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9 ways to fake being good at your job

I bet you’ve worked with someone at some point who makes you think ‘This guy is a joke‘ or ‘This girl is awful‘, yet they seem to get plaudits from above.

To you they seem at best incompetent and at worse downright lazy, yet they progress quickly and the bosses seem to hang on their every word. Why? They fake it.  Not to you, but to the decision makers.

They use tricks, faints and techniques that make others think that they are doing a great job, when in reality they shouldn’t make it past a 3 month probation period.

They manage to pull the wool over the eyes of those who matter, often at the cost of the colleagues around them.

History is full of weird and wonderful fakers and fraudsters.

  1. Frank William Abagnale, Jr. successfully faked being a lawyer, a doctor and even an airline pilot all before his 19th birthday. The film ‘Catch me if you can’ is based on his true story.

  1. Howard Walmsley saved his marriage by impressing his wife in 1998 after pretending he had won £8.4million on the National Lottery (but was jailed for three years for the deception involving thousands of pounds worth of dud cheques).

  2. Bernie Madoff tricked investors out of $65 billion dollars through the largest ponzi scheme ever, before being reported by his sons in 2008.

  3. The Cottingley Fairies 1917 was based on a set of 5 photographs taken by two young cousins living in Cottingley, near Bradford, depicting the girls interacting with fairies. The ruse became a global sensation that the girls carried on for over 60 years!


This selection is a bit random I know, but hopefully it helps demonstrate the point. Some people are good at creating a pretense.

What we are talking about here is not on the same scale. Your office fakers (hopefully) aren’t trying to scam customers out of their life savings, but rather are being annoyingly phony and getting what they want in a more superficial way.

And whilst I don’t personally recommend it, it is a valid strategy that some people use in the corporate world with great success. However it takes a certain amount of hutzpa, a pair of large balls and skin as thick as leather.


Have you got what it takes (and would you want to anyway)?

What are the tricks, feints and dark secrets that people use to get by when in reality they should be marched off the premises?

Here’s the one’s I’ve witnessed:

  1. Delayed send on emails. This feature in outlook can make it appear that you are working all days and all hours, when in fact you are simply pulling the wool over the eyes of your colleagues. Here’s how:

Delayed send
  1. Be loud. When you are in the office, a meeting or a conference call everyone needs to know it. Over time this makes you conspicuous by your absence.

  2. Repeat yourself. Tell everyone when you completed something again, and again, and again. It may be the only thing you’ve done in a month, but it shows that you’ve done something.

  3. Delegate everything. I’ve worked with people who don’t even attend their own meetings (that they asked other people to schedule for them in the first place)!

  4. Steal ideas. Watch and learn what is going well for others and what other people are getting praised for and shamelessly copy them.

  5. Claim others success as your own. However loose your involvement in a piece of work that’s been delivered successfully, make sure you shout about it and everyone knows you’re associated with it. Conversely – be ready to point the finger of blame for mistakes somewhere else.

  6. Be ridiculously confident and crazily stubborn. You have to have an opinion on everything and be bloody minded about sticking to it. Even when it’s the wrong thing to do for your colleagues and customers. Even when you are proved wrong you can still find a reason why your view was valid. To managers not close to the ground this can show confidence and a strong sense of purpose.


8. Go missing. Leaving colleagues not knowing if you are going to show up or not or where you are from one day to the next creates an air of mystery. If people are waiting for you to make a decision this works even better, because they start to crave your time and attention, and if you’re not there to give it you become even more in demand.

9. Don’t worry about the little people. Focus all your attention on managing your upwards relationships over and above colleagues and juniors.

If you choose to give it a go, be warned that you might succeed in the short term, but be very, very careful. Some people get away with it. Many don’t.

What the history tells us, is that whilst this works for some, faking it doesn’t last forever. It’s not a sensible long term strategy as most people ultimately get exposed and caught out.

If you really want to reap the rewards of being good at your job, especially in the long run, then maintain your integrity and do just that.

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