Warfare in Workplace

Workplace is a very decent environment with equal and fair treatment among all mates. All your colleagues are honest, straightforward and respectful. Your boss is a one of a kind person who keeps encouraging and motivating you and your colleagues. He/she does not show any sign of favoritism or incivility. He/she does not surround him/herself with “Yes” men and women. Moreover, He/she does not see him/herself as the “smartest person” in the room.Your workplace is bullying and harassment free. The most rewarded person in your workplace is the most loyal and productive one. Keep learning and outperforming in your current position and soon you will be promoted to the higher one.

Hold on for a moment, if you are that person who does believe in all the above mentioned statements, PLEASE stop reading this article and leave immediately. On the other hand, if you don’t have such rosy view about workplace, You are the intended person to continue reading it.

Workplace- like anything else in life- is not perfect. Hence, perceiving it from an idealistic point of view will end up with a lot of sorrows and regrets. on the other side, if you’d like to “Survive” and “Thrive” in your workplace, a more mature pragmatic point of view should apply. But also bear in mind, this is not an open invitation to screw the ethical and moral system you believe in. But it’s rather a feet on the ground point of view.It’s a lethal weapon that could be used to get your right or to steal someone else’s right. And the decision is yours.

The best way to model the workplace is conceptualising it as a warfare. in this war, you have enemies, allies and targets to achieve. And there will be winners and losers in this war. Accordingly, warfare techniques and strategies should be applied in this context. We can identify three distinct stages in this war. Laying a plan, deception and finally evading your enemy. Surprisingly, the second stage is the utmost one among all. we can arguably assign the following weights for the 3 stages respectively: Plan holds 30%, deception holds 60% and finally execution holds the remaining 10%.

  • Laying a Plan

You cannot win a war without a plan in place. This is the only way to avoid inevitable defeat.

It may seem it goes without saying, but in reality, many people just go driven by their norms and instincts to deal with their peers, subordinates and supervisors. Having a plan means that you have a well defined set of targets you need to achieve. The starting point here is to know yourself objectively and honestly. You need to identify your strengths, your weaknesses , the opportunities that you can hunt and the threats that you need to avoid.

It’s said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles; if you don’t know your enemies but know yourself, you will win one battle and lose one; if you don’t know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperilled in every single battle- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

It also means that you have unambiguously  identified your opponents and your allies. Upon identifying your opponents, you need to know what are their strengths and weaknesses and then set your plan to disarm them and overwhelm their defences. As an important part of your plan, you need to classify your opponents according to their degree of adversary. As a rule of thumb, never get engaged in more than ONE battle at a time. Attack your enemies one by one depending on their adversary or harm they could cause to you. And in meanwhile, try to neutralize other enemies during this battle.You should find a convincing ethical and moral covert before making any move. Battlefield also plays a crucial role in success of your plan execution. Never get dragged by  your enemy to a battle field  chosen by your enemy.

Generally, he who occupies the field of battle first and awaits his enemy is at ease; he who arrives later and joins battle in haste is weary. And, therefore, one skilled in war brings the enemy to the filed of battle and is not brought there by him- Sun Tzu, The Art of War 

Another extremely important factor you should master is Timing. You should determine the time to attack. You have to take the initiative and make a surprise that will distract your enemy.

He who knows when to fight and whenNOT to fight will win- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

At last, but not least, you need to invest in establishing an active intelligence system. Knowledge is a competitive advantage in warfare.

  •  Deception

As I mentioned before, deception is the most important part to defeat your enemy. There is a subtle difference between deception and lying. In deception,  you are not telling untrue things, but rather, you are doing things in a way that makes your enemy makes wrongful conclusions on your behalf. Deception is an art for which a few can perform naturally and effortlessly.

All warfare is based on deception. hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when we using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

There are countless tactics for deception. But we can mention the most fundamental types of deception as follows:

  1. There is a degree of deception in silence. The more your talk, the more you become readable. And remember, if a secret moves down from your mind to your tongue, it’s not secret anymore.
  2. Rumours are lethal weapons. Teach yourself how to create, handle and spread rumours. Rumours could be used as smoke detectors to detect or validate facts.
  3. Pretend to be weak. You gain power by pretending to be weak. By contrast, you make people feel strong.
  1. Never be predictable. Avoid making the same response for the same actions and never empty your bucket of mystery.

Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness- Sun Tzu, The Art of the War


  • Execution

This is the last stage of winning your war. what is of supreme importance here is the flexibility and the ability to manoeuvre. The way to avoid what is strong is to attack what is weak. Look for lightly defended positions and launch a frontal attack only when you have  overwhelming superiority. Look for situations where real superiority can be attained. One of the best manoeuvres is to relocate the battle  and change the battle ground in order to gain advantage. Apply overwhelming forces at the decisive place and time.

And always remember, the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.




Kareem Ibrahim