Oct 10, 2010

How to survive in a corporate jungle

We spend significant part of our life in office, so professional life is as important as personal life and it’s important to strike a balance between the two. First of all, let’s understand what the workplace reality is:

1. Why do we work? To make money, everything else is secondary.

2. A lot of work is boredom…doing repeated specialized tasks is nothing but boring…more particularly in case of BPO & IT Companies. It’s up to you to devise ways to make it fun.

3. Being intelligent and hard working is not enough; self-marketing i.e., making your boss and others aware of your contribution is also important; to get recognition you deserve, seeking attention and becoming visible to the power centers in the organization is necessary.

4. Peer pressure makes us constantly benchmark and compare ourselves with our peers; the resultant envy is self-destructive.

5. Modern day organizations are anything but
rational. Rivalry, office politics, sycophancy, favoritism, manipulation, diplomacy, dog eat dog competition, rat race, gossiping, rumours, jealously, use of innuendos/snide remarks/expletives, sexual harassment, bullying, lobbying are all oddities of daily corporate life and essential part of modern day workplace.

6. The most harsh reality about survival in the corporate jungle is getting along well with your immediate boss because he is the one who can make or mar your career

Here are a few practical management lessons to survive in corporate jungle without losing sanity:

Elders of the tribe eat first

1. There is no need to feel bad if your boss takes credit for your ideas because according to David F. D’ Alessandro you simply cannot fight the power structure. In his book Career Warfare, he writes that, “Within the world of people who can actually advance your career, your image is almost entirely in your boss’s hand”.

2. There are plenty of ‘pointed headed bosses’ —a character made famous by the comic strip Dilbert by Scott Adams —roaming in the corporate corridors; nothing to feel ashamed of in playing the game of fool to satisfy their inflated egos. Again, David F.D’ Alessandro says that you’ve to manage the relationship intelligently, even if your boss is an idiot.

3. If you’re stuck with a bully boss, never fight back or confront him; it’s no use fighting a loosing battle. On the other hand, enduring him for long can do a lot of harm to your confidence and self-esteem. The best and the most practical solution is not to complain, stay calm and find a new job at the earliest. Don’t fool yourself by remaining under a delusion that he will have a change of heart or things might otherwise improve in the future…expecting a scorpion not to sting is simply foolish. Understand that bullying is the worst form of power abuse and even HR is of no help in such cases.

4. Know the difference between a Mentor and a Godfather and if you’re competent avoid the latter.

5. Under promise and over deliver.

6. Never say “yes”, when you- want to say “no”.

7. Finally, the golden rule of managing bosses, in the words of Devdutt Pattanaik, “be like Draupadi, but always behave like Sita".

FISH Philosophy

8. Don’t take your work too seriously; take it as a game and have fun. In fact, life itself is nothing more than a game.

9. It’s important that you love the work you do even if it is not your calling…to make it enjoyable, practice FISH Philosophy.

10. Work smarter and harder; distinguish between important and urgent; apply Pareto’s 80:20 rule; prioritize; have a time limit for every task—as per Parkinson’s law, work expands as per availability of time.

11. Never marry your job; workaholism can ruin your professional life as well as personal life.

12. There’s always a better way of doing things; be creative, clear mental blocks, continuously challenge present practices / set ups.

One-Minute Manager

13. Don’t be afraid to delegate because no individual can run the whole show.

14. Never pinpoint the errors; even if you know. Rather ask the person doing the task to find out himself.

15. Be a One-Minute Manager—according to Kenneth Blanchard, there are 3 secrets behind effective management: one minute goals, one minute praising and one minute reprimand.

16. Focus on strengths instead of wasting time on fixing the weaknesses; recognize the unique talent of each individual. In the words of Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman, the writers of the book, First, Break All the Rules: Bad Managers play checkers, good managers play chess.

Personal Branding: Packaging is more important than the product

17. Take responsibility for yourself. Don’t wait to get noticed.

18. Be yourself – genuine/authentic.

19. Have a sense of humor. It is the most valuable quality and can alleviate boredom, relieve the work place stress, help ride the difficult situation and establishing rapport with others.

20. Be ethical, never compromise on integrity.

21. Be wiser than others, but don’t tell them so.

22. Be cool & patient. Don’t get ruffled if heckled.

23. Everything matters but looks / appearance matter more than the real stuff.

24. Don’t be too good in whatever you do, rather diversify your knowledge & skills; Over specialization has both upsides as well as downsides.

25. Run your own race, at your own pace.

26. Take time out for yourself. From time to time keep on enriching and re-energizing your professional life by playing, exercising, reading, vacationing and learning something new.

27. Constantly update your resume; if there is nothing new to add for a period of six months, it’s time to look for a change.

Networking in the corridor

28. Networking is a necessary evil; don’t consider it a waste of time. However, it is better to build and nurture only genuine relationships.

29. Know the difference between casual office friendship and personal friendship; be cautious. about revealing too much personal information. In other words, familiarity breeds contempt, so keep your secrets.

30. Never try to please everybody. One cannot keep everyone happy.

31. Never underestimate anybody.


32. Accept the reality; don’t flow against the tide.

33. Anticipate the change and embrace it.

34. Don’t be afraid of failures or admitting your mistakes.

35. Don’t judge anybody; just observe.

36. Opportunity never knocks twice, so keep your doors open.

37. Don’t unnecessary worry about little things; work is just one aspect of your life.

38. In case of physical and mental burnout, apply the brakes; diversion/cooling-off helps.

39. Don’t run so fast in life that anybody has to throw a stone at you to get noticed.

The final truth is that nobody owes us a living and life is rarely the way we want it to be. We’re solely responsible for our professional life; difficulties & hardships are always encountered while climbing the corporate ladder.Have faith! Do not postpone living; enjoy every moment.

At last, some things are within our control and some things not, so let’s not forget the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Also see:

1. How to live a purposeful life
2. 4 other ways to live a simple life


  1. Good to see you back. Keep Going

  2. No doubt, One of the best posts that I have read so far. Really an eye opener for everyone. Thanks a lot

  3. Hi, It is nice to hear from you after long time.
    Excellent guidelines for all who raally like to work with people around and same time enjoy the profession and life.

  4. wonderful post. Nice to read an article after a long time.
    P. Rambabu

  5. wonderful post!




    DHAVAL .

  7. Fisher - the common sense guy


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