Rebel Without Applause You're the kind of guy who declines to toady, speaking your mind and getting by on merit? Hats off to you, you incredible stooge.
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Let's look deep inside the blandest, most calcified corporate executive. What do we find? First, of course, there's the fat. Let's get beyond that. Then there's blood, naturally. Some gristle. And a tiny nugget of resentment. Resentment at the ass that must be kissed at each little bend in the highway. Resentment at the amount of true, righteous stuff that must be squelched. Positioning! That's the name of the game. A lot of the time a sane person just wants to say, To hell with it. Some people are prone to do this in public, however. It's tough to see how that functions as a consistent strategy.

Refusal to suck up is what we're talking about. I'm not a big believer in it. In fact, I think it's stupid. To me, sucking up is perhaps the most important weapon in your arsenal--an arsenal in itself, really--sometimes a truncheon, sometimes a poisoned needle. Give it up? Not me.

But you have to respect the idiotic grandeur of these individuals, collars up, riding against the wind, born to run, blue suede shoes, all that. You may even be one of them. Want to find out? Take this test:

(1) A guy likes to play platform tennis. Plays every morning before he arrives to put in his 12-hour day at the office. One morning he gets a phone call from the chairman. "Todd?" says the chairman. "This is Marty. It's come to my attention that you play platform tennis every morning. I do too. Would you like to play with me?"

"When do you play?" says Todd, very lackadaisical. "At 5 a.m., 5:30 maybe," says Marty, who at this point is wondering why a torrent of sucking up in response to his offer is not forthcoming. "Gee, Marty," says Todd, "I don't think so. I don't get started until about seven. Thanks anyway." He hangs up.

Complete the following sentence: "I think Todd is..."

(a) a really cool guy who just does what he wants to do within the confines of his job. His platform tennis is personal. He doesn't have to mortgage that precious time for a little favor in high places. This is one dude who has his hair on straight.

(b) stupid.

(2) This same guy is invited to a corporate retreat in Sedona, Ariz. Day two after lunch, everybody takes off for the desert, some to shoot at cans with six-guns, others to play golf among the dunes. One guy heads for the lonely buttes in a rented Maserati. Guess who? "Where the heck is Todd?" I hear several people remark.

Complete the following sentence: "I think Todd is..."

(a) an amazing person who seized an opportunity for personal revelation, a moment of beauty and abandon that may never be recaptured in a narrow, frenetic business life bounded by duty, discipline, and location.

(b) a complete lunkhead.

(3) It is several years later. Numbers are bad. Todd has a meeting with his chief executive, who reads him the riot act. There is some yelling, all of it going one way. After a while, the yelling is over and it is time for Todd to leave the chief executive's office. On his way out the door, Todd...

(a) says something provocative that re-enrages the chief executive to the point where the meeting continues for another ten minutes, with more yelling, accompanied by that throbbing vein in the chief executive's forehead that usually precedes the moment when his head flies off.

(b) doesn't.

(4) Now we're going to talk about Jerry. Jerry is at the top of his profession at a large multinational corporation. He was a vice president by the time he was 30, on the board when he hit 35. One day his company is acquired by another. He is suddenly reporting to a new staff vice president who is the head of a much larger department, a sharp, judgmental person whose expertise is in a different industry entirely. Should Jerry...

(a) move quickly to oppose the new boss' initiatives in open meetings, cracking subversive jokes within his earshot and otherwise doing everything he can to convey the clear message that the guy is a clueless imbecile, or

(b) swiftly convince the new person that he needs somebody sympathetic around who knows the business and can protect the organization from the kind of errors that often attend merger situations, while at the same time doing what lying is necessary to establish the fact that he, Jerry, doesn't want to see his new superior dead immediately with his brains leaking out of his ears--hell, he might even like the guy, given a chance!

Bonus question: What do you think Jerry did?

(a) a.

(b) b.

(5) It is several years later. Jerry is still alive and well, due to the massive competence with which he discharges his duties. One day it happens again: A new executive is brought in on the operations side who decides to run things not from Toledo, where the corporation is headquartered, but from Seattle. Jerry...

(a) sticks to his knitting and stays home, believing that excellence in function is its own reward, the moron.

(b) takes the first flight to Seattle to perform a Vulcan mind-meld on the guy, making sure the new executive knows that somewhere in Toledo there is at least one really cool individual who likes him.

(c) First does (a), then, after an attack of good sense, goes ahead and does (b).

(6) Jerry wouldn't cross the street to suck up to anybody, no matter how worthy. Todd, on the other hand, would cross the street to insult someone, but probably only if they could do him some good. Who's not going to be around for much longer?

(a) Todd.

(b) Jerry.

(7) And who do you want to be again?

(a) Todd.

(b) Jerry.

(c) Neither. And have I told you how much I liked this column? Scoring: If you selected (a) to any question, rev up your Harley and get out of town. I admire you, and you're a loser. The right answer was obviously (b) every time, but for reasons of your own you have decided to be a complete stooge and ride your integrity all the way into the sunset. If you opted for (c) when you had the chance, by the way, go to the head of the class. And may I say, in return, how good you look today? Have you lost a couple of pounds? Let's have lunch!

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name.