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How to survive in the corporate world

I have worked in the corporate environment for the past 10 years and I felt I should share some tips on how to survive and succeed in this environment.

Before we move on to the specifics, I should point out that I have failed miserably in the corporate context and I have been a complete disaster in playing the corporate game so please bear that in mind as you read on.

1. Kindness

There is no room for kindness in corporate world so if you live by the principle of treating people how you would like to be treated you will need to park that until you leave the office. In corporate world you will need to display selfishness, narcissism and a willingness to walk all over whoever you can in your attempt to climb up the corporate ladder.

2. Crystal Ball

Having a crystal ball will come in very handy because in sales you are expected to know exactly what you will be selling weeks in advance. The ability to look into the future is not something that corporations will teach you so you’d better pull your socks up and learn it for yourself!!

3. Doing tasks to keep your boss in a job.

This is probably one of the most important aspects of survival in corporate world! If you want to be successful in the corporate hierarchy, you will need to spend a large proportion of your working time completing work created by your boss so that he/she can justify their own existence within the corporation. This work is usually completely irrelevant to the larger good of the company but is a perfect way of killing time you could have spent in more productive ways. It is, however, important to do this work as if it was more important than what you were employed to do and if you can do it with a smile on your face, even better!

4. Smile or Die!

Ok I stole the title of this from Barbara Ehrenreich’s book (which in my view is a must read) but if you want to succeed and survive in the corporate context you are required to remain positive at all times. In fact this is far more important than skills and intelligence! You may actually be better off if you were to park your intelligence at home, because questioning the status quo is a big no no in the corporate world. You were not employed to think, you were employed to do whatever you were asked to do! Trust me on this, I have been forced to listen to phrases like “I want to see lots of energy and positive attitude” on a daily basis!!

5. Stab your colleagues in the back.

This is a very useful skill to have in your ascent up the corporate ladder. You may lose some self respect in the process but surely that is a price well paid for a job title that your ego can be proud of. There are various ways of doing this;

You will need to be alert and on the lookout for colleagues making mistakes and when they do, you email them pointing out the mistake and copy their boss in on the email. This is the perfect way of earning brownie points from your peers! Don’t worry about the consequences of your back stabbing efforts because in corporate world “failure is not an option!” and if you can help your boss weeding out these failures, you are on your way!

6. Making a difference.

This is of no importance whatsoever unless making a difference translates into more sales. If you are in a client facing role, your job is not to listen to what the client wants. Your job is to sell them as many products as possible and if you fail at that task then you will be required to pester them on a regular basis until they finally sign on the dotted line.

7. Work – Life Balance.

If you really want to succeed then you will have to forget about the life part of the work-life balance, there is no balance! Your contract may state that you are required to work during the hours of 9-5 but you need to understand that this is just a technicality! In reality, there are no limits to the number of hours you work. In fact you could boost your climb up the corporate ladder by demonstrating your willingness to give up on life altogether for the greater good of the company. A good way of doing this is by sending emails from home, preferably late at night and on weekends. The best time to do this is between the hours of 10-11pm, which shows dedication, but more importantly, make sure you copy your boss in on the emails.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been a complete failure at playing the corporate game and as a result of that I was asked to resign from my position which I did last Tuesday.

I may have failed at playing the corporate game but at least I have stayed true my own beliefs and I can go to sleep at the end of every day, safe in the knowledge that my focus remained on the needs of my clients instead of the desire to satisfy a sales target!

9 responses to “How to survive in the corporate world

  1. Viv October 25, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    This was a very sharp and well observed article and it made me very sad indeed to think that decent people like you are being forced out of this work because there is such high level incompetence and greed.
    The more they go on like this, the closer they truly get to absolute collapse.
    Don’t hand that letter in till you have something to go to; because that way you have the satisfaction of knowing you are leaving for something better.

    • J October 27, 2010 at 6:52 pm

      It makes me sad too! Not that I have been forced to make a decision but that everyone seems to bury their heads in the sand and continue to accept this kind of behaviour!! Perhaps an absolute collapse may not be such a bad thing after all!!

      • Viv October 27, 2010 at 6:58 pm

        I think you may be right but the chaos could destroy good but confused people too.

        • J October 27, 2010 at 7:50 pm

          I agree it could destroy good and confused people but is it possible that they would eventually be destroyed anyway by staying in this kind of selfish and sometimes hostile environment?

  2. Shiona October 27, 2010 at 7:53 am

    This is a precise analysis of corporate culture. Every point you make is absolutely valid. It’s a pity how little attention is paid to the human factor and how people are treated as inanimate means to be used for material purposes.
    I would add one more item to the list, if you allow me: Selective Honesty. This is with respect to important or confidential information that can affect employees of higher status. Now, telling sheer lies in an attempt to save someone’s axx or turn things in their or your favour is a dangerous tool that can easily discredit you. Hiding what you know is also tricky because there will always be someone who knows that you know and they can use this against you when you least expect it. But if you have or develop the ability to tell only part of the truth, naturally the part that serves your purposes best, and more importantly, if you have the intuition and/or reasoning to know whom to tell what, when and how, it might push you up the corporate ladder or at least help you survive.
    I’ve been trying to master this skill as my position requires it, but I think I won’t make it and sooner or later I will drop out. The atmosphere of conspiracy, endless plotting, intrigue and clandestineness around me is draining the life out of me.

    • J October 27, 2010 at 7:45 pm

      Conspiracy, endless plotting, intrigue and mind games is a valid entry to the list and it is draining the life out of me too. I often wonder how the people who seem to master these skills manage to sleep at night but then again, I guess we are all different!

  3. B March 18, 2016 at 6:59 am

    I have seen some people employ cheap tactics and succeed. You need to know how to play these…for eg..asskissing (We have a colleague who has risen up the ranks by kissing ass. He goes to the airport to receive ppl higher up the chain), sending emails at 2 AM in the morning. I m incapable of neither of these and have seen no promotion as a result.

  4. Human April 29, 2016 at 8:02 am

    Wow. That was a great post and even better was the comment Section. I just started my corporate career and I already feel like dropping out and join a startup or better still, open One.
    – indienik

  5. indieNik April 29, 2016 at 8:03 am

    Wow. That was a great post and even better was the comment Section. I just started my corporate career and I already feel like dropping out and join a startup or better still, open One.

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