Prabsy: Beware the corporate Brutus!


Image-Prabsy-Corporate-Brutus-PavanRChawlaDOTcomI am delighted to bring to you the musings on Work and Life, from good friend Prabs, or Prabsy, as he is fondly known (his official name on his passport is is Prabhakar Mundkur, BTW). Prabsy is one of India’s best known and most respected thinkers and strategists on Advertising and Marketing and their great impact on Business. In its first list from India entitled LinkedIn Top Voices 2016: The 15 must-know writers in India, arrived at with the help of data and editorial signals, LinkedIN declared on 12 December 2016 that Prabhakar Mundkur had topped the list. Today, Prabsy has 39 years of marketing and advertising industry experience, with a solid and proven history of managing global brands across a wide range of categories. Strong analytical and planning skills, large cross-cultural experience, and the ability to work with international teams, with country assignments across Europe, Asia and Africa, and excellent communication and presentation skills have made him one of the best known and most sought after mentors who today advises companies and guides their senior management. He has been Chief Mentor of Hinduja Global Solutions Interactive (HGSi), which is the Digital Marketing and Social CRM arm of the USD500-million Hinduja Global Solutions, part of the International Indian conglomerate, the Hinduja Group.

Prabsy has kindly permitted me to share his original, self-published pieces here, for the benefit of my friends and readers. I hope and am sure you will revel in both — Prabsy’s deep insights, and his beautifully simple and direct writing which, to my mind, is always the most difficult for an author, and the most rewarding for the reader. So, I  give you Prabsy, Prabs, Prabhakar Mundkur.

The piece I’ve selected as Prabsy’s first here is one in which the large, big-hearted man with the infectious laugh actually tells you how to roll up your sleeves and dig your heels for battle, should you ever sense or smell a Brutus within spitting distance of you. Enjoy! – Pavan R Chawla

Ambitious and political, he is waiting on the sidelines ready to take power from you and he will do whatever it takes — there is a Brutus who is lurking in every organisation ready to kill his Caesar. While history has some interesting lessons for professional life and the story of Caesar and Brutus is not told in vain, the Caesar-Brutus story is told many times in professional organisations too.

So how do you know who your Brutus is?

Unfortunately much like Brutus, he is, most probably, typically your most trusted lieutenant. Someone whom you would least expect to try and overthrow you. You are currently treating him as a loyalist without quite knowing that there is a Brutus lurking deep inside him. And more often than not there are likely to be some co-conspirators. Like Brutus, the man or woman who is about to overthrow you won’t cite ambition to take your position. He will, much like Brutus, explain his motive as loyalty to the Republic or, in this case, your company.

Your corporate Brutus is likely to follow the same strategy as the Brutus in Shakespeare. In his speech, Brutus speaks of how, once a person has climbed a ladder, he often turns against those he has passed while climbing. At the end of the soliloquy, Brutus concludes that the prospect of Caesar’s rise to power is a danger that must be averted by his death.

Even when a person is his on his way out of an organisation, people who want to wield power will be in a hurry and want to hasten his leaving. The Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry saga at one level is just about that. Cyrus could have waited for Mr Tata to finally let go off the reins completely instead of landing the group and himself in such a mess.

Look out for these signs!

  1. One of the warning signs that someone is ready to overthrow you, is that he will accentuate his friendship, so that you will be taken by surprise when it happens. By keeping you unaware and feeling safe he will choose the right moment to stab you in the back.
  2. Sometimes he may make public some of your faults or wrong decisions, acting to be righteous and speaking in the interests of the organisation. But his real motive is to slowly start discrediting you. Beware of emails that may subtly suggest that you are not perhaps the best person to lead the organisation. When accosted, of course, he will say he never meant to harm you and if he has, he is terribly sorry about it.
  3. Typically the Brutus in the modern organisation will also try desperately to win over the confidence of your own boss. So if you are seeing him having secret meetings with your boss, it is a sure sign that something is going on. As they say, if there is smoke there must be a fire. In one of the organisations where I worked both my no 2 and no 3 were secretly collaborating against me. Of course I couldn’t believe it because I had known no 2 for a long time and I had been helping no 3 with a personal tragedy that was threatening to take over her life.
  4. Generally he or she will try to damage your reputation through general rumors and specific comments to your boss. So you need to have a strategy to strengthen your equation with your boss and inform him that some people, without naming him, might be trying to discredit you with an agenda to overthrow you. If he is ready with this information in time, he may take your side and realise what is going on. But if he is the kind of boss who is not very good with his judgement you can be sure your end is near.

Should you confront Brutus?

Many people who go through these situations wonder whether they should confront these individuals. Well, my experience is that sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn’t. Because the individual who is going to overthrow you is always going to act innocent and additionally he will act hurt that you accuse him of something so grievous.This is likely to destroy your relationship anyway.

What is clear is that at this point is that he is your enemy and a distinct threat to your livelihood. The most important thing for you to find out is, how accurate he is about his power, relative to yours. How you defend yourself and treat him will depend on how much power and influence you retain with your boss and other superiors.

Often a weak super boss is the worst thing to have. A weak super boss will not object to people being overthrown. He may even take vicarious pleasure out of it with the ‘may the better man win’ attitude. Whereas a strong super boss will make sure that seniority in an organisation is protected at all costs. You don’t let a Major in the army over throw a Lieutenant General. A strong super boss will maintain the strict hierarchy maintained in the Army and other armed forces. He will not stand for mutiny from the ranks.

Depend on your intuition to sense the threat

I think intuition is a great faculty that you should depend on. After all any form of possible attack is sensed better by your right brain than your left. When you perceive danger, either real or imagined, your body responds instantly with a series of chemical and muscular changes that readies you for combat or to run away. This is true for both physical or non-physical attack. Adrenaline is released into your bloodstream, accelerating your pulse. Your muscles tense, to get ready to fight. This is a magnificent, life-saving response built into every human being. Coupled with the right information or data, intuition can help you in making better decisions.

Know the enemy

Try to get an accurate gauge from your network about who in power supports you and is willing to stand up for you.

There is no point in confronting him until you know the power equation. In the meantime, since it may come down to you or him, document any information you have about any incompetence, unethical or perhaps shirking behavior on his part. You may need to use it at some point. If you have powerful people who will stand up for you and you can document what he is doing, you may prevail. In my case, the unethical behaviour of my no 2 was exposed after I left. This resulted in his final dues from the company being held back indefinitely.

And finally, all the best if you are in this situation. I hope you don’t have to say Caesar’s last words “Et tu Brute”. It is one of the most difficult situations to handle in the bible of office politics.

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