Corporate Power Plays
Don’t be fooled by the companies that boast of their collaborative culture: the corporate world is dog-eat-dog
The corporate world is dog-eat-dog: to reach the top, you must assert your dominance — and subvert your colleagues’ efforts to dominate you.
Fortunately for you, I’ve put together this handy manual of corporate power plays — some old (with new nuances in the remote-first workplace) and some new.
“Let’s take a step back”
When you tell people to take a step back, what you are suggesting is that they are all missing the forest for the trees. Luckily, you have the strategic vision and the commercial nous to see the big picture and guide your organization through the dark woods. By asking that everyone stop doing work to ponder your exposition on product-market fit, user touchpoints, or (if you’re older) Porter’s Five Forces, you are cementing your position as the company’s de facto thought-leader.
- Things to watch out for: in general, there aren’t many pitfalls with this one, as long as you do not use it when actual work needs to happen immediately. This is rarely the case in most workplaces, but avoid using this tactic if you work in a hospital.
- Common variants: ‘time-out’, ‘take it back to first principles’, or (a more aggressive version) ‘we are going off on a tangent, let me bring us back to…’
- How to counter: what do you do if someone beats you to using this phrase? Avoid this happening in the first place: make a habit of opening every meeting with “let’s all take a step back.” If this scenario materializes, respond with, “thank you for this, very helpful. Can I suggest that we take an even broader view, and consider x/y/z?”
Nothing screams ‘I’m powerful’ more than crashing a meeting to which you are not invited. The trick to pulling this off is to not even acknowledge you’re not on the invite — act as though you were expected to join. Before 2020, this meant observing colleagues and physically following them into a room when you saw them walk in; these days, you need to stalk your colleagues’ calendars and crash their Zoom or Google Meet. Bonus points if you…