How to Fight the Office Shark

Tips on keeping "Sammy Glick" out of your way and away from your career.


A Washington insider once observed: “In the White House, you’re either fighting Sammy Glick or you are Sammy Glick.”

Some readers might not remember the driven and opportunistic protagonist of Budd Schulberg’s 1941 novel “What Makes Sammy Run?” but most have encountered Sammy. He is the colleague who intentionally over-promises and under-delivers in the hope that you’ll be embarrassed. He shamelessly lies and then lies again in denying his lies. He takes undue credit, avoids all well-earned blame, and dismisses any critics as naïve losers. He is, in short, a shark.

One of the most important job skills is being able to spot Sammy. The Glicks of the world can be quite charming and they are always sly. They are capable of doing good work and even good deeds. Fortunately, they usually leave an array of witnesses whose stories of transgressions leave no doubt as to the perpetrator.

Some of the best strategies for dealing with Sammy are:

  1.  Avoid him (or her) as much as possible.
  2. Give Sammy minimal information about your operations, plans, and life.
  3. Never rely on Sammy for anything that is important.
  4. If Sammy offers you anything, refuse it.
  5. Be courteous but reserved.
  6. Consider appearances and whether your presence at a Sammy-sponsored event will be construed as an endorsement.
  7. Learn the names of Sammy’s allies and adversaries and share information with the latter.
  8. Always adopt a reasonable tone when opposing Sammy. (One of his favorite techniques is to provoke anger so he can then play the victim.)
  9. Make it clear that, when it comes to your area of responsibility, Sammy’s games will be strongly opposed and will always be played with a price.
  10. Don’t ever expect him to change.
  11. Michael Wade writes, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.


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