I’m a sucker for political reads and my favorite has always been Robert Green’s 48 Laws of Power. We need to come to the understanding that any human relationship is a political one. Of interests and different power dynamics; sometimes both parties are equal in power but most times they are unequal. The ideal world would have animals and humans live in harmony. Respect each other’s rights we all know these are just interests. As long as we love fried chicken and crocodiles think you’re a snack.
The world’s power will stay unequal forever unless we can create a win-win. The understanding of human relations from a political dynamic may earn you some street cred but also, is essential for survival in a world of Political Correctness. Today we look at unequal relationships and how to hack them outside and inside your professional life without rocking the boat.
An important concept to understand is deference which is the amount of a reverence for authority as socialized in a community. Management studies show that in the US power deference levels are very low. This is gestured by the little or no fear for authority. People are ‘ de facto equal ‘ and US is hence a hotbed for activism due to these freedoms. In Africa, high deference is seen as a way to express respect and the contrary is true. From this cultural perspective, respect is relative. The methods of respect vary depending on a cultural socialization thus understanding the background and preferences of your boss while maintaining your own identity, is key to scoring “employee of the month” thrice in a row.
Laws of power dictate that authority expects
Typically, laws of power dictate that authority expects subordinate to be obsequious in their dealings with them. This obsequy varies from definition in different societies hence the world is in chaos in the age of globalization. Cosmopolitanism is being forged but let’s face it, the basic always remain. Be wise and give your superior a sense of control and authority. It always works in your favor.
Another concept that is pivotal to any relationship regardless of the power dynamic is boundaries. Establishing and reinforcing boundaries does not need to be painful or unkind. Here, I invoke the book titled “Good Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.” This point is best put across from a gendered perspective. With a female subordinate, boundaries go beyond keeping it professional to how you are perceived from your tone, dress code even posture; endeavor to give off an assertive aura over a self-demeaning one again, optics. That said, in the reverse where the male is the subordinate often sexual harassment is ruled out too soon. Where systems cannot draw the lines for us we have to put our feet down while maintaining that power dynamic because sometimes we do not have options to choose from.
On boundaries and power dynamics
On boundaries and power dynamics, recognize that power can be wielded as hard; confrontational and violent or as soft; passive and elusive. I would recommend the latter and boy does it always work. If you have trouble reading social cues to know people’s vantage points read “The Science of Human Nature”. Psychology knowledge is also a social currency and can buy you advantage in human relations.
It gives you an edge into reading patterns that open you up to one’s desires and insufficiency. Understanding our bosses idiosyncrasies as they would be called in a political Science class, is a tell for their likely biases including their political affiliations. The ability to make people do your bidding willfully is power by definition. Artificial Intelligence can never replace Human Intelligence.
Gifting! Yes you got it! It is not everyone’s love language but one in a while appreciation is a given need of every human being. The fact the gift; could be material or an act of service creates a debt deficit. This tilts the power dynamic and allows you the advantage should you ever need a favor to redeem. In power relations, promises and unredeemed favors hold people ransom.
Avoid making promises you cannot deliver on and pay back any favors rendered on your terms or someone else will define them tailored to their own interests as well. With such aces up your sleeve, always have in mind exactly what you need. When the day comes and I know it will, you will leverage on that opportunity without regrets.
An extra tip is the unrelated factors
An extra tip is the unrelated factors. We are talking external factors take for example office politics. Colleagues can play dirty sometimes out of bias spite or envy. This could come from dissatisfaction in their relationships with you and it is up to you to decide when to use carrot or stick. Incentivizing benefits to not being a target in the office by being “nice” can save you a lot of trouble. Avoid making enemies unnecessarily as even the pesky ones would help you one day so be discrete about your biases.
Being popular makes you most likely to be promoted! If that fails and the environment is beyond toxic avoid washing your dirty linen in public; no relationship drama, keep up appearances and save your pity parties for your friends outside your professional life. The mystery earns you respect. If the beans are already spilled and there’s grapevine going around, emphasize what you would like believed and deny fervently what you would like forgotten. This creates so much doubt that the “allegations “seem baseless.
Do not forget to respect your boss
In the future, do not forget to respect your boss relative to their beliefs, set and enforce boundaries by wielding soft power so that the relationship is beneficial to you both and finally learn to gift them occasionally to create a bond outside the professional power dynamic. Reading this you probably run the risk of seeing people as objects or life as one big chess game and all that matters is that you win. Maybe you are right but I will warn you; power like anything else can corrupt.
The love of it turns the most popular people into opportunists. At every step when you make concessions and cross lines, know that in this liberal world we live in, our freedoms and rights give us absolute power over our decisions. Be sure to make those that you can live with. See you at the top!