Want to keep your job for a few years? Tell your boss what you are doing--even if he hasn't asked, and seemingly doesn't want to know.
Want to keep your job and the good graces of your corporate superiors? Do what they say--fire people.
If you work for Viacom's Sumner Redstone or the Tribune Co., these are the lessons to learn.
In Redstone's case, he told Charlie Rose on his PBS talk show that former president/COO Mel Karmazin didn't offer to buy him lunch and that all he cared about was quarter-to-quarter earnings of the company.
Lunch? Is Sumner short this week? We can understand. Viacom's board did trim his compensation somewhat recently. (A good story for an investigative reporter: find Sumner's lunch schedule for the next several months.) Redstone said he had to let Tom Freston go because he didn't jump and buy MySpace for a cheap $500 million - when the social network site was easily available. Yet, at the same time, Redstone worries that other social networking sites such as Facebook are now priced too high--especially with Yahoo considering an acquisition for $1 billion.
He also told Daily Variety: "Les [Moonves, chairman of CBS Corp.] wouldn't sell a radio station first without asking my opinion. Philippe [Dauman, Viacom's new chief] calls, gives me an analysis. I like it, but I would never ask for it."
Ask, or don't ask. Buy, or don't buy. It's a confusing business world.
Play Texas Hold 'Em instead. You are always guessing what the other guy is holding. But at least you get free drinks from mostly pretty waitresses. When you lose, tip her nice, put on your Peterbilt cap, and make for the exit.
Freston was bound to lose anyway. Had he got into a bidding war with Rupert Murdoch and News Corp., Redstone would have cut him down to size--and showed him the door months earlier. You want evidence of this? Now, Redstone doesn't want to get into a bidding war with Yahoo for Facebook. Hey, make up your mind.
So even if think you are doing what senior management want--it's really not what they want. The only thing left to do is what's morally right--even if it comes as your expense.
If you are running The Los Angeles Times, you are already in a tough spot--the newspaper business isn't going anywhere these days. Jeffrey Johnson, the paper's publisher, who already made massive cuts to the near-1,000 editorial staff contingent, wouldn't make further cuts--as per his Tribune corporate bosses' instructions.
So Tribune showed him the door. That act alone saved about 100 editorial job--for now. Few publishers (pure business executives), let alone editors, would take that kind of hit.
My suggestion? You'll probably be fired anyway--for something you didn't see coming. So, do something that makes your employees, your soul, and all 1997 Toyota Corolla owners proud.