Greetings, fellow corporate anthropologists. Today we examine the origins and behavior of the dreaded one-brained, ten-legged, five-Blackberry-wearing entity known as The Corporate Entourage.
The first documented entourage occurred immediately after the appearance of the first sycophant in the year 800 B.C. The charismatic corporate warlord, Bossus Overthetopicus, began traveling with five eager underlings everywhere he went in a specially designed chariot with third row seating.
Gradually these teams of toadies began taking on the characteristics of their leaders, such as emulating the boss’s style of dress, favorite watering hole, gait, font preference and salad bar choices—practices that continue to this very day.
Today it is commonplace for executive assistants to reserve seats at an event for “one adult and five sycophants, and please make sure we get the special entourage rate.”
Here is what you need to know about having an entourage:
- Building an Entourage According to the trade publication, Brown-Noser Monthly, every entourage should be composed of the following personality/skill types:
- Yes Man/Woman While every entourage member must be skilled at flattery, bootlicking and general suck-uppery, it is important to have one person dedicated to this task as well as to documenting Best Practices in Brown-Nosing to help train new members.
- Bag Carrier/Heavy Lifter One sycophant must be strong enough to literally carry the boss’s luggage while also mastering the delicate skill of removing metal objects from the boss’s pockets while he’s on the phone in the airport security line
- Sergeant-at-Arms Another critical role is to keep other members of the retinue in line during potentially tricky or chaotic situations, such as the “which way should we pass the cookie plate” conundrum that often occurs towards the end of a business luncheon.
- Subject Matter Expert (SME) Of course someone must know more than anyone else in the room–since we know that’s not the boss–and be able to quickly supply relevant factoids, sound bites and counter-arguments during critical meeting junctures or dramatic “Perry Mason” moments.
- Groomer (AKA “Body Man” in political circles) This critical role keeps the boss’s person free from debris such as lint, stray eyelashes or dandruff flakes and keeps a comb and travel-size can of mousse at the ready at all times.
- Joining an Entourage If you are an aspiring or budding brown-noser, you must know where to find opportunities. Look for top billing lawyers, particularly litigators who by definition require support teams to carry all those heavy files. Also well-known for having entourages are sales executives (usually VP and above—everyone else is busy actually selling).
- Entourage Succession Planning The most insecure bosses will have a well-defined Entourage Succession Plan in case one of their sycophants gets killed, for instance, by a runaway luggage cart while racing another bootlicker to the curbside check in. Also check job boards for Entourage Internships, even though one can only imagine the ignominy, drudgery and humiliation of being a sycophant to other sycophants.
- Faking the Entourage Bosses in the early stages of entourage-building must be resourceful. One story emerged during the 1990’s telecom run-up in which an EVP of Business Development kidnapped three bewildered mailroom staffers from their loading dock smoking break and tossed them into his black Ford Excursion (a favorite of entourages for its 12 passenger seating and resemblance to a Secret Service transport) rather than attending his meeting without the appearance of a full complement of parasites. A number of firms also offer “Rent-a-Suck-Up” services similar to the “Rent-a-Mobs” hired by public affairs firms to create the appearance of widespread support or opposition to an issue.
So the next time you see what appears to be a violent game of musical chairs breaking out in an airport lounge, don’t be alarmed. Chances are it’s just an entourage fighting over the closest seat to the boss.