Top 10 Clues That You Work on the Death Star

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
Death Star

Not that long ago, in a galaxy pretty close to this one, I worked on the Death Star. It was cold. It was dark. The stench of desperate fear clung to all of the employees and a palpable sense of evil pervaded the entire working environment.

Granted, no one actually referred to themselves as the Emperor, but there was a definite Palpatine-esque quality to the man in charge. That wasn’t the primary reason I thought of the place as the Death Star but it certainly didn’t hurt.

I wish I could tell you that my tour on the Death Star made me the man I am today. I wish I could tell you that I was smart enough to leave after the first week. (For that matter, I also wish I could tell you that Andy fought the good fight, and the Sisters let him be). But sometimes we need to take our lumps in order to gain hard won wisdom. So, as a result of my service to the Evil Empire, I offer this list of the Top 10 clues that you too, may be working on the Death Star.

Clue #1. You’ve Witnessed a Coworker Strangled to Death in Front of You

OK. No one actually died. But you did personally witness the workplace equivalent of a public execution. If your commander doesn’t have the good sense to conduct terminations in private, they probably think they’re “sending a message.” This is a very, very bad sign. Strike One.

Clue #2. Recurrent & Invasive Snoopervision

In one particularly memorable instance, my own personal Emperor misread the tone I used in an email I sent to another employee. The email was not copied or forwarded to the Emperor. Instead, he took it upon himself to sit down at this employee’s desk to read the employee’s email while the employee was at lunch. Yikes! I wish this was the only time I saw something like this done under the guise of “knowing what’s going on” but it wasn’t. If you’ve ever experienced anything remotely similar to this, take heed, as a practitioner of the Dark Side is lurking close by.

Clue #3. Objects in Office Are Exactly What They Appear To Be

There are artifacts scattered throughout your Emperor’s office that are designed to reinforce a command-and-control atmosphere. These artifacts could be actual military memorabilia adorning the walls (or in the event of overcompensation they may be large, freestanding objects). They may also take on a variety of other forms. Nonetheless, you’ll recognize them for what they are. They practically scream out loud, “Look at me, I’m in charge, you’re not and I’m not to be trifled with!” Be particularly wary of Emperors who posses items that are not inherited, acquired through their own service or personally significant. Also, red light sabers.

Clue #4. Churn & Burn

If the staff where you work turns over faster than flapjacks at an IHOP you can bet that there’s an Emperor somewhere on the premises. It doesn’t matter if the staff were terminated (See also Clue #1) or ran screaming from the premises. Either scenario means that there are Storm Troopers nearby and they know where you get your coffee. In one twelve month period I personally witnessed a 150% employee turnover rate. I literally stopped trying to get to know people because my brain couldn’t process their names fast enough.

Clue #5. Lord Vader Abides

If you’ve got an Emperor, then there’s also a Number Two, dude. And who does Number Two work for?!? But I digress. You will recognize Lord Vader as an outwardly evil lackey that is conflicted, yet exists solely to carry out the will of the Emperor. Think more Grover Dill (the sidekick to Scott Farkus in A Christmas Story) than some dude in black head gear and you’re in the right galaxy.

Clue #6. It Always Feels Like Somebody’s Watching Me

Take a clue from the late MJ. You and everyone around you are under surveillance, my friend. This is distinctly different than Snoopervision (see Clue #2), as a culture of mistrust has firmly rooted itself among your fellow inmates on the prairie dog farm. While the oversight isn’t quite as invasive as that song from The Alan Parson’s Project, it doesn’t miss by much. They probably can read your mind and they will cheat you blind. Watch your back, Jack. The Emperor has Viper Probe Droids everywhere.

Clue #7. Where’s Waldo (aka Who Moved my Emperor)?

The Emperor’s schedule is a closely guarded secret. No one ever knows where the Emperor actually is at any given moment and surprise appearances are the norm. The Emperor might be in their office or in their basement dungeon torturing hitchhikers for the next two weeks. This carefully cultivated mystique is very intentional and designed to keep you singing the company loyalty song all day long. (See also Clue #6). In short, beware the boss who actively guards their schedule as if Sir Charles Litton (The Phantom) is after it.

Clue #8. All or Nothing At All

This can be a tricky one and rather subjective in its interpretation, so bear with me. Beware the lack of written policies, procedures and protocols or an overabundance of them. Some might argue that this scenario is also an offshoot of Snoopervision. (See Clue #2). In reality, though, it’s quite different. A lack of written documents often indicate a capricious and arbitrary environment in which the Emperor is free to operate without fear of repercussions. (a.k.a. nothing is written down so the Emperor can do whatever they want whenever they want to). Similarly, an overabundance of written material belies the mindset that employees cannot be trusted to do anything. Everything must be written down, copiously recorded and logged in excruciating detail. (After all, there could be rebel spies actively working to undermine the Empire and what better way to ferret them out than through procedural violations). Check, check and doublecheck. Now get those cover sheets on your TPS reports… or not.

Clue #9. Lack of Mission (or an Evil Mission)

This is a big one despite the brevity of this paragraph. Beware the lack of any organizational mission as well as a mission that is easily identifiable as evil. (If you’re asking yourself “What does an evil mission look like?” just trust yourself). Much like one Supreme Court Justice’s definition of pornography, you’ll know an “evil mission” when you see one. (One dead giveaway is when someone is actively trying to undermine the Galactic Senate).

Clue #10. Les Misérables

OK, I know. Number 10 departs from our theme. But misery transcends individual literary and cinematic work, doesn’t it??? Regardless, beware when you and everyone around you are miserable. Perhaps Jean Valjean occupies the next cube over or perhaps you stole that loaf of bread yourself. In any event, if you’re unhappy enough that your “Case of the Monday’s” results in hives, various physical ailments or uncontrollable mental anguish go ahead and note this category with a check mark. (P.S. I can hear the people singing from here).

Time to Head for Hoth

If you answered “yes” to three or more of these questions, I’ve got some bad news for you – you’re probably working on the Death Star. So what does this mean and what should you do? For starters (SPOILER ALERT!), we all know that the Death Star eventually gets destroyed and yours will too. Furthermore, if there’s one thing that we all learned from George Lucas, it’s that balance will inevitably be restored to the Force. Unfortunately, it often takes time to balance the Force and you shouldn’t count on a recently minted Jedi Knight with a penchant for bullseyeing womp rats to show up tomorrow to save your bacon. Plus, you don’t want to be on that puppy when it finally explodes. (Who designed that thermal exhaust port, anyway?)

So, if joining the rebel alliance and waiting for the revolution to find you isn’t your cup of tea, it’s time to go. Borrow a Tie fighter and get out of that galaxy. Maybe head to Dagobah? (I hear it’s beautiful this time of year). Because while the Empire will inevitably fall, you’ve got better things to do with your life until it does.

© 2015 Chad C. Harvey. All Rights Reserved

Image Credit: Lucasfilm


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