Don’t start a battle unless you plan on winning the entire war

This is one of the most important aspects of office politics. Never try to disagree with a superior unless you’re certain you’re right, and you’re reasonably sure you’ll actually succeed at the end goal of whatever it is you’re trying to do.

A large part of this is experience. If you’re new to a job or environment, you should assume you don’t really know anything yet. You will know when you know enough to start fighting for your own opinions. Until that point, your best bet is to stay in the background and simply learn. (Learn from other newbie’s mistakes!)

With difficult superiors, the kind that will not ever agree to anything, ignore them. Don’t even bother to try. Give up on any notion of changing their mind. Bypass them. Go over their head* and change things from the top-down.

*Be very careful when going over someone’s head. You can certainly do it, and there are ways to make it not appear as if you are. It all depends on the personalities of the people you work for. Offhand, one of the best ways I can think of is to simply pretend you’re venting and just need to get something off your chest. That way you’re just talking to that leader as someone you respect and trust. People like it when you give the impression that you respect and trust them enough to open up. This is all easier in the military, where leaders will come and go, and there’s always about eight different bosses you work for (LPO, LCPO, DIVO, N1-N7, CMC, COS, CO). One of those will be the super-logical type you’re looking for.

“Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.”

“Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

“Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.”
The Art of War

Subtlety is preferred over belligerence.

Additional applicable wisdom:
“Smart people know how to hold their tongue; their grandeur is to forgive and forget.” ~King Solomon
“Don’t pull the thang out, unless you plan to bang.” ~Andre 3000, “Bombs over Baghdad”

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