Children are little terminators.
To quote Kyle Reese, “They can’t be bargained with. They can’t be reasoned with. They don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.” The only difference between my son and Arnold Schwarzenegger in that movie is that my son’s speech is more intelligible. And that Arnold loses. My son never loses.
His commitment to being irrational is so absolute, it’s like living with Andy Kaufman. I honestly can’t tell where the act ends and the real person begins. Or if there even is an act. Or a real person. I’ve never been so uncertain of how to deal with someone in my life.
Which is why I might start acting like a child at work.
To test this theory, I’ve started stealing some of my Detective Munch’s tactics. A few weeks ago I wrote about how some parenting techniques can help advance your career, despite the fact that those parenting techniques never actually work with children. Kids always seem to have the upper hand. So today, in part two of my workplace tip series, I’m exploring the other side. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!
So instead of trying to parent your coworkers, try to outwit them. By going full toddler.
Five Effective Ways to Act Like a Child at Work
- Throw Tantrums – This should probably just be “throw a tantrum”, singular. Because a) you can only get away with it once and b) you only need to do it once. I mean, all it really takes is one instance of you going berserk and screaming and breaking down into tears and flailing your arms and legs to let your coworkers and your boss and HR know that you are a fucking lunatic and it’s best to tread lightly. From that moment on your workload will stay manageable, you’ll never miss a group coffee order, and your vacation requests will be fast-tracked. Do it a second time and you’re fired and/or in a padded room. But just once? You’re basically untouchable. No one is going to rock the boat as long as one of the guys in it is frothing at the mouth.
- Stop Making Sense – Bosses often attempt to entice employees with incentives: “First prize is a set of steak knives.” Sometimes, a boss forgoes the carrot and wields the stick: “Third prize is you’re fired.” But neither carrots nor sticks make a dent when you are insane, which my son demonstrates every night. (Me: No dessert unless you eat your dinner. Him: But I want dessert! Me: Good, eat and you’ll get some. Him: No! I won’t even eat dessert!) It’s so confusing, watching him contort his brain just to be difficult, that after a while I barely even know where I am, let alone if we even have any dessert to withhold. Eventually I just give up and give him some ice cream. Your boss probably will too. You can’t tame the wind so best stop trying.
- Collapse/Play Dead – Nothing indicates disagreement like falling to the floor in a heap. Unfortunately, it’s often not enough on its own, since people might actually be concerned for you. So after your coworkers have determined that you are (physically) healthy and actually voluntarily collapsed, as some kind of bizarre statement, they may try to help you up. That’s when you go limp. The boss needs to see me? Sorry, my legs don’t work. This is an important meeting? You’ll literally have to drag me. That’s how adamant I’m about the office’s need for a Keurig! We’re not animals! I demand K-cups!
- Tag, You’re It! – I can’t tell you how effective this is. At bedtime, at bath time, at dinner time, if my son doesn’t want to participate – and he never does – he just runs away. Not down the street like a bindlestiff on his way to hop a rail, just around the room, into corners, behind the couch. It’s a game-changer. Doing this at work will, at the very least, make your boss look utterly ridiculous as he chases after you like Steve the “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin, just to try to get you to finish your self-evaluation. Eventually, again, he’ll just give up. Win!
- Breakdown – This is the trump card. You can only use it once, for reasons similar to tantrums: do it multiple times and you’re on suicide watch. But deploy it correctly and you can get away with just about anything – just ask my son. All you have to do is cry. Don’t want to stay late? Cry. Don’t want to work on that project? Cry. Unhappy with the office’s go-to lunch place? Cry. No one can resist tears. They’ll worry it’s their fault and they’ll panic that you might tell Mommy/the boss and they’ll be the one who gets blamed, so they’ll back off. You can even break this out in conjunction with one of the other tactics above. Tantrum didn’t get the right reaction? Cry. Boss didn’t take kindly to you running from him? Cry. Tearfully explain that you’re stressed beyond belief and just aren’t yourself lately. It wipes the slate clean, especially if you’re a man, because dear god this guy must really have some troubles if he’s crying in front of his boss. Maybe I’ve been too hard on him. Maybe I should cut him some slack. Win!
Kids may be crazy, but they also know what they’re doing. It helps that they don’t have even a speck of self-consciousness, which is the primary hurdle an adult must overcome before implementing any of the aforementioned tactics. When it comes to success, shame is your enemy.
Oh, I almost forgot. There’s one more, but it’s akin to lighting yourself on fire. There’s no coming back from this one. Unless you actually are a kid because Jesus they get away with everything.
- F*ck This! – Maybe your relationship with your boss is over. Or maybe you just want it to be. In that case, this is the move. It takes balls, but if you’re in a no-win situation and you’ve resigned yourself to leaving? Then do what my four-year-old does when he’s at the end of his rope: break shit. Throw shit. Shit yourself. Just go nuts. My child can’t be fired, but you can be, so make sure that’s okay with your spouse before you pull this. Because while going berserker is bound to be satisfying, odds are it will be the last time you’re allowed in the building. Then you’re stuck home with your real boss, on the receiving end of these six tactics all day long, until you get that next gig.