Advice from Sun Tzu

“Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” (Sun Tzu)

Have you seen those in power turn a blind eye? Had a shifty colleague you couldn’t trust? Ever felt the tension grow so great between colleagues that people don’t talk to each other, let alone cooperate?

My friend once had a boss keep her team late after Friday morning staff meeting. By late, I mean they were not dismissed until after midnight. Holding people hostage in a conference room is fuckery.

Annie had a huge heart and was committed to the organization’s mission to serve the community. She was equally committed, however, to everyone getting along; she buried disagreement and alternative ideas. Avoiding conflict is fuckery, as is hiding your feelings beneath a smile.

Hector works at a company where the human resources department lost the trust of many employees. People used HR to hurt others, knowing information would not be held in confidence but shared with the CEO and others. Gossiping is fuckery.

Pete grumbled to his team in disgust, “We should hang a sign on the side of the building that says, ‘WE HIRE STUPID PEOPLE.’” I wish this was an exception, but Jon's heard an executive criticize, “We are not smart enough to be in this business,” and stomp out of the room. Intimidation and belittling others is fuckery; it's demoralizing. Fuckery is toxic. It puts our integrity and trustworthiness on the line. It causes us to lose sleep and throws off our focus. Ignored or condoned, fuckery gains momentum, leaving us feeling isolated or helpless, unable to see our way through it. Folks, this is not on the map when we take a leadership position, but fuckery is part of the territory. Colin Powell’s List of 13 Life Rules or leadership lessons from Hillary Clinton do not include, “Leaders must be savvy and versatile in handling fuckery of varying frequency and magnitude,” but any list that doesn’t include this is incomplete. Actually, any list that doesn’t lead off with that falls short.


Excerpted from our forthcoming business guide, Fuckery. For more on recognizing and reducing the bad habits that divide teams and destroy trust, follow us on Facebook.

© Lori Eberly and Jonathan Sabol