a suit walked in with her. He too was in a good mood.
Sitting across from me, they took a moment to stare at me, and then the man spoke:
“So… looks like the complaint was dropped. There’s no case! You lost, we won!”
“Because you threatened her job,” I retorted. I also find it odd he referred to this as “you lost, we won.” What exactly did they win? They won the ability for a person to continually abuse his staff?
The woman chimed in, “you know one day this VP will get punished… but it isn’t going to be today,” and they laughed.
“Not with you on the job,” I shot back, “By the way… I have to ask… do you have a daughter? I wonder how you’d feel if she was being groped at her job by a guy like this… Imagine someone like yourself, defending him, so he can continue the abuse.”
I chose my words carefully, I wanted to inflame her anger, but not push too hard to appear inappropriate. I simply hypothesized how she’d feel if what the VP is being accused of was happening to her children.
After I said that, she refused eye contact. Instead she stared at her paperwork, in silence. All that guilt and remorse she was holding inside spilled out.
At that point the man leaned forward, waiving his hand to get my attention, “Regardless, this is OVER.”
“It’s not over,” I said raising my voice, “you will now open a complaint on my behalf.”
The man laughed, “what are you talking about? You want us to believe the VP sexually harassed you? You realize… HE’S NOT GAY.” I thought his remark strange for a human resource employee. After all, one’s sexual orientation does not negate harassment to the same or opposing gender.
“I do realize that, but evidently you don’t realize what’s in the employee handbook in section…” and I rattled off the section and paragraph that read, “‘….when an employee witnesses sexual conduct or misconduct in the workplace, the witness is themselves a victim of sexual harassment.’ So let’s get that complaint opened.”
He stared at me. The other HR representative was flipping through the handbook and found the section I was quoting. Showing it to the arrogant bastard they had a hushed conversation.
Law 31 is, “Control the Options: Get others to play with the cards you deal.” That’s what I did here. I found a play they couldn’t get out of, as it was canon to Human Resources. They had to deal with the scenario I was giving them, but they would try a few tricks….
Always Watch for Trechery
Smiling now, the man asked me, “do you mind if we step out for a moment? Do you want anything? Water? Room temperature water, cold water? Soft drink?”
They left and when they returned they donned completely different roles. Once again they talked to me as though I was a valued employee, as though they were here to help.
“So, you’re right, that is in the employee handbook… so let me ask you… what do you want? Are you looking for money?“
My inner voice warned me. This smelled like a trap (perhaps it was the fabled Admiral Ackbar, from beyond the grave). What if I said, “yes, I could use an extra $20k,” would they accuse me of extortion? Of course they would.
“No,” I responded, “I want justice.” Truthfully, I wanted justice & revenge. I wanted the Vice President to know, without a doubt, that he levied an attack on the wrong fucking person.
“What’s justice,” the woman asked.
“Well he should be removed from office.”
“We can’t remove an executive so easily,” the man quipped.
“What would you do if this wasn’t a Vice President? What if this was a manager, or someone like myself?”
“He’d be fired instantly,” she said.
“Then do it. I won’t settle for less.”
They insisted this wasn’t possible. One can not just simply fire an executive of a public company. The work to remove a VP at such a large corporation that is listed on the stock exchange and a Fortune 500 company no less, requires a lot of time.
They repeated temptations of money, which now felt even more like a trap, so I stayed firm to my goal for “justice.”
At this point there was no agreement. They would have to open this complaint, and they knew they had nothing to offer me, or threaten me with. As far as they were concerned, I was a person on a holy quest. A knight seeking justice. In truth, I was more like a Sith seeking revenge.
A month or two later I was arriving at work only to find people in various stages of excitement. One person ran up to me, “did you hear, did you hear? The VP is resigning!”
“Was he asked to leave, or is he moving on,” I asked.
“I was told that he was brought in and told he had to step down or be fired.”
Ha! It worked. People were throwing parties. The sounds of celebration was everywhere… my phone rang, answering I heard a friend’s voice at another division. Amidst the sounds of a party, she was screaming, “Oh my god, he’s finally gone. After all these years, he’s gone!”
This fool was so hated, that parties were being thrown at multiple divisions – all in love with the idea of his complete and utter destruction.
The VP called a meeting. In the meeting he addressed all of us with a nervous laugh and said he was going to “take some time to deal with some personal issues.” A classic statement from an executive when they are forced out.
He made a pass at the head of HR, right in front of us (unbelievable considering the charges against him), and told us how great it was working with the company.
Later on that day, he walked into my office, shut the door… made a fist and began to approach me. I imagine he was planning to hit me, which would have been interesting.
Someone keeping tabs on him opened the door and ushered him out before he could do anything. His last words to me (as he’s being escorted out) where, “I wish you well in your future endeavors.”
This would-be emperor couldn’t believe that a mere peasant, a person he was attempting to sacrifice for his own gain, drove him out.
Let me explain how corporations work. Human Resources is not there for the employees. They are instead an arm of the company itself. A corporation is akin to a living entity and Human Resources seeks to keep it safe and from harm.
Since this company was traded on the stock exchange, a scandal would devalue the company. HR was working to eliminate the threat, not the problem. They had contained the problem for years, cleaning up after his many mistakes. This time they threatened the victim and shoved the witness down the path of elimination.
It was roughly four months after the VP’s departure that the corporation announced a layoff. I was part of that layoff, as was everyone connected to the sexual harassment complaints against this VP.
You might wonder, why lay off the victims and witnesses? Because the severance package has a legal disclaimer stating that by accepting the terms of the severance we agree to not sue for anything we witnessed or had happen to us during our employment.
This is how corporations clean up.
I wasn’t mad. I felt I won and the cost was worth it to me. I removed an emperor and yes I paid a price, but I relished the pain I caused him.
I often ask myself, “would I do it the same way, over again?” I have more to lose these days. But in truth I think I would work tirelessly for the same end game, but with a far different strategy. I made mistakes. I let my emotions run me.
Hatred was a powerful feeling, and I am thankful for it. It should have been left out of my rashness, and used only in the spiritual space. By bringing my hatred into the profane elements, I allowed myself to become conquered.
If not by the chance of a rule in the employee handbook, I would have lost my grip on my enemy. That one rule was the shock that brought down a tyrant emperor. What a glorious war it was.