The Rules of the Game
Work is a game that adults play. But it’s a game most of us have no choice but to play. It’s wise, then, to learn the rules of the game so we can win, because the stakes of the game are high.
To protect yourself and provide for your family, and to see your ambitions realized in the workplace, it is essential to be as canny as a fox and as ferocious as a lioness. Everybody around you is a potential rival, but also a paving stone on the path to success.
· I. How an Executive Should Acquire Respect
∘ Know that Reputation is Everything in the Modern Workplace
∘ Never Lie, Shape the Truth to Fit Your Purposes.
∘ Cultivate Mystery
∘ Cultivate Dependency
∘ Dress Well
∘ Never Outshine Your Superiors
∘ Never Place Yourself at the Top· II. How to Use People to Suit Your Purposes
∘ Types of Employee
∘ Types of Boss· III. How to Negotiate the Workplace
∘ Force Others to Act
∘ Plans and Schemes
∘ The Goodwill of Your Colleagues
∘ Neutralizing Rivals
∘ Master the Strategic Withdrawal
∘ Mobilise the Cruelty of Your Co-workers
I. How an Executive Should Acquire Respect
Know that Reputation is Everything in the Modern Workplace
Reputation is the currency of the workplace. Traditionally, competence was all that mattered for an employee, but twenty-first-century work is more a game than ever before.
The game you must play is to increase the value of your reputation while working to devalue everybody else’s. Reputation is your competence, your skills, your standing, your image, how you are talked about while you are not around.
Your reputation transcends your own workplace because news travels far. It can intimidate or impress people you’ve never met before, but can also be ruined if not managed or defended properly. Reputation in the workplace is as the body is in combat — it is the means by which we win or lose. Do what you can to strengthen your reputation so that it is resilient against attacks, and be prepared to use it, so that you may defeat rivals.
Never Lie, Shape the Truth to Fit Your Purposes.
If you are caught lying you will never recover from the reputational damage among superiors, your standing will be diminished. Why? This is not because of a misrepresentation of the truth, the truth of any business matter itself has little significance.
A lie actually reveals the fundamental truth of the weak character. Lying is symptomatic of deeper desperation. To know the rules of the game is to never be desperate.
There are two ways to treat any disadvantageous truth. Firstly, we can withhold it. If the truth is damaging to our standing, we can simply divert a conversation to more favourable truths about our work. Secondly, the truth is malleable, we can shape it to suit our purposes. If, for example, we are forced to explain a mistake we made, we can couch it in a context that made the mistake inevitable.
Never give all your thoughts away. Each and every interaction we have at work is a negotiation. Fuel anticipation, stay cautious. Do not reveal thoughts because you open yourself up to harm.
Emotion is by its nature reactive, never reveal that affairs are out of your control. Disdain anything you want but can’t have — promotion, the corner office, or the project you secretly yearned for. Those things didn’t matter to you because you get what you want, and what you didn’t get you didn’t want.
Never be in a hurry, never say more than what needs to be said, never betray anxieties, never lose your composure. Be firm with fools, but don’t lose yourself to anger. Always act as if affairs will work out as intended.
Make sure that people depend on you. Control budgets, control production, withhold praise except for when it’s expedient. Seize control of resources or prizes that other employees want. Maintain your position as a controller, as the hand that holds the reins. Sustain and never fully satisfy dependence, because when dependence ends, strife begins. Better to dole out benefits in small portions than to give fickle people what they want.
Buy clothes that cost more than you would like to pay, because clothes are investments that yield reputational interest. Dress sharp, polish shoes, make sure your clothes are tailored to fit.
Assert your individuality through the quality of your clothing, not through bright colors or loud patterns. Be stylish without seeming eager to impress, be confident without being haughty.
People should notice you entering a room by the confident and upright manner with which you hold yourself. Wear an elegant watch, which is only useful to signal that you want a conversation to end.
Never Outshine Your Superiors
Continually praise the good qualities of those above you and only manage their bad qualities with polite guidance and advice. Credit them with your own achievements, but do not excessively flatter your superiors since pandering can be seen as a weakness.
Instruct and guide them in a way that you’re reminding them of their own good sense and judgement.
Never Place Yourself at the Top
Leaders are challenged, criticised and toppled. Don’t fall for the vanity of being the alpha. Resist the urge to take on the role of overall leader, since this position only exists to be manipulated.
If you find yourself at the top of any hierarchy, then create a figurehead position above or beside you where you can place somebody less intelligent than you. Control that person, indulge their vanity if you must. But be sure that you can easily neutralize them if the need arises.
II. How to Use People to Suit Your Purposes
Types of Employee
There are those that are unhappy and unintelligent. These should naturally fall out of the company or our management in due course. However, they should be marginalized or moved out of your department because they are dangerous insomuch that their unhappiness can be weaponized by those who are unhappy and intelligent.
There are those who are unintelligent but happy. These should be put to work to your purpose of securing your own position. You should do all you can to make them more intelligent, as this will only make them happier.
There are those who are intelligent and happy. These should be kept happy with special favours and flexibility. Do everything you can to keep them happy and to keep them in your orbit. Be seen with them always and use them in meetings to show your department is the most effective. These employees are part of your show of effectiveness, and your spectacle of brilliance.
There are those who are intelligent and unhappy. These are the worst kind of employee. They are unhappy and articulate about the reasons why they are unhappy. They pose a threat to your authority because they can put those who are unintelligent and unhappy to their own purposes. Furthermore, they will eventually shepherd ill-will against you and the company even among those who are happy. Such employees are impossible to negotiate with. You must find a way to either dismiss these employees or marginalize them.
Types of Boss
Senior managers are never “unhappy” in the same way regular employees are, this is because they are likely paid well and have authority. Not having authority is a special kind of unhappiness. Instead, bosses are more likely to be lazy, a trait that most ordinary employees cannot afford to have.
There are lazy and unintelligent bosses. These bosses tend to stay at the company for a long time. They are usually put to use by — and at the mercy of — more intelligent superiors who have secured their loyalty. You need to work around these bosses for the sake of your sanity, exploit their vanity to get what you want. They are unproductive, but never forget that they wield power — you can use these bosses to help neutralize your rivals.
There are lazy and intelligent bosses. These will saddle you with more work than you deserve. Appeal to their laziness to make use of their intelligence in your favour. While they are unproductive, they are articulate. If sold to your cause, they can speak up for you in boardrooms, members’ clubs and golf courses. Accept the work they delegate to you with enthusiasm, then break it up and delegate it yourself.
There are hard-working and intelligent bosses. These people must be kept happy, they are the gatekeepers of success.
There are hard-working and unintelligent bosses. These are the most dangerous of all bosses. They believe they have a sound vision, they think they have it all worked out. But chaos surrounds them. They are irresolute, they lose their temper, and they are usually unpopular. These people must be flattered and praised, but also steered in a direction that fits your purpose. Manipulate them through their egos, use the chaos that they bring with them against your rivals.
III. How to Negotiate the Workplace
Avoid meetings where possible. Lazy or unintelligent employees enjoy meetings because meetings are quasi-work. Meetings are “work” without working. They are the refuge of the time waster.
If you hold a meeting, make sure it has an agenda. Even if a meeting has a purpose, without an agenda it will be a waste of time. Use the agenda as a checklist in the meeting and quickly and systematically work your way through it. Do not allow attendees any comfort. Keep meeting rooms austere. Turn down the room’s thermostat in the winter or turn it up in the summer. This will ensure brevity.
If the conversation diverges from an agenda point, it can go on the next agenda or be taken “off-line” into a smaller discussion. Meetings should always serve a purpose, which is always to increase your reputation.
Force Others to Act
Use bait to force your rivals’ moves. Use generous gestures or acts of kindness if necessary to disarm and surprise your rivals. Force change on others’ plans, so that yours remain intact. Changed or abandoned plans damage reputations.
Plans and Schemes
Your plans should be visible and transparent, they will show you to be methodical and resolute. But plans are just part of a scheme, which should never be visible. Plans are your public intentions, schemes are your private intentions. A scheme is flexible to chaos and disruption, it will see you through rivalries and dashed hopes. Your scheme is your long term game-winning strategy, never give it away.
Be stingy with budgets. Only good can come from being stingy. If you spend too little, you can always fall back on the excuse that you saved the company money, but there is no excuse for spending too much. To be stingy is to show who is in control. Let employees flatter and work against each other to appeal for your prudently managed funds.
Always agree with some aspect of a rival’s argument before you disagree with them. This makes your disagreement all the more resounding. Let your actions win your disputes. To argue is to put yourself at an equal footing with your rival, when you should instead be seen to be superior. People will hold grudges if outsmarted or proven wrong by words. Proving them wrong in actions will leave them feeling less slighted, while their reputation is far more sullied.
Be selective and sparing with commitments to others’ plans and causes. Your loyalty should always be provisional, and never fully committed.
Stay clean. Do not let your reputation be sullied by being associated with fools and losers. Instead, use dispensible people to do your dirty work. Reward them in private, but keep your fingerprints off any failed plans or foiled schemes.
Reassure people of your loyalty in private, but downplay such commitments in public. Play people off one another and let them waste time and energy on rivalries that you have inspired in them.
The Goodwill of Your Colleagues
Be friendly to everybody. Even your rivals. It never pays to be rude. Do not let your own deeds endanger your position. If you are polite, most will be contented and show no ill will. You’ll then only have to contend with the ambition of the few, without the wrath of the many as a backdrop.
Try not to appear too perfect. Self-deprecate and admit to minor flaws so that you don’t come across as arrogant. Envy is a natural response to excellence, so finely veil your excellence so that it doesn’t elicit unnecessary ire.
But don’t be seen to be frivolous, cowardly or irresolute. Everyone should be considering your actions as great, not humble. It’s hard to conspire against a well-liked colleague, so well-liked you must be.
All office workers have their rivals. Rivals get in the way of what you need to achieve. They may be competition for a promotion, they may be bad-mouthing your projects. Rivals can also be friendly co-workers whose career trajectory is on a collision course with your own.
So everybody in the workplace is a potential rival. Even if on friendly terms, probe and then note your co-workers’ weaknesses, find out their vanities and their insecurities.
Neutralizing rivals can be done in a number of ways. Firstly, you can undermine their position so they lose their gravitas and respect within the organisation.
This is best achieved by highlighting their failings and their flaws and shortcomings. As we now know, reputation is where power lies, and a sullied reputation is where power dies. Do not be afraid to criticize, make sure your rival’s superiors know your rival’s shortcomings in detail.
Use facts to crush your rivals, facts can be framed in any way you choose — even positive facts can be framed in a way that makes them look negative. But tell the truth. Do not lie or defame. Such tactics will likely backfire on you.
Ensure that you vanquish rivals entirely, if left able to fight another day, your rival will harbour feelings of revenge. Don’t let them crawl away from under the heel of your shoe.
Master the Strategic Withdrawal
If assertive rivals get the upper hand, allow them more room to impose themselves without losing your calm. Your rivals will overstretch themselves, make mistakes, and perhaps reveal more weaknesses than you were previously aware of. Take note of all this, brief against them and show their failures.
Mobilise the Cruelty of Your Co-workers
It is better to be seen to be merciful than cruel, so channel others’ cruelty towards rivals. Workplaces are filled with seething, bored people who will relish the opportunity to tear a reputation to shreds.
If you set these people against your rivals, they will gossip, they will spy, they will challenge your rival’s decisions and drag their feet in helping them. Unlike you, they are also dispensible, if they ruin their own reputation for their gossip or their insolence, you’ll be at a safe arm’s length.