Ahmed Mohamed—heard of him? You never know the national exposure a story will get when it seems to be localized in your geographic location, but Ahmed is, of course, the infamous “Clock-Boy” of Irving, Texas.
As you probably know, Ahmed is the subject of a heart-warming story about a precocious and intelligent young boy who, subjected to the cruelty of Irving police, has become a pseudo-celebrity and world ambassador.
Except… Ahmed’s story is a crock of cow dung. The “clock” (pictured here) looks like a duck and quacks like a duck—if, that is, the duck is a bomb. Furthermore, the brilliance of young Ahmed is compromised somewhat when you realize his “invention” is actually a Radio Shack vintage clock with the casing removed.
But for Ahmed, this would become his watershed moment. Riding the wave of viral support and a calculating sponsorship from his parents, this kid’s stock is rising faster than Facebook.
You know this guy, right? Maybe not exactly this kid specifically, but you know this person from your personal history. A peer, colleague, subordinate, or even supervisor who capitalizes on the opportunity to take credit for work that wasn’t really of their doing. Like the infamous “sidler,” Lou Filerman, this individual knows how to be in the right place at the right time, and normally succeeds at the expense of someone else.
So how do you spot this person (outside of utilizing Tic-Tacs)? There’s no foolproof way, but you should be aware of a few behaviors that indicate “clock-builder.”
- Email Copier. This person will always copy the boss on an email that highlights the achievements of themselves and/or someone they directly manage/mentor. They will also copy the boss when replying to any email message sent to them if it should reflect poorly on them. Damage control, you know.
- Dovetailer. At one point, the phrase “dovetail” became very popular when attaching yourself to the popular idea in the room. For example: You say, “We should initiate an employee engagement survey,” and the room is immediately receptive. Clock-builders say, “Dovetailing off of what Tim said, we should do the survey and examine the results.” See what happened? This remora basically re-stated the popular idea, added an obvious statement, and now becomes part of the braintrust. Well done!
- Question Statements. You recognize these immediately—someone has given a presentation and asks if there are “any questions?;” clock-builders use this as an opportunity to give a glimpse of their own brilliance, i.e., “You mention employment branding as a critical need for companies in their recruiting strategy, and I agree, but isn’t it just as important to communicate to your current employees?” Ummmm. Yes? Any other “questions?”
Here’s the catch: these folks are usually pretty good at their craft. You could probably find a “stretch” or two in their respective CV, and there’s a good chance any historical performance review includes more fluff than a bachelor’s navel (That’s right, I said it… a navel.)
But don’t take the bait… it’s a game with a shelf-life. If you try to compete, you’ll fail, because you’re obviously a good and righteous person. If you try to “expose” this person as a fraud, you will become the target of a slanderous campaign conducted by a professional con. Your best (and only) option is to allow the Sun to shine on them as much as possible.
Eventually, someone realizes that the “clock” looks familiar.
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is a SVP and Chief People Officer at Sage Dental and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.