Surviving the Corporate Jungle and Winning the Power Game

Why the Corporate Journey is like a Game of Snakes and Ladders

All organisations, big or small, have power centres and interests with differing agendas. In addition, especially in large firms, there are multiple power centres and senior executives with agendas of their own who jockey for the available resources and promotions to them and their coteries.

This determines the career progression of many who have to learn to play the corporate power game if they are to reach the top. Indeed, the corporate jungle is a term used to describe how the internal dynamics of corporates work and how one must be on the right side of the power centres if one wants to get ahead.

Moreover, the corporate world has also been described as a game of Snakes and Ladders where the smart moves lead to promotions and progress and those who cannot play the game, are relegated to the sidelines.

Therefore, aspiring professionals must learn from an early age to know how to play the corporate game and how to get ahead in the uber competitive corporate jungle.

This is the reason why many business schools have an informal learning experience that includes the real education of the management students as they learn to survive and prosper in their careers ahead.

Interpersonal Skills, Merit, and a Bit of Political Sense Can take you Places

Having said that, one must not get too carried away by thinking that all it takes to survive the corporate world is to be a politician or a powerbroker.

While there is certainly some truth to the fact that much of one’s success in the corporate world depends on soft skills, charisma, and power management, merit too matters and what more, in many organisations, it is the only thing, or by far, the most important thing that matters.

On the other hand, even very leading corporates such as Google, Facebook, Infosys, and Microsoft are known to be political organisations where the survival strategies for professionals depends as much on their ability as their skill in interpersonal relations and how they navigate the treacherous waters of the organisational ocean.

Indeed, the ability to keep different factions in good humour and the skill in playing the corporate game matter a lot as far as getting ahead to senior positions in the corporate hierarchy is concerned.

This is the reason why many Board Members and Senior Executives often have their own coteries and followers who literally follow them into and out of the company.

Real World Examples from the Corporate World

For instance, Vishal Sikka, the Ex CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Infosys had brought with them a large number of senior executives from SAP where he was working earlier.

While many old hands in Infosys chafed at being sidelined after the exit of the Founders, there was precious little they could do about it.

However, once Sikka left the company, there were many who followed suit.

Next, Google’s Sundar Pitchai is often mentioned as someone who has the knack of playing the power game well. Indeed, most tech firms these days are filled with so many bright and talented professionals that when the push comes to shove and the senior positions are decided, more than ever, it is their ability to balance the factions that determines their promotions or otherwise.

For those of you who are interested in knowing more on how the internal dynamics play out in corporates, Glassdoor is an excellent website that has reviews (often anonymously) from insiders about the corporate culture and the different power games going on there.

Moreover, while the media does tend to report now and then on such matters, it is better to trust the grapevine either online or physical to know more about how such power dynamics play out.

How Political is Your Firm and Why That Matters

In case you are wondering whether getting ahead is all about power dynamics, rest assured that many legends in the corporate world actively seek to ensure that their firms are as less political as possible.

Indeed, even in Citibank where the politics matches those in the real world, there are attempts from time to time to ensure that the workplace culture is not vitiated too much by such power games.

In our experience in working there, we found that large and unwieldy organisations often lead to power games being played and this is the reason why some firms such as Fidelity have embarked on a mammoth reorganisation strategy so that all competing factions can be balanced out and then they can focus on why they are in business, and that is to do business.

Therefore, our intention here is not to scare those who feel that they lack the necessary abilities to play politics and instead, what we want to convey is that with talent and abilities, it is also necessary to have good interpersonal skills and the ability to get along with all, irrespective of differences, and the ability to keep calm and cool when faced with political games.


Last, it is human nature and the nature of groups that whenever there is a gathering of people, invariably, politics comes into play.

Therefore, it is important to note that one must cultivate the art and the knack of dealing with people of different temperaments and not let personality clashes get the better of you.

As research shows that employees tend to leave because of their bosses instead of the organisations, it is important to understand the power dynamics at work.

To conclude, surviving the corporate jungle can be tough, but, with a little experience, one can do that with aplomb.

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