How to Exploit Your Employer

I would never hire me. When I was younger I couldn’t last more than 2 or 3 days at a job before I was plotting my escape. I would try to figure out how to game the system: how to build from my current job so I could either have an even better job, make more money, start my own business, or use every spare moment to pretend like I was working so I could write a novel, program a website, or do whatever (with heavy emphasis on “whatever”).

It’s a given that the only area where you can make consistent 100%+ a year returns is your career, whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur. No matter which you are, this is where you need to focus right now. And to get the most out of your situation, you need to understand how to exploit your boss instead of the other way around.

It’s very clear in a capitalist economy that The Man needs to exploit the workers. In the ‘90s I ran a company, Reset, which provided Web services to a range of Fortune 100 companies like HBO, Disney, and Con Edison. I had two main responsibilities as CEO: selling our services to new customers, which required convincing clients they needed to spend $150,000 for a five-page Web site that very few people would visit. The second responsibility was making sure all of my employees were properly exploited. I mean this in a negative sense but it doesn’t have to be that way, for reasons I’ll describe below.

The negative sense of exploitation is that I had to convince them to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week, for pay that would allow me to make a maximum amount of money from their hourly efforts. Every single employer-employee situation on the planet works this way. You need people to work for less than what you’re making. Not only that, you need them to expend maximum effort and if along the way, they burn out, then you need to squeeze every last drop of productivity out of them before they finally collapse and must be replaced. And don’t fool yourself. Look around at all of your employees. At some point, you will replace all of them or at some point they will leave you in the dust anyway when they realize its time for them to move on. The age of four-decades-long exploitation, culminating in a goodbye hug and a gold watch, are long over.

But the beauty of capitalism now, as opposed to the factorylike situations that Marx was describing 130 years ago when he first outlined the map of exploitation, is that it’s a two-way street. To succeed in life, the employee must exploit the employer as well, and I mean this in a positive way. At any given point, because of the liquidity of a global economy, because of the Internet, because of the vast array of opportunities in front of us, an employee must determine his or her worth on the market.

Here’s my immediate five-step plan for employee to employer exploitation:

- Give your boss credit for everything, and never talk poorly behind his or her back. Never complain about the perceived unilateral exploitation of employer-to-employee. Exploit back. And, by the way, it doesn’t matter if you are making $1 million a year and you are a top executive or if you are making $30,000 a year as a secretary. Guaranteed, the higher up the job title is, the more the employee understands the need for reverse exploitation.
- Make sure you have some contact, outside of your boss, with every client he or she deals with. Build your own reputation that you can point to when it comes time to leave.
- Immediately send your resume around. You are not necessarily leaving, but if you haven’t sent your resume out in two years, then there is danger of becoming inbred. You must to know what your value on the market is.
- Always think about what skills you have that can last outside the corporate environment. There is nothing wrong with building a career and stability in the corporate environment, but always ensure you have skills that can survive outside of it. Be creative. Everyone can survive outside the corporate environment, even if it feels like you can’t. You can consult, start your own business, anything. This is critical, and one way to get to this point is to make sure you improve your skills every single day. You must feel you’ve improved in some way each day.
- Be productive. There’s eight hours in a typical workday, but the average employee works only a few of those hours. The rest of the time is spent on coffee breaks, Web surfing, lunch, random gossiping, useless meetings where everyone around a conference room table is vying for attention. Try to spend at least four solid hours a day working.

If you follow these steps and continue to think, in a positive way, about how you can exploit your situation, then the effort you put into this will have much greater returns financially (and emotionally) than you can ever hope to have from investing in stocks. Exploitation is such a negative word, but it’s a guarantee that if you aren’t exploiting then you’re being exploited.

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