Corporate Survival Kit

The Big Corporation Survival Kit (or What you will NOT learn at University)

Never, ever, play internal politics
The higher one climbs up the corporate ladder, so the likelihood increases of being drawn into a cadre that will be in competition with or even in conflict with some other group of executives. Indeed, if functional reporting relationships are in play, it is a virtual certainty that you will forced to go with one side and against another. Whilst this can be healthy and invigorating, it can also be highly dangerous. This danger lies not in having to make a stand or having to support one view against another but rather in making personal indirect attacks by setting off rumours or by other forms of innuendo. It might seem clever at the time and it might pay off for quite a while but at some stage in the future and most probably when you least expect it, there will be a knife between your shoulder-blades

Never back one horse, best place an each-way bet on the three favourites
There will be a time in your corporate life when you will become close to an executive much senior to yourself. It will be an inevitable consequence of a working relationship. For example, that person could be the one that recruited you in the first place or maybe for whom you did a special project that found favour and who has since taken you under his/her wing. It may be that that person has openly pushed your promotion prospects and highlighted you in some form of succession planning. This is all well and good but remember the advice about not playing internal politics. Personal rivalries do exist however subtly and the man you are backing may not, despite the current odds, survive. If he does not and you are tarred with his brush, your future is in jeopardy. Without manoeuvring politically, try to get a working relationship with at least two other top people

Never fall in corporate love
It is very easy to get an affiliation with a fellow executive at your level or even junior or senior to you by dint merely of the working relationship or due to the personality of the person or perhaps mutual friends and family have all become mixed up with work. Beware since this an emotional attachment akin to falling in love. Understand that your work is your career and increasingly much will depend upon its success. Emotions cloud judgement and you absolutely must be objective about the other person’s performance and actions. Do not fall in love

Never consider the Board is democratic
This is a tip that you must take to heart and understand and manage carefully. You may never make the dizzy height of the Board of Directors. But if you do, the odds are that it is after years of aspiration. This fact heightens the feeling of self-congratulation that itself hides a delusion. The board is constituted as a democratic body; one person, one vote aside from the chairperson who most likely will have a casting vote to decide a split decision. A constitution is one thing, actual functioning and power bases are quite another. The managing director or executive chairman got there by personality as much as ability. He/she is not the type to be crossed, forget democracy – think autocracy. That way you have a chance to survive and maybe even build a power base of your own

Never let any religious conviction enter into it
Interpret “doing the Christian thing” as treating your colleagues and subordinates as fellow human beings with their own feelings and the strengths and weaknesses common to us all. But that is where your religious conviction ends. You are not in this business to save the world or even one soul. You are in it to succeed and in order to hack your way to the top there are people who will get hurt, by you or because of you. It is as well to address issues of morality from the outset. If you have no stomach for a few battles, it is best to come to terms with this fact early on. Some people are simply not suited to the cut and thrust of corporate life

Never fail to watch your back
If you have any doubt that the sly ones who act by stealth were extinguished when David Copperfield exposed Uriah Heep, think again. The Uriahs are everywhere but they may not be red-headed. In fact you are unlikely to recognise the one that is quietly beavering away to ensnare you. The important thing is to know that the corporate knifeman is out there and is building his case and waiting his main chance. Just be careful, take the risks you have to take but do not make silly mistakes. Technology is a wonderful thing but it does not half speed up Mr Heep, he will not be poring over the ledgers for years

Never, ever, believe what you are told
It pays to maintain a healthy cynicism of the “facts” as divulged to you from time to time. What is the truth to one person is not necessarily the truth to another. Facts, like statistics can be manipulated to suit the case. There is nothing more likely to throw you off the scent than a cut-and-dried situation. Ask yourself these questions “Why am I being told this? Could there be an ulterior motive? How do I check it out for myself?

Never be swayed from logical analysis
People use little tricks to make a decision easier for you to take. A classic is time pressure. Always be wary if told that a decision has to be made by “x” time. Your first move is to challenge that “fact”, logic will almost certainly disprove it. If it really is a deadline that is imminent, why has it taken until now to come to you? Another classic swerve tactic is the simile. Remember that a simile is of a different category, if it is different then it is not the same, so why has it been introduced. The logical reason is to help you make your decision easily, that is quickly. This is just the same as last time. Logic dictates that is almost certainly is not. Always do your own analysis and in your timeframe

Never accept the first proposition
The first proposition that is put to you has not been thought through properly. It you take this as your maxim, you will not go far wrong. The reason is that people are inherently lazy. It follows that the idea being put to you is the one that is blindingly obvious to the proposer, so obvious that there was no need to spend time on testing out alternatives. But it is the testing that finds the best solution. Therefore and on principle, reject the first proposition. It is no skin off your nose if eventually it turns out to be the one chosen

Never be anything but your own man
Always be true to yourself, it may not get you up the ladder the quickest but your footholds will be sounder than the slippery sods who blow in the wind. We are not talking about pride, we are talking about sincerity. If you do not deceive, there will be no tangled web to weave. It can be very tempting to go with the flow, especially if the tide stems from pressure exerted by the boss man, but resist it if you do not agree. Remember though that your logic came from your own objective analysis. You will learn that respect is eventually everything

Never dismiss booze as the oil of business
You will have learned at university how to drink. The drinking per se is not important but holding your drink is. People stop acting after enough booze and lower their defences generally, that is when you learn the most. Be one of the lads or ladettes but be above them all, one day you may be in top company and then you will bless the day you took this advice

jgs- 2010