'Divide and conquer' a poor strategy in the office

Most of us believe that working hard and displaying competence in the office should be rewarded ("Why good looks may not always land men a job"; Dec 14).

However, in the world of office politics, there is a clear and present danger about being too competent in what we do.

Those who shoulder their duties with aplomb risk showing their bosses that they are not only talented, but also too talented for their own good.

If such employees display any more brilliance, their supervisors might fear being replaced by them.

Many rising stars in a company receive rude shocks at their performance reviews; instead of the expected glowing appraisals, their bosses criticise their decision-making and marginalise their contributions.

Whether such talents resign in anger or are forced out, the organisation loses vital contributors because of paranoid managers trying to sabotage subordinates perceived as a threat to their job.

Does this mean we should not excel at our job? No.

If we work under a manager who is insecure enough to marginalise us for being excellent, then he is probably not a boss worth working for.

Poor leaders look out only for themselves instead of trying to achieve unity within the company.

Managers who are not sure of their own self-worth use divisive tactics to maintain control, without truly understanding the risks of such tactics.

The corporate application of Sun Tzu's "divide and conquer" method advocates dividing an alliance by feeding lies to one or more staff, to create the impression that they are a threat to one another.

This is done to ensure conflict, so subordinates become rivals and feed the boss with information concerning one another. It is a method of indirect subversion.

"Divide and conquer" appeals most to those who feel incompetent, but those in authority who use this strategy usually risk conquering only themselves.

Simon Owen Khoo