The art of office warfare- How Sun Tzu’s military strategies can help you dominate at work.
Whether your a new graduate, employee, manager or entrepreneur there is always an element of office warfare your subjected to. And you definitely have something to gain by reading the book the art of war by Sun Tzu.
Who is Sun Tzu?
Sun Tzu the reputed author of the well renowned book- the art of warfare.
He was a military master during the Chou dynasty. During this massive age of conflict several states battled for control over China. Military strategy and leadership were well sought after, and it was Sun Tzu who managed to gain power by using his talent in strategy and leadership to gain numerous military victories.
Sun Tzu decided to hand down his wisdom he obtained through many years of battles
Thus he wrote the book, the art of war. This book has been studied for many years and can motivate and advise people in many situations.
In fact you can find his book is read by many office workers, entrepreneurs and managers alike. The advice and philosophies Sun Tzu promotes in his book can easily be transferred to the office, hence the art of office warfare!
Top 5 quotes and philosophies by Sun Tzu
I have found great benefit from reading Sun Tzu’s book the art of warfare.
And I realized straight away the advantages his strategies could give me when creatively transferred to situations that occur everyday in the office. The office can be a battlefield sometimes. Jealous employees wanting to see you fail. Intense competition. Managers pushing you around. Even in some cases you will have difficult negotiations with clients. All sorts of situations like these can be very challenging and one false step (or should I say defeat) can make the difference between promotion and being fired.
So how have I used these quotes to help me succeed in the office?
Well read on to find out my personal recount of certain office scenarios/ battles and see how you can do the same in your business or place of work! At the very least you will have something to think about and and will even feel motivated to succeed!
The art of office warfare:
‘Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster’
This quote can be interpreted in various forms.
However when I read this profound statement I instantly related to it when dealing with other people. This is a very psychological interpretation. Basically, understanding your strengths and weaknesses as well as your opponents strengths and weaknesses, you can easily succeed in any situation. This is all about preparation.
Now how did I use this in the art of office warfare?
I found myself in a competition with another employee to take on a piece of work which would be very visible and can really help with promotion. Managers were already siding with my rival employee and it looked like I wouldn’t have a chance to prove myself. But I knew deep inside I was the right man for the job. By knowing my strengths and weaknesses I knew that I should challenge him and keep on trying, by aiming to persuade my manager to choose me for the project.
I emailed my manager a list of my strengths…
…that related particularly to the project I was going for. At first this only peaked my manager’s interest, and wasn’t enough to change his mind. However by observing the work my rival had already completed, I saw that there were gaps missing. And since this is the art of office warfare, I wanted to use this evidence to show my manager that I was a better fit for the project. But, to simply point this out blatantly to my manager would give off a bad impression. You don’t want cause drama at work, all moves should be made carefully and deceptively for your own gain.
So, instead of calling out my rival about his substantial work, I made the declaration during a meeting with my managers with the rival in attendance. I explained that I didn’t know much about the work my rival has been doing, and I thought it would be a great idea if he gave a short presentation on his work to the managers and myself for leaning purposes. So ironically I was actually promoting the work done by my rival!
This was perfect… My rival, was shaking in his boots…
…as he should be, he knew he wasn’t prepared to present to the managers and that his work was of low quality. When it came time to give his presentation, he basically brought upon his own downfall. The managers had clear evidence that his work was unfinished and had gaps in it. He wasn’t even prepared to answer questions asked by the managers, it looked like he knew nothing!
And when all was done, the managers came up to me and asked me to work on the project. there was no need for me to persuade them anymore. My rival lost a lot of ground in the office that day… all is fair in the art of office warfare.
‘The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting’
This quote really spoke out to me.
This seems like my kind of advice, how can I succeed without even lifting a finger? Well some of you will say this is impossible. But you need to think carefully. There will be people your surrounded by that want you to fail and are hindering you. But instead of trying to fight them and beat them at their own game, wouldn’t it be better to defeat them without all the drama and hassle.
Here’s what happened to me…
My office environment can be quite hostile at times. Employees always competing with each other to be seen as the best and get promoted. I see everywhere I look, my rivals always talking to the managers trying to suck up to them and kiss ass. Now I refuse to do the same and kiss up to these managers, fighting it out with the other employees for the top spot.
So instead of being like the rest of the suck ups…
I wanted to show my manager I was ready for promotion because I deserved it, and because of how hard working I was. So instead of targeting my manager directly…
I targeted his most trusted advisers and other managers on the project which he knows very well. There were a lot less people kissing ass here! Now I approached these people and asked to learn about what they’re are involved in. Most of these people were more than happy to talk about their jobs, and are encouraged to help people with a thirst for knowledge.
By learning about these different streams of work, I found quick opportunities to help these people out. Using my own ability to promote myself work without kissing ass.
Now when it came down to the promotion period…
My Manager would talk to his advisers and other managerial friends. He then found out how helpful I had been, as well as how knowledgeable I am regarding information about other work streams of the whole business. Without even lifting a finger, and definitely without battling it out with other rivals for my managers attention, my work and ability was conveyed to my manager. He had no doubt in his mind to promote me after this.
The main take away from this.
Sometimes competing directly with people is the wrong path to take, especially when you know how much competition there is out there. Why not be creative and think about other routes to take to succeed! In doing so, you can beat your rivals without even going head to head with them.
‘Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer’
This is one I’m sure you have all heard before.
Probably one of Sun Tzu’s most repeated quote still has relevance and can be a very important strategy you employ within the art of office warfare.
In the office it’s important to have the support of your friends
They are your most trusted resource in the office. Not only do friends add a great social vibe for you in the workplace. But they can always help you out in a pinch.
Now when it comes down to your workplace enemies or rivals, it’s important to keep them close as well. These are people who you know have no trouble stabbing you in the back just prove themselves in the office and show you up.
Why is this important?
Well you need to keep an eye on them, especially if your in direct competition. There’s no need to force yourself to be friends with them, don’t subject yourself to that kind of pain. But Try and be more tolerant on the surface and reduce the tension. Whenever they try and undermine you, don’t fight back in such a way which will ultimately destroy the relationship, unless you can actually gain something from it, by proving him/her wrong.
Pick your battles, sometimes these people will call you out to the managers and try to make you look bad, but if you can sense your manager doesn’t hold your rival’s opinions in high regard, then there’s no need to fight about it.
By being more tolerant when you can, your rival will be less severe in trying to hinder you. And by keeping a stable relationship with your rival you will be able to observe him much more closely. And as soon as he slips up, be ready to pounce and take advantage!
‘Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust’
The above quote is very relate-able in the art of office warfare.
Sometimes there are victories which you think can never be achieved. No matter what you do, you may find your not getting anywhere. But with enough perseverance you can win and succeed in any aspect!
For my experience in this…
I had a client who I had to impress with my work. But every time I presented him with work he would be dissatisfied. Always thinking of another reason to reject my work. This certain client was considered a very tough person to work for and extremely difficult to negotiate with. My managers and other colleagues kept telling me that working for this guy was a lost cause. But I knew that if I did manage to win him over, it would be a major victory for me!
And of course with enough persistence it happened.
After weeks of producing work for this man that was never satisfied, I started to learn about his quirks. By spending more time with him I got to know him much better and what he actually wanted to see. And when I came to this realization it was so easy to turn the situation around and win this client over! All that I needed to change up was the way in which I presented my work to him.
Instead of organizing meetings with my client and other managers/employees, I decided to target him in one to one informal meetings, to understand his real feelings about my work. By doing so, he felt like his opinion had been heard, physiologically this made a great impact and he became much more reasonable, with a few easy changes to my work, he soon started praising my efforts.
My managers were really impressed by this…
…and I built a great relationship with the client. So there you have it. Sometimes it’s important to be persistent, if you believe the reward is worth it, then keep going and soon enough you will gain victory!
‘He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks’
Now this is an important one if your a manager or you manage people/lead a team in anyway.
This can relate to a variety of scenarios. Now without directly managing employees or a team for myself, during the art of office warfare I have witnessed great leaders use this strategy to reap amazing results for themselves!
One manager in the office was well known to be an effective leader. Always getting the best out of his team, and no matter the task he would always complete it with immeasurable quality. This meant that his employees had to work longer hours to complete work.
So why would his employees go above and beyond to help him so much?
Well he was a great motivator! Most managers would only be friendly with people on their level such as other managers and their seniors. For the employees that work for them they wouldn’t even bat an eye. Not giving them support or listening to their problems. That’s the difference between being a boss and a leader. This manager in particular was so good at instilling encouragement in his employees they thought of him as a friend and would go the extra mile to help him out, even staying late at work!
It just goes to show…
…that the workplace politics and hierarchy can be a detriment to productivity and motivation. This manager would treat his employees with the same respect and regard as he did with his own seniors. This broke down workplace barriers and built long lasting friendships between manager and employee. So if your managing a team, make sure to treat them well and when in a pinch they will always work hard for you and want you to succeed!
‘Opportunities multiply as they are seized’
This is a very sound philosophy. It directly relates to people who always seem to win. Now how is this? Well sometimes winning can be contagious. You win once and then your on a roll!
This directly relates to the art of office warfare.
Seek out opportunities around the office. In fact just look for quick wins which require very little work. It might be just helping out another colleague with their work when you have some free time to kill.
This philosophy was very true for me.
I saw an opportunity to take part in a debate which would be presented in front of senior managers and graduates as part of a careers fair. Now no one wanted to sign up, because it was seen as extra and unnecessary work. This made it much easier for me to be chosen for the part. All I had to do was send an email, and they were more than happy to get me involved in the debate.
The only real effort was preparing for the debate, but it didn’t take me longer then an hour of preparation during the week. The day of the debate approached and I did a decent job of it. In fact our team won!
Now I signed up for this debate not knowing of any reward involved…
And afterwards I went back to work unknowingly expecting anything to happen because of it. But a few days later I received a sudden email from one of the senior managers that was at the debate. She was very impressed by me and wanted to have a chat. I met up with her and it turned out she wanted me to work on a very lucrative project with her, and she thought I had the right attitude for the role. So getting stuck in with the debate opened up new doors for me unknowingly!
Some advice to take away from this:
Always be the ‘Yes’ man, don’t always turn something down just because you can’t be bothered. You never know what kind of doors will open up for you. Look for the quick wins and get on a roll!
Take Sun Tzu’s advice and apply it to your art of office warfare!
The above quotes have hopefully given you ideas on how you can climb your way up the ranks at work and finally beat your rivals. The office is a battlefield especially with all the workplace politics involved. You need to be clever in how you approach situations, instead of running at them head on.
Create your own art of office warfare strategies using Sun Tzu’s tactical advice and defeat your office enemies to claim victory!