2/09/2009

Corporate Survival Guide: Girding for Battle

Any warrior knows that you don’t go into battle without appropriate weaponry, and Corporate Warriors are no exception. But the tools of bygone armies aren’t sufficient for the needs of today’s Corporate Warrior. It turns out that management frowns on swords in a meeting, catapults don’t even fit onto the elevator, and bagpipes are laughed out the door.

So what should today’s Corporate Warrior bring to ensure victory and glorious bathing in the blood of the enemy after a full day on the Bureaucratic Battlefield?

If there is one thing that man has perfected, besides molded plastic packaging on kids toys that is impervious to all attempts to open it shy of nuclear explosion, it’s a set of weaponry designed to reduce an enemy to a thenemy. Although the weapons themselves differ between the real battlefield and the much harsher corporate battlefield, the fundamentals of weapons haven’t changed since the first monkey carved his toothbrush into a shiv and offed his buddy at the watering hole for mocking his enunciation. Weaponry basically boils down to: sword, shield, armor, and an optional decorative cup device for the men who‘d like to stay that way. Let’s step through each of the required three and see how they work in today’s corporate wars.

Sword: This is clearly the most important weapon at your disposal; it’s your weapon of attack and defense, and also serves as a suicide device for warriors that completely screw up and are afraid to ’fess up about the debacle. Who can forget that heart-warming scene in Julius Caesar when Marc Antony falls on his own sword, apparently mistaking it for a fluffy bed?

Obviously, swords simply will not do in today’s environment. It has been tried and it just sets off alarms on the way into the building. Also, the things are just plain awkward, and cause you to constantly bump into things simply making your way to your cube. And while it is useful as a pointer in meetings, it tends to reduce the live attendance.

Someone once said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” A ridiculous statement to be sure; that author obviously never went up against a crazy Scot swinging a broadsword. And pens are so passé in today’s corporate environment that it wouldn’t get you any more than a chuckle in a meeting. No, today’s warrior carries a cup of coffee in his hand. Apart from the sustenance that it provides, a large cup in your hand can serve to emphasize points you’re making. In defensive mode, a quick ‘accidental spill’ can distract the opposition long enough for you to find a way around the impasse. And in extreme situations, you can always throw the contents at your opponent, probably doing no physical damage, but the stains on their clothes will damage their image for the rest of the day. Finally, when all goes horribly wrong in a project, you can always save face by drowning yourself in your latte.

Shield: The shield was crucial to yesterday’s warrior in parrying blows while they readied their counter-attack. Also, shields served as handy stretchers for bearing home the wounded, the dead, or the extra donuts from the battle. The corporate warrior also needs a good defensive weapon like this.

Your laptop is your shield. Not only is it similarly shaped (initial laptop designs were actually derived directly from full-body shields of the middle ages, while modern laptops resemble the smaller shields used by famous heroes so that the local portrait artists could depict more of their body), but it is also an object that you can endlessly hide behind when being attacked from all corners of the room. Imagine: someone attacks your conclusions on a recent project, and your laptop can quickly come up with full-color, animated slide presentations that can refute their points or, even better, completely distract the audience. And if everyone in a meeting is attacking you or undercutting some point, you can go into ‘focus’ mode and simply start typing on your laptop, pretending that you didn’t hear their points because you had something more important on your machine to attend to. Finally, if you upset your enemy enough for them to launch their cup of coffee at you (see the earlier discussion on this strategy), a well-wielded laptop can easily deflect the spray, or even bat it back at the attacker.

Armor: Finally, a warrior needs armor to protect those vulnerable spots that can be pierced by your enemy if they succeed in getting past your sword or shield. In the olden days, armor would consist of anything from a leather vest (for the disposable cannon-fodder: “Here, wear this vest. Now, march over to that big pile of bodies wearing leather vests and attack!”) to chain mail shirts (for those that didn’t quite understand the concept of “holes”) to large plates of metal covering every bare patch of skin. Although the leather approach can work in a pinch in today’s company, the general approach of a suit of armor just doesn’t cut it. For one thing, the metal suits are so loud that it is difficult to overhear the speaker in a meeting. Also, the helmets make it difficult to hear anything anyway, and answering calls from golfing buddies is nearly impossible.

Obviously, the corporate warrior’s armor is the “power suit,” designed to strike fear into everyone as you stalk around the department. But I have found it helpful to add some nuances to this basic clothing, to ensure that the armor is more effective. For one thing, nobody can harm you if they cannot get within striking distance, so it’s usually a good idea to avoid showering for the day or two before an important battle. This invisible barrier will form a force field around you that both prevents others from getting close and causes physical damage to those that attempt it. Also, carry several personal devices, one for each pocket of the suit. How many times have we heard the anecdote about someone’s life being saved by the object in their pocket because it stopped the bullet? By putting a mobile device (phone, PDA, laptop battery) in every pocket, you increase the likelihood of stopping whatever attacks they throw at you. Finally, cover your suit completely in plastic wrap. Not only will this make the suit more shiny and noticeable, it will also provide nearly perfect protection from any coffee attacks from those who would bring you down.

Remember: the clothes make the person, and this is particularly true for today’s Corporate Warrior. After all, how do you think the word ‘wardrobe’ originated?
Post a Comment