Dating a dilbert

The title character is a nerdy loser toiling in a constricting cubicle. His dog, the potato-shaped Dogbert, is a cheerful yet ruthless consultant, whose not-terribly secret goal is to rule the world and enslave all humans.Catbert is a human-resources director who before distributing pink slips toys with employees as if the), were balls of yarn.The only one with a modicum of wisdom is the garbage collector, who has cleverly opted out of the system.The central tenet of this dyspeptic corporate vision is the Dilbert Principle.You devour the strip daily in one of the 1,100 newspapers that run it, you purchase the "Dilbert" books that have assaulted the best-seller charts ("The Dilbert Principle" has topped The New York Times list), and your mouseclicks may well contribute to the 1.5 million hits that The Dilbert Zone Web site accumulates daily.One thing is unmistakably clear to the hordes who compulsively follow the fortunes of the strip's eponymous hero."Most people say,'My job is good, but today I had a really bad time'." It's analogous to the way people view Congress.Overwhelmingly they will register disapproval--and then go out and reelect their own representative.

On the other hand, surveys show that a lot of us are fairly satisfied with our jobs."We systematically identify and promote people who have the least skills."Every month or so in the "Dilbert" workplace, some bizarre management fad dribbles down to the drones: Reengineering, Total Quality Management or paintball tournaments. Hours are spent in meetings about deadlines, deadlines that get harder to make because of all the hours spent in meetings. Even "Dilbert's" creator admits that those two tufts of hair sticking out of the boss's mostly bald pate are modeled on the Devil's horns.Technology has run amok; the engineers understand how it works, but the bosses--who can't tell the difference between a Power Book and an Etch-A-Sketch--don't get it at all. "Over time," says Adams, "his personality gets more defective, and his horns get higher, making him look even more demonic."Are things really that bad in real life?When the pollsters zeroed in on the details, it turned out that the workers indeed are living in "Dilbert's" world. When asked whether unnecessary rules and red tape prevent them from doing their best job, half agree.The biggest complaint seems to be poor communication between management and workers - 64 percent claimed that this impeded their work.

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Another management expert, Guy Kawasaki of Apple Computer, agrees. "Those that recognize they're just like 'Dilbert,' and those that are also like 'Dilbert' but don't know it yet."If this is true, woe betide us all.

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