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How to Keep Your Job and Survive at Work

I stumbled upon an interesting article last week that compared surviving corporate politics and how to keep your job to the Survivor series television show.

The article title caught my attention right away and I must say that I agree with most of what it discussed after I finished reading it.

Although this post has nothing to do with making extra money in your spare time, because most readers of this blog have full time jobs and corporate careers, I felt this post would appeal and benefit my readers.

This article talked about how current lifestyle demands and economic conditions have led to all-time lows in job satisfaction throughout the country. The article then went into details about why most people feel stuck at their corporate jobs and can’t quit and walk away mainly because they managed to work themselves into this situation. Many move for jobs into expensive housing markets, high taxing jurisdictions, and have no option but to stay on the job to pay the bills.

While the article highlighted the challenges, it also talked about those who enjoy what they do and are good at their jobs.  Like I’ve always said, as many downsides there are to working in the corporate world, there is still a lot to be said about a successful career.  The article tied the two types of people together and indicated that no matter which one you identify with, the goals of each are common – and that is to survive the office politics and keep the job.

Enter Survivor Television Series

Survivor is a reality television based game show played by real people.  A group of people are left alone in a secluded location far away from home, and contestants can win immunity and rewards through various competitions.  With each passing week, contestants vote a member to leave the team.

People are voted off either because they add little or no value to the team or they pose a threat to the person who votes them off.  The last survivor wins a million dollars, is called a “Sole Survivor” and gets tons of publicity (maybe an advertising gig or two, or a book deal down the road).

Office Survivor Rules to Keep Your Job

There are a few key takeaways from the long list provided in the article that I whole heartedly agree with. These are painful bits of reality that you already can relate to or will soon come to realize.  The sooner you understand the “game” and how to play it in your favor, the better it will be for your career in the corporate world and the longer you can keep your job.

The first rule to keep your job is to align yourself with your boss or the authority of power at your workplace.  No, I know it is not fair that favoritism exists, but frankly the sleazy ones are the ones who survive (pardon my French).  In a hierarchical organization, it’s all about who has the power and who that person likes.  In order to be liked, people underneath do all kinds of things and go to all lengths of extent.

This is where the phrase “brown nosing” comes from if you know what I mean?  Heck I’ll just say it – it’s about “Kissing A$$”. Like anything else, there are exceptions out there, but for the most part you need to identify who holds the power and then do what you can to become their favorite.  At the least, be on their “likeable” list. People often say it’s who you know, not what you know.

The second rule I’d like to share to keep your job is not to fight the system, rather work it to your advantage.  I understand you may have that fire under the belly and the boiling urge to bring about change.  But chances are that your bosses are comfortable where they are and the way things are. So don’t aggravate them and go against them. Rather, use your charm and charisma to become likeable.

Being outspoken doesn’t always work, especially in conference rooms.  There is a right place and a right time to open your mouth, so while that time is not in the office, focus office hours on earning brownie points.  Thank your boss, attribute and vocalize some of your success to them, and then use them to get things done 😉

This third one is HUGE.  Always look like you are busy and working hard. How do you do this? Unfortunately the only way (or the best) is to put in face time. Get in before the boss and leave after – same old traditional advice and nothing new.  But here is something new.

Say you are done with your “day job”; spend a couple extra hours in the office working on your side gig.  Though it will appear you are toiling for the “man”, you are really working on your financial future.  Just make sure you disconnect the internet in case your company tracks computer usage closely.

Another tip: if you have to do some email, (especially to your boss), draft them up while at the office, or get ahead with some work but don’t release or submit it.  Instead, wait until the deadline nears and then send it the night before from home.  Similarly with email, draft the copy in the office, then go home and send it late evening.  This will make it seem you are always working.  Bosses love that!  Perception plays a huge part in how you are seen by Management, which helps you keep your job longer and thrive within.

Blend in with the crowd.  Do not stick out like a sore thumb and get yourself in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.  Bosses like herd mentality and they like to be in control.  So show them that you are part of the obedient herd under his or her control.  Ambitious, independent thinking and acting individuals like you are seen as threats to the Boss.  So don’t give your boss a reason to notice you in a bad way. Put in the face time, participate in the water cooler talks and stay on the radar collectively along with the others.

The fifth rule is to be careful when, how and to whom you vent your feelings.  Backstabbers are roaming freely all around you and you don’t even know it.  Yes, people will deceive others to save themselves.  Your “bestest” buddy at work will do it so beware.  It is often the sweetest ones who know a lot about you who will end up stabbing you.  It’s all about survival, so if you want to survive at work and keep your job, keep your feelings between you, your spouse and Marley.


What I didn’t tell you was that the only person to win the Survivor challenge twice is Sandra, a mother of two who never won a single competition or challenge throughout the entire season.  The Japanese have a saying that goes something like this:  “The nail that sticks its head out usually gets hit by the hammer”.  Sandra stayed well under the radar, followed the basic tenets of survivorship and with some luck became the winner.

So while there are many Sandra’s out there that manage to survive the hot political climate and persevere through the end despite realizing the hell they are in, others decide to move in another direction.  Some do not “play” the game well to begin with and are ousted rather early, while others start out playing hard but get sick and tired of it at some point. Hence, people leave bad jobs all the time in search for happiness in their next job, often times for less money. However if you want to survive at work where are are and keep your job, you will have to become like Sandra.

You may have already guessed where I stand on this issue.  If you love your career and want to work the rest of your life in it, then you must learn the rules of the game inside out and execute them with finesse. Otherwise, I think you play the game for as long as you want to until your side gig experiment has developed into a full exit strategy.

Even if the income from your side business has not replaced 100% of the income from your job, the supplemental income it brings allows you to pursue happiness and better balance in life by taking a less paying, but more flexible and satisfying job elsewhere.

Readers: Are you already engaged in any of the activities mentioned above?  Tell us why or why not?  How is it working for you?

Here are some of my thoughts on why you should keep your job while starting a side business at the same time, just in case you don’t survive at work.

Self Surviving

Previous: Why Most People Are Stuck at Their Corporate Jobs Part II

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