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Entering the weasel zone
Dilbert creator Scott Adams receives hundreds of e-mails every day from disgruntled workers want-ing to share their office horror stories. These tales of corporate cluelessness are sprinkled throughout Adams' hilarious new book, Dilbert and The Way of the Weasel, which exposes the selfish, greedy, "weasel" ways of office workers and managers in all their undisguised glory. But don't worry, Adams assured us in a recent interview, "Everyone is a weasel except you and me." Whew.
Adams had plenty of opportunities to observe weasel tendencies during his own stint in corporate America. After earning an M.B.A. from the University of California at Berkley in 1986, he worked at a San Francisco bank and later "in a number of jobs that defy description" at Pacific Bell. Using his doodles of co-workers as a starting point, he launched the Dilbert comic strip in 1989 and finally quit his day job in 1995 to be a full-time cartoonist. We asked Adams to tell BookPage readers about the ways of the weasel and the special joys of the holidays in Dilbert's world:
Explain the Weasel Zone. Where did the idea come from?
It was this growing realization that everybody in authority seemed to be a weasel. So everybody who had an opportunity to steal money was in fact stealing it or rigging something or cheating in some way. Every few years my personal respect for humanity goes to a new low, and I know it's time to write another Dilbert book.
Do you consider yourself to be a weasel?
No one considers themselves to be a weasel. I don't think there would be as much weaselness if people didn't think that they had some God-given right to get a little extra.
Does Dilbert decorate his cube for Christmas?
Decorate might be overstating it. He might put on a holiday screen saver, but even that would be banned by the company, so it wouldn't last long.
What's the best thing to wear to the office Christmas party?
I can't imagine Dilbert's office having a Christmas party. The concept of a Christmas party is, first of all, you can't have any alcohol in the office. And second, you're forced to be with the people you would least like to be with, eating food that is not your first choice of food. I would think that the only way you could make that better would be wearing uncomfortable underwear. Just to bring up the average.
What's the ideal present for your boss?
The ideal present for the boss would be something you pilfered from the office itself. Maybe matching salt and pepper shakers from the company cafeteria or a stapler from Wally's desk. That sort of thing.
What should you tell your boss if he wants you to work late on Christmas Eve?
Tell him that you'll be at the office for many hours after he leaves, as far as he knows.
Does Dilbert take time off during the holidays?
Dilbert tries to. He lives in dread that the last five minutes of work before his vacation starts, his boss will come into his office with a new impossible assignment. He tries to take vacations, but he's a little like me in the sense that he goes to the Grand Canyon and he looks at it and says, "That's a big hole. That looks nice. Now what do we do?" So he's not easily impressed.
In your days as a corporate drone, what kind of boss were you?
I probably was a bad boss, even though I thought I was a good boss. My theory is that everyone thinks they're a good boss, but most people aren't, so there must be some sort of weird blindness built into the job that you think you're doing a better job than you are. My guess is that I was a bad boss.
I am insufficiently evil. All leadership is a form of evil because the point of leading is to get people to do things they don't want to do. You want people to work a little extra for the same amount of pay, that sort of thing. I couldn't get past the fact that if I didn't understand why they would want to do it, I couldn't figure out how I could make them do it. I ended up being a fairly lenient boss just so they would like meat least I would get something out of the deal.