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“What would Frank Underwood do?”

In case you are wondering who Frank Underwood is, he is the brilliant yet ruthless politician played by Kevin Spacey on the Netflix Series, House of Cards. Over the last two seasons, he has manipulated, bargained and pressurised equally craft politicians around him to become the President of the United States.

Before we get to other things, let us look at ourselves.

If we started work recently, it may be shocking to most of us that the quality of our work seem to matter very little in the exposure inside the company. Subtle things occurring below the surface invisible to us seem to result in promotions and annual bonuses. Before we want to say “School days were the best” and give up, what if we could learn the game and play the system ?

There is a lot to be learnt from the “House of Cards” and Frank Underwood, although a fictional character might be the next Sun Tzu. Let us look at some of his “teachings” combined with lessons from another powerful book “48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene to see if we can understand and ace the system.

Rule #1 There Is But One Rule: Hunt or Be Hunted


Call it “Survival of the Fittest” or anything else, it is a war out there. Once you leave the protective umbrella of home, you must know that nobody really cares for you. Every time you get a pay raise or a bonus, it is not because someone likes you, but rather it seems profitable according to someone’s cost-benefit analysis. Remember while negotiating, it is pointless to appeal to someone’s sentiments but useful to illustrate to them what benefit you can bring.

Rule #2 Identify the Source of Power: Be Close to it


In any organization, there are two types of people: some who get promoted quickly and some who have to forever wait their turn.

The people who get promoted are not necessarily the more talented ones or the one bringing in the most profits. Deep inside the framework of the organization, there is a constant power struggle in place and your job is to understand the power dynamics. You have to identify the people who yield the real power and create a personal network with them. You need these “Godfathers” for the future, your visibility to them will determine all the progress in the company.

Even if your manager absolutely loves you, if he yields no power, you and him will be stuck there forever.

Rule #3 Avoid Stepping into A Great Man’s Shoes 


Every organizations have their legends. Mr X who was incredible in their work and even after they left, people cannot stop talking about him. Avoid taking over a project started by this legend. Chances are you will never be able to live up to the standards and fantasy of the image created by this missing person.

Every effort of yours will look insufficient and you will be scrutinized harshly because of the comparison. Instead, take on a project which people have tried and failed in. If you are successful, not only do you break the preconceived notion of the “impossible project” but also become the new legend.

Rule #4 Create an Aura of Mystery and Effortlessness


There are those types in the company, who constantly look distressed and in a mess. Keep your troubles and insecurities to yourself and guard it well. Create an aura of mystery where you look like a super genius who have to put minimum effort to get the work done.

Nobody needs to know that you spent the entire weekend on your laptop on Google trying to find the solution for the problem or called your friends in the US for the solution. Never brag about how much effort you put, because in the last 100 years, we have moved from the sweat shop mentality where hours were respected to a more result based reward system.

Rule #5 Be Indispensable

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We are in a world where you and me are dispensable and easily replaceable. To survive, we have to crawl out of the crowd of dispensable and easily replaceable office drones.

Steve Martin, comedian, actor and a talented banjo player once said “Be So Good That They Cannot Ignore You”.

Keeping this mantra in mind, be amazing, always do work that probably justifies twice or at least one and a half times the salary you earn. People should be so dependant on you that the whole system should almost collapse once you are on vacation or you resign. For your survival, do not volunteer all the information you know but withhold some. Armed with the complete information, your manager might think you are replaceable.

Sick of Office Politics?

If you think all this is beyond you and you rather live a peaceful life where everyday is not a chess game, you should think of starting a business of your own and create your own rules. For the rest who needs to stay in large organizations and think you can crack the system, look out next week for our “5 More Ways to Conquer Office Politics” here on Vulcan Post.

Also read: Why do companies hire you?

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)