August 18, 2022

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Machiavelli for Women: 7 Power Strategies for the Workplace

The following is an excerpt from the brand new e book, Machiavelli for Women: Defend Your Worth, Grow Your Ambition, and Win the Workplace. The creator, Stacey Vanek Smith (@svaneksmith), is a longtime public radio reporter and host. She at present hosts NPR’s The Indicator from Planet Money, a every day podcast overlaying enterprise and economics. She has additionally served as a correspondent and host for NPR’s Planet Money and Marketplace. Stacey is a local of Idaho and a graduate of Princeton University, the place she earned a BA in comparative literature and artistic writing. She additionally holds an MS in journalism from Columbia University.

Enter Stacey…

Niccolò Machiavelli. Today, he’s most likely greatest generally known as a ruthless energy monger, devoid of ethics and compassion. The phrase most frequently related to him, “The ends justify the means” (which Machiavelli by no means really wrote however most likely would have heartily agreed with), has turned him into an apologist for sociopaths, tyrants, and megalomaniacs the world over. 

I feel it is a gross misunderstanding of each the person and his work. The Prince doesn’t condone random cruelty or tyranny or violence. It is a remarkably sober have a look at how individuals take energy and the way they will greatest maintain on to it and develop it. Machiavelli was an extremely clear-eyed authentic thinker who would possibly simply be historical past’s first true champion of actual discuss. For that motive, there may very well be no higher information for the office. 

In the 5 hundred years since Machiavelli wrote The Prince, a variety of issues have modified: We have electrical energy, the combustion engine, computer systems, and antibiotics. We’ve even break up the atom. People, although, haven’t modified one bit. And for that motive, Machiavelli’s recommendation about navigating the office has confirmed to be fairly timeless.

Machiavelli’s methods are highly effective instruments within the fashionable office, particularly for girls, individuals of shade, and different often-marginalized staff. Here are 7 of my favourite Machiavellian energy suggestions. 

#1 — Always Get the Truth, Even If It Hurts 

Part of seeing a scenario clearly is having individuals you belief who can provide their outdoors observations. They might help you see what you don’t wish to (or can’t) see. This means serving to you assess completely different conditions and colleagues and likewise providing you with suggestions. Machiavelli was large on suggestions. “A Prince,” he writes, “ought always to take counsel” (Chapter XXIII). Machiavelli noticed trustworthy suggestions as the first approach a prince may shield himself in opposition to flatterers and yes-men. (Machiavelli was demise on flatterers and yes-men) “There is no other way of guarding oneself from flatterers except letting men understand that to tell you the truth does not offend you” (Chapter XXIII). Feedback appears like dangerous publicity, however Machiavelli noticed it as highly effective safety for a prince and a technique to get crucial info. The capacity to listen to the reality—or the “truth” of individuals’s impressions and opinions—will make you stronger and smarter and allow you to succeed. Machiavelli was cautious to say that you shouldn’t open your self up on this technique to simply anyone. Ask the people who find themselves key to enabling you to maneuver up inside an organization; ask individuals you respect; ask the individuals you belief. 

#2 — Cultivate Your Network  

Having individuals you belief and individuals who might help you within the office is essential (in life, too!). Building a community of individuals at work or in your career is totally important to constructing a profession. You ought to have a mixture of individuals: people who find themselves excessive up within the firm, people who find themselves colleagues, and people who are extra junior—additionally individuals at different corporations who could make you conscious of alternatives that come up outdoors of your bubble. Machiavelli preached the significance of a community onerous. The good prince, he writes, “is defended by being well armed and having good allies” (Chapter XIX). Having a powerful community is crucial to rising in any career. Wall Street CEO Sallie Krawcheck says she at all times remembers recommendation she acquired from her buddy Carla Harris (a senior banker at Morgan Stanley): “All the important decisions about your career are made when you’re not in the room. People decide to hire you, fire you, promote you, fund you, send you on the overseas assignment, all when you’re not there. So how do you ensure that you have someone in the room fighting for you? I would strongly argue that you need to have in place your Personal Board of Directors. Those are your mentors, your sponsors, your confidantes.” 

#3 — Stand Up for the Less Powerful 

This would possibly sound just like the antithesis of Machiavelli. After all, shouldn’t you suck as much as highly effective individuals and mercilessly crush those that have much less energy? I imply, NO OF COURSE YOU SHOULD NOT DO THAT! But, additionally, Machiavelli suggested in opposition to it. 

One of Machiavelli’s principal items of recommendation in a scenario the place you don’t have a variety of energy is to stay up for different individuals who additionally don’t have a lot energy. “The prince,” he writes, “ought to make himself the head and defender of his less powerful neighbors, and to weaken the more powerful amongst them.” The motive? Not solely are you weakening the powers that be and creating a possible opening for your self, but in addition the individuals you communicate up for shall be loyal to you and can struggle for you and your concepts sooner or later. As Machiavelli places it, “By arming them, those arms become yours” (Chapter XX). 

In reality, Machiavelli advises in opposition to talking up on behalf of people that have extra energy than you. Don’t leap in if the boss will get interrupted by the intern in a gathering. The advantages of smacking down the intern are minimal, and also you danger being seen as a suck-up and a bully. Also, your soul would most likely die slightly, and that’s by no means good. 

#4 — If It Comes Down to Being Liked or Respected… Choose Respect

This is a scenario that occurs to girls at work lots. Often, girls within the office find yourself in a double bind: caught between qualities individuals affiliate with a “good woman” (being modest, compassionate, placing others first, soft-spoken, nurturing) and the qualities individuals affiliate with a very good chief (being unbiased, agency, outspoken, assertive, not caring an excessive amount of what individuals suppose). 

Machiavelli addresses this specific bind many occasions in The Prince. As it seems, the prince is in an identical scenario: it’s essential that he be liked by his individuals, however the prince additionally wants individuals to worry his wrath, observe his legal guidelines, and, after all, pay his taxes. “Here comes in the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. . . . We should wish to be both; but . . . if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved” (Chapter XVII). 

Still, this strategy comes with actual penalties, particularly for girls. Where harsh or domineering males is likely to be revered or tolerated in management positions, individuals usually react very in another way to an assertive or domineering girl. But generally getting the job finished accurately includes being blunt, direct, and assertive. It won’t be simple, and you’ll seemingly get pushback, however do it.

#5 — Watch Your Back

I can’t discuss Machiavelli with out addressing among the recommendation he offers about guarding your self in opposition to nemeses. Machiavelli wrote a LOT about nemeses in The Prince. He thought the power to identify troublemakers and poisonous individuals was essential for a prince: “The ruler is not truly wise who cannot discern evils before they develop themselves, and this is a faculty given to few” (Chapter XIII). Truly, it isn’t at all times simple to identify a troublemaker or a poisonous particular person. But Machiavelli does level out a few issues to look at for.

Beware the flatterer: Machiavelli noticed flatterers as very harmful to a prince. He even has a complete chapter in The Prince titled, “How Flatterers Should Be Avoided” (Chapter XXIII). This is to not say that if someone compliments your work, you need to reply with grave suspicion. But flattery can usually be used to govern individuals, so be sure that’s not taking place to you.

Beware the Debbie Downer: If somebody you’re employed with is extraordinarily destructive, it’s most likely a good suggestion to maintain your distance and to watch out what you say to them. “As soon as you have opened your mind to a malcontent,” Machiavelli warns, “you have given him the material with which . . . he can look for every advantage” (Chapter XIX). 

#6 — Avoiding Risk Is Risky — When in Doubt, Take Action

Asking for a increase or a promotion or making use of for a brand new job or launching a brand new undertaking requires huge danger and vulnerability. Wanting to keep away from that danger and the potential of rejection is an enormous motive individuals (particularly, statistically, girls) draw back from negotiating or asking for extra. But avoiding danger and ready for “the perfect moment” just isn’t a secure alternative.

Machiavelli’s recommendation: when doubtful, take motion. This recommendation most likely got here from his personal frustration with the Florentine council’s fixed waffling (they have been his bosses). They by no means needed to decide on sides within the numerous skirmishes and battles happening round them. It was, actually, partially attributable to that very waffling that Florence misplaced its republican authorities and ended up again within the arms of a despot.

“I know that many say a policy of neutrality is the safest option,” he wrote in a letter to a buddy. “I believe to the contrary that neutrality is an exceedingly dangerous path.” And for a prince, Machiavelli declares that waffling will lead “in most instances to their destruction” (Chapter XXI). 

#7 —  Embrace the Struggles that Arise; They Are Setting You Up for Success 

The skilled world may be extremely troublesome and unfair, particularly for girls and different marginalized staff. It can contain an unbelievable quantity of perseverance and wrestle. That’s not okay or honest, nevertheless it does provide its personal type of reward. Machiavelli noticed that princes who needed to wrestle for his or her kingdoms really did higher in the long term than the princes who had the whole lot handed to them. “They who . . . acquire with difficulty . . . keep with ease” (Chapter VI). 

That would possibly sound trite or saccharine, however Machiavelli was neither of these issues, and he felt so strongly in regards to the worth of overcoming difficulties in serving to to form a prince, he has a uncommon Zen second in The Prince of the “Things happen for me not to me” selection. “Fortune,” he writes, “especially when she desires to make a new prince great . . . causes enemies to arise and form designs against him, in order that he may have the opportunity of overcoming them. . . . Princes become great by vanquishing difficulties and opposition” (Chapter XX).


Excerpted with permission from Machiavelli for Women: Defend Your Worth, Grow Your Ambition, and Win the Workplace.

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