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Eight Corporate Laws of Gravity

Gravity is an unfair limitation on our freedom. After all, we had no say in the matter at all; we didn’t ask to be this heavy.

Gravity is a natural law, and we can’t repel it. Yet every day, people are making themselves miserable with futile struggles against the natural laws of business and human behavior. When you fight gravity, you’re apt to end with a busted head.

Every job has its gravity, its natural laws: divisions of loyalty, compromises, unfairness—the rules that won’t be changed, whether you like them or not.

We always have a choice about whether to act on them, but we have no choice about whether these urges exist.

Following are a few corporate laws of gravity about which the corporate universe says to you,

“You have two choices here: like ’em or lump ’em. That’s just the way things are.”

1. There ain’t no justice.

Fairness is a human construct; it doesn’t apply to the machinations of the gods or the company.

A fundamental rule of business is that the bottom line, rather than the moral or aesthetic value of a particular idea, will dictate corporate decisions. Companies are for profit, and even the not-for-profit companies are more and more required to be efficient. The first and often last question asked about any new idea or change is, How much will it cost? You need to realize this, have gravity on your side and be ready with an answer. Better yet, have some idea about how your proposed change will make money or save money over a period of time. You should be a firm believer in the long-term view and idea that good ethics make good business. It is still up to you to demonstrate your contentions are correct rather than expecting people to accept your ideas because they are right.

Opportunities go not to the most qualified but to the people who promote themselves the best and are in the right place at the right time.

This may be unfair, but it is definitely not accidental. If you want to get anywhere, you have to learn how to promote yourself and to keep looking for the right place and time. There will be a lot of people who don’t play by the rules, and absolutely nothing happens to them. Try as you might, you may not be able to motivate anybody to curtail his or her activities or see that anyone gets a well-deserved comeuppance. This presents you with a moral dilemma: Does the fact that somebody else got away with illegal or immoral behavior mean that you have the right to do it too? Does the lack of enforcement make it somehow less immoral?

2. Nothing ever happens the way it’s supposed to.

Count on the fact that your job will change. You will always have to do things that aren’t in your job description just to be allowed to do the things that are. All instructions that you will ever be given will leave out at least one or two crucial items. Many of the most important questions will never be answered.

3. People will not do what they should do.

The rules that you follow are not necessarily those that the universe follows. People will do what they are sufficiently rewarded to do. This is where virtue being its own reward comes in. Or they will do what is easiest. A corollary to this is, tasks that are not checked will not be done. Most people will leave most things until the last minute. If there is no time limit, then the task will await judgment day for completion.

4. People will consider their own feelings and best interests before they consider yours.

This is true even of close friends and family. Never assume malicious intent when ignorance is sufficient to explain. People will come to you for favors but will not be as ready to do favors for you when you come to them as you were to do favors for them when they came to you.

People will tell you their problems but will never be available to listen to yours. If you tell somebody at work something in confidence and it’s of any importance, it will get out. If you are abrasive and aggressive, nobody will ever come and tell you. That’s because they’re afraid of you. If you want to form an alliance, make a group cohesive or start a friendship, you will have to do all the work.

It will seem that you’re the one who always has to do all the phone calling, planning or grunt stuff. If you feel that way, it means you’re doing it right. If you’re on a committee, you’ll have to do most of the work, but you’ll have to divide the credit.

5. Wherever there are people, there will be politics.

That’s really what this book is about. The Dinosaur Brain thinking is the source of politics. You might as well know the rules because you will have to live by them.

6. There will never be time of smooth sailing.

As soon as one crisis is over, another will move in to take its place. Nature abhors a vacuum. There will never be a good, quiet time to make a change. If you’re waiting for all your work to be done before you take a vacation or do long- term planning, you’ll probably wait forever. This is the problem that workaholics have. It’s not, as popularly believed, that they like to work all the time; they’re just waiting until the work in front of them is done before they stop.

7. The government was not created to make your job easier or more efficient.

8. All the information will never be in.

You’ll never know in advance whether a decision is right or wrong. Most often you have to choose one of the roads and make it the right choice by your actions after the decision is made.

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