Imagine working in a setup where you have an insensitive boss like Michael Scott, a shrewd colleague always ready to backstab you like Dwight, and subordinates who are always too lethargic to work. Every day would feel like a socio-political war and surviving it would feel like a feat. It is not a far-fetched scenario, with more corporates adopting the startup culture and the cut throat competition, our setups have now become a subtle and sophisticated version of hunger games. The question now arises of how to position ourselves in this corporate battleground.
Maintaining the status quo with varied personalities sitting around the table is a task. Relationship management is a science and like every other branch, it also requires in-depth research, experimentation, and analysis. Amongst thousands of books on successful management sutras, one particular has been timeless. Written more than 5000 years ago, Chanakya’s concepts have been relevant through time and age. Let us see some sutras by Kautilya which can help us survive in the corporate arena.
नात्यन्तं सरलैर्भाव्यं गत्वा पश्य वनस्थलीम्।
छिद्यन्ते सरलास्तत्र कुब्जास्तिष्ठन्ति पादपाः॥
न विश्वसेत्कुमित्रे च मित्रे चापि न विश्वसेत् ।
कदाचित्कुपितं मित्रं सर्वं गुह्यं प्रकाशयेत् ॥
nātyantaṃ saralairbhāvyaṃ gatvā paśya vanasthalīm |
chidyante saralāstatra kubjāstiṣṭhanti pādapāḥ ||
na viśvasetkumitre ca mitre cāpi na viśvaset |
kadācitkupitaṃ mitraṃ sarvaṃ guhyaṃ prakāśayet ||
‘A person should not be too honest or simple. Straight trees are cut first’:
We have all heard how honesty is the best policy. But Chanakya advocates for diplomacy rather than being brutally honest. Sometimes your honest opinion about someone can lead to exploitation or bad relations. Not knowing the right manner to put forward your opinions so as to not offend people at the same time is a recipe for disaster. However, with the use of diplomacy, issues can be resolved without causing any unprofessional offense. Similarly, naivety leads to being taken for granted by others and a person loses respect. People tend to reveal their secrets when they overshare with their coworkers and supposed office BFFs.
अत्यन्तकोपः कटुका च वाणी दरिद्रता च स्वजनेषु वैरम् ।
नीचप्रसंगः कुलहीनसेवा चिह्नानि देहे नरकस्थितानाम् ॥
atyantakopaḥ katukā ca vānī daridratā ca svajanesu vairam |
nīcaprasamgaḥ kulahīnasevā cihnāni dehe narakasthitānām ||
‘Fiery temper, bitter speech, poverty, rancor for one’s relations, slavery of the lowly persons and association with the rogues- these are signs of bad company.'
The world is full of people who act nice but are not what they claim to be. Our workplace often has the same energy vampires who act friendly but will try to pull legs at every turn. Chanakya gives us some indicators to look for to identify such a company. If our coworker shows temper over feedback given or when pointed out over a mistake, that is a sign. If someone demeans you publicly even if they say it was unintentional, or if they don’t treat their subordinates with respect then Chanakya says you need to see and treat that person like a thorn and either should stay away or deal with them with strong actions. Associating with them will only drain your positivity and affect your mental health.
लुब्धमर्थेन गृह्णीयात् स्तब्धमञ्जलिकर्मणा।
मूर्खं छन्दोऽनुवृत्त्या च यथार्थत्वेन पण्डितम्॥
lubdhamarthena grhnīyāt stabdhamañjalikarmanā |
mūrkhaṃ chando’nuvṛttyā ca yathārthatvena panditam ||
‘You can win over a greedy by offering money, a proud person by covering before him. You can win a foolish by agreeing with him and you can win a scholar by truth only’
A team comprises different individuals with different personalities and attitudes. Often people make mistakes while dealing with everyone in the same manner. Often, we try to change each other’s attitude instead of adapting and innovating. This leads to a clash of egos and ultimately futile arguments or worse. Chanakya's advice here is to allow individuals to be who they are. Win over an egoist by showing him respect, a wise person by truth, and a crazy person by letting him behave insanely. You will quickly experience retaliation if you attempt to change them to remain with them. You can't expect it to go your way. Analyze the personality of your colleague and act diplomatically instead of bombarding the individual with your opinions of him.
We have all been in tense situations and experienced corporate setup turning into a political warzone. Even though we live in a modern era, some wisdom bytes from the 3rd Century B.C. by Chanakya are still practical. Chanakya's Niti Shastra demonstrates a pragmatic approach to dealing with modern-day professional challenges be it office politics, authority issues, having heated debates with coworkers, or dealing with unreasonable demands from bosses. So, it is time to put some hard-earned advice into practice from history’s best counselor to take on personal and professional challenges and come out victorious.