The problem with today's business books is that they try to paint an idealistic picture where none exists in the real world. All these 'suggestions' are based on this false premise. Hence, most solutions to office problems are superficial at best and severely damaging at the worst. As Albert Einstein said, "We can't solve problems by using the same thinking we used when we created them."
Modern business literature available currently ignores the anthropologic fact that current employment contracts evolved from the slavery of human beings, replacing food and shelter for labor with employee benefits for work. However, the basic premise remains. He/she who pays your salary has the last word. Their ego and power are only restrained by ethics & personal values (if it exists) and employment law. Those could be nonexistent, insufficient, or well ignored, as seen in the Harvey Weinstein case, that took place in one of the most democratic countries in the world, where the law is supposedly above everyone. Imagine if this can happen in America, what would the plight of the rest of the world be. It took so long for the transgressions to come up to surface.
I have seen a significant number of professionals, office workers at different career levels, having severe anxieties bordering on dangerous psychological problems that persist not only professionally, but also in their personal lives.
I knew of an executive assistant who used to mix Bailey's with her Starbucks coffee after every lunch. I asked her why, and she answered, "This is the only way I can survive this guy," this guy referring to our boss at the time.
I worked with a senior executive with severe alcohol issues because of the constant nerve-wracking pressure from the company's shareholders. He used to receive calls at eleven-thirty at night, asking for supplier contractual details so extreme, that no human being can come up with at an instant.
I, too, have personally felt similar impacts in my life. Looking back, I ask myself, why did I allow myself to be so coerced? Did I end up inventing anything? Did I discover the cure for cancer? Did anyone around me do one of these? No, I just made my fair contribution to the business society in several continents and different cultures. I got paid my share (whether fair or not is up for debate, but it was a mutually agreed amount). As per senior leaders and shareholders, who were my bosses, they have received their fair share of returns. Well, at least I am convinced they did, much more than they had initially expected. To be honest, only they would be able to answer this accurately.
So why the stress? Why the drama? Yet there is still so much of this commotion in the workplace. Most, if not all, of it, can be avoided.
To be fair, there are things you can do yourself and things you cannot control. That is where the stoic approach falls in to play. Like the famous Stoic Marcus Aurelius, expect the worst, accept whatever comes. Remember that life is more substantial than what you experience every day at work. This book tries to show you the worst that can happen in the office so that it will be easier for you to accept your circumstances in full, whatever they may be.
A small disclaimer: in no way would I like to argue that offices are full of mean-spirited psychopaths. But I am sure any office worker can name a few co-workers who would be better off institutionalized.
Unfortunately, I have experienced firsthand that to be prepared in a mental state expecting this will be much better for you than believing the M.B.A. stuff peddled in modern business literature and forcing yourself to be the office Pollyanna.
Keeping your expectations from the office to a minimum almost guarantees your happiness and health. You might ask yourself, what is the cost of this approach. There are no free lunches in the corporate world. Taking this approach might have consequences, and you might be giving up on some career opportunities. If you do not play by the rules, you will probably not be offered or granted higher positions in your career. That is a choice you have to make. If you play by the rules, you will bear the cost, as you will read in the following chapters. If you chose to take a wiser approach, the one I recommend, you would achieve the upside of a more holistic approach to life. You will have the time to work on stuff that you are really passionate about, and not the tasks dictated to you by your employer’s corporate vision or mission statement.
In this respect, I am launching an initiative with www.HowToSurviveTheOffice.com to remind you of the facts of office life and for you to share your work and office stories anonymously. I will be contributing advice to your particular problems and hope to maintain a platform to show you that you are not the only one in this rat race. Suppose you can free yourself and understand the fundamental premise that the office is where you rent out your hours and get paid for it. In that case, it will be easier for you to find acceptance.
The book starts with Chapter 1: “Get Hired!”. While painting a realistic picture of the players in the game like human resources and recruiters, this chapter provides guidance for you to efficiently navigate any hurdles. Your life in this new job that you are about to get is mostly, if not entirely, influenced by how you manage your recruitment and associated negotiation process.
Then comes chapter 2 with “Make an awesome entry” Without giving away too much, this chapter is a fun read!
Chapter 3 “Know Your Boundaries” and Chapter 4, “Do you think you can survive without a fight?” explain how to protect yourself from unnecessary conflict. Almost all conflict is avoidable. You will understand the fundamental strategies to handle them if they occur, while also learning how to identify them before they arise.
Chapter 5: “Common Traps” defines the booby traps that exist in every company. I have seen C.E.O.s, directors, and interns stepping on them and losing their metaphorical legs. If you do not know how to recognize the traps, it will be only a matter of time before you get caught in one.
Chapter 6 “Winter is coming” and Chapter 7 “Should I stay, or should I go?” explain the inevitable end of your tenure in the company and include valuable recommendations to make it a smoother process.
If you have lost your job or fired your boss, jump to chapter 8, “Tears dry on their own” and read along. You will feel better as you understand that this is where we all are going to end up in any way.