TikTok Trend Watch   //   February 19, 2024

‘Mandatory 8 a.m. daily check-ins, no agenda’: Q+A with Corporate Sween on TikTok

Corporate Sween calls himself CEO of Corporate America, and often plays the part of a toxic manager for his over 100,000 followers on TikTok and over 200,000 on Instagram.

The part is played by Ben Sweeny, who comes across as the boss that you don’t just hate — you despise. On his account, he pokes fun at how managers treat mental health, what remote work looks like and the differences between generations in the workplace. Where does he get some of his inspiration? In part from his own experience working as a corporate employee for eight years, but also from viewers themselves. He plays out real scenarios that are submitted by viewers, which cover the most absurd, toxic or cringeworthy things people have experienced in the workplace.

His goal: to expose the irony and hypocrisy of the corporate world. And that’s exactly what he’s doing here again today in a satirical Q+A acting the part of a toxic manager.

Answers were edited for clarity and flow. Corporate Sween is acted out by a comedian and these are not facts. For an inside look at the interview, head over to WorkLife’s TikTok account for extended coverage in the coming days.

Why don’t you start by telling me what your morning routine is like?

It’s pretty typical for a manager these days I think. I wake up around 5 a.m. without an alarm clock and hop in a cold plunge for 45 minutes. And then what I do is call the cell phones of everyone on my team before 7 a.m., just to throw off their mornings a little bit and kind of give them a little bit of extra stress that maybe they didn’t already have. Make sure they know I’m kind of keeping an eye on them. Then I go for my morning walk, get a quick workout in, grab a coffee — I always go with black.

I work from home most days, even though I try to get my team in the office as much as I can, but they’re lazy Gen Zers and they want to work from home. But anyways, once the day starts, I try to throw at least a few random kind of rogue calendar invites out to my team with no agenda. Something that makes them feel like layoffs are possibly coming, just to make sure they really want to be here.

What is your favorite meeting time and why?

I’d say I have three favorites. The first, to start off the day, is the mandatory 8 a.m. daily check-ins, no agenda, just to make sure my team’s working first thing at 8 a.m. They call it a 9 to 5, but if they want to work for me, they’re up working at 8. That call is very critical. But the midday check-in is very important. People have their lunch and they get an afternoon lull. I need to make sure they’re dialed in. A lot of managers skip right over this one. I do not, and that sets me apart.

Last, but not least, the end of day wrap-up. I do it at 5:30 p.m. A lot of people in the generation I’m managing think 9 to 5, you end at 5 p.m. That’s incorrect. I’d have it on weekends too, but I tried that once and it didn’t really work out.

What are your daily pep talks like?

I do two things. The first is I like to put people on the spot. Say we have an 8 a.m. meeting, I’ll spring it on someone on my team and say, ‘Hey, you run the meeting this time, I want to see what you’re capable of, tell everyone what you did last week, what’s on the agenda today, and what else is on the docket.’ The second, in terms of inspiration, I like to use my own story of personal successes. I share that with my team on a regular basis, I post about it on LinkedIn, I send out a Slack message every morning about a past achievement that sets me apart, and I send out my weekly newsletters.

You have a WFH policy. Where is your favorite place to work remotely?

I like my routine, structure and rigidity. But, as a manager, as a leader, I have certain rights that people on my team do not, so I travel at least twice a quarter. Somewhere in the islands, Hawaii. In the winter, I go skiing quite a bit. I’m allowed to do that, my team can’t. I like to have complete structure, but I also will float about the globe whenever I so please.

What happens when one of the people you’re managing says that they can handle a project on their own?

I’ve experienced that and what I do is — I don’t let that happen. They say, ‘Oh, I got it. You hired me for a reason.’ And I say, ‘No, no, no.’ They probably don’t understand what my job is. My job is to make sure they do their job as best they can, and the best that they can is my way. I’ve done it before, I’ve done it for years. I don’t care what they think they can bring to the table, I have done it better and for a longer period of time.

So when they tell me something like that, I just absolutely nip it in the bud immediately and then make it very clear that that is not going to happen. And then I also make sure there’s some repercussions. When they say something like that, I add another meeting onto the calendar to make sure that they understand how this is going to work.

Do you put employees on performance improvement plans?

Absolutely. I personally believe — and I have a lot of data to back this — that the PIP is one of the most effective tools for a manager to use. I put people on PIPs, whether or not they deserve it. If someone deserves a PIP, they’re fired. They’re well beyond that. So for example, I had a new hire start two weeks ago and I already put him on a PIP. I’ve actually been trying to get this integrated as part of the onboarding process at our company. Their job is at risk while they’re in training. I oversee a team of eight and they’re all on PIPs from the high performers down to the new performers.

Most don’t make it past the PIP because we make it purposely impossible to hit. Anyone who says that someone did well on their PIP, that’s bad leadership and management. That’s not what I advocate for. They should be set up for failure by design. And it helps the company too, because when the employees don’t make it past a certain point, we can keep hiring. I’m always hiring. For optics, when the board reaches out with ‘are you hiring?’ We’re always hiring. We’re in hyper-growth mode. Despite PIPs and layoffs, we’re always hiring. It keeps the wheels in motion.

Would you consider your team a family?

We’re 100% a family. And that’s the beautiful thing about working at this company and working for someone like me. But, keep in mind, families are dysfunctional. Not every family is rainbows and butterflies. We live in the real world. Sometimes you have to let a family member go, sometimes you have to abuse a family member, sometimes you have to cut them off, sometimes you have to decline their PTO. We’re a real family, we’re as real as it gets.

Speaking of PTO, what is your policy?

It’s really simple actually. We have unlimited PTO, but when my team requests it, I just guilt them incessantly. We have it there for marketing and for the interview process to get people through the door. But now, if they request PTO, they’re not in my good graces. So they can use it, it’s there, but, better not.

It sounds like you have a lot on your plate as a middle manager. Is there anything you need to be more successful?

Something that’s really always on my mind is I notice my team doesn’t praise me enough. Sure, they’ll say good morning and good afternoon when I call them, some of them pick up when they’re on vacation, and those things are nice. But, I can use more praise. Maybe get me a coffee or a nice bottle of wine. Share my LinkedIn posts more regularly. I’m going to make a course about how to praise your manager because it’s just a really good way to get ahead and not enough people on my team, and I think in this generation, are praising middle management.