Ziggy (or Ziggy Stardust, his full name) was my beloved cat who lived until he was 19 years old. Ziggy and I traveled far and wide, had many amazing experiences, and after his passing, I wrote a book about his adventures. For all of his greatness, however, Ziggy was, after all, a cat. And, weighing in at about 20 pounds, he was a cat who loved to eat. The “Ziggy Principle,” as it came to be known to my spouse/business partner and me, describes someone (usually a person, not a cat) who tries to convince another person to do something that another person would probably not authorize or approve of, failing to realize that the two people who are the intended victims of the “con” are savvy enough to have discussed the matter between themselves. In dear Ziggy’s life, not a day passed when he ate his dinner quickly after being fed by one person, so that when the other person arrived home, it would appear as if he hadn’t been fed. Try as he might to fool us, Ziggy never realized his two human companions talked to each other and thus, the person who arrived after Ziggy had eaten knew full well that he/she was being “conned” out of more catfood. In our small business environment, my spouse/partner and I witness many instances of the Ziggy principle among our employees. An employee will tell one of us one thing and the other of us another thing, without seeming to realize the two business partners, who just happen to be married to one another, compare notes on everything related to our business. Our reaction is always a bemused, and somewhat annoyed “Gotcha’!” when it is pointed out to the employee that, just like Ziggy, he/she failed to recognize we talk to each other and know better than to be victims of the latest “con.”
I know that children sometimes use a tactic similar to the Ziggy principle in trying to play one parent off the other. The interesting point, though, in a work environment is that trying to pitch something to one boss, then another, is that this can be a dangerous career move. Bemused, maybe, but the more likely response from a boss is to grow concerned that the employee is doing this, on every encounter. The more direct and honest approach is to speak to, in our case, both bosses, with any request so that everyone is in sync. It is not necessarily that one boss, or one parent, is more lenient or strict. Rather, it is important to realize that businesses depend on trust and playing one boss against the other, even if the request is nothing major, can cause strife between the business partners not to mention for the employee. I have had to learn to ask employees whether they have already spoken with Dr. Pigott about a particular request so as not to risk giving an answer which would be in conflict with her preferences – seemingly taking an end run. Managers need to be wary of employees who use the Ziggy principle; employees shouldn’t risk the wrath of their employers by using this approach. Over feeding a cat is one thing. Creating strife with the boss, or co-workers, and potentially harming the business is another.