Career Warfare Rule 7 – Make the right enemies

This rule is similar to Law 2 in the 48 Laws of Power: Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use Enemies.

There will always be people who don’t like you, simply by virtue of who you are. This is especially true if you are aggressively building your personal brand, taking on big projects, and getting things done. Success brings sycophants, but also foes. Making enemies is a fact of life so it is foolish to avoid making enemies, as the attempt to avoid offending anybody will make you boring and forgettable, the type of person who will be completely ignored.

Outrun the bastards. Concentrate on making your bosses life better, and detractors won’t matter. The best strategy is to move on to your next role before your current enemies can bring you down.

At other times you’ll want to fight back. Very rarely will there be direct confrontation from your enemies. Instead, they will attack from the shadows, using indirect channels such as gossip, rumors, and leaks. Look out for signs that someone is trying to take you down:

  • Phone calls take longer to be returned
  • Harder to meet with people that were once easy to get a hold of
  • People ask how you’re doing in a sympathetic tone of voice instead of the usual “What’s up?”
  • People will repeat the negative gossip and rumors they’ve heard about you, and will start using the same metaphors about you.
  • People start asking about your safety net, so they can feel better about what’s going to happen to you

Do not tolerate disloyalty. If you cannot get the one rebellious person on your team under control, it’s over. Your authority is undermined and you won’t be able to gain control over anyone else as well. When firing someone high profile, simply send out a memo saying that they “are moving on to pursue new opportunities”. The real reason for a departure will always come up in gossip. But make sure you make a strong example of someone who undermines you.

Sometimes, for your own self respect, you’ll have to throw out the rules, and confront an enemy. When somebody crosses the line, even if its your boss or somebody who is a powerful giant, you must strike back. Self respect is a critical part of your brand, and not speaking up and standing up for yourself or others during critical confrontations will come off as weak. However, be careful when dealing with lower level people in your org. Once you’ve reached a certain level, you must be extra careful and good to them, as your reputation will take a big hit otherwise.

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