Beware Corporate Hacks, They Kill Innovation and Growth (And Just Suck to Work With)

What’s a corporate hack?  A corporate hack is that corporate guy or gal that plays the political game like a master. Corporate hacks are the people in the organization who always have a personal agenda, and are shrewd executioners of it. They rarely take risks. They don’t rock the boat. As a matter of fact, they are squeaky clean, except after they’ve brilliantly minimized someone else or some other group in the eyes of the CEO or executive. They are inauthentic. They don’t focus on collaboration; they are in it for them. They steal credit. They always have an agenda.

To the corporate hack, everyone is their friend on the surface. They’re quick to throw out platitudes to gain support and propagate their image as the nice guy, the one you can count on. But watch out. They will get you. Corporate hacks would be brilliant Survivor players. ‘Cause that’s what they do all day.

Not that playing politics is completely a bad thing; sometimes it’s required. The problem with corporate hacks is most of the time; they’ve perfected their craft to overshadow their incompetence. Corporate hacks are rarely good at what they do. They bring little value as an employee, so they leverage their political savvy to hide their incompetence. I can see corporate hacks coming a mile away.

Unfortunately, I had to deal with a corporate hack just yesterday.

Within minutes of getting on the phone, I knew I was dealing with a corporate hack –

  • He started the call with platitudes.
  • He was artfully condescending
  • He asked lots of questions but REFUSED to answer any (he was a slippery shit)
  • He expected things of others he didn’t expect of himself
  • He dropped names and methodologies that were tired and weak in order to impress
  • He was hypocritical
  • He was inauthentic, I mean off the charts inauthentic

That last one is a big one. Corporate hacks are inauthentic; they lack any genuine nature. They play people against each other and the company. They’re always hiding their agendas. They don’t embrace authentic debate, but rather to the contrary. They engage with calculated precision to drive to a point, leaving their targets little wiggle room to move lest they look like the problem.

I hate corporate hacks. I feel bad for the company he works for because they just hired him. But, I guess that’s not my problem. I don’t have to work with him.

Carl Icahn said it best in this video; we promote the wrong people to CEO, and I argue we promote and hire the wrong people all the time.


Look, corporate hacks become this way because we reward them. Too many leaders are unable to spot them or are enamored by their placating, ass-kissing, shell and promote them up.

Corporate hacks eat companies from the inside out, as they move their way up the ladder, sucking the life out of companies. The higher they go, the more damage they cause, unskilled and incompetent, their political savvy wrecks havoc.

The victims of these clowns?

The true innovators, the risk-takers, the challengers, those who are completely committed to the company first and who will put up their hand and say we should do something different; this isn’t working. We need to go a different route. There is a better way to do this. Those who challenge the boat almost always find themselves in a battle with the corporate hacks. The hack wants credit for the idea or wants to squash it because it doesn’t align with his agenda.

Corporate hacks can almost always be found in big companies. It’s almost impossible for corporate hacks to hide in start-up companies or small companies. Small companies require too much work to be done. Corporate hacks don’t like work. Small companies are more results oriented. Corporate hacks don’t rely on results; they rely on politics, not performance. There is no place to hide in small companies. Corporate hacks need hiding places.

Until yesterday, I hadn’t engaged with a corporate hack in awhile. I honestly believe my brand scares them away. (Ironically, this hack made reference to my sites and the “swear” words). Unfortunately, this hack got through and put the worst taste in my mouth.

Here’s the deal. Don’t be a hack. If you’re one, it’s prolly too late. But for the rest you, don’t do it. Spend your time focusing on your skills, not everyone else. Put the company first in action, not in words. Be willing to be wrong. Do the dirty work. Don’t steal credit. Don’t patronize. Don’t be condescending. Don’t have an agenda. Just do good fucking work, take risks, be authentic, be willing to look bad everyone once and a while, tell it like is and be committed to the cause. (Hint: The cause ain’t you!)  It’s pretty easy not to be a hack.

Now back to my hack free world.