Zhen Huan (后宫甄嬛传) Survival Tips For The Modern Workplace

Although the palace setting of the popular Zhen Huan Biography aka Empresses In The Palace (后宫甄嬛传) seem quite a distance from today’s office set up, they are very much a naked reflection of the modern workplace environment. When Zhen Huan got selected to join the palace harem as Emperor Yongzheng’s concubine, her innocence then was similar to a fresh graduate starting on his or her first job. Gradually, she soon grew to realises how harsh and cruel the palace truly is, and learns to survive on her own. The rules of survival she learned along the way are still very much grounded in today Asian workplace. You should also read Zhen Huan (后宫甄嬛传) Smart Life Principles For The Modern Folks.

Zhen Huan

1. Don’t Be Too Hasty To Impress

Quote: 若无完全把握获得皇上恩宠,你可一定要韬光养晦,收敛锋芒。

When you join an organisation, your new colleagues will be watching you closely during the first few weeks to gauge your personality and work capabilities. Regardless of your appointment, use the first few weeks to understand the company culture, your immediate co-workers as well as the departments that you are working closely with.

Practise patience and be prepared to eat the humble pie. Before you work out the intricate workplace dynamics, conceal your full talents to avoid being singled out as a potential threat.

Quote: 华妃若是猛虎,曹琴默就是猛虎上的利爪,不过,你要知道锋刃在谁的手中,就能小心避开,只怕是身受其害,却连对手都不知道是谁,那才是真正的可怕呀。

Through your interactions, determine who wield the true power in the organisation, your possible allies, folks you need to be careful of as well as co-workers who may be affected in one way or another by your entry.

Quote: 容不容的下是娘娘的氣度,能不能讓娘娘容的下,是嬪妾的本事。

You must be able to excel in your job yet at the same time avoid out-shining your direct superior at work.

Lie low

2. Follow The Right Boss

Quote: 其实这后宫里头啊,从来就只有一棵树,只是乱花渐欲迷人眼罢了,只要你看得清,哪棵是树哪朵是花就好了。

To gain support, protection & advance within the organisation, the selection of your direct superior is highly important. Be on the look out for a capable boss who has a strong future prospects and at the same time willing to groom and fight for your career advancement. Offer your unwavering loyalty to him or her.

Know who to use

3. Be In Predictive Mode

Quote: 在後宮中想要升,就必須猜得中皇上的心思;想要活,就要猜得中其他女人的心思。

In office, the boss is the most important person. If you want to strive for a promotion, you will need to understand your boss well and predict his or her mood, liking, dislikes and reactions to different work scenarios. But to survive, you will need to know your colleagues well and guess their moves.


4. Only The Boss Matters

Quote: 这嫔妃之间的争斗、是非,都是最不重要的,重要的是皇上愿意相信谁,所以小主与其在这里伤心难过,不如多想想该如何让皇上少疑心。

If you ever get into a squabble or issues with your colleagues, it does not matter who is right or who has made a mistake. It eventually boils down to who your boss trust. Hence do not waste time on being sad or engaged in quarrels, put all your efforts on reducing your boss distrust.


5. Allow Yourself To Be Made Use Of

Quote: 在这宫里,有利用价值的人才能活下去,好好做一个可利用的人,安于被利用,才能利用别人。

In a game of chess, a pawn is kept on the board only if it is part of the strategy to win the game. In the modern workplace, you become dispensable the moment you lose your value within a bigger scheme of things. Selectively allow others to make use of you in their plans so as to secure your own position. Only then can you turn your attention to make use of others.


6. Win The Hearts Of Others

Quote: 别人帮你,那是情分,不帮你,那是本分。

Do not assume or take it for granted that people should help you in the course of your work. If they do not lend a hand, they are just focusing on their core tasks on hand. Get to know your colleagues better and on a more personal level to gain their trust, loyalty and goodwill.

Quote: 雪中送炭的情谊可比什么都可贵。

If you are able to render assistance during their time of needs, do it. You will be surprised how grateful the person will be in future.

Sharing Info

7. It Doesn’t Pay To Be Too Nice

Quote: 在這宮裡心善就只能壞事了,唯有明哲保身才是最要緊的。

Being overly nice to everyone will have dire consequences. Your colleagues will conveniently park their own tasks with you and point fingers when things goes wrong. Review your own key performance indicator regularly, understand the results that you are personally responsible for and make sure that they are well taken care of before turning to your attention to help others.

Remember protecting your own rice bowl is far more important than anything else.


8. More Is Not Always Better

Quote: 奴才不在於多,只在於忠心與否 

There is no point keeping a large number of subordinates when none of them is loyalty to you. The more the number of subordinates, the higher the chance of sensitive news leaking out to other departments.

Identify a few loyal subordinates to personally groom and keep close to you as you advance in the ranks.


9. The Art Of Balancing Power

Do not be fooled by her benevolent appearance, the Empress played her balancing act very well. She juggled the distribution of powers between 2 main camps of imperial concubines and set them against each other. With the imperial concubines pre-occupied with pitting against one another, they are unable to present a unified force against her.

Quote: 身為皇后,永遠都不能有說厭煩的時候,一旦被人發覺力不從心了,那些盯著後位的人,不把你生吞活剝了才怪呢。

Even when u are troubled or unable to cope with your job, you must not appear so in front of others because there is always someone waiting in line to overthrow and take over your position. Proudly shared by reader Rick.

Quote: 喜怒不形于色,心事莫让人知。

Do not be quick to show your emotions, and allow others to easily read what’s on your mind. Learn to suppress your emotions and be politically correct when dealing with your colleagues. Proudly shared by reader Anon.

Quote: 不過人心都難測,何況是畜類,越是親近溫馴就越容易不留神哪。

She also make it a point to distance herself from her subordinates and constantly remind herself to keep a close watch over them, even the most obedient one.


10. Relax…. It’s Just A Job

Quote: 再冷,也不該拿別人的血來暖自己。

At the end of the day, it is just a job. There is no need to plot, quarrel and upset someone’s rice bowl just to climb up the corporate ladder.

What goes around comes around and you will probably see the people whom you have upset on your way down.


Through mastering the application of these survival tips, Zhen Huan eventually worked her way up to become the Empress Dowager of the Ching Dynasty. Which of the above is most applicable at your workplace? If there are additional survival tips that I have missed out, please share with everyone through the comments section below. If you enjoy the article, you should also read Zhen Huan (后宫甄嬛传) Smart Life Principles For The Modern Folks.

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