12 Biggest Lessons from the Corporate World

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Written by Seun Oyediran

12 Biggest Lessons from the Corporate World

More often than not, we learn our biggest lessons the hard way. From realizing that fire burns to experiencing some dazzling electric shocks, our childhood must have taught us many memorable lessons. Well, the corporate world is no different. It handles the ignorant and uninitiated in the same way a candle fire will – e no dey look face or intention. So, from mistakes that can cost you your job to those that can leave you wallowing in debt, you must realize that the corporate world is a place to tread carefully. 

With most people accommodating fairy tales in their heads about how the corporate world works, it becomes important to become a voice crying in the wilderness. What comes to mind when you hear the term “Corporate World”? Perhaps a fun-filled environment with a warm touch of camaraderie, hot coworkers, and opportunity for growth, right? Well, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news; but nothing could be farther from the truth. Let me loosely describe the corporate world as a place of competition, betrayals, and stifled growth. 

The corporate world is replete with examples of people who learned their biggest lessons the hard way. However, this doesn’t have to be you. You do not need to learn your lessons from the corporate world the hard way. You can learn 12 of the biggest lessons from the corporate world to avoid making any costly mistake. So, welcome to the corporate world!

The Corporate World

“Play by the rules, but be ferocious.”

– Phil Knight

Becoming successful in the corporate world is a different ballgame when compared to having your own business. I’ll share with you some potent gleanings based on gleanings from a book titled “The Mafia Manager: A Guide to the Corporate Machiavelli” by V. Though humorous the book contains some life-saving tips without which the uninitiated will be cut off from the corporate world. 

The corporate world is a place of business where formality and productive work are galvanizing agents. Here, your work and input count more than anything else. Your story in the corporate world can either be one of success or failure. But no matter what side the coin faces, you can always flip the story to your advantage. In this article, I’ll like to show you the 12 biggest lessons from the corporate world.

Our 12 Biggest Lessons from the Corporate World

  1. The value you give is never correlated with the reward you derive

The company you work for expects to make X times the amount you’re being paid as salary. And believe me, X is usually a whole number greater than 100. Don’t think you’ll survive if they don’t get every last cent from your blood, sweat, and tears. There’ll always be work for you to do, so focus on quantifiable results and don’t work when you need to be resting or investing in your future. Do your best, so everyone around you can attest to your hard work but be vigilant and observant to recognize opportunities when they present themselves. There is a balance you need to maintain when working in a corporation. Make sure it’s clear that you’re not available to work when someone else can do it. But always remember that you’ll have to strive to advance, ergo “he who cannot endure the bad will never see the good.”

  1. Not Making Allies is the Quickest Route to Failure

The quickest path to failure in the corporate world is for you to try to be a lone ranger. To succeed, you have to connect with the right people and nourish that connection. Allies on whose shoulders you can climb are all too important as you progress in your career. It would help if you had people that you can trust – people that have your back. You must learn to protect your interest as well as the interests of your allies. If you don’t have tested and trusted buddies, you may be flushing your career down the drain. Remember that office politics is a game you must practice and learn to win. By understanding the Laws of Human Nature, you will know what type of allies to keep and what to do with people who only try to become friends with you after your ascent to the top. Attend events, meet new people, and rub shoulders with people. Make allies, but keep your eyes wide open. 

  1. Your Boss and Coworkers Are Not Your Friends

Well, this may come as a bit of a surprise to you. And as much as you would want me to deny this, it’s true. People only act nice to you when you’re influential, when they need you or when they can use you. Once you no longer fill any of these three positions on their agenda, their behavior will change. So, get used to it and don’t let down your guard. Resist every temptation to disclose personal and sensitive information about yourself to your boss or coworkers. You’ll only end up regretting it as they will use the information you supply against you.

As long as you’re in the corporate world, it would do you much good to remember that most relationships are always superficial, based on office etiquette. Always be that polite, cordial, yet mysteriously elusive person. Try not to be too aloof and distant that people tag you as proud, and neither should you be too friendly to attract ridicule and disrespect. Again, remember – never disclose personal and sensitive information about yourself to your boss and coworkers. 

  1. You Are in Competition with Everyone, Even Your Boss

Law #1 of the 48 Laws of Power states that one should never outshine the master. While this is mostly true, you can’t help but outshine an incompetent boss. And if you’ve worked in large organizations, the chances of having an incompetent boss is quite high. The truth is that most of your colleagues would never truly be happy about your successes and promotions, and those that do, are usually much higher up the ladder than you. Even at that, those higher up the ladder may feel threatened by your success.

Don’t think for a second that you’re not in a competition with anyone. You are! It would help if you devised subtle ways to win and advance while still revering those above you. The struggle is real – don’t become too dependent on your boss or friends because everybody either seeks the opportunity to advance or don’t want you to advance. Sometimes, you have to make a choice between being right or being employed. 

  1. Long Service Doesn’t Mean a Thing

Nobody cares if you’ve been at the company for more than ten years. What they care about is if you’re still making them money and also if you’ve gained the respect of your peers and seniors. If this isn’t so, your time is up. Your worth to your company is as good as your current performance. The company doesn’t owe you their loyalty, but they’ll demand it from you. You hear people cry about losing their jobs after donkey’s years with the company, listing all they did for the company. It would be best if they did away with the list in their heads and face reality. What you have done in the past doesn’t change a thing. Be dynamic and constantly improve so that after several years you are still as indispensable as when you were at your peak.

  1. Promotions Are Not Always Tied to Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

The company you work for will not promote you based on your performance. These are mostly related to the perception of your performance and the interest of those who make the decisions. What the heck does this even mean? Shouldn’t you be promoted based on how well you’re performing? To make matters worse, if you work in an organization that runs a quota system for promotion, you need to influence that perception and become more visible. I once heard this quote “Promotions are not a reward for what you’ve done in the past. It’s a prediction of what you’re capable of doing in the future.” Well, it’s true. Be as slick as possible; don’t burn out simply because you’re seeking a promotion – it might never come that way.

  1. Always Be Searching (ABS)

My mentor once told me that “Loyalty is for the unambitious.” If your salary expectation is far from what you currently earn, it’s unlikely you’ll get it from the company you currently work for. If you plan to change positions or job roles, while you pursue an internal role switch, be seeking external opportunities. Also, it is advisable not to put all your eggs in one basket. Ensure you have options at all times, so you don’t get stranded. 

  1. Be Valuable Yet Replaceable

You can’t get a promotion outside of your job function until your boss is sure he can replace you. So, start looking for your replacement. Another angle is that you create the opportunity for yourself by improving your skills and abilities, so your boss reasons that you will be better suited to an upgrade in your position for the company’s sake.

  1. Your Image Can Win You Favors

How you walk, talk, and carry yourself is just as important as how you perform. As mentioned in lesson 6, people will rate you on their perception of your work ethics. There’s a reason why culture fit is so important. Dress the way you want to be addressed is a popular saying that is quite apt. Not only should your dressing be impeccable always, but your general outlook should inspire confidence from all quarters. With time, people will begin to offer you favors, sometimes unsolicited!

  1. Office Romance Rarely Ends Well

Most organizations make it a rule that romantic involvement with coworkers is prohibited. It should be your last resort, and it should never be done if you’re just looking for a fling. You only know the beginning of these things, but you can never predict how they end or how badly your career may take a hit from them. So, if you’re already into that hot coworker, you might need to retrace your steps or tread very carefully

  1. Document Very Important Discussions

If it matters to your boss, then it’s sensitive information, so you write it down. There are too many chameleons in the corporate world. Endeavor not to be lax when you are at work, especially when you are to act in a professional capacity.

  1. Never Pitch Your Tent with Mediocrity

Don’t become a victim of your success. After working with a company for some years, it’s easy to fall into the trap of mediocrity – staying in your comfort zone. The corporate environment can either make or mar you. If you feel you’re getting marred, you should do something about it. And if you’re getting made, don’t fall into the deathly hands of mediocrity. Still attend training and seek to grow because better opportunities may be waiting for you. Have zero tolerance for mediocrity, push boundaries, and break the monotony. 


Following the above lessons will take some effort on your part. Work has to be done on the ore before refined gold can be gotten, so also you have to work on yourself to get the best out of your career life.

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