Sunday, March 15, 2015

Negotiating corporate system is as difficult as negotiating Government Bureaucratic system

Recently I read an article about an IAS officer of Mr Narayanaswamy on the facebook , who had 'decided' to leave his job for UN posting, because he was not supported by his bosses - both political and bureaucrats. The author of the article asked a question " If honest bureaucrats cannot survive in a system, who will want to do IAS and work for Government?". One reader opined that 'Negotiating Government system is very difficult for normal people'.

However, after coaching for several years, I have met large ( very large) number of corporate professionals who are simply ignorant of the principles of negotiating 'corporate system'. Why? Because the system is invisible. Both corporate and government systems are equally invisible. I have met professionals of the age of 50 who still cannot yet see the invisible 'corporate system'.

We have already seen how the reputation of a person in a system affects his job performance in earlier blog. In this blog we shall see how his 'misalignment' of systems owner affects his job performance.

Align with the ' System owner' who is involved in taking crucial decisions about your future.

In any job of a company, a professional contributes a small 'part' of the total output of the group. Boss on the other hand contributes to the bigger company through the output of entire team. Therefore, it is often the boss who 'determines' how much a professional has contributed. And because this 'evaluation' is done by a person, it is often influenced by subjective elements. No 'objective' method can be designed to evaluate your contribution.That is intrinsic part of any system. Many professionals are very uncomfortable in 'satisfying' the boss. But Boss alone is not alone in the metasystem, Boss's boss also influences boss.

As most of the employees are system-blind, they often miss this task. Many brilliant individuals do their assigned work competently and believe that they have done their duty. When the output is not produced by the team, they blame their boss, claiming that 'he is covering incompetent members in the team'. Some professionals even refuse to do extra work by justifying that ' I am not paid for taking this responsibility'. While some blame boss's dictatorship because 'boss keeps on changing targets all the time'.

On the other hand, a professional who can see the invisible metasystem keeps his ears and eyes open to the system's changing priorities. It may be different than what is 'written' in the job description. If you are a programmer, metasystem may expect you, at some time, to supervise other junior programmers and guide them. Or if you are in sales job, the system owner may expect you to collect the money from existing customers, besides selling them other products, although it is not written in your role description.

Because of this task of negotiating the system owner, you will often observe an interesting paradox in a company. Some employees like Paras, to compensate for their lesser ability, tend to be sensitive to the changing priorities of their boss. Boss therefore perceives them as 'system-friendly' and rewards them liberally. On the other hand, high IQ employees like Mike over-focus on the task-related output ignoring the requirements of the business system, and get penalised by the boss who evaluates them as ' Selfish'. Have you noticed such cases in your company?

What is the difference of system owner in Government and corporate job?

Basically, there are various pros and cons of working in Government versus Corporate job. Job security is high in Government versus Corporate. Public scrutiny is also high in Government job which offers some negotiability to Government officers. On the other hand, there are some 'commonalities' within Government and Corporate jobs.

As the political boss in the Government job can 'demand' impossible things because he is an elected representative, the professional has to be 'smart' enough to 'negotiate' those demands using the framework of Government rules. I have seen many Government offices negotiating these demands smartly. One day I plan to convert these 'tips' into a workshop or seminar for aspiring government officers.


We must appreciate that Systems produce result, not individuals. Whether it is Government system, or corporate system, the nature of system does not change, although some of the rules can change.

Because systems produce result, boss ( system owner) will always remain a crucial cog that can help or hinder the employee. One cannot avoid this truth. One can only negotiate this reality.

Negotiating corporate system is one of the horse that a professional has to ride to succeed in work-life. A professional also has to ride the other three horses to succeed in work-life.

However, system owner is just part of a metasystem. There are other system owners in a company who can also be utilised. Here are six steps to manage a metasystem.

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