Are you a Fox or a Hedgehog?

The ancient Greek poet Archilochus wrote a now-lost parable with the following moral: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The general gist of the line is this: Some people see the details in everything they do, like the fox, while others are great at having one singular vision, like the hedgehog. This animal-centric adage is at the heart of a lesson in “On Grand Strategy,” an instruction manual for would-be leaders based on popular seminars by Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis. Taking a cue from a 1953 essay by British-American philosopher Isaiah Berlin, Gaddis discusses how great leaders and thinkers can be categorized as either hedgehogs or foxes. Berlin went so far as to say that this split is “one of the deepest differences [that] divide writers and thinkers, and, it may be, human beings in general.”


Typically, a generalist is someone who has a broad range of knowledge and skills across multiple fields, while a specialist is someone who has deep knowledge and expertise in a specific field or area. Generalists tend to have a wider range of job opportunities and can adapt to new situations and changing circumstances more easily than specialists. They also tend to have a better understanding of how different fields and disciplines are interconnected and can often see connections and opportunities that specialists might miss. Specialists, on the other hand, tend to have a more in-depth understanding of their field of expertise and can contribute more to projects and teams that require specialized knowledge and skills. They also tend to be more sought after and command higher salaries in their field of expertise. Generalists can understand and see connections between different subjects, while specialists can focus on and solve complex problems within their area of expertise. Generalists are often more adaptable and can work on a wider range of tasks, while specialists have a deeper understanding of their field and can contribute significantly to its advancement.

While a specialist systematically hones skills related to their domain, a generalist seeks to sharpen a wide range of related skills that will prove useful in multiple domains. The proliferation of startups and small businesses has surged the demand for generalists who come with a vast spectrum of knowledge and experience. However, when the requirement is for deep technical knowledge in critical fields, the skills of a specialist are much more marketable. When a company is looking at upscaling operations within its domain, the specialist is more progressive when it comes to creative ideas. Generalists are progressive when it comes to accepting a varied number of clients with different needs and expectations. Owing to their interpersonal skills and a broad-based learning curve, generalists can handle uncertainties efficiently. In terms of transferability, generalists fare better than specialists as their wide range of specialities is easily transferable to different domains. Specialists aren’t able to transfer their domain-related expertise to another field or even to another discipline within the same domain.

Both generalists and specialists have their own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the particular situation and the needs of the employer or organization. It’s also worth mentioning that, while some people may naturally lean towards being a generalist or a specialist, it is also possible to develop skills in both areas through continuous learning and development.

Specialists have expertise in their area of specialisation because they are focused on one domain, which attracts high-paying clients since subject-specific expertise gaps are more difficult to fill. The ability to undertake extensive targeted research and a quality understanding of the domain earn specialists attractive remuneration. Specialists are also more equipped to handle any new technological complexity in the field as they dedicate years to exploring the different facets of the domain. On the other hand, because they are focused on one area of expertise, the lack of diversity within the job profile hinders growth. A specialized portfolio has limited scope for independent expansion. With rapid technological advancements, specialists risk falling behind if they don’t update their skill sets frequently. Specialists usually perform within a narrower domain than generalists. As they dive deeper into their domain, the relevant working fields surrounding them gradually shrink.

Generalists cover several domains and envision the bigger picture as they combine multiple perspectives from different departments. A direct result of being open to a lot of unique challenges is acquiring strong critical thinking skills and this enables generalists to offer actionable insights into their areas of expertise. Their ability to explore various domains and a high multitasking quotient make generalists excel in leadership roles. A large number of skills arm generalists with the capacity to diversify their services which helps them swap career paths easily and give their clients a lot of alternatives to work with. But a lack of specific expertise in any domain puts them on a back foot as they aren’t that competent in niche projects. A high percentage of generalists work across multiple teams and tackle a host of responsibilities, especially if they are in leadership roles. This often leads to psychological burnout. Generalists are also easier to replace owing to their overlapping or vaguely defined work responsibilities and so these positions are prone to lower pay scales as compared to a specialist.

Whether it is better to be a generalist or a specialist depends on the individual’s goals, interests, and circumstances. For some careers, such as medicine or law, specialisation is required to achieve a high level of expertise and be successful in the field. In other fields, a generalist approach can be beneficial, as it allows individuals to have a wider range of skills and knowledge, making them more versatile and adaptable in the face of changing circumstances. In many cases, a combination of both generalist and specialist skills can be advantageous, allowing individuals to understand the broader context of their area of expertise and effectively communicate and apply their knowledge. Ultimately, the choice between being a generalist or a specialist is a personal one and should be based on individual strengths, interests, and career goals.

Some of the questions one needs to ask themselves are if one seeks a diverse breadth of knowledge or if one prefers deep research on any specific topic. Do they change their career perspective often and prefer taking time to find the niche they are interested in? Or have they already determined their career trajectory? One also needs to work out what kind of work ignites their interests and passions and if it requires them to hone different skills or demands specific subject-matter expertise. The ideal workforce of today is a carefully balanced group of specialised generalists who recognise their varied strengths but rely on others’ domain-specific expertise, and generalised specialists who are people with core competencies who also delve into other related areas.

So would you rather be a fox or a hedgehog? I am going to ask BB and GG this question after making them read this article.

Friends in the workplace – Yes or No

Friendships are beautiful and a good friend with whom you can vent and share problems and who listens without judging is invaluable. A workplace on the other hand is one which for many is fraught with pitfalls and because it’s a place where we spend the majority of our time, having a friend there may be good. But is having a work buddy something that one cultivates? Given the time we spend at work, it is inevitable that some sort of friendships at work will be formed.

It’s very natural to look for friends at work, and it’s necessary for professional success. Since we spend most of our time at work, and if we don’t like the people we work with, getting through the day becomes even more difficult. Happier and more productive days will happen if we enjoy the company of our colleagues. Workplace friends improve the good days and make the poor ones bearable. While being social at work will help raise morale and satisfaction, one must also set limits with friendly colleagues.

There’s a lot of evidence that workplace friendships fulfil a basic human need for companionship, and are necessary to some degree. Research has found that it can even fuel greater job satisfaction: In a survey of more than 195,600 employees in the U.S., Gallup found that 20% of them said they had a best friend at work. This was also the group that reported being most engaged and committed to their jobs. But workplace friendships can be tricky, especially between managers and employees, or senior and junior employees. In that scenario, there’s always going to be a power dynamic in play.

While being social can help boost morale and happiness on the job, one needs to set boundaries. Instead of striving for friendships at work, it’s better to be friendly with coworkers, according to some experts who say that ith professional relationships, one can grab coffee or lunch, but not necessarily invite them home for a barbecue or special family events.

Today’s workplace is different from a few years ago with remote work and social distancing making workplace interactions more difficult. Without meeting colleagues and co-working face-to-face, having close friendships will be slim and making work friends will mean an extra effort.

Having a good friend at work one can confide in and commiserate with can be a blessing and while work friendships can be a boon, they can also be a bust. The truth is that many of the work friends we have will end when the job ends. You may keep in touch for a couple of years or so, but over time, you tend to drift apart, because the biggest binder between the two, the company or organisation no longer exists. But there may be a few work friends who transcend the organisation to become true friends, but this is rare and quite far between.

A 2014 Globoforce survey found that people with workplace friendships are nearly three times more likely to say that they love their companies and two times less likely to be poached by another company. But in the throes of a new work friendship, sometimes it’s easier to forget that a work friend is a colleague first and a friend second. So one has to be a bit more careful about what is shared with them as it may come to bite you from behind.

So if you are making work friends or have friends in the workplace, here are some tips on how to deal with them.

Be mindful of oversharing – You may have to share personal information to make friends at work, but you should proceed with more caution than you would for non-work friendships. Remember to always keep it professional and respectful. Share on a need to know basis and be vague. Don’t be dismissive also but keep it professional. Sharing needs to be very nuanced and balanced because on one hand, forging deeper, more intimate relationships requires self-disclosure and vulnerability; on the other hand, if a work friendship spirals downward, the person can use personal or sensitive information against you. Whatever one shares with work friends, make sure you never dislose information that can create animosity, that is stigmatized, or that could get you fired.

Be mindful of the office hierarchy – Be very careful and know that at the end of the day, your boss or your manager is still in charge. Even if your workplace is very laid-back and your manager your age or even younger, they are still the boss and enforce workplace standards. You can be friendly with your manager or someone who manages but be careful about how your friendship affects your professional relationship and how it may be perceived by coworkers. Make sure that others don’t worry that there’s favouritism at play no matter how equitable things are.

Be mindful about confidentiality – You need to be careful about sharing anything with work friends that you’d like to keep secret from your boss. Even if a colleague assures you of their confidentiality, they may and in most cases will reveal your information if someone asks them or if they have a bone to pick with you at a later stage. Before sharing something with a coworker, ask yourself how much would you want others to know and only share what can be freely shared with everyone. And don’t ever write down anything that you don’t want to be saved for posterity. Remember, what happens on the internet, stays in the internet.

Be mindful about resolving disagreements – In every friendship, disagreements happen, but one should not let personal disagreement mess up professional relationships. Having negative relationships with co-workers is a huge predictor of quitting a job and these relationships can be distracting and de-motivating. So if a work friendship is on the rocks, handle it as calmly and professionally as possible, so you can either salvage the friendship or move on calmly, so it doesn’t impact your work life. Identify the source of the conflict and resolve it professionally. Do not spread gossip or rumors, do not try to get coworkers on your side, or cast your friend in a negative light with a supervisor.

Now that we’ve established how to deal with workplace friendships, let’s see what are their benefits. The benefits of work friends go far beyond having someone who is always willing to loan you their stapler. Research shows that employees who get super close with their co-workers are happier at work, more engaged, better with clients, do better work, and are less injury-prone. A Gallup reports that those without a best friend in the workplace have just a 1-in-12 chance of being engaged. When you find the right balance between personal and professional, you reap the rewards of friendships at work.

Finding a colleague you can be close with means having a go-to person to ask for advice and help. It can be less intimidating to ask a colleague for assistance than to run to your boss every time a minor issue crops up. This is an easy way to reduce the learning curve and get up to speed quickly in a new role. It also means having someone to chat with during the day. Companionship makes the work day pass faster. Having a friend you can gab with means you’ll even look forward to coming to the office. A work friend also increases a greater knowledge of the business and opportunities. If either of you leaves your job, you can be a reference to the other. Also, when both of you move on to different roles, your friendship can progress like a natural friendship, and/or you can keep an eye out for opportunities for one another.

Having friends at work can increase job satisfaction, performance, and productivity, research shows. But it should be treated with care and not become too close with colleagues. According to Gallup, getting a job BFF is one of the most significant factors in employee engagement and satisfaction. There is a concrete link between having a best friend at work, and the effort employees expend in their job. Those who have a best friend at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, have higher well-being, and are less likely to get injured on the job. Women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged compared with the women who say otherwise.

According to Gallup, women who firmly believe they have a best friend at work are less likely to be actively searching for or monitoring job openings, are more associated with their colleagues, respect what is expected of them, and trust their honesty and ethics and are less likely to record a negative daytime experience, such as workplace stress or feeling tired.

Linkedin said having a friend at work boosts employee satisfaction, employee motivation, and productivity, particularly among your younger employees the ages between 18 and 24 as socialising and friendships are critical for moving up the career ladder, according to 1/3 of Millennials. They also found out that 51% of staff maintain contact with former coworkers, resulting in boomerang employees or increased turnover in poor environments.

When you form friendships with colleagues outside of your immediate teams or department, it pens up to sides of the business you wouldn’t normally be able to access. This can help create a more comprehensive understanding of what the company is working towards, and how other departments operate, reveal some of the organisation’s pain points, and help an organisation’s people grow by learning about and appreciating each other’s experiences.

Unfortunately, not everyone wants to be friends with their coworkers, especially in super-competitive work environments. Some people will use even the slightest tidbit of information to get ahead, so before you begin to share important or personal details with someone, make sure you trust them implicitly. Similarly, social media is not an aspect of your life that you should share with everyone. While in the beginning stages of any work relationship or collaboration, you may not want to give a person access to your Facebook or Twitter pages. You should connect with colleagues on LinkedIn, however. The site was built for professional affiliations, so it would be more than wise to add a colleague, but hold off on giving colleagues access to any site that may house personal or social information. Oversharing details of your personal life and finances can come back to haunt you. Sharing personal details with a colleague who you thought had your back can also damage your career prospects if those details are used against you. Many companies are hierarchical, and when it comes to promotions or project assignments, close friendships can sometimes cause friction.

Friendships at work get even trickier for managers and their subordinates. Managers would not want to make it seem like they are giving one person an advantage or a pass for bad behaviour. Being considered too close with a coworker can reflect negatively on you if your friend isn’t viewed in high regard. You may be tarred by association and hurt assignment and project prospects, or prevent you from being included in confidential news if your peers fear it might be leaked to an untrusted colleague. When a work friend starts venting out too much, you run the risk of getting stuck in a negative cycle. Co-ruminating is the process by which friends repeatedly go over a difficult event or emotion. It brings us together and increases friendship satisfaction, but also decreases well being, kicks up a level of depression and anxiety. You need to watch out for that.”

Employee retention is more critical than ever. Another pandemic side effect has been what analysts call the Great Resignation, which in August 2021 saw 4.3 million workers quit their jobs. Even as the unemployment rate starts to even out, worker attitudes have shifted, and money isn’t enough to keep employees anymore.

Having friends at work can be the bright spot of your workday—as long as you take the proper precautions. Making friends at work is easy, and mostly good for you. Compartmentalising life into work and not-work is stressful and potentially unhealthy in the long term. By managing friendships in a professional setting properly, one can have more fun at work, learn to relax a little, and begin to learn things about themselves and the organisation they’re a part of.

What are your thoughts on having friends at work? Is it a yay or a nay? I’d love to hear from you, so please comment below.

Mondays: Dread or Look forward to?


Every Monday morning, across the world, scores of people wake up with a sense of dread. The Monday morning blues refer to a kind of mild depression people feel when it’s time to go back to work or school. They wake up with no enthusiasm for the day and in fact, dread the day.

The term Monday Blues describe a set of negative emotions that many people get at the beginning of the workweek if they’re not happy at work. It contains elements of depression, tiredness, hopelessness and a sense that work is unpleasant but unavoidable. Monday morning blues need not only happen on a Monday, but can happen any time of the week

A 2018 LinkedIn survey found that 80% of professionals experience what they called the Sunday Scaries, a prelude to the Monday morning blues. The Monday Blues are so prevalent that they have become a cultural phenomenon, but they can be much more than just passing tiredness; they are often a serious warning sign that something is not right at work. If you were happy, you’d be excited and energised on Mondays, not tired and depressed. If one is feeling under-appreciated or unsatisfied with their job, it can be especially difficult to start another seemingly endless workweek. And the case of the Monday Blues can have a negative impact on performance and productivity, as well as the people around us.

Countless studies in psychology and neurology have shown that a person’s current emotional state has a huge effect on the quality of their work and when they’re feeling blue they are less productive, less motivated, more pessimistic, less creative, less engaged and learn more slowly. The Monday Blues are contagious and one’s stress or bad mood can drastically change the overall work environment. When one is unhappy at work, it makes it very difficult for those around them to be happy, and oftentimes just one worker with a case of the Mondays can spread the doldrums to the whole team.

So what can one do to help overcome the Monday blues? Read on.

Identify the problem. If you have the Monday Blues most weeks, then this is not something you should laugh off or just live with. It’s a significant sign that you are unhappy at work and you need to fix it or move on and find another job. You need to ask yourself what is wrong and start with making a list of the things that are causing this stress and clarifying what is bothering you can help in trying to be active in finding solutions. It’s a way of empowering one to take charge and try to improve the situation.

Continue with your normal routine over the weekend. One of the reasons why Mondays are so hard is because we often leave all of our normal eating, sleeping, and exercise habits over the weekend. When we eat more, richer food and eat late drink and sleep and wake up late over the weekend, then when Monday morning comes, this catches up and we feel out of sorts. Not to say that this should not be done, but a balance should be found which lets us unwind while still keeping up with major routines.

Disconnect over the weekend. If you are constantly thinking of work and checking work emails when you should be using the weekend to relax, it’s a sign we are setting ourselves up for burnout sooner or later. When we feel stressed just thinking of work on Sunday, it’s a clear indication that we need to have stricter boundaries between work and play. One way to break the habit is to try turning off email notifications on Friday evening and unplugging from any work-related problems to focus on personal time over the weekend. Drawing clearly defined boundaries between work and personal time can help keep things in check.

As a piece of contrary advice to the above one, sometimes, when you know you have a big week ahead of you, you can get a head start on important tasks, but only if it is absolutely necessary. Maybe an hour or so on Sunday to plan the week and get some work done to take some of the pressure off come Monday. If this is something you would do once a while, make sure you spend one day relaxing and then work a bit the other day. You can also prepare for the next week on Friday evenings, by taking five or 10 minutes to prepare for the next week by straightening up the workspace, tying up loose ends and making a to-do list. Investing this time will help ease the mind for the next 48 hours.

If Monday mornings or Sunday evenings are usually scary and full of anxiety, then take some time to really think about what’s causing this anxiety. When you are able to figure that out, it’s easier to focus on what’s within your control, not on what’s beyond it and certainly not on that which might be based merely on fiction. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, waking up an extra 15 to 30 minutes early on Monday morning can actually make going back to the office easier. Having a little more ‘me time’ instead of feeling like you’re trapped in a time crunch can make that transition a little easier.

Another way to help combat that Monday morning anxiety is to be sure to leave as few dreadful tasks as possible on Friday afternoon so by taking care of the things you least want to handle at the end of one workweek, you’re making the start of the next that much better.

Don’t mess with your sleep cycle. An obvious thing, but not feeling well-rested can have a huge impact on how you feel come Monday morning. Experts advise keeping the sleep and wake schedule close to what it is during the week to avoid messing up your internal clock. Also, it is recommended that you wake up at the same time each day, even over weekends, so your body internal clock is still in sync. Even if you are unable to stick to the exact same routine, avoid going to bed more than an hour or two later than you would during the week.

Avoid overscheduling on Monday. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when you’re flooded with meetings after coming back from a relaxing weekend, so whenever possible, try to avoid scheduling meetings or big tasks on Monday. It is also a good idea to make sure all the tasks scheduled for the week are completed before you start enjoying your weekend. If this is an issue, then using time management tools may help track activities and schedule events easily. This will help you to come into Monday with more ease from the weekend. Instead of tackling the biggest and most complicated tasks early on Monday, take some time for easier, more routine stuf. This might get you up and running and give you the energy for the more difficult or unpleasant tasks. But if you do have any unpleasant tasks awaiting your attention Monday morning, get them done as early as possible so that you don’t spend the rest of the day procrastinating or feeling as if there’s a black cloud hanging over your head. You’ll feel a lot better once it’s over.

Have fun at work. Take it upon yourself to do things that you enjoy in the office on Monday. Create an event that you will look forward to on Mondays as a way to break up the day with some known positivity. At the very least, it gives you a chance to take a deep breath, talk with a friend, and regroup for the rest of the day.

Write down your feelings. When our minds are overactive and we start overthinking, we can’t relax and destress, especially over the weekend. In such cases, jotting down your worries, can calm the mind and even make you more productive. I generally use Google Docs for this, but you can use the good old pen and paper or any other way to write down your thoughts and once you do that, the concerns and anxieties will feel much smaller and more manageable and the mind is clearer and calmer. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the simple act of journaling can help to manage anxiety, reduce stress and cope with depression.

Another way to beat the Monday Blues is to make a list of the things you’re excited about. We often look at the week ahead of us and think of all the tough stuff we have to do and the difficult tasks ahead of us, so we can just turn that around. On Sunday evening, make a list of three things you look forward to at work that week and this might put you in a more positive mood. If you can’t think of three things you look forward to, that might be an indication that you need to make some changes.

Dress for success. Mondays are when you should wear your favourite or a new outfit. It will perks you up and lets you be positive and also help others be positive. This can also help build your confidence because when you look good, you feel good and feeling good about yourself is half of the battle on Monday mornings, because rather than being deflated by work you want to face it with confidence.

Start the week out with an attitude of gratitude and take time to recognise and appreciate the things that you enjoy about work. Be positive and start even before you get into work. Try listening to favourite songs, with some upbeat, high-energy music into your morning preparation or commute to pump yourself up. And when you get into office, don’t listen to other people’s Monday gripes because creating or contributing to a culture of complaining is no way to improve your attitude. Make someone else happy and do something nice for someone else as soon as you get to work on Monday. This will definitely can lift the spirits and could actually help shift the overall mood. Research shows that according to positive psychology one of the best ways to cheer yourself up is to make someone else happy.

Have a post-work plan. Your day shouldn’t just be about trudging through Monday to get it over with, but about looking forward to something. By making Monday a special day where you get to go out with friends, make your favourite dinner, or eat a bowl of popcorn and catch up on a TV show you recorded, the day doesn’t have to be all about getting up to go into the office.

So here are some things you can do to get out the funk of the Monday Blues and have a great week.

The Good and the Bad: Boss Edition

It is often said people don’t leave bad organisations, but leave bad bosses. And this is so true. When coworkers get together, stories are bandied about bosses and rarely are good managers discussed, but the spotlight is mostly on bad bosses. Many bosses fall into the bad boss category because they fail to provide clear direction, regular feedback, recognition for contributions, and a strategic framework of goals that enable their employees to see their progress. These kinds of bad bosses are what are called generic bad bosses because all employees need these types of support and feedback, and they suffer when they don’t receive it.

I’ve had my fair share of bosses, both good and bad. In my first job, we were a very young team, all of us fresh out of school and in our first jobs. The company was also a fairly young one, but the management were not very young, they had about a decade plus experience and you could probably call them middle management. While we didn’t really really report to them, they oversaw our work. My expectations with managers and bosses are most likely influenced by how they interacted with us. They were friendly and fair and had an open office policy. But one thing really stands out for me and is something that has been a sort of guiding principle for me all these years.

The office was a split office, with us in the ground floor and the managers and finance people in level 2. Officially the office would end at 5:30 pm and at 6 pm, one of the bosses, lets call him D would come down to go back home and if he saw us around, we would have to have a good reason why we were still around. 90% of the time, we were around, because we were hanging out with each other. Except for one, none of us were married and had no responsibilities, so there was no pressure to get out of the office and go home.

When D saw us hanging around, not leaving the office, he would ask us why were still there and used to say something like this. I am paraphrasing this, but he would say that if you are staying late because you have too much work, then there could be two reasons for this. One because you have too much on your plate or two because you have not finished your work in the scheduled hours of work. In both cases, we should have a talk, because if you have too much work, then we need to figure out how to reduce your workload and if it’s the second reason, then we also need to talk about why you are not able to finish your work on time. This is something that has always resonated with me and I have always tried to be as productive as possible while at work and leave on time as much as possible.

Another manager who made an impact in my life was someone who was my manager for the longest period of time. I was also in this organisation the longest, for almost a decade and of the multiple managers whom I reported to, this one was the one I reported to the longest. He was fair, but had his faults, the biggest of which was playing favourites. While I was not a favourite, I was also on his dislike list and so I escaped some of the worst things he said to others. From him I learnt how not to play favourites, especially when hiring people for the organisation and to not enable them so much they they believed to be above all others. He used to catch up with us every time he passed through Singapore but died a few years back.  

The third manager was someone whom I reported to for less than a couple of years, but he was a peer in terms of age. A very supportive manager, he gave me more responsibilities when he saw I could handle them and also credit where it is due. I learnt a lot from him, especially on how to manage people as he was someone who was friendly with everyone and even learnt some of the finer points of office politics from him. Unfortunately after about two years of reporting to him, he was transferred to a different country, but we are still in touch.

The last manager I was to talk about was the most toxic one. I have written about this person previously and even today, years after I left the organisation, I still have nightmares about how they used to literally torture me there. I can now think about them without my heart palpitating and getting stressed out, but it took me many years to get there.

Bosses are just like people, there are good ones and bad ones. A good boss or manager will set clear expectations from their subordinates, coach and give feedback, is inclusive and recognises efforts made by those reporting to him, knows his reportees, especially their talents and what they are good at and most importantly is there for them and takes a stand when it is needed.

A bad boss on the other hand, is everthing but what a good boss is. A boss is the umbilical cord that connects employees to an organisation, and if that cord is damaged, the employees will eventually leave. So if you are one of the lucky employees who has a great boss, don’t take that relationship for granted and show your boss how much you appreciate them.

Lessons I learnt from the Corporate World

We have been spending some time recently talking about work and the working life, especially since GG & BB will start their six-month industrial attachment next year and I thought that some of what we discussed could be of use to others, especially someone who is either just entering the corporate space or are a few years in and want to succeed in their careers.

In no particular order, here’s what I have learnt:

  • Be good to those below you more than those above you. Treat everyone with the respect you expect from them for yourself. Be nice to everyone, you never know when you are being judged.
  • Be careful when you work with friends, it may sometimes end badly
  • Keep your opinions about others to yourself and never share it with anyone else at work
  • Don’t Gossip! Especially in the pantry and public spaces, you never know who could be listening
  • Office politics is a fact of life and you can’t escape it. Learn to play the game
  • Network, network and then network some more. As you grow in your career, your networks will become more and more useful and informative.
  • Make your boss look good. That’s the key to success because they are the only ones who will battle for you and promote you. Make sure you know what your boss needs to accomplish and do your best to help them accomplish it.
  • Document everything! Your wins, commendations, compliments and learnings.
  • Train someone else to do your job and do it well. Because if you are irreplaceable in your position, you will never move up because there is nobody else to do what you are doing and doing best.
  • Any organisation you work for is not running a charity, they are here to make money and you have also been hired for that reason. You are hired because you have something that the organisation needs and any employment is a two-way process, one where both parties benefit.
  • Be reliable, be punctual and if you give someone a deadline, make sure you stick to it and in fact try to finish your work before the deadline.
  • Under promise and over deliver. It’s very simple actually. If you think you need 2 days to get a task done, ask for three days. This way, you have an extra day for any unforeseen circumstances that may come up and you are prepared and if all goes well, you get the task done ahead of your deadline, making you look super-efficient.
  • Become friends with all the secretaries, PAs and other co-ordinators. They will help you in tight spots and are also a good source of information that may not be found elsewhere.
  • Stay calm, cool and collected even if you are a withering mass inside. Be like the swan who looks calm and placid above the water, but is furiously paddling below it.
  • Leave your emotions at the door when you enter your place of work. Always think twice when you send emails or make phone calls when you are angry or upset. One tip I use during these times is to type your email first without typing in the email address and keep it aside for a while. Then when you are in a better frame of mind, edit the email, add the email address and send it.
  • Be well-dressed at work. Stand out, but not in the wrong way. If your work environment is conservative, then don’t wear outlandish clothes and vice-versa. Discreet jewellery, perfume and clothes which are classic will be better than fast fashion.
  • You are your own brand, so everything you do, say, write, dress, behave showcases the brand. So, create the brand that resonates with your work environment and maybe a couple of steps above your current role and stay true to your brand image at all times.
  • Have a life outside the office. You are not just a corporate drone, you should and must have a life outside of work. Have a hobby and do something that is totally unrelated to what you do at work.
  • Ask and encourage feedback from your managers because sometimes there may be something that you don’t see, but someone more experienced may instantly see.
  • Share successes, especially when you work as a team. When you do this, you let others share the glory and they will feel part of the successful project. Also, it never helps to have people think positively about you and your ethics. Giving others a chance to claim credit is an easy and effective way to magnify results.
  • Never stop learning. Every opportunity, good or bad teaches you something, even if it is what not to do, so don’t stagnate and become too comfortable in your job.
  • Always look at the bright side, and the positive side of things. Don’t get bogged down by pessimism. When days, weeks or even months are difficult, take heart and the hardest times will pass.
  • Focus on what you do best and try to compensate for your weaknesses. Nobody is perfect and everyone has some areas they are not good at, so amplify your strengths and work on the weaknesses.
  • Procrastination is something all of us are prone to, but procrastination has clear repercussions in the workplace resulting in challenges such as falling behind tasks. So, make sure you have clear daily goals which you tick off before you start slacking.
  • Failure is not the death kneel of your career. You will fail and multiple times in your career, but don’t stress about them. With no mistakes, there would be no opportunity to learn. Every failure gives you the chance to grow both personally and professionally.
  • Speak up. In meetings, in discussions and anyplace where you may have some input. This is not the time to be shy and refrain from speaking. If you have something to add to the discussion, make sure you put your point across. It may not be accepted, but for every ten points you put across, maybe one will be the one that is what was needed. But also ensure that when you speak, you understand what is being said and don’t speak illogically and nonsense.
  • Proactively seek new responsibilities, but only if you can handle. Conversely, don’t take up anything and everything that is thrown your way. Learn to say no to those above you if you are unable to manage or are hitting way above your weight and expertise.
  • Learn that everyone is expendable. If you don’t go to work, your organisation will not shut down, they will move on. But if you are not around, your family will be extremely affected and will find it very hard to move on. So don’t prioritise your job over your family.
  • Never burn bridges. You never know when you may have to go back to someone you have fought with, bad-mouthed or just generally been unpleasant to. People remember and will take their revenge when its their turn.
  • Work hard when you are at work, and when you leave the office, try to turn off. Most importantly have fun doing what you are doing and the eight or nine hours you spend at work won’t feel very long.
  • Stay two steps ahead. No matter what we do, success is less about any given moment and more about the next. Learn to anticipate what your manager or customer needs before they know how to ask for it and that’s one of the quickest ways to distinguish yourself in the workplace. Take initiative and don’t wait around to be told what to do, but at the same time, don’t make any assumptions, either.
  • Don’t take anything personally. Be professional, even when you think someone is out to get you.
  • Don’t trust anyone, especially at work. Everyone is looking out for themselves and a someone you consider a friend can easily throw you under a bus to save themselves. And at the same time, there’s a well know saying which is apt here to keep your friends close and enemies closer and is 100% true in a corporate setting.
  • Listen more and speak less. We have been given two ears and a mouth for a reason. So listen more than you speak and actually listen instead of rehearsing what you are going to say. At the same time, pay attention to what is happening around you and you will never be caught off guard.
  • Never betray anyone’s trust. Keep other people’s secrets as well as your own, and don’t share information that was given to you in confidence
  • Keep your social media to your social circle. Don’t ever add your co-workers and bosses to your social media platforms. You wouldn’t want them to know what is going on in your life which can give them ammunition to hurt or harm you. This doesn’t include LinkedIn as that is a work social platform.
  • Be flexible. Have an opinion, but don’t have hard opinions.
  • Don’t run after money. No doubt having money in the bank and being financially independent is important, but don’t let money dictate what you are in life and what you want to do in life. Let money be an accessory, not the focus.
  • Go the extra mile. Nobody ever achieved success by doing the bare minimum. Go above and beyond and you will be rewarded in one way or another.
  • Last, keep your goal in front of you and remember that whatever you do, you need to be true to yourself

So, there you have it, 40 lessons I learnt while in the corporate world. I am going to share it with BB & GG and their friends. Hope this was useful to you too. If you have more lessons from the corporate world, please share in the comments below.