Hiring for Power : How to survive a hyperscale start-up


In a high scaling start-up, it s very easy to get sidelined, overrun or simply forgotten. The best line of defense is to play the game better than everyone else. And while I would claim to spot these patterns and eradicate them as I see them, I would also say that more likely than not, a lot of people don’t. 

The foundations: Hiring loyal followers. Or: One needs victims.

The first rule of the childrens playground is that it is easiest to harvest low hanging fruit. Decent looking girls, we hear in Hollywood movies, find even uglier girlsfriends to look better. But beyond actually looking better in contrast, this is a first lessing in building followers and looking better by treating them well. Maybe a simplistic example. But let’s look at the work context.

I observed recently a pattern at a friend’s start-up that he observed. A manager was interviewing a lot of qualified candidates that all would have been great candidates to get work done and do it well. But instead, the 3 indviduals hired were victims. One just got fired for misconduct at an asshole culture firm. One fell victim to a massive scam and was underpaid massively, being also not respected for falling for the trap and being unwanted and being desperate to get out, with self-confidence shattered. And a third one that appeared completly incompetent and clueless. The first observation one could have made was that all were young, better looking that intellectually gifted. And, as I just said, were victims. 

What become far more interesting is what happened to them. All three were cared for and respected equally, although the last one obviously failed. But it was a confidence booster for the other two that didn’t see themselves as the baddest light. It was clear that the tail light would be let go later on. But for the moment, it was boosting confidence and shielding the others. And getting rid of the tail light also was a warning sign on what happens if you do not play the cards well. That is how it was sold.

The other two were slowly, but progressively empowered. Responsibilities beyond their believe entrusted to them. They were put in front of big rivals and made winners against them by other political scheming. They were traind and used to rat out competitors and others and be very loyal eyes and ears to their master. Befriending others, getting information, pushing an agenda. And ratting out defecters. Both turned out to be very very loyal to the manager that hired them and shielded them. They became the foundation for the power structure of their manager. 

The most important thing to observe was that the victimization was key to the play. Because it was used in the play. ANother “victim” was not a victim at all, but a highly over-worked, almost burned out, and underappreciated key individual at another firm that was hired away so completely worn down and beaten down that it took time to build and position the individual. But it yet and again become a powerful and strong figure.

Step 2: Building and controlling the nemesis

Every unit needs a bunch of work horses. The ones that are capable, powerful, driven. The ones that do 80% or 90% of the work. They are the ones filled with pride, intellectual gift and a desire to perform. The combination of these three features of character makes them durable, enduring, hard-working and prone to victimization. 

Because they are good at what they do and have intellect that is hardly competed with. And because they need their intellect and pride to surive any form of bullying, they are easily made the bullies and nemesis of the beforementioned victim loyal followers. How do you keep them down?

First of all, you need to confront them with the maximum carrot-stick dichotomy or “cognitive dissonance” you can. And feed it consistently. Be a good friend, and let them suffer. Give them a shining pinch of hope. And humiliate them. Take their power from them. But get them to work. 

The next step is to isolate them. Nothing easier done than using the humiliation and cognitive dissonance to make them defensive. And attack them with the thing that annoys them most. Freeriding victims that get more credit. The victims enter the stage and steal credit, sabotage work of the nemesis. The nemesis gets nervous and frustrated. Eventually loses his cool and does something. Because it is fight or flight. And he is not flighting just yet. 

Any form of flight then can be used to attack the character of the person among the neutral observers who can be tilted towards the victims. This works in two ways. Both by stirring the image of a negative nemesis. Which lowers respect for him. And by the fact that the nemesis loses the fight to the power hungry, which makes him also look small. The nemesis becomes whimsical and aggressive. A classic loser. 

The same mechanic is used to attack the nemesis in front of his potential suiters and protectors above. This can be used especialy if there is wedge between them and the nemesis and aggression potential created in the small environment around the “victims” can be triggered and used in a meeting or encounter with the other powers and the character starts to look aggressive, uncontrolled and hot-heated. 

The method is very powerful and works. And it is entirely relying on how the victims are recruited, protected and placed by the power hungry individual. 

Step 3: The accepted aggressors

Then you have the third kind in the play. The actualy figthers. They deflect everyone from the forces playing out between victims and nemesis players. 


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