Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

The End of Enemies at Work

March 1st, 2010 | Bob Rosner

Image: Bob RosnerMicrosoft and Yahoo recently received permission to move forward with their joint venture on search from both US and European regulators.

Competition makes strange bedfellows. And nary a day goes by today that Microsoft isn’t announcing a new partnership, or a partnership discussion, with a company that it formerly tried to crush. Real Networks, Palm, AOL, Apple, the list just keeps growing and growing.

Believe it or not, Microsoft’s new make-nice approach impacts each and every one of us who works today. Because it signals the end of the “enemy,” at least as we’ve known it in business for the last hundred years. Let me explain…

The “enemy” has been a great rallying cry in business. To paraphrase General Patton, your goal is to kill the other guy before he has a chance to kill you. And that is how business tended to operate.

We learned from our earliest days in the corporate corridors to identify our enemies and create a healthy disdain for them. And it was so simple to do. G.M. hated Ford. M.G.M. hated Universal. It was easy to identify your competitors and once you did then you let the hatin’ begin.

That is until today. Now, auto companies collaborate on technology to improve fuel mileage with competitors and movie studios collaborate on producing films. And the former 99-pound weakling turned monopolist, Microsoft, can’t seem to find anyone outside of Google that it doesn’t want to take a turn around the dance floor with. What a difference a few years can make.

What is becoming clear is that today’s enemy at work could very well be your company’s next strategic marketing partner, merger partner or the company that purchases your firm. So the enemy is dead, long live today’s competitor who might be tomorrow’s collaborator. Why? Because you can’t afford to alienate your next business partner. Or worse, your next boss.

How do we survive this new competitive landscape? We need to resist the temptation to bad mouth a competitor. We need to always fight fair. We need to reach out to competitors at industry conferences and trade shows. We need to resist short term thinking and learn to adopt a longer view. In short, we need to always anticipate the future where we just might be on the same side with our current competitors.

I’m looking forward to the day when I can wax nostalgically about the enemies that I did battle with at work to my child. Because it increasingly appears that the enemy’s days are numbered. And being a guy who can nurse a grudge as well as the next guy, I think this could usher in a great new environment in which to do business.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Also check out his newly revised best-seller “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

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