Make Your Enemies Your Allies

by Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap

John Clendenin was fresh out of business school in 1984 when he took on his first managerial position, in Xerox’s parts and supply division. He was an obvious outsider: young, African American, and a former Marine, whose pink shirts and brown suits stood out amid the traditional gray and black attire of his new colleagues. “I was strikingly different,” he recalls. And yet his new role required him to lead a team including employees who had been with Xerox for decades.

One of his direct reports was Tom Gunning, a 20-year company veteran who believed Clendenin’s job should have gone to him, not to a younger, nontechnical newcomer. Gunning also had a cadre of pals ...

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