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Dudder: Play The Blame Game!

Responsibility, honesty, and logic are casualties when this circus comes to town.

Times are tough in the auto industry. No one needs to be told of the continuous pressure suppliers and OEMs alike are under to reduce costs, innovate, and introduce new products in a competitive marketplace the likes of which no one has seen in recent memory. This battle has brought many changes to the industry, but it also has exacerbated ingrained tendencies that are not only unflattering but counterproductive. If it wasn’t so deadly serious, it almost would be funny. It might even spawn a game show, a variant of Jeopardy I like to call The Blame Game. A synopsis of the show given to potential contestants is reprinted below.

Contestants on The Blame Game get to pick from five categories: “Blame someone else”; “Screw the process, I want revenge”; “If you cover my ass, I’ll cover yours”; “How does this fit with my agenda?”; and “Taking one for the team.” Long-time viewers will notice the similarity in feel to that other classic game show, What’s My Agenda?, though all audio clues have been eliminated as contestants could not discern any difference in the sound of various bosses screaming. Also, unlike that show, there are no parting gifts on The Blame Game.

Each category has a dollar value ranging from $5,000 to a year’s pay, with bonuses equivalent to 20% of your base salary and selected stock options for those who successfully shift blame from themselves to another player. Those able to get a rival—real or perceived—to take the blame are rewarded with a corner office, administrative assistant, and company car. And while an office redecorating bonus also is part of the prize package, no contestant has ever successfully played the game long enough to enjoy their newly remodeled digs for more than a few days. But worry not; at least the construction crews have steady employment.

In place of Alex Trebek, we have John O’Hurley, better known as the actor who played J. Peterman on Seinfeld. He brings a special wit to the show with his exaggerated delivery, white hair, and brilliant teeth, and can deliver great helpings of sarcasm without driving contestants to thoughts of murder. Plus, his trademark parting shot to losing contestants—“I’m sorry. Here’s your box. You have 30 seconds to leave before security is called.”—draws both sympathy and applause from the live studio audience.

Losing contestants will find that their rental cars and hotel rooms have been canceled, and they must find their own way home, while winners are upgraded to a suite and chauffeur-driven car all on the company’s dime. Play the game well, and you might reach CEO’s corner, where a company plane takes you and your family—or your lover if you prefer—to vacation destinations around the world. Once there, enjoy the ride. You will discover that no request is too small that some underling isn’t willing to move heaven and earth to fill it. Ain’t it grand?

There are a few caveats. First, losing at any round will strand you where you are, though at higher levels you have the added problem of becoming persona non grata as well as an object of scorn. Second, at any time federal investigators may be called to look into “irregularities” you were unable to successfully palm off on others. (These can include everything from post-dated stock options to kickbacks to e-mails recounting your role in hiding defect investigations. European contestants may have to deal with sex scandals and “contributions” to government officials.) Third, should you decide to engage in “extra-curricular activities”—especially on company time—not only will your lover’s expenses be deducted from your winnings, a discrete call will be placed to your mate and photos will be made available to the press in time for your arrival back home. Fourth, any mention of ethics, religious precepts, morality, or God results in an automatic disqualification. Finally, all contestants are required to sign a release giving their soul to the Devil. Are you ready to put yourself ahead of everyone and everything—including the company you claim to “work for”—in pursuit of money and glory? Great. Let’s begin playing The Blame Game. 

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